With historical commentary by Randy Russell                                                                                                                          

Key to Resources Cited: 

LE: The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia, Mark E. Neely, Da Capo Press, 1982

LL: The Living Lincoln, Paul M. Angle & Earl S. Miers, Marboro Books, 1955

FT: This Fiery Trial, William E. Gienapp, Oxford University Press, 2002  

Abraham Lincoln speaks through his speeches and writings, in the historical sequence and context of the events of Lincoln’s and the nation’s life.

Earliest Public Comments

In his earliest public comment on slavery, A. Lincoln (as he signed) along with Dan Stone, Sangamo County Representatives to the Illinois House, entered a formal protest about previously passed resolutions. From the onset, Lincoln thought slavery wrong, yet saw it protected by the Constitution. The Abolitionist movement stoked the meanness of slavery. 

3/3/1837 They [Lincoln and Stone] believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends to increase rather than abate its evils...the Congress of the United States has no power, under the constitution, to interfere with the institution of slavery in different states...but does in the District of Columbia...at the request of the people of said District. FT 8,9

In a letter to W. Durley, Lincoln protested abolitionist and Liberty party abstention from voting for Henry Clay, the moderate, slaveholding, Presidential candidate from Kentucky, in the 1844 election. In Lincoln's mind, sitting out the election caused Henry Clay's loss.

10/3/1845 If by your votes you could have prevented the extension of slavery, would it not have been good and not evil so to have used your votes, even though it involved the casting of them for a slaveholder? By the fruit the tree is to be known. An evil tree can not bring forth good fruit. If the fruit of electing Mr. Clay would have been to prevent the extension of slavery, how could the act of electing have been evil?...

It always seemed to me that slaves could be taken there [to Texas] in equal numbers, with or without annexation. I hold it to be a paramount duty of us in the free states, due to the Union of the states, and perhaps to liberty itself (paradox though it may seem) to let the slavery of the other states alone; while, on the other hand, I hold it to be equally clear, that we should never knowingly lend ourselves directly or indirectly, to prevent that slavery from dying a natural death - to find new places for it to live in, when it can no longer exist in the old. Of course I am not now considering what would be our duty, in cases of insurrection among the slaves. FT 17

1/10/1849 Illinois Representative to Congress Lincoln introduced an amendment to a resolution calling for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. Slaves born after 1/1/1850 would be free, but were to be supported and educated in their youth by present owners, in exchange for an apprenticeship. Present DC slaveholders were to be compensated for emancipating their slaves. The Bill died for lack of support. LE 325


Landmark Decision - The Compromise of 1850 (September 20)

The Act was a multi-level series of laws that attempted to resolve territorial and slavery issues impacted by the Mexican-American War. The laws balanced interests of Southern slave states and Northern free states. California was admitted into the Union as a free state; the territory of New Mexico (present day Arizona and Utah) was organized without a prohibition to slavery; the slave trade but not slavery itself was abolished in Washington DC; and a strong Fugitive Slave Law required all citizens to assist in the return of runaway slaves, regardless where they were discovered. The Compromise temporarily defused sectional tensions in the United States until the Kansas-Nebraska Act four years later. Lincoln, though no longer a congressman, admired the chief compromiser, Henry Clay, and approved the work.

Landmark Event - Uncle Tom's Cabin: Life Among the Lowly is published, 1852.

Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery novel exposed Northerners to the cruelty of slavery. It became the best selling book of the 19th century, and increased sectional tensions.


A fragment of Lincoln's writing on the role of government and liberty in society.

7/1/1854? The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not so well do for themselves-in their separate and individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere. FT 27


Landmark Decision - The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 (enacted May 30)

The act divided territorial regions into the Kansas Territory and the Nebraska Territory, opening new lands for settlement. This nullified the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850, which had prohibited slavery in any newer states to be created north of latitude 36°. Designed by Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas, the most controversial provision was that each territory would separately decide by popular vote whether to allow slavery within its borders. This ‘popular sovereignty' led to the pro & anti-slavery causes to vie for control of these potential states and to anarchy in Kansas.


In a speech at Peoria, IL, Lincoln attacked the Kansas-Nebraska Act that allowed popular sovereignty by accepting slavery into all US territories to become slave states. Prior to this national decision, Lincoln had relatively retired from national politics.

10/16/1854 We have before us, the chief material enabling us to correctly judge whether the repeal of the Missouri Compromise [1820] is right or wrong. I think, and I shall try to show, that it is wrong; wrong in the direct effect, letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska-and wrong in the prospective principle, allowing it to spread to every other part of the wide world, where men can be found inclined to take it.

This declared indifference, but I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself...it deprives our republican institutions to taunt us as hypocrites...the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity...it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the fundamental principles of civil liberty-criticizing the Declaration of Independence and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self interest.

If all earthly power were given to me, I should not know how to do, as to the existing institution [of slavery]. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves and send them to Liberia-to their own native land. But a moment's reflection would convince me...its sudden execution is impossible. If they all landed there in a day, they all perish in the next ten days...Free them and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit this; and if mine did, we know that those of a great mass of white people will not. Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment is not the sole question, if indeed it is part of it. A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, cannot be safely disregarded. We cannot then, make them equals. It does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but for their tardiness in this, I will not undertake to judge our brethren of the South...

The doctrine of self-government is right-absolutely and eternally right-but has no just application as here attempted. Or perhaps I should rather say that whether it has such just application depends on whether a negro is not or is a man. If he is not a man, why in that case, he who is a man may, as a matter of self-government, do just as he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man, is not to that extent, a destruction of self-government, to say that he too shall not govern himself? When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs himself, and also governs another man, that is more than self-government-that is despotism. If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that ‘all men are created equal,' and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man's making a slave of another...What I do say is, that no man is good enough to govern another man, without the other's consent.

Our Declaration of Independence...says "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Allow all the governed an equal voice in the government, and that and that only is self-government...Near eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a ‘sacred right of self-government.'...Let us return to the position our fathers gave it...Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence. We shall have so saved [the Union], that the succeeding millions of free happy people, the world over, shall rise up, and call us blessed, to the latest generations. FT 29-34

...Nebraska is urged as a great Union-saving measure. Well I too go for saving the Union. Much as I hate slavery, I would consent to the extension of it rather than see the Union dissolved, just as I would consent to any great evil, to avoid a greater one.

Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's nature-opposition to it is in his love of justice...repeal all past history, you still cannot repeal human nature. LL 173-4

In a letter to J. Speed, Lincoln denies he had sympathies with the Know-Nothing Party.

8/24/1855 ...I also acknowledge your rights and my obligations, under the constitution, in regard to your slaves. I confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down and caught and carried back to their stripes, and unrewarded toils; but I bite my lip and keep quiet.

In 1841 you and I had together a tedious low-water trip, on a steamboat from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continual torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave border. It is hardly fair for you to assume, that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the constitution and the Union.

