Abraham Lincoln’s House Divided Speech, arguably one of his three most memorable and often quoted speeches, was given on June 16, 1858 at the then Illinois State Capitol, Springfield, upon accepting the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination as that state’s United States senator. It was the launching point for his unsuccessful campaign for the Senate seat held by Stephen A. Douglas. Because of this speech he is often credited with being the originator of the phrase” A house divided against itself cannot stand,” but the origins of the phrase are numerous.
In the Gospel of Mark 3:25, Jesus states, “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”, in response to the scribes’ claim that “by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.”
Also, in the Gospel of Matthew 12:25 “And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto him, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand”
Saint Augustine, in his book Confessions (Book 8, Chapter 8) describes his conversion experience as being “a house divided against itself.”
Thomas Hobbes, in his 1651 Leviathan (Chapter 18), stated that, “a kingdom divided in itself cannot stand.”
In Thomas Paine’s 1776 Common Sense, his description of the composition of Monarchy, “this hath all the distinctions of a house divided against itself . . .”
During the War of 1812 a line appeared in a letter from Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren: “… A house divided upon itself – and upon that foundation do our enemies build their hopes of subduing us.”
The “house divided” phrase had been used by Lincoln himself in another context in 1843.
Famously, eight years before Lincoln’s speech, during the Senate debate on the Compromise of 1850, Sam Houston had proclaimed: “A nation divided against itself cannot stand.”
Perhaps we should heed the many voices who are trying to tell us all something… Pray for our nation this weekend as we celebrate its birth.