A long-running effort to make the life of Abraham Lincoln more accessible to the public has reached a new milestone.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum's "The Papers of Abraham Lincoln" project has added more than 500 documents to Lincoln’s online collection of lost documents revealing details of his life after he left Congress in 1849.
The latest documents come from Lincoln's early political days as an aspiring Whig Party member. During this time, Lincoln becomes a married man, a father, and moves from state politician to U.S. congressman.
Lincoln Papers Project Director Dan Worthington said these early professional papers include the first reference to Lincoln's famous 'house divided' idea that showed Lincoln's outlook on the world during this period, including keeping the union together and abolishing slavery.
“He is very much interested in preserving the union and preserving unity and finding consensus within the party and with the country," said Worthington. "Lincoln’s world view is that extremes are dangerous.”
Worthington said Lincoln got about 1,700 letters a month during his presidency. Other documents recently digitized by the project include the marriage certificate for Lincoln and Mary Todd, a brief message that is Lincoln's first known use of the telegraph, a satirical newspaper column that almost led to Lincoln fighting a duel, and the "spot resolutions" Lincoln introduced in Congress to demand an accounting for what he considered an illegal war against Mexico.
Worthington said the project has prompted others studying Lincoln’s life to help find professional papers themselves to add to the collection, adding putting together the pieces of Lincoln’s life has been a community effort.
“They were able to tell us a correction and point us to other documents,” Worthington said. “A document we put up of Abraham Lincoln to James Buchanan. We put that document up, but we never found a Buchanan letter to Lincoln in response. Well, someone out there who was using our resource found that letter in a book of James Buchanan's letters and so we got a photocopy of that letter.”
Worthington said the project is now working on more than 3,000 documents from the time Lincoln left Congress to him winning the presidential election in 1860.
The project began in the 1980s and Worthington said it will likely continue for at least two more decades.
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