How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid... We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.' When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty-to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy. FT 34-7

Landmark Decision - The Dred Scott Case of 1857 (March 6)

Dred Scott v. Sandford, was a lawsuit decided by the United States Supreme Court, ruling that people of African descent, whether or not they were slaves, could never be citizens of the United States; slaves were property. Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories. The decision emboldened pro-slavery forces and infuriated anti-slavery supporters by making every territory and new state open to slavery.


Lincoln gave a speech in Springfield, IL, following the Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court.

6/26/1857 In those days the Declaration of Independence was held sacred by all; but now, to aid in making the bondage of the negro universal and eternal, it is assailed, and sneered at, and construed, and hawked at, and torn, till, if its framers could rise from their graves, they could not at all recognize it. All the powers of earth seem rapidly combining against him. Mammon is after him; ambition follows, and philosophy follows, and the Theology of the day is fast joining the cry. They have him in the prison house...One after another they have closed the heavy iron doors upon him, and now they have him, as it were, bolted in with a lock of a hundred keys, which can never be unlocked without the concurrence of every key; the keys in the hands of a hundred different men, and they scattered to a hundred different and distant places...

He [Senator Stephen A. Douglas] finds Republicans insisting that the Declaration of Independence includes all men, black as well as white...he boldly denies that it includes negroes at all, and proceeds to argue gravely that all who contend it does, do so only because they want to vote, eat, and sleep, and marry with negroes! Now I protest against that counterfeit logic which concludes that, because I do not want a black woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. I need not have her for either, I can just leave her alone. In some respects she certainly is not my equal; but in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands with asking leave of any one else, she is my equal, and the equal of all others.

I think the authors of that notable instrument [the Declaration] intended to include all men, but they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctiveness, in what respects they did consider all men created equal-equal in ‘certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' This they said and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality nor yet, that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere... FT 39-42


A written fragment by Lincoln, giving logic on prejudice and slavery, mid to late 1850s.

Mid to late 1850s If A can prove...that he may...enslave B-why may not B...prove equally, that he may enslave A? You say A is white and B is black. It is color, then; the lighter having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own.

Do you mean color exactly? You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet with an intellect superior to your own.

But, say you, it is a question of interest; and if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you. FT 42


Lincoln Landmark - ‘A House Divided Speech', June 16, 1858

This address was given by Lincoln in Springfield, IL, upon his acceptance of the Illinois Republican Party's nomination for US Senator. The speech, creating a lasting image of the danger of disunion because of slavery, became the launching point for an unsuccessful campaign for the Senate against Stephen A. Douglas, which included the publicized Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.


6/16/1858 ...Under the operation of that policy [the Kansas-Nebraska Act], that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has been augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. ‘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 dissolve-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. FT 43-51


In a letter to J. Scripps, Lincoln seeks to clarify his ‘A House Divided Speech.' For a further response by Lincoln to his speech, see his 2/14/60 letter. LL 308-9

6/23/1858 I have declared a thousand times, and now repeat that, in my opinion, neither the General Government, nor any other power outside of the slave states, can constitutionally or rightfully interfere with slaves or slavery where it already exists.

I believe whenever the effort to spread slavery into the new territories, by whatever means, and into the free states themselves, by Supreme Court decisions, shall be fairly headed off, the institution [slavery] will then be in course of ultimate extinction... FT 52


Lincoln Landmark - the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858

The Debates were a series of seven between Republican Abraham Lincoln and incumbent Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, for an Illinois seat in the United States Senate. Since Senators were elected by state legislatures, Lincoln and Douglas were campaigning for their respective parties to win control of the Illinois legislature. The debates previewed the issues that the nation would face in the Presidential election of 1860. The main issue discussed was slavery, particularly its role in the territories and impending states.


Lincoln's verbal response to Stephen Douglas's speech on the previous day, in Chicago.

7/10/1858 I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop. If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that Declaration is not the truth, let us get the statute book, in which we find it and tear it out! Who is so bold to do it! If it is not true let us tear it out! Let us stick to it then, let us stand firmly by it then. LL 229

From Lincoln's notes in preparation for the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.

8/1858 ...Judge Douglas's present course by no means lessens my belief in the existence of a purpose to make slavery alike lawful in all the States. This can be done by a Supreme Court decision holding that the United States Constitution forbids a State to exclude slavery; and probably it can be done in no other way...

Slavery can only become extinct by being restricted to its present limits & dwindling out. FT 53, 54

Lincoln attacked the combined effects of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Supreme Court deciding the legality of slavery, in Ottawa, IL

8/21/1858 In the first place what is necessary to make the institution [of slavery] national? Not war. There is no danger that the people of Kentucky will shoulder their muskets and with a young n....r stuck on every bayonet march into Illinois and force them upon us. There is no danger of our going over there and making war on them. Then what is necessary for the nationalization of slavery? It is simply the next Dred Scott decision. It is merely for the Supreme Court to decide that no state under the Constitution can exclude it, just as they have already decided that under the Constitution neither Congress nor the territorial legislature can do it. When that is decided and acquiesced in, the whole thing is done. LL 249

Lincoln allows he would accept state sovereignty at the debate in Freeport, IL

8/27/1858 In regard to the other question of whether I am pledged to the admission of any more slave states into the Union, I state to you very frankly that I would be exceedingly sorry ever to be put in a position of having to pass upon that question.

I should be exceedingly glad to know that there would never be another slave state admitted into the Union; but I must add, that if slavery shall be kept out of the territories during the territorial existence of any one given territory, and then the people shall, having a fair chance and clean field, when they come to adopt the constitution, un-influenced by the actual presence of the institution among them, I see no alternative, if we own the country, but to admit them into the Union. LL 254-5


Lincoln clarifies his racial views at the debate in Charleston, IL

9/18/1858 ...An elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the negroes and white people...I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people, and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race... FT 57


Lincoln on the wrongness & the extinction of slavery, Lincoln-Douglas debate, Quincy, IL

10/13/1858 We have in this nation this element of domestic slavery...that difference of opinion, reduced to its lowest terms, is no other than the difference between men who think slavery a wrong and those who do not think it a wrong...we think it wrong-we think it is a moral, and social and a political wrong. We think it is a wrong not confining itself merely to the persons or the states where it exists, but that it is a wrong in its tendency, to say the least, that extends itself to the existence of the whole nation. Because we think it wrong, we propose a course of policy that shall deal with it as a wrong. We deal with it as with any other wrong, in so far as we can prevent its growing any larger, and so deal with it that in the run of time there may be some promise of an end to it. We have a due regard to the actual presence of it amongst us and the difficulties of getting rid of it in any satisfactory way, and all the constitutional obligations thrown about it...

we have no right at all to disturb it in the states where it exists, and we profess that we have no more inclination to disturb it than we have the right to do it...We also oppose it as an evil so far as it seeks to spread itself. We insist on the policy that shall restrict it to its present limits. We don't suppose that in doing this we violate anything due to the actual presence of the institution, or anything due to the constitutional guarantees thrown around it. LL 274-5

...when the fathers of the government cut off the source of slavery by the abolition of the slave trade [enacted after 20 years, 1808], and adopted a system of restricting it from the new Territories where it had not existed [Northwest Territories in 1787, confirmed by Congress in 1789], I maintain that they placed it where they understood, and all sensible men understood, it was in the course of ultimate extinction... FT 60

Lincoln contended the nation's founders planned for slavery's demise, at the debate in Alton, IL

10/15/1858 ...three years ago there had never been a man, so far as I knew or believed, in the whole world, who had said that the Declaration of Independence did not include negroes in the term ‘all men.'...

