Lincoln Speaks to New Haven: March 6, 2010

13 Apr 2010 4:33 PM | Posted by GNHLHA

From Newsletter Volume 6, Number 1

“Lincoln Speaks to New Haven” was a commemorative celebration of the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s visit to New Haven during his presidential campaign in 1860. The event was the first in the New Haven Student Seminar Series, which included three stages where New Haven high school students engaged in historical research, became involved in a collaborative demonstration to recognize an historical event or place and then developed and delivered presentations to New Haven elementary studentsundefinedsparking their early interest in the history of their city.

“Lincoln Speaks to New Haven” was a re-enactment of the actual speech given by Lincoln, including a brass band and period costumes, and took place at Union Station downtown. The event, spearheaded by attorney Frank Cochran, was sponsored by the New Haven Public Schools, the New Haven Museum and Historical Society, Partner 4 Peace, the Greater New Haven Labor History Association, and the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of New Haven.

Readers of Moments in New Haven Labor History, written by Neil Hogan and published by the Greater New Haven Labor History Association in 2004, remembered the significance of Lincoln’s speech for the labor movement.

In describing the speech, Neil wrote: “[Lincoln’s] comments were prompted by a strike that was going on at that very moment in New England. When workers’ demands for increases were denied, shoemakers walked off the job in Lynn and Natick, Mass. in February 1860. They were joined by workers in other Bay State and New Hampshire towns until almost  20,000 employees were on strike in one of the nation’s largest labor disputes until that time. The strikers argued that better pay for employees was also in the interest of employers, ‘inasmuch as the wealth of the masses…increases the demand for manufactured goods.’

“It was that theme that Lincoln took up in his comments before a huge crowdundefinedso great was the enthusiasm that nearly 1,000 had to be turned awayundefinedat Union Hall on Union Street near Chapel Street, on March 6, 1860. His remarks on labor were made within a definitely partisan context and comprised only a few sentences in a speech devoted almost entirely to the burning issue of slavery. He also linked his support for workers’ rights with the slavery question. Yet, what he said that night about the shoe strike was a clear-cut defense of employees’ rights, going further…than any other politician of national stature had done.”

“’I am glad to see that a system of labor prevails in New England under which laborers can strike when they want to,” Lincoln said to cheers, “’where they are not obliged to work under all circumstances, and are not obliged to labor whether you pay them or not.’( cheers)” The future President also said, “’I am not ashamed to confess that 25 years ago I was a hired laborer, nailing rails, at work on a flat boat, just what might happen to any poor man’s son’ (applause.)”

For further details about the “Lincoln Speaks to New Haven” program on March 6th, please contact Frank Cochran, 203-865-7380, or


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