Abraham Lincoln’s First & Only Speech To a Michigan Audience, 1856
Abraham Lincoln only came to speak once in Michigan.....and not while running for president.
As mentioned by the Kalamazoo Public Library, in 1856, Lincoln stopped in Kalamazoo to speak in Bronson Park, in behalf of the very first Republican candidate for president, John C. Fremont. At the time, Lincoln was an Illinois representative and was invited to speak on August 27. He was just one of many speakers at this Republican rally, and his whole speech was recorded in handwriting and discovered in 1930.
Even though it was intended to promote Fremont, Lincoln ended up talking about the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 that was angering anti-slavery activists (it repealed the Missouri Compromise that restricted slavery in certain northern territories). The act said that settlers in those areas could decide for themselves to be either free or slave states.
Because of this, the Republican Party was created in 1854, and John Fremont became it's first presidential candidate. Lincoln was in Michigan again, but this appearance was the only time he spoke to a Michigan audience.
There is an Historical Marker in the southwest corner of the park, where Lincoln spoke. The marker reads (in part): “ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THEN AN OBSCURE LAWYER, SPOKE TO A RALLY FOR JOHN FREEMONT, THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTAL NOMINEE. THIS WAS THE ONLY TIME THAT LINCOLN ADDRESSED AN AUDIENCE IN MICHIGAN.....SOME REPUBLICANS FELT THE SPEAKER WAS TOO CONSERVATIVE ON THE ANTISLAVERY ISSUE.”
As for John C. Fremont, he is historically noted as the first Republican presidential candidate. He was an explorer in the old west and a Civil War general. He passed away in 1890.
Abe Lincoln's Only Michigan Speech
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