When this new principle-this new proposition that no human being ever thought of three years ago, is brought forward, I combat it as having a tendency to dehumanize the negro-to take away from him the right of ever striving to be a man. I combat it as being one of the thousand things constantly done in these days to prepare the public mind to make property, and nothing but property of the negro in all the States of this Union...

...[in the Constitution] there is no mention of the word ‘negro' or of slavery... Language is used not suggesting that slavery existed or that the black race were among us. And I understand the contemporaneous history of those times to be that covert language was used with a purpose, and that purpose was that in our Constitution, which

it was hoped and is still hoped will endure forever-when it should be read by intelligent and patriotic men, after the institution of slavery had passed from among us-there should be nothing on the face of the great charter of liberty suggesting that such a thing as negro slavery had ever existed among us...When I say that I want to see the further spread of it arrested...that it is the course of ultimate extinction, I only say I desire to see it placed where they [this country's fathers] placed it.

It is the same spirit that says, "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it." No matter what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle. FT 60-67


A summary of Lincoln's posture and intent at the last debate in Springfield, IL

10/30/1858 ...Through all, I have neither assailed, nor wrestled with any part of the constitution. The legal right of the Southern people to reclaim their fugitives I have constantly admitted. The legal right of Congress to interfere with their institution in the states, I have constantly denied. In resisting the spread of slavery into new territory, and with that, what appears to me to be a tendency to subvert the first principle of free government itself, my whole effort has consisted. To the best of my judgment I have labored for, and not against the Union. As I have not felt, so I have not expressed any harsh sentiment towards our Southern brethren. I have constantly declared, as I really believed, the only difference between them and us, is the difference of circumstances. FT 67-68


Following Lincoln's defeat for US Senator from Illinois, he wrote a letter to H. Asbury about why he lost, that problems were imminent, and exhorted to press on for the cause.

11/19/1858 ...The fight must go on. The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one, or even, one hundred defeats. Douglas had the ingenuity to be supported in the late contest both as the best means to break down, and to uphold the slave interest. No ingenuity can keep those antagonistic elements in harmony long. Another explosion will soon come... LL 286

Landmark Event - John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, VA, October 16, 1859

John Brown was a radical American abolitionist who advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to abolish slavery. He first gained attention when he led groups of volunteers to fight during the Bleeding Kansas crisis. Brown's most famous action was the 1859 raid he led against the federal armory at Harpers Ferry; seizing the arsenal, he killed seven people and injured others. His goal was to gain weapons to arm slave insurrections in the South. The raid was defeated by US Marines, led by Robert E. Lee. Brown's trial for treason to the State of Virginia and his execution by hanging, led to further distrust and estrangement between the North and South.


Lincoln Landmark - The Cooper Union Address, February 27, 1860

Invited to New York City in early 1860, Lincoln electrified the audience of Republicans by speaking about the slavery crisis in American society. He cited how various founding fathers, some who were slaveholders, had envisioned the end of slavery into the future of the embryonic country. With the speech, Lincoln broadened his exposure to an Eastern electorate and made himself a viable spokesman for a moderate view addressing slavery.

In his speech Lincoln gives understanding and tolerance to the Southern states while drawing a line, not being intimidated into giving up his principles.

2/27/1860 ...A few words now to Republicans. It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great confederacy [the United States] shall be at peace, and in harmony, one with another. Let us Republicans do our part to have it so. Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion and ill temper. Even though the Southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if, in our deliberate view of our duty, we possibly can. Judging by all they say and do, and by the subject and nature of their controversy with us, let us determine, if we can, what will satisfy them...The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must, somehow, convince them that we do let them alone.

...what will convince them? This and only this: cease to call slavery wrong and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly-done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated-we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas's new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private.

We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our free state constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us...

If slavery is right, all words, acts, laws and constitutions against it, are themselves wrong, and should be silenced, and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object to its nationality-its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its extension-its enlargement. All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask, they could readily grant; if they thought it wrong. Their thinking is right, and our thinking is wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this?

Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes prevent it, allow it to spread into the national territories, and to overrun us here in these free states? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively...

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it. LL 309-19

Lincoln gave a speech in Massachusetts to striking workers, weaving his own blue collar background, Negro freedom to work, and the value of freedom for upward mobility.

3/1860 ...while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else. When one starts poor, as most do in the race of life, free society is such that he knows he can better his condition; he knows that there is no fixed condition of labor, for his whole life. I am not ashamed to confess that twenty-five years ago I was a hired laborer, mauling rails, at work on a flat-boat-just what might happen to any poor man's son! I want every man to have the chance-and I believe a black man is entitled to it-in which he can better his condition-when he may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him! That is the true system. LL 320-21

Lincoln Landmark - Elected President of the United States, November 8, 1860

Lincoln was the first Republican to win the election as President. In the tradition of the times, once he was nominated by his party (May 18) he did not give speeches or actively campaign. His platform was to keep the Union together and to allow for slavery but not its territorial expansion (counteracting the Kansas-Nebraska Act). He relied on his reputation of being a common man's voice from the Western states, as well as printed speeches of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and his Cooper Union address. Lincoln defeated Douglas and Breckenridge, Democratic candidates whose votes were split between the North and the South. With his success he was immediately thrust into a national crisis as several Southern state governments voted to secede from the Union.

Following his election, President-elect Lincoln wrote this private and confidential letter to Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull to not compromise principles on which he was elected.

12/10/1860 ...Let there be no compromise on the question of extending slavery. If there be, all our labor is lost, and ere long, must be done again. The dangerous ground-that into which some of our friends have a hankering to run-is popular sovereignty. Have none of it. Stand firm. The tug has come & better now than any time hereafter...FT 85


Landmark Event - Southern States secede to form the Confederate States of America, December, 1860 - June, 1861

In the interim four months between Lincoln's election as President and his inauguration, seven Southern states voted to leave the United States with an additional four joining them in ensuing months. It was unthinkable that the people of the states would do this And that Lincoln would not accept it. He treated these states as rebellious, not seceded.

Following his election as President, Lincoln wrote a former colleague from Congress, Georgian AH Stephens, to assure him there was no threat to existing slavery. South Carolina had just seceded on December 20th. Stephens soon became Vice President of the Confederate States of America

12/22/1860 ...I fully appreciate the present peril the country is in, and the weight of responsibility on me.

Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly, or indirectly, interfere with their slaves, or with them, about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears.

The south would be in no more danger in this respect, than it was in the days of Washington. I suppose, however, this does not meet the case. You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us... LL 369

Lincoln sent this private and confidential letter to his Secretary of State-designate, William Seward, to confirm ‘no compromise' in extending slavery to territories, even as Southern states continued to secede.

2/1/1861 ...seeking to ascertain to what extent I would be consenting for our friends to go in the way of compromise on the now vexed question [of slavery with several states seceding].

