Lincoln's 1862 'State of the Union' discoveries made at National
Send a link to a friend
[January 14, 2012]
-- President Abraham Lincoln's Second Annual Message to
Congress, dated Dec. 1, 1862, contains some of his most memorable
quotations about the reason for continuing to fight the Civil War.
Now, as the 150th anniversary of that message approaches, the first
of two previously missing pages of the document and a complete
second copy signed by Lincoln have been found at the National
Archives in Washington, D.C., by researchers with the Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.
The whereabouts of the first two of the 86 pages of Lincoln's Second
Annual Message to Congress had been a mystery for more than a
century. Researchers with the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project
to identify and publish all documents written or signed by Lincoln
or written to him, solved part of that mystery recently during an
ongoing search at the National Archives.
The message, written by
several clerks, is among Lincoln's most famous official
communications to Congress. It is a forerunner of the modern State
of the Union address. Although a congressional clerk, and not
Lincoln himself, read the message to the assembled senators and
representatives, Lincoln's words resonate with us today. It closes
with the admonition: "Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape
history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be
remembered in spite of ourselves. … The fiery trial through which we
pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest
generation. … 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,
this last best, hope of earth…"
"I was very excited to learn that once again researchers have
mined the National Archives to discover important documentation that
was previously unknown," said David. S. Ferriero, archivist of the
United States. "The staff of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln project
has not only found the first page of President Lincoln's second
address, which was misfiled by the U.S. Congress in the 19th
century, but have also discovered other important documentation
relating to Lincoln. These finds add to the historical record and
will allow future researchers to gain a fuller picture of the
Chandler Lighty, assistant editor of the Papers of Abraham
Lincoln, has been searching the records of the United States Senate
at the National Archives for several months. As he examined records
from the 37th Congress, Lighty found a cross-reference sheet that
gave locations for reports from the War, Navy and Interior
departments in a set of volumes. Although not part of his originally
intended search, Lighty decided to request those volumes anyway.
Archivist Rodney Ross retrieved them from the stacks, and within
them, Lighty found the first page of one official copy and an entire
second copy of Lincoln's Second Annual Message, both of which were
signed by Lincoln.
One copy of the 86-page message is signed on the last page by
Abraham Lincoln and safely resides in the vault at the National
Archives, but the first two pages had long been misfiled, until now.
The first page contains the observation, "And while it has not
pleased the Almighty to bless us with a return of peace, we can but
press on, guided by the best light He gives us, trusting that in His
own good time, and wise way, all will yet be well." The second copy
signed by Lincoln was not known to exist.
[to top of second column]
In addition to finding the missing page and new copy of the
Second Annual Message, Lighty found two dozen letters from Lincoln
to the second and third sessions of the 37th Congress. Again, they
were written by a clerk and signed by President Lincoln. The text
had been available through a government publication, but the
location of the originals was unknown.
"These exciting new discoveries demonstrate the value of our
careful and thorough approach," said Daniel W. Stowell, director of
the Papers of Abraham Lincoln. "Chandler Lighty and our other
colleagues are searching tens of thousands of records, and these
discoveries are a testament both to Lighty's skill as a researcher
and the importance of this process."
The Papers of Abraham Lincoln is a long-term documentary editing
project funded in part by the National Archives through its National
Historical Publications and Records Commission. It is dedicated to
identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating and publishing all
documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime
(1809-1865). The discovery of these documents came as part of the
project's comprehensive search of National Archives holdings.
[Text from file received from the
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum]