4¢ Abraham Lincoln
Prominent Americans Series Coil
Issue Date: May 28, 1966
City: Springfield, IL
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 10 vertically
Lincoln Delivers House Divided Speech
On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous House Divided Speech in Springfield, Illinois.
In June 1858, 49-year-old Abraham Lincoln was nominated as the Republican Party’s choice for United States Senator. Lincoln prepared a special speech for the occasion, one that would “rouse people to the peril of the times.” That speech became known as the House Divided Speech. Lincoln took the name, and most famous phrase, from the Bible (Mark 3:25).
On June 16, 1858 at 5:00 p.m., the delegates to the Republican State Convention officially selected Lincoln as their candidate. Three hours later, at 8:00 p.m., he delivered his speech to his fellow Republicans in the Hall of Representatives.
The focus of Lincoln’s speech was slavery, particularly concerning the Dred Scott decision. In this controversial case, the Supreme Court had ruled that Dred Scott could live in a free state, but must still remain a slave. To this, Lincoln responded, “what Dred Scott’s master might lawfully do with Dred Scott, in the free state of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or one thousand slaves, in Illinois, or in any other free state.”
Lincoln’s other point of concern in his speech was the passage of the Kansas and Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the 1820 Missouri Compromise. The Act supported popular sovereignty, which allowed the residents of territories, rather than Congress, to determine the future of slavery in each state. Lincoln claimed that, “individual men may now fill up the Territories with slaves,” and that instituting popular sovereignty would guarantee continued slavery across the nation.
Although many of Lincoln’s friends believed his speech was too radical for the time, it was one of the driving forces behind the eventual Lincoln-Douglas debates that were held just a few months later. Lincoln ended up losing the Senate seat to Stephen Douglas, but many credit the exposure Lincoln received from the speech as contributing to his popularity in the Presidential campaign of 1860.
Lincoln regarded the speech as one of his favorites, once saying, “If I had to draw a pen across my record, and erase my whole life from sight, and I had one poor gift or choice left as to what I should save from the wreck, I should choose that speech [The House Divided Against Itself] and leave it to the world unerased.”
Click here to read the full text of Lincoln’s House Divided speech.
Prominent Americans Series
The Prominent Americans Series recognizes people who played important roles in U.S. history. Officials originally planned to honor 18 individuals, but later added seven others. The Prominent Americans Series began with the 4¢ Lincoln stamp, which was issued on November 10, 1965. During the course of the series, the 6¢ Eisenhower stamp was reissued with an 8¢ denomination and the 5¢ Washington was redrawn.
A number of technological changes developed during the course of producing the series, resulting in a number of varieties due to gum, luminescence, precancels and perforations plus sheet, coil and booklet formats. Additionally, seven rate changes occurred while the Prominent Americans Series was current, giving collectors who specialize in first and last day of issue covers an abundance of collecting opportunities.
The 4¢ denomination pictures Abraham Lincoln. More than two hundred years after his birth, Lincoln is still honored as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents. Lincoln was a complex man whose legacy is often overshadowed by the Civil War. Indeed, he ably led the Union throughout the War Between the States, but he did much more.
Lincoln made millions of acres in the West available to the public inexpensively, allowed grants for agricultural universities, and signed bills that funded the first transcontinental railroad. Lincoln introduced the first U.S. paper currency and income tax, and reformed the national banking system.
President Lincoln controlled the border slave states as the Civil War loomed. He rallied public opinion for the war effort within the Union states and prevented foreign nations from joining the Confederate cause. A gentle man who neither hunted nor fished because he couldn’t bear to kill, Lincoln believed the nation could be peacefully reunited at the end of the bitter war. Then, just days after the Civil War ended, Abraham Lincoln became the first U.S. President to be assassinated.
Today, the rail-splitter from Kentucky is one of America’s greatest heroes. Self-educated, honest, and hardworking, Lincoln embodies the notion that a common person can work their way to the nation’s highest office and become one of America’s most admired Presidents.