I say now, however, as I have all the while said, that on the territorial question-that is, the question of extending slavery under the national auspices-I am inflexible. I am for no compromise which assists or permits the extension of the institution on soil owned by the nation. And any trick by which the nation is to acquire territory, and then allow some local authority to spread slavery over it, is as obnoxious as any other.

I take it that to effect some such result as this, and to put us again on the high-road to a slave empire is the object of all these proposed compromises. I am against it.

As to fugitive slaves, District of Columbia, slave trade among the slave states, and whatever springs of necessity from the fact that the institution is amongst us, I care but little, so that what is done be comely, and not altogether outrageous... LL 373-4

On the train ride to Washington DC for his inauguration, Lincoln made several stops for speeches, including one at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on Washington's birthday. Here he emphasized the value of freedom from the founding fathers, and gave a foreshadowing of a willingness for an ultimate personal cost to procure it. That evening he gave up attending further public events so he could be secretly transported to DC, because of the threat of assassination attempts in Baltimore.

2/22/1861 ...I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here and adopted that Declaration of Independence-I have pondered over the toils that were endured by officers and soldiers of the army, who achieved that independence. I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this confederacy [the states] so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the colonies from the motherland; but something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time.

It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in that Declaration of Independence.

Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world if I can help to save it. If it can't be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But, if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle-I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it... LL 379-380

Lincoln Landmark - The First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

In his First Inaugural Address, Lincoln emphasized that Southern states need not take drastic action: the Constitution did not speak to slavery in the territories, he had no intentions of invading the South, and the Fugitive Slave Act would be vigorously pursued. On the other hand: the bond between States caused by the Constitution could not be broken, and Lincoln had just taken the oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, which he had every intention of doing. A showdown was in the making. Lincoln stressed that the Union already existed, and had no necessity to be broken.

3/4/1861... I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due [enforcing the fugitive slave laws].

I hold, that in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual...It is safe to assert that no government proper, ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination...Again, if the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of a contract...[then], one party to a contract may violate it-break it, so to speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

It follows from these views that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union...that acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to the circumstances.

I therefore consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken; and, to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States...

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict, without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend' it. I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. FT 88-97


Landmark Event - The Onset of a War Between the States, April 12, 1861

The War between the States technically started when South Carolina attacked Fort Sumter, not allowing it to be re-supplied. In reality it was the spark lit by many volatile issues: dealing with rights to slavery, state sovereignty, and an agrarian/ aristocratic way of life, all which were threatened. The war would last four years and take over 600,000 lives.

Lincoln, in his first message to Congress, on the Fourth of July, provided a higher calling for maintaining the government: ‘We the People',...lifting weights, clearing paths, unfettered starts, and providing equal opportunity for all.

7/4/1861 ...Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?

This is essentially a People's contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men-to lift artificial weights from all shoulders-to clear the paths of laudable pursuits for all-to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life... FT 99-107

In this letter to John C. Fremont, military commander in Missouri, Lincoln remanded him for going beyond his authority. Fremont had confiscated property and emancipated slaves of all slaveholders, as against only those who were in direct agitation against the Union. Lincoln was walking a tightrope with the Border States [Lincoln: "I think to lose Kentucky is to lose the whole game" - letter to Browning, 9/22/61].

9/2/1861 ...I think there is great danger...in relation to the confiscation of property, and the liberating slaves of traitorous owners, will alarm our Southern Union friends, and turn them against us-perhaps ruin our rather fair prospect for Kentucky. Allow me therefore to ask, that you will as of your own motion, modify that paragraph so as to conform to the ...sections of the act of Congress [Confiscation Act of 8/6/61 - "provided that any person held to service or labor...to another, the owner to such claim to labor loses his claim if person held in labor is employed in hostile service against the government"]. LL 432-3

Lincoln's first annual message to Congress contained a vision for the betterment of common man throughout the American generations.

12/3/1861 ...The execution of the laws for the suppression of the African slave trade...five vessels...seized and condemned...Two mates of vessels engaged in the trade, and one person in equipping a vessel as a slaver have been convicted...and one captain, taken with a cargo of Africans on board his vessel, has been convicted of the highest grade of offense under our laws, the punishment of which is death.

...there is not, of necessity, any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. Many independent men everywhere in these states, a few years back in their lives, were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just, and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way to all-gives hope to all, and consequent energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all... Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which, if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they, and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them, till all of liberty shall be lost.

...There are already among us those, who, if the Union be preserved, will live to see it contain two hundred and fifty millions. The struggle of today, is not altogether for today-it is for a vast future also... LL 447-54


Lincoln proposed to Congress a gradual emancipation of slaves; balancing the financial cost of the war, Europe's esteem for the attempted offer, and the Border States' relationship with the Confederacy.

3/6/1862 Fellow citizens of the Senate, and the House of Representatives, I recommend the adoption of a Joint Resolution by your honorable bodies...

"Resolved that the United States ought to cooperate with any state which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such state pecuniary aid, to be used by such state in its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences public and private, produced by such change of system."

The point is not that all the states tolerating slavery would very soon, if at all, initiate emancipation; but that, while the offer is equally made to all, the more Northern [border] shall, by such initiation, make it certain to the more Southern, that in no event, will the former ever join the latter, in their proposed confederacy...in my judgment, gradual, and not sudden emancipation, is better for all. In the mere financial...view, any member of Congress, with the census tables and Treasury reports before him, can readily see for himself how very soon the current expenditures of the war would purchase, at fair valuation, all the slaves in any named State. FT 118-20

Following the actions of General Hunter in freeing slaves in some conquered military areas of the South, Lincoln rescinded this freedom with his own proclamation, reserving any possible future actions to himself as Commander in Chief. He used the opportunity as a plea to the South to accept the Congressional-approved offer of compensated gradual emancipation.

5/19/1862 ...neither General Hunter, nor any other commander, or person, has been authorized by the Government of the United States, to make proclamations declaring the slaves of any State free; and that the supposed proclamation; is altogether void...

...whether it be competent for me, as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, to declare the Slaves of any state or states, free, and whether at any time, in any case, it shall have become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the government, to exercise such supposed power, are questions which, under my responsibility, I reserve for myself...

...a gradual abolishment of slavery...now stands as an authentic...proposal of the nation to the States and people most immediately interested...To the people of those states I most earnestly appeal...The change it contemplates would come gently as the dews of heaven, not rending or wrecking anything. Will you not embrace it?...May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it. FT 122-24

With the impending adjournment of Congress, Lincoln invited members from the Border States for discussion. His logic was about gradually losing what they would be losing anyway, and being paid for it. Eventually eight of the men agreed, while twenty did not.

7/12/1862 ...believing that you [congressmen] of the border states hold more power for good than any other. I...appeal to you; if you all had voted for the resolution of the gradual emancipation... last March, the war would now be substantially ended. Let the states which are in rebellion see, definitely and certainly, that, in no event, will the states you represent ever join their proposed Confederacy...But you cannot divest them of their hope...as long as you show a determination to perpetuate the institution [of slavery] within your own states...

