On Feb. 27, 1860, the yet-to-be-announced presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln spoke at Cooper Union in Manhattan. Historians consider the speech a watershed moment for Lincoln, who used the opportunity to cogently argue against the extension of slavery to new territories. It was so well received that it greatly contributed to his earning the Republican nomination for president.
Historian Harold Holzer wrote, “The Cooper Union address tested whether Lincoln’s appeal could extend from the podium to the page, and from the rollicking campaigns of the rural West to the urban East… Cooper Union held the promise of transforming Lincoln from a regional phenomenon to a national figure. Lincoln knew it, and rose to the occasion.”
The day before his speech at Cooper Union, Lincoln attended services at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights, which was then under the leadership of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, a famous abolitionist. The pew in which Lincoln sat is now marked with a silver plaque.