Commander in Chief & Great Emancipator


Abraham Lincoln. [First inaugural address]. [Springfield, Illinois: Privately printed, January-February, 1861]. Proof sheets, extensively revised in the hand of John George Nicolay, 1861.

The first version of Lincoln’s inaugural address was privately printed in Springfield, Illinois, before the president-elect departed for Washington, D.C.  After Lincoln arrived in the capital he and several advisors, most notably his choice for secretary of state, William H. Seward, reviewed the text and made several suggestions for changes.  These changes, in the hand of Lincoln’s secretary, John G. Nicolay (1832-1901), were attached to the proof sheets and shared with the press.  The proof sheets shown here are the first and last pages.  Note that changes to the last page include the most famous passage of Lincoln’s first inaugural address, in which he speaks to the Southern people: “I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearth-stone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”  There are four sets of proofs at the Library of Congress, including one used by Lincoln as a reading copy, with emendations in his own hand.

Lincoln Collection  Abraham Lincoln, Miscellaneous Papers (84)   Source unknown, 1914.