It [slavery] will be gone, and you will have nothing valuable in lieu of it. Much of its value is gone already. How much better for you, and for your people, to take the step which, at once, shortens the war, and secures substantial compensation for that which is sure to be lost in any other event...

I do not speak of emancipation at once, but of a decision at once to emancipate gradually. Room in South America for colonization, can be obtained cheaply, and in abundance; and when numbers shall be large enough to be company and encouragement for one another, the freed people will not be so reluctant to go. LL 487-90

Lincoln addressed black freemen in an attempt to gain recruits and leadership for a Negro colony in Liberia. He couldn't attract gradual emancipation (especially in Border States) without knowing where one sixth of the South would be able to thrive and until some blacks were willing to be pioneers in trying it out.

8/14/1862 This afternoon the President of the United States gave audience to a committee of colored men at the White House...Why...should the people of your race be colonized, and where? Why should they leave this country? This is, perhaps, the first question for proper consideration. You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether this is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from you presence. In a word we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated...

Your race are suffering, in my judgment, the greatest wrong inflicted on any people. But even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race...on this broad continent, not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours.

But you ought to do something to help those who are not so fortunate as yourselves [as freemen]. There is an unwillingness on the part of our people, harsh as it may be, for you free colored people to remain with us. Now, if you could give a start to white people, you would open a wide door for many to be made free...If intelligent colored men, such as are before me, would move on this matter, much might be accomplished...

Could I get a hundred tolerably intelligent men, with their wives and children?...Can I have fifty? If I could find twenty-five able-bodied men, with a mixture of women and children...I think I could make a successful commencement...FT 130-4


Lincoln responded in print to an editorial called ‘The Prayer of Twenty Millions', from Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, which had admonished Lincoln to attack slavery as part of the war effort. Unknown to the citizens, Lincoln had been planning an initial emancipation proclamation since he told his Cabinet on July 22. Nonetheless, he wanted all to know that the basis for any emancipation of slaves was toward his greater calling of preserving and protecting the Union.

8/22/1862 ...My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe do more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that men everywhere could be free... FT 134-5

Lincoln responded by letter to a meeting of various Christian denominations in Chicago on September 7th. This group adopted a memorial, a plea to the president in favor of national emancipation. He offered and answered objections to such a possibility, just nine days before he actually made his own proclamation.

9/13/1862 The subject presented in the memorial is one upon which I have thought much for weeks past, and I may even say for months. I am approached with the most opposite opinions and advice, and that by religious men, who are equally certain that they represent the Divine will. I am sure that either the one or the other class is mistaken in that belief, and perhaps is some respects both. I hope it will not be irreverent for me to say that if is probably that God would reveal his will to others, on a point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed he would reveal it directly to me...It is my earnest desire to know the will of Providence in this matter. And if I can learn what it is I will do it!...

What good would a proclamation of emancipation from me do, especially as we are now situated?...Would my word free the slaves, when I cannot even enforce the Constitution in the rebel states?...what reason is there to think it would have any greater effect upon the slaves than the late law of Congress, which I approved, and which offers protection and freedom to slaves of rebel masters who come within our lines? Yet I cannot learn that that law has cause a single slave to come over to us...

Understand, I raise no objection against it on legal or constitutional grounds; for, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, in time of war, I suppose I have a right to take any measure which may best subdue the enemy.

I have not decided against a proclamation of liberty to the slaves, but hold the matter under advisement...Whatever shall appear to be God's will I will do...LL 500-3


A Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation had been held in Lincoln's desk until the Union achieved a victory, which finally happened at Antietam. He gave 100 days for the seceded states to return in loyalty or their slaves would be freed in contested areas. This allowed Northerners time to adapt and placed responsibility on the South for their actions.


9/22/1862 ...on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any state, or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free... FT 136-7


In his annual message to Congress, Lincoln proposed constitutional amendments which would compensate the states that would abolish slavery before 1900, compensate masters whose slaves had been freed in the war, and appropriate money to colonize free Negroes upon their own consent. While costly and revolutionary, Lincoln saw it as a time for new ideas and risks, in order to save the Union, the last, best hope of earth.

12/1/1862 ...The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. 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. The world knows we do know how to save it. We-even we here-hold the power, and bear the responsibility.

In giving freedom to the slave, we assure 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. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just-a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless. LL 516-22


Lincoln Landmark - The Emancipation Proclamation, enacted January 1, 1863

With a sure hand, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year's Day. He emphasized the reason for the Proclamation was his ability to better prosecute the war, and he included that Negroes would be eligible to fight for the Union in the war.

...I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion...

I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States...are, and henceforward shall be free...

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God. FT 151-2

Lincoln defended the process of his Proclamation by letter to Major General McClernand.

1/8/1863 ...to use a coarse, but an expressive figure, broken eggs cannot be mended. I have issued the emancipation proclamation, and I cannot retract it. After the commencement of hostilities I struggled nearly a year and a half to get along with touching the ‘institution'; and when finally I conditionally determined to touch it, I gave a hundred days fair notice of my purpose, to all the States and people, within which time they could have turned it wholly aside, by simply again becoming good citizens of the United States. They chose to disregard it, and I made the peremptory proclamation on what appeared to me to be a military necessity. And being made, it must stand... FT 153

With the addition of black troops by the Union, the Confederate government ordered those troops, when captured, to be sold into slavery. Lincoln's response was a military order threatening retaliation if these soldiers were not treated as prisoners of war.

7/30/1863 It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service...To sell or enslave any captured person, on account of his color, and for no offence against the laws of war, is a relapse into barbarism and a crime against the civilization of the age.

The government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell and enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy's prisoners in our possession. FT 169

In a letter to General Banks, Lincoln gave the introductory elements of reconstruction in the military affairs of Louisiana. Also, see letter to Banks on 11/5/1863 FT 182-3

8/5/1863 ...I very well know what I would like Louisiana to do...I would be glad for her to make a new constitution recognizing the Emancipation Proclamation, and adopting emancipation in those parts of the state to which the proclamation does not apply. And while she is at it, I think it would not be objectionable for her to adopt some practical system by which the two races could gradually live themselves out of their old relation to each other, and both come out better prepared for the new. Education for young blacks should be included in the plan.

For my own part I think I shall not, in any event, retract the Emancipation Proclamation; nor, as executive, ever return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by any of the acts of Congress. LL 567-8

Lincoln's letter to General Grant in Mississippi affirms his view that the Proclamation was bearing fruit by bringing black soldiers into the war effort.

8/9/1863 ...General Thomas has gone again to the Mississippi Valley, with the view of raising colored troops. I have no reason to doubt that you are doing what you reasonably can upon the same subject. I believe it is a resource which, if vigorously applied now, will soon close the contest. It works doubly, weakening the enemy and strengthening us. We were not fully ripe for it until the river was opened. Now, I think at least a hundred thousand can, and ought to be rapidly organized along its shores, relieving all the white troops to serve elsewhere.

