Year
1862
Month Day
December 01

Abraham Lincoln delivers State of the Union address

On December 1, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln addresses the U.S. Congress and speaks some of his most memorable words as he discusses the Northern war effort.

Lincoln used the address to present a moderate message concerning his policy towards slavery. Just10 weeks before, he had issued his Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that slaves in territories still in rebellion as of January 1, 1863, would be free. The measure was not welcomed by everyone in the North–it met with considerable resistance from conservative Democrats who did not want to fight a war to free slaves.

The November 1862 elections were widely interpreted as a condemnation of the emancipation plan. The Democrats won the New York governorship and 34 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, though the Republicans gained five Senate seats and maintained control of most state legislatures. Lincoln used the State of the Union address to present a more moderate position on emancipation. He mentioned gradual, compensated emancipation of slaves, which many moderates and conservatives desired, but he also asserted that the slaves liberated thus far by Union armies would remain forever free.

Lincoln’s closing paragraph was a statement on the trials of the time: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present…fellow citizens, we cannot escape history…The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union…In giving freedom to the slave, we ensure freedom to the free–honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last, best hope of earth.”

READ MORE: Why Lincoln's 'House Divided' Speech Was So Important

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Russian revolutionary Sergei Kirov murdered

Sergei Kirov, a leader of the Russian Revolution and a high-ranking member of the Politburo, is shot to death at his Leningrad office by Communist Party member Leonid Nikolayev, likely at the instigation of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Whatever Stalin’s precise role in the ...read more

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted by police after refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. (Credit: Gene Herrick/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

Rosa Parks ignites bus boycott

In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks is jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, a violation of the city’s racial segregation laws. The successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., followed ...read more

Presidential election goes to the House of Representatives

As no presidential candidate had received a majority of the total electoral votes in the election of 1824, Congress decides to turn over the presidential election to the House of Representatives, as dictated by the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the November 1824 ...read more

Chunnel makes breakthrough

Shortly after 11 a.m. on December 1, 1990, 132 feet below the English Channel, workers drill an opening the size of a car through a wall of rock. This was no ordinary hole–it connected the two ends of an underwater tunnel linking Great Britain with the European mainland for the ...read more

Bette Midler is born in Honolulu, Hawaii

By the time she appeared as the final guest of Johnny Carson’s 30-year career on The Tonight Show and brought tears to the unflappable host’s eyes with an emotional performance of “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road),” she was an established star of stage and screen—a ...read more

90 students die in Chicago school fire

A fire at a grade school in Chicago kills 90 students on December 1, 1958. The Our Lady of Angels School was operated by the Sisters of Charity in Chicago. In 1958, there were well over 1,200 students enrolled at the school, which occupied a large, old building. Unfortunately, ...read more

Antarctica made a military-free continent

Twelve nations, including the United States and the Soviet Union, sign the Antarctica Treaty, which bans military activity and weapons testing on that continent. It was the first arms control agreement signed in the Cold War period. Since the 1800s a number of nations, including ...read more

Ford’s assembly line starts rolling

On December 1, 1913, Henry Ford installs the first moving assembly line for the mass production of an entire automobile. His innovation reduced the time it took to build a car from more than 12 hours to one hour and 33 minutes. Ford’s Model T, introduced in 1908, was simple, ...read more

George Washington establishes winter quarters at Morristown

General George Washington’s army settles into a second season at Morristown, New Jersey, on December 1, 1779. Washington’s personal circumstances improved dramatically as he moved into the Ford Mansion and was able to conduct his military business in the style of a proper ...read more