Political Life Case C

AC-LR104 – Inkwell

Lincoln Makes the Case for Peace

Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election sparked a constitutional crisis that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives before it was resolved. Refusing to accept his election and determined to preserve slavery, Southern secessionists immediately began plotting to remove their states from the Union and create a new, more explicitly white supremacist nation.

Lincoln was equally determined to keep the nation together and adhere to the platform that got him elected. He tried to walk that line as he wrote his First Inaugural Address with this inkwell, while hidden away on the third floor of his brother-in-law’s Springfield store. The speech denied the right of secession and called for national harmony—most famously reminding secessionists that “we are not enemies, but friends” and urging them to remember “the mystic chords of memory” that bind the nation together. Lincoln’s words did not stop the Southern insurrection, but they provided the ideological foundation that would ultimately lead to its defeat.

Gift of Minnie Smith Johnson, 1954

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