Mr. Dana understands you as believing that the emancipation proclamation has helped some of your military operations. I am very glad if this is so. FT 171-2

Lincoln was invited to an Illinois Republican rally in support of the war effort. His letter to J. Conkling regrets the invitation (because of Lincoln's need to stay in DC) but addresses questions his own party had about the Proclamation and black soldiers.

8/26/1863 ...But, to be plain, you are dissatisfied with me about the negro... I certainly wish that all men could be free, while I suppose you do not... You dislike the emancipation proclamation; and, perhaps, would have it retracted.

You say it is unconstitutional-I think differently. I think the constitution invests its commander-in-chief, with the law of war, in time of war. The most that can be said, if so much, is, that slaves are property. Is there-has there ever been-any question that by the law of war, property, both of enemies and friends, may be taken when needed?

You say you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you; but, no matter. Fight you, then, exclusively to save the Union. I issued the proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union.

I thought that in your struggle for the Union, to whatever extent the negroes should cease helping the enemy, to that extent it weakened the enemy in his resistance to you. Do you think differently? I thought that whatever negroes can be got to do as soldiers, leaves just so much less for white soldiers to do, in saving the Union. Does it appear otherwise to you? But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do anything for us, if we do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us, they must be prompted by the strongest motive-even the promise of freedom. And the promise being made, must be kept...

And then [after the war], there will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation; while, I fear, there will be some white ones, unable to forget that, with malignant heart, and deceitful speech, they have strove to hinder it...

Let us diligently apply the means, never doubting that a just God, in his own good time, will give us the rightful result... FT 175-9

In a letter to Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Chase, Lincoln wrote of the slippery slope if decisions were made to free slaves beyond the rationale of military necessity.

9/2/1863 ...Knowing your great anxiety that the emancipation proclamation shall now be applied to certain parts of Virginia and Louisiana which were exempted from it last January, I state briefly what appears to me to be difficulties in the way of such a step...If I take the step...without the argument of military necessity...except the one that I think the measure politically expedient, and morally right...Would I not thus give up all footing upon constitution or law? Would I not this be in the boundless field of absolutism? Could this pass unnoticed, or unresisted?... FT 179-80

Lincoln Landmark - The Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

In dedicating a cemetery, Lincoln re-envisioned sacrifices made for life, nation, & freedom.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate-we cannot consecrate-we cannot hallow-this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have, thus far, so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. FT 183-4

In his annual Message to Congress, Lincoln recalled the progress made since the Emancipation Proclamation had been authorized at the beginning of that year.

12/8/1863 ...the final proclamation came, including the announcement that colored men of suitable condition would be received into the war service. The policy of emancipation, and of employing black soldiers, gave to the future a new aspect, about which hope, and fear, and doubt contended in uncertain conflict...It came, and as was anticipated, it was followed by dark and doubtful days. Eleven months having now passed we are permitted to take another review...Maryland, and Missouri [border states], neither of three years ago would tolerate any restraint upon the extension of slavery into new territories, only dispute now as to the best mode of removing it within their own limits.

Of those who were slaves at the beginning of the rebellion, full one hundred thousand are in the United States military service, about one-half of which number actually bear arms in the ranks; thus giving the double advantage of taking so much labor from the insurgent cause, and supplying the places that must be filled with so may white men.

As far as tested, it is difficult to say they are not as good soldiers as any. No servile insurrection, or tendency to violence or cruelty, has marked the measures of emancipation and arming the blacks...At home the...measures have been fully discussed, supported, criticized, and denounced, and the annual elections following are highly encouraging to those whose official duty it is to bear the country through this great trial. Thus we have a new reckoning. The crisis which threatened to divide the friends of the Union is past... ...while I remain in my present position I shall not attempt to retract or modify the emancipation proclamation; nor shall I return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by any of the acts of Congress... FT 185-9

In his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, Lincoln set the tone for pardon and reconciliation. He also banned slavery in returning States and urged compassion for the plight of former slaves, now freemen.

12/8/1863 ...I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known to all persons who have, directly or by implication, participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter excepted, that a full pardon is hereby granted to them and each of them, with the restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves... ...that I [the one to be pardoned] will...abide by and faithfully support all proclamations of the President made during the existing rebellion having reference to slaves...

...I do further proclaim, declare, and make known that any provision which may be adopted by such State government in relation to freed people of such State, which shall recognize and declare their permanent freedom, provide for their education, and which may yet be consistent, as a temporary arrangement, with their present condition as a laboring, landless, and homeless class, will not be objected to by the national Executive... FT 189-92

Lincoln wrote this letter to J. Creswell to encourage the quest that emancipation be part of the new Maryland constitution, by pulling together for the same cause.

3/7/1864 ...I am very anxious for emancipation to be effected in Maryland in some substantial form. I think it probable that my expressions of a preference for gradual over immediate emancipation, are misunderstood. I had thought the gradual would produce less confusion, and destitution, and therefore would be more satisfactory; but if those who are better acquainted with the subject, and are more deeply interested in it, prefer the immediate, most certainly I have no objection to their judgment prevailing. My wish is that treating all respectfully, and all adopting and acting upon the major opinion, when fairly ascertained. What I have dreaded is the danger that by jealousies, rivalries, and consequent ill-blood-driving one another out of meetings and conventions-perchance from the polls-the friends of emancipation themselves may divide, and lose the measure altogether... LL 598

With Louisiana as the model for reconstruction, Lincoln used personal persuasion with Michael Hahn to encourage, but not require, the allowance of some blacks to vote.

3/13/1864 ...I congratulate you on having fixed your name in history as the first free state Governor of Louisiana. Now you are about to have a Convention which, among other things, will probably define the elective franchise. I barely suggest for your private consideration, whether some of the colored people may not be let in-as, for instance, the very intelligent, and especially those who have fought gallantly in our ranks. They would probably help, in some trying time to come, to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom. But this is only a suggestion, not to the public, but to you alone. FT 193

Lincoln met with several Kentucky Union men and wrote a summary from the meeting for A. Hodges, one of those present. Lincoln traced the trajectory of slavery and freedom over the course of the war.

4/4/1864 ...I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think, and feel. And yet, I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling...I understood, too, that in ordinary civil administration this oath [of office] even forbade me to practically indulge my primary abstract judgment on the moral question of slavery...Was it possible to lose the nation, and yet preserve the constitution? By general law, life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitution, through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it. I could not feel that, to the best of my ability, I had even tried to preserve the constitution, if, to save slavery, or any minor matter, I should permit the wreck of government...

I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years struggle the nation's condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain.

If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God..FT 193-5


When Lincoln spoke at the Sanitary Fair in Baltimore he helped clarify the meaning of liberty in two societies through the imagery of sheep and wolf.

4/18/1864 ...The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name-liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names-liberty and tyranny.

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence, we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf's dictionary, has been repudiated... FT 196-8

Lincoln wrote responding to a Christian Home Mission Society that had expressed loyalty and encouragement. Lincoln was perplexed how some Christians could defend slavery as consistent with the Bible.

