Thank you for visiting the Lincoln Society of Dayton’s webpage. We are a nonprofit organization founded to celebrate and commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s historic speech against the expansion of slavery, which was delivered here in Dayton on the steps of our county courthouse on September 17, 1859. Read on to learn more about our organization, about Abraham Lincoln, and about Dayton, the city we call home.
We are an organization of Daytonians committed to preserving Lincoln’s legacy in general, and his antislavery positions in particular. We believe slavery was a stain upon this country and that it was the right, just, and honorable position to oppose its expansion and advocate for its end. Because of that, we are firmly committed to our mission of honoring Lincoln’s anti-expansionist stance.
We have four main goals:
- Commemorate Lincoln’s historic speech here in Dayton, where he took a stand against allowing slavery to expand any further. This speech, given in 1859, was a pivotal moment in the events leading up to the Civil War.
- Educate Daytonians, visitors, young, and old about the Civil War, the lead-up to that nation-defining conflict, and the crucial role Lincoln played in shepherding our country through it.
- Inspire all people to follow Lincoln’s example in their public and private lives by engaging with others compassionately, embracing patriotism for their country, advocating for equality among all people, and striving for justice in all situations.
- Build a thriving community around the old court house and downtown Dayton, primarily by adding a statute of Lincoln cast in bronze, but also by beautifying and otherwise contributing to the community.
Our organization is nonprofit, so we depend heavily on charitable donations from others. Please contact us if you would like to support our efforts. Your donation is tax deductible.
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The city of Dayton was founded in 1796 by a group of just 12 settlers who decided to start a settlement along the Great Miami River where its three tributaries met. Since then, the city has grown to over 140,000 people as of 2017, and it is now a thriving hub of business and community life. Dayton is the state of Ohio’s sixth-largest city.
In 1859, when Abraham Lincoln came to town, Dayton was still a fairly new city, having only received its official city charter in 1841. It was connected to Cincinnati by a major road, which helped spur the development of industry and investment in the city. Lincoln’s speech on the old courthouse’s steps was a highlight of the campaign season when he came to town.
After the Civil War had ended and Daytonians were able to resume regular life, the city started to attract businessmen, inventors, and others who were eager to take the benefits of the industrial revolution and use them for good. Dayton is the home of many patents issued during this period, as Dayton’s inventors busily churned out new tools and machines to make life easier for average Americans.
In the 20th century, Dayton became a hub of manufacturing and industry. Chemicals, machinery, appliances, automobiles, and other consumer goods were made here and transported around the world for sale. With the decline of heavy manufacturing in the late 20th century, though, Dayton’s fortunes also declined.
Today, like much of the United States, Dayton has a primarily service-based economy. The physical city would likely be unrecognizable to Lincoln, but he would still recognize the spirit of its residents: hospitable, egalitarian, devoted to justice and liberty.
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Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States and arguably the greatest leader this country has ever had. He led the country through the perilous years of the Civil War, ended slavery, preserved the union, and sacrificed everything to do so.
Lincoln was born the son of poor farmers in rural Kentucky, in his family’s log cabin. He moved to Illinois, where he studied and began to practice law. He married Mary Todd Lincoln, and they had three children.
Over the course of his public and professional life, Lincoln experienced a series of failures that would have rattled a lesser man. He lost several elections and had periods of financial struggle, but he was also a brilliant wordsmith who famously sparred with Stephen A. Douglas in the well-known Lincoln-Douglas debates and earned a reputation for his clarity of thinking, sound research, and eloquence.
As a leader in the newly founded Republican party, Lincoln ran for president in 1860 on a platform that included stopping the spread of slavery to newly opened territories in the American west. His 1859 speech here in Dayton was a critical part of his campaign to establish that platform. When he was elected, southern states seceded, and shortly afterward, the Civil War began when the South fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
Through four long years of war, Lincoln held the nation together, often through the sheer force of his personality and determination. At the end of the war, he was rightly honored as a masterful leader. His 1863 Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in all the states still in active rebellion, and constitutional amendments banning slavery in all the states followed a few years later. He kept the union intact.
Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865 by an angry southerner who refused to admit the war was lost.
Lincoln often spoke from wooden stages quickly constructed so that crowds could see him. Nowadays, we mostly have wooden grandstands and decks. It’s important to stay on top of your deck repair if you’re using one.
We regularly hold events to commemorate Lincoln’s 1859 speech here in Dayton and to celebrate his legacy more generally. Those events include speeches and presentations, reenactments, commemorative demonstrations, and other events. For more on upcoming events, please contact us.
As part of our commemorative events, we are firm in emphasizing that slavery was the cause of the Civil War, that slavery was an evil that had to be eradicated, and that nearly everybody alive at the time benefited somehow from the institution, even those who lived in the North. We believe it is crucial that history be looked at with clear eyes and no sentimentality. We invite you to join us in our mission of preserving Lincoln’s legacy through honest, forthright discussion and scholarship.
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