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UK Parliament: Why President Lincoln Was Wrong About House Divided (At Least In UK)

On Wednesday, June 16, 1858, delegates of the Republican State Convention of Illinois gathered in Representatives’ Hall in Springfield.  At about 5:00 p.m., delegate Charles L. Wilson submitted the following resolution:

Resolved, that Abraham Lincoln is the first and only choice of the Republicans of Illinois for the United States Senate, as the successor of Stephen A. Douglas.

The Convention unanimously passed Mr. Wilson’s resolution and adjourned for several hours.  At about 8:00 p.m., the Convention reconvened and called upon Mr. Lincoln to address the delegates.  As Mr. Lincoln approached the lectern, he was reportedly greeted with “shouts and hurrahs and prolonged cheering”.  When the tumult had subsided, Mr. Lincoln delivered these famous lines:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.  I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.  I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.  It will become all one thing or all the other.

On November 2, 1858, the people of Illinois voted, and Republicans won a plurality of the popular vote.  Mr. Lincoln, however, did not win a seat in the Senate.  At the time, state legislatures chose U.S. senators and Senator Douglas was re-elected.

Mr. Lincoln was, of course, correct.  The Union was not dissolved and it did not remain half slave and half free.  However, not all divided houses fall.

In the United Kingdom, both houses of Parliament routinely conduct votes by a process known as a “division”.  When a division occurs, the members rise and pass through separate lobbies (known as the “aye” and “no” lobbies in the Commons and “content” and “not content” lobbies in the Lords).  As the member’s pass through their chosen lobbies, tellers count the vote and the results are announced.

When it comes to voting, California legislators generally remain seated when voting and vote either electronically or by voice vote.

Mr. Lincoln’s reference to a “house divided” is borrowed from the three synoptic Gospels:  Matthew 12:25; Mark 3:25; and Luke 11:17.

© 2010-2022 Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP National Law Review, Volume VI, Number 314
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About this Author

Keith Paul Bishop, Corporate Transactions Lawyer, finance securities attorney, Allen Matkins Law Firm
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Keith Bishop works with privately held and publicly traded companies on federal and state corporate and securities transactions, compliance, and governance matters. He is highly-regarded for his in-depth knowledge of the distinctive corporate and regulatory requirements faced by corporations in the state of California.

While many law firms have a great deal of expertise in federal or Delaware corporate law, Keith’s specific focus on California corporate and securities law is uncommon. A former California state regulator of securities and financial institutions, Keith has decades of...

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