5/30/1864 ...I can only thank you for thus adding to the effective and almost unanimous support which the Christian communities are so zealously giving to the country, and to liberty. Indeed it is difficult to conceive how it could be otherwise with an one professing Christianity, or even having ordinary perceptions of right and wrong. To read the Bible, as the word of God himself, that ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,' and to preach therefore from that, ‘In the sweat of other men's faces shalt thou eat bread,' to my mind can scarcely be reconciled with honest sincerity. When brought to my final reckoning, may I have to answer for robbing no man of his goods; yet more tolerable even this, than for robbing one of himself, and all that was his. When, a year or two ago, those professedly holy men of the South, met in the semblance of prayer and devotion, and, in the name of Him who said "As ye would all men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them" appealed to the Christian world to aid them in doing to a whole race of men, as they would have no man do unto themselves, to my thinking, they condemned and insulted God and His church, far more than did Satan when he tempted the Saviour with the Kingdoms of the earth. The devil's attempt was no more false, and far less hypocritical. But let me forbear, remembering it is also written, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." LL 606-7


Lincoln wrote the Republican-Union Committee in Baltimore upon hearing he was nominated for a second term. He made known his intention that the platform must include an amendment (the 13th) for the abolition of slavery.

6/9/1864 ...I will neither conceal my gratification, nor restrain the expression of my gratitude, that the Union people, through their convention, in their continued effort to save, and advance the nation, have deemed me not unworthy to remain in my present position.

...I will say now, however, that I approve the declaration in favor of so amending the Constitution as to prohibit slavery throughout the nation. When the people in revolt, with a hundred days of explicit notice, that they could, within those days, resume their allegiance, without the overthrown of their institution [of slavery], and that they could not so resume it afterwards, elected to stand out, such an amendment of the Constitution as is now proposed, became a fitting, and necessary conclusion to the final success of the Union cause...Now, the unconditional Union men, North and South, perceive its importance, and embrace it. In the joint names of Liberty and Union, let us labor to give it legal form, and practical effect. LL 607-8

Following his pocket veto of the radical Republican Wade-Davis Bill, Lincoln made his own Proclamation Concerning Reconstruction. The Congress and the President were in competition as to who bore responsibility to form the reconstructed states, particularly Louisiana. He did not want the previous efforts to be set aside and demoralize those citizens who had participated; he also felt Congress was overstepping its bounds by authorizing the widespread abolition of slavery without an amendment to the Constitution.

7/8/1864 ...I , Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known, that...while I am...unprepared to declare, that the free state constitutions and governments, already adopted and installed in Arkansas and Louisiana, shall be set aside and held for naught, thereby repelling and discouraging the loyal citizens who have set up the same, as to further effort; or to declare a constitutional competency in Congress to abolish slavery in States, but am at the same time sincerely hoping and expecting that a constitutional amendment, abolishing slavery throughout the nation, may be adopted, nevertheless, I am fully satisfied with the system of restoration contained in the Bill... FT 200

As the military fronts became stymied, pressure to ‘sue for peace' grew. Lincoln took the offensive on proposed terms for peace. These terms did not satisfy Jefferson Davis' government or the Democrats.

7/18/1864 To Whom it may concern:

Any proposition which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery, and which comes by and with an authority that can control the armies now at war against the United States will be received and considered by the Executive government of the United States, and will be met with liberal terms on other substantial and collateral points; and the bearer, or bearers thereof shall have safe conduct both ways. FT 201

A Pennsylvania citizen, J. McMahon, telegraphed the President with defiance, that whites must govern blacks forever. Lincoln, responding through his secretary, John Nicolay, gave new meaning to ‘red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.'

8/6/1864 The President has received yours of yesterday, and is kindly paying attention to it. As it is my business to assist him whenever I can, I will thank you to inform me, for his use, whether you are either a white man or black one, because in either case, you cannot be regarded as an entirely impartial judge. It may be that you belong to a third or fourth class of yellow or red men, in which case the impartiality of your judgment would be more apparent. FT 201-2

When Lincoln addressed C. Robinson in an unsigned letter, he traced his thinking on the Proclamation and Negro soldiers helping to win the war and Union. Slavery would now be a thing of the past. His ironic humor was always present.

8/17/1864 ...If Jefferson Davis wishes, for himself, or for the benefit of his friends at the North, to know what I would do if he were to offer peace and reunion, saying nothing about slavery, let him try me. LL 613-15

Lincoln expressed to the 166th Ohio Regiment the deeper reasons for their fighting.

8/22/1864 ...For the service you have done in this great struggle in which we are engaged I present you sincere thanks for myself and the country. I almost always feel inclined, when I happen to say anything to soldiers, to impress upon them in a few brief remarks the importance of success in this contest. It is not merely for today, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children's children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours. I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father's child has. It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise, and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright-not only for one, but for two or three years. The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel. LL 615-6

Lincoln declined I. Schemerhorn's invitation to a peace rally in Buffalo, but he articulated the rationale why he could not surrender to peace without victory. (Atlanta had just fallen to Sherman, to give Lincoln hope for victory in the Fall elections)

9/12/1864 ...An armistice-a cessation of hostilities-is the end of the struggle, and the insurgents would be in peaceable possession of all that has been struggled for. Any different policy in regard to the colored man, deprives us of his help, and this is more that we can bear. We cannot spare the hundred and forty or fifty thousand now serving us as soldiers, seamen, and laborers. This is not a question of sentiment or taste, but one of physical force, which may be measured and estimated as horsepower and steam power are measured and estimated. Keep it and you can save the Union. Throw it away, and the Union goes with it. Nor is it possible for any administration to retain the service of these people with the express or implied understanding that upon the first convenient occasion, they are to be re-enslaved. It cannot be; and it ought not to be. LL 619-20

Lincoln was asked by letter to address the impending vote of constitutional ratification in Maryland. Everyone knew where he stood.

10/10/1864 ...A convention of Maryland has framed a new constitution for the state; a public meeting is called for this evening, at Baltimore, to aid in securing its ratification by the people; and you ask a word from me, for the occasion. I presume the only feature of the instrument, about which there is serious controversy is that which provides for the extinction of slavery. It needs not to be a secret, and I presume it is no secret, that I wish success to this provision. I desire it on every consideration. I wish all men to be free. I wish the material prosperity of the already free which I feel sure the extinction of slavery would bring. I wish to see, in process of disappearing, that only thing which ever could bring this nation to civil war. I attempt no argument. Argument upon the question is already exhausted by the abler, better informed, and more immediately sons of Maryland herself. I only add that I shall be gratified exceedingly if the good people of the state shall, by their votes, ratify the new constitution... LL 622

Lincoln gave an impromptu response to a gathering of serenaders following Maryland's adoption of a slavery-free constitution.

10/19/1864 Friends and Fellow citizens:

I am notified that this is a compliment paid me by the loyal Marylanders, resident in this District. I infer that the adoption of the new constitution for the State, furnishes the occasion; and that, in your view, the extirpation of slavery constitutes the chief merit of the new constitution. Most heartily do I congratulate you, and Maryland, and the nation, and the world, upon the event...it has come at last, and I sincerely hope its friends may fully realize all their anticipations of good from it; and that its opponents may, by its effects, be agreeably and profitably, disappointed. FT 206-8

Lincoln Landmark - Re-elected President of the United States, November 10, 1864

Lincoln faced two former generals, power trips in his own party, and a divided public. In August, Lincoln was prepared to lose the election, but do all he could to save the Union; yet electoral victory came after a military victory from Atlanta showed the war was winnable.


