“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Springfield in Sangamon County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

The Lyceum

Looking for Lincoln

The Lyceum Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Beverly Pfingsten, June 9, 2012
1. The Lyceum Marker
Lyceums were community associations that sponsored lectures, debates, and discussions.
Eastern Protestant missionaries and educators brought the concept to frontier Illinois. Promoters hoped their Lyceums would disseminate knowledge and encourage civic responsibility. Townspeople hoped attendance would help them climb the ladder of middle-class respectability. Aspiring local leaders used them as forums for honing their oratorical and analytic skills. In Lincoln's day there were over 3,000 lyceums nationwide. Springfield had two Lyceums---the Sangamon County Lyceum, founded in 1833, followed a few years later by the Young Mens' Lyceum. Meetings were usually on Saturday nights.

Prominent local men---and those who hoped to be prominent---were invited as speakers. Topics included science, culture, health, history, and politics. Participants discussed such questions as whether to abolish the death penalty, whether newspapers could be trusted, and whether married people were happier than single people. Since women also attended, Lyceums had a social and recreational function, as well. At the Lyceum, young men like Abraham Lincoln

Baptist Church photo. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Beverly Pfingsten, June 9, 2012
2. Baptist Church photo.
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could simultaneously pursue their professional and social advancement.

From 1838 to 1840, the Young Mens' Lyceum met in the Baptist Church, on the southwest corner of Seventh and Adams Street. It was here that Lincoln delivered his famous "Lyceum Speech" on January 27, 1838. The church did not have the tall "battlement" tower at the time. It was added twenty-one years later---the year before Lincoln was elected president. The tower housed a 2,300-pound bell. It rang at Lincoln's election---and at his funeral.

A few weeks before his 29th birthday, Abraham Lincoln addressed the Young Mens' Lyceum. He responded to the question; "Do the signs of the present times indicate the downfall of this Government." His remarks---known as the "Lyceum Speech"---are an important Lincoln text, containing clues about the developing mind of the future president. Lincoln was writing in a period when many Americans feared that vigilantism and mobocracy threatened their society. Lincoln's speech, entitled "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions," still has relevance today.

...(L)et every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children's liberty....Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe...Let it be taught in schools, in seminaries,

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and in colleges...In short, let it become the political religion of the Nation...
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, MusicCommunications. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln, and the Looking for Lincoln series lists. A significant historical month for this entry is January 1807.
Location. 39° 48.033′ N, 89° 38.817′ W. Marker is in Springfield, Illinois, in Sangamon County. Marker is at the intersection of South 7th Street and East Adams Street on South 7th Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Springfield IL 62702, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Elijah Iles' American House Hotel (within shouting distance of this marker); The American House (within shouting distance of this marker); Streetscape 1859 (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices (about 300 feet away); The Lincoln Boys in 1854 (about 300 feet away); In Their Springfield Prime (about 300 feet away); a different marker also named Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices (about 300 feet away); Lincoln's Springfield (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Springfield.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 2, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 5, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 506 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on July 5, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.

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Jan. 26, 2023