In 1854, Abraham Lincoln said of Thomas Jefferson that he “was, is, and perhaps will continue to be our most distinguished politician.” We may now say this of Lincoln. And just as Lincoln meant that one must understand Jefferson’s politics and principles—his deeds and his words—to understand the United States, so must we now say that to understand the United States we must understand Lincoln’s deeds and words. We offer this exhibit on Lincoln as an aid in the effort to understand him and, through him, what remains the world’s most important experiment in self-government.
The exhibit focuses on eight of Lincoln’s most important speeches, offering analytical and interpretive introductions to them. It also offers a variety of additional materials that provide historical context for the speeches. This context, including Lincoln’s understanding of the character of the American people, formed the political terrian Lincoln navigated, guided by his understanding of America’s political principles.
Documents in the Exhibit
- “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions” (Lyceum Address)
- Temperance Address
- Speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act (Peoria Address)
- Cooper Union Speech
- Fragment on the Constitution and the Union
- First Inaugural Address
- Gettysburg Address
- Second Inaugural Address
Other Exhibit Components
- Presidential Election Maps, 1848-1864
- Timeline of Events
- Background to the Slavery Conflict