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WEDNESDAYS, 11:10-1:00, PHILLIPS 328



E-MAIL; OFFICE HOURS: T 10:00-12:00, W 2:00-4:00, or by appointment

OVERVIEW: The purposes of this class are 1) to give students a thorough understanding of the life

and times of Abraham Lincoln, one of our most beloved and important presidents; and 2) to help

History majors and others significantly improve their writing skills through numerous analytical

writing assignments.

REQUIREMENTS: There are no prerequisites for the class. Written work will consist of four five-page papers (maximum 1500 words). Because this class will be devoted almost entirely to discussion and will meet only once a week, it is vital that students come to each class meeting, do the reading, and participate in the discussions. Papers will be graded on the basis of 1) how well they are written and organized; 2) how well students document their theses with facts AND quotations (especially of primary sources); 3) the extent to which students devote the entire paper to answering the question; and 4) the sophistication of presentation and content. All quotations must be followed by a parenthetical citation which makes it clear from which book and on what page the quotation can be found, such as "(Donald, 27)." Papers MUST be typed and will be down-graded ONE FULL

LETTER-GRADE if late, unless an extension has been granted BEFORE the day the paper is due.

Please keep a copy of your paper and BACKUP your work as you go! Papers may not under any circumstances be submitted by e-mail or in any other electronic form. Do not use sources other than those assigned for this class for the papers without seeking my permission first. One outside source you can use without permission is The Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, a compilation of everything he ever wrote. It is available on-line at Another site of interest is, which focuses on Lincoln’s pre-presidential years. But keep in mind that every assignment can be easily answered without using additional sources. These papers will be judged primarily on how well you construct an argument with the resources at hand, not on how much information you find elsewhere. The key to a good paper is to arrive at a thesis and then combine facts with cited quotations in a logically organized manner to support that thesis.

ATTENDANCE AND GRADING: One-quarter of the class grade will be based on the quality of each student’s contribution to the discussions. The remainder will be based on the papers. Missing classes will adversely affect one’s discussion grade unless the absence is for documented medical reasons. Also, changes to this syllabus may be announced in class at any time, and missing class does not excuse not knowing about such changes.

PLAGIARISM: Plagiarism is a serious violation of university rules that can be punished by suspension or expulsion. I prosecute all suspected cases of plagiarism. Borrowing someone else's words without giving them credit is plagiarism. Closely paraphrasing someone else’s work without making substantive changes to the content or method of organization is plagiarism. Handing in a paper written completely or in part by someone else or for another class is academic dishonesty.

Using sources other than those specified for the assignment without permission is academic dishonesty as well. But keep in mind that well-known facts taken from the readings, lectures, or discussions (for example, that Lincoln vetoed the Wade-Davis bill) do not need to be cited. If you are unsure of the rules, see me before you hand in your paper.


BOOKS: The following books are available for purchase at the bookstore:

Michael P. Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War

David Donald, Lincoln

Don Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850s

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Oxford University Press edition

LaWanda Cox, Lincoln and Black Freedom (we read one chapter only)

Gary Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America

Charles B. Strozier, Lincoln’s Quest for Union: Public and Private Meanings

James McPherson, Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief



JANUARY 14: Introduction

JANUARY 21: Young Abe

Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 1-30; Donald, Lincoln, chs. 1-3

JANUARY 28: Lincoln the Lawyer

Donald, Lincoln, chs. 4-6

FEBRUARY 4: Lincoln the Rising Politician

Donald, Lincoln, ch. 7; Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness, chs. 1-2.

FEBRUARY 11: Lincoln in the 1850s

Donald, Lincoln, ch. 8; Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 38-69; Fehrenbacher, Prelude to

Greatness, chs. 3-4

Group A Essay due February 11: How radical was the “House Divided” Speech?

FEBRUARY 18: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness, chs. 5-6; Lincoln-Douglas Debates, pp. 37-285

(those doing this paper assignment may read more of the debates than I have assigned)

Group B Essay due: Did Lincoln really tailor his speeches to suit the region of Illinois

in which he was speaking, as Douglas insisted?

FEBRUARY 25: Lincoln the Writer; the Presidential Nomination

Donald, Lincoln, ch. 9; Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness, ch. 7; Johnson, Abