Abraham Lincoln’s Kalamazoo Speech in Bronson Park

Abraham Lincoln spoke in Kalamazoo, Mich.'s Bronson Park in 1856. (Photo by Michael E. Grass)

Abraham Lincoln spoke in Kalamazoo, Mich.’s Bronson Park in 1856. (Photo by Michael E. Grass)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Lincoln Highway doesn’t run through Michigan but I thought I’d point out an interesting Lincoln-specific spot I checked out during my brief detour to visit my parents in Grand Rapids.

Abraham Lincoln came to Kalamazoo in 1856 to deliver a speech supporting the campaign of John Frémont, the first-ever Republican Party nominee for president, who lost to Pennsylvania Democrat James Buchanan that year.

Lincoln, who was then relatively unknown, spoke in Bronson Park, which remains an important public space in downtown Kalamazoo. This speech helped lay the foundation for Lincoln’s eventual national prominence in the 1860 election.

According to the Kalamazoo Gazette:

Lincoln came into Kalamazoo on the train from Chicago. The train arrived late and he rushed down Rose Street to Bronson Park. There were four stages set up in the park and Lincoln spoke at 2 p.m. His speech touched on one of the halmark issues of the Republican party at the time: restricting the expansion of slavery to new territories and states, including Kansas and Nebraska.

Via the Kalamazoo Public Library, I’ve posted Lincoln’s Kalamazoo address in full:

Continue reading

Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.: A Good Place to Start My Trip

The Lincoln Memorial In Washington, D.C.

Daniel Chester French’s great statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Michael E. Grass)

WASHINGTON — I really should be starting my Lincoln Highway adventure at Times Square in New York City, the highway’s true eastern terminus. But I live in the nation’s capital, so starting on one of the highway’s auxiliary routes is more sensible. (I’ll be detailing some of the route in New York and New Jersey after I join up with the mainline of the highway up in Pennsylvania.)

And in any regard, starting at the Lincoln Memorial makes sense. It’s an important spot.

The national monument to the Great Emancipator, sitting at the western end of the great east-west axis that includes the Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol and the National Mall, is probably the most well-known representation of Lincoln anywhere.

I’ve been to the Lincoln Memorial countless times and it’s among my favorite monuments in the nation’s capital. A lot of locals like to enjoy the monuments at night when there are fewer tourists — Richard Nixon once made a bizarre impromptu pre-dawn visit to the Lincoln Memorial in what’s called the “weirdest day” of his presidency — but I think it’s fascinating to go when it’s packed with people.

Why? Am I a glutton for punishment? No. When it’s crowded with visitors, you get to witness something that’s similar to a religious pilgrimage. The great Doric temple, designed by Henry Bacon and completed in 1922, is accessed by a grand and somewhat imposing staircase. It’s certainly not like the climb up to the Acropolis in Athens — which I did back on a sweltering summer day in 1996 during a high school Latin Club trip to Greece — but the experience is similarly humbling. You feel tiny in comparison to your surroundings, especially when you turn around to see the grand expanse of the great public space stretching beyond the Washington Monument to the east.

Continue reading