Lincoln’s First Use of the “House Divided” Motif

In what is believed to be Lincoln’s earliest formulation of his “House Divided” doctrine, Lincoln identifies slavery as a moral and political issue that threatens the survival of the United States. Invoking the famous biblical phrase from Mark 3:25, “A house divided against itself can not stand,” he declares, “I believe this government can not endure permanently, half slave, and half free.” These words would have been particularly resonant in the mid-nineteenth century, when the Bible was almost universally familiar.