Following Lincoln's historic election to a second term, he was serenaded by well-wishers. Lincoln offered brief, prepared remarks, focusing on the heights of democracy... scheduled elections in the midst of a civil conflict.

11/10/1864 It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies.

On this point the present rebellion brought our republic to a severe test; and a presidential election occurring in regular course during the rebellion added not a little to the strain. If the loyal people, united, were put to the utmost of their strength by the rebellion, must they not fail when divided, and partially paralyzed, by a political war among themselves? But the election was a necessity.

We cannot have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us. The strife of the election is but human nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case, must ever recur in similar cases.

Human nature will not change... But the election, along with its incidental, and undesirable strife, has done good, too. It has demonstrated that a people's government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility. It shows also how sound, and how strong we still are...

I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their own good... FT 208-9

In his annual message to Congress, Lincoln identified the results of the recent election as the will of the people: that slavery should be abolished and a constitutional amendment be ratified to confirm it.

12/6/1864 ...It is the voice of the people now, for the first time, heard upon the question [of slavery]. In a great national crisis, like ours, unanimity of action among those seeking a common end is very desirable-almost indispensable. And yet no approach to such unanimity is attainable, unless some deference shall be paid to the will of the majority, simply because it is the will of the majority. In this case the common end is the maintenance of the Union; and, among the means to secure that end, such will, through the election, is most clearly declared in favor of such constitutional amendment...

In presenting the abandonment of armed resistance to the national authority on the part of the insurgents, as the only indispensable condition to ending the war on the part of the government, I retract nothing heretofore said as to slavery. I repeat the declaration made a year ago, the ‘while I remain in my present position I shall not attempt to retract or modify the emancipation proclamation, or by any of the Acts of Congress.' If the people should, by whatever mode or means, make it an Executive duty to re-enslave such person, another, and not I, must be their instrument to perform it...

With an upcoming Peace Conference in Hampton Roads, VA, Lincoln wrote his instructions to Secretary of State William Seward, confirming his major conditions for peace.

1/31/1865 ...You will make known to them that three things are indispensable, to wit:

  1. The restoration of the national authority throughout all the States.
  2. No receding, by the Executive of the United States on the Slavery question...
  3. No cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war, and the disbanding of all forces hostile to the government... FT 218


Lincoln Landmark & Landmark Decision - The Thirteenth Amendment, Jan 31, 1865

Lincoln had always felt that slavery was wrong. The Constitution had allowed for it but the Declaration of Independence had preceded with ‘all men are created equal.' The Emancipation Proclamation was as temporary as the war. This Amendment would change the Constitution, and eventually lead to change all the people of these United States.


Section 1 Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Lincoln, reflecting his speech in third person, delivered these thoughts to well-wishers on the appropriateness of the Thirteenth Amendment banning slavery, as a fitting conclusion to the imminent end of the war between the states.

2/1/1865 The President said he supposed the passage through Congress of the Constitutional amendment for the abolishment of Slavery throughout the United States, was the occasion to which he was indebted for the honor of this call...He thought this measure was a very fitting if not an indispensable adjunct to the winding up of this great difficulty. He wished the reunion of all the States perfected and so effected as to remove all causes of disturbance in the future; and to attain this end it was necessary that the original disturbing cause should, if possible, be rooted out. He thought all would bear him witness that he had never shrunk from doing all that he could to eradicate Slavery by issuing an emancipation proclamation. But that proclamation falls far short of what the amendment will be wan fully consummated. A question might be raised whether the proclamation was legally valid. It might be added that it only aided those who came into our lines and that it was inoperative as to those who did not give themselves up, or that it would have no effect upon the children of the slaves born hereafter. In fact it would be urged that it did not meet the evil. But this amendment is a King's cure for all the evils.

It winds the whole thing up. He would repeat that it was the fitting if not indispensable adjunct to the consummation of the great game we are playing. He could not but congratulate all present, himself, the country and the whole world upon this great moral victory. FT 219

Lincoln Landmark - The Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

Beginning his second term, even as the war continued, Lincoln seeks reconciliation between the sides. Lincoln, in caring, non-judgmental language, gives equal responsibility for the cause and for the compassionate conclusion to the nation's trauma.

Fellow Countrymen:

At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it--all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war--seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

As a last-ditch effort, the Confederacy armed black slaves to fight for their cause. In addressing his army, 140th Indiana Regiment, Lincoln saw the duplicity of this thinking.

3/17/1865...There are but few aspects of this great war on which I have not already expressed my views by speaking or writing. There is one-the recent effort of our erring brethren, sometimes so called, to employ the slaves in their armies. The great question with them has been 'will the Negro fight for them?' They ought to know better that we; and, doubtless, do know better that we. I may incidentally remark, however, that having, in my life, heard many arguments...intended to show that the Negro ought to be a slave, that if he shall now really fight to keep himself a slave, it will be a far better argument why he should remain a slave than I have ever before heard. He, perhaps, ought to be a slave, if he desires it ardently enough to fight for it. Or, if one out of four will, for his own freedom, fight to keep the other three in slavery, he ought to be a slave for his selfish meanness.

I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly those who desire it for others. Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally. FT 640-1

Landmark Event - Lee surrenders at Appomattox, April 10, 1865

In an out-of-the-way place in Virginia, the South's premier general surrenders to gracious terms, allowing his men to leave for home with dignity. The cause has been lost.

Lincoln, from his White House balcony, made his last public speech. As the citizens anticipated hearing about their country's victory, Lincoln chose to talk of reconciliation and the need to ratify Louisiana's constitution. When John Wilkes Booth heard Lincoln say he wanted Negroes to vote, it confirmed his resolve to kill the President.

4/11/1865 ...We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their practical relation with the Union, and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact easier, to do this, without deciding, or even considering, whether these states have even been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these states and the Union; and each forever after, innocently indulge his own opinion whether, in doing the acts, he brought the States from without, into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it...

It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise [the right to vote] is not given to the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers... FT 223-7

Landmark Event - President Lincoln is assassinated, April 14, 1865

A disillusioned actor dispels the hope of what might have been in Southern restoration. 

 Landmark Decision, posthumously - The Fourteenth Amendment, July 9, 1868

All citizens of the United States have equal protection and receive due process of law.

Section 1 All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Landmark Decision, posthumously - The Fifteenth Amendment, February 3, 1870

The right to vote for Negro educated or veterans was something Lincoln had hoped for; the right to vote for all citizens, including negroes, was the result he had not lived to see.

Section 1 The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Key to Resources Cited:

LE: The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia, Mark E. Neely, Da Capo Press, 1982
LL: The Living Lincoln, Paul M. Angle & Earl S. Miers, Marboro Books, 1955
FT: This Fiery Trial, William E. Gienapp, Oxford University Press, 2002