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House Divided Speech | Study Guide

Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln

Year Delivered



Primary Source


History, Speech

At a Glance

  • In 1858, the Illinois Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) as its candidate for the U.S. Senate in a race against the incumbent, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas (1813–61).
  • In accepting the nomination, Lincoln delivered his historic "House Divided" Speech, named for a phrase he uses at the beginning to describe a country split over the issue of slavery.
  • Lincoln predicts that the country will eventually become all slave or all free.
  • In the speech, Lincoln charges Douglas and other Democrats with being part of a conspiracy to install slavery in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska as well as in the free states of the North.
  • Lincoln cites the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), which was authored by Douglas, and the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision (1857) as key parts of this conspiracy.
  • Douglas won the election, but this speech and Lincoln's performance in a subsequent series of debates with Douglas helped propel him to national prominence. He became the Republican candidate for president in 1860—an election he won.


This study guide for Abraham Lincoln's House Divided Speech offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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