The national slavery debate peaked with Lincoln’s 1860 presidential campaign. He ran against three other candidates—two from the fracturing Democratic Party and one from the “Constitutional Union” party specifically focused on fostering sectional compromise. Lincoln and the Republicans ran on a platform of preventing slavery’s expansion, but opponents frequently accused them of being abolitionists seeking slavery’s immediate end.

In this letter, candidate Lincoln walks a fine line to resist being characterized as an abolitionist. He notes that he has never publicly called for the immediate end of slavery, nor was it included in the Republican Party platform. While this surely persuaded some moderate Northerners, many white Southerners remained committed to preventing a Republican administration from ever assuming the presidency. With Lincoln’s election, secessionists made good on their promise to break away and tried to form an independent, slaveholding nation.

Photos Album

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Lincoln's Life in Letters Campaign Photos

Photos for Lincoln Life in Letters Campaign panel.

The documents highlighted in this exhibit are all drawn from our own collection. The originals are in our vault and the images were created by our Papers of Abraham Lincoln project. Please visit their website,, to see more documents written to and by Lincoln from all over the world. If you have a Lincoln document, or know someone who does, please reach out to us. We are always looking for new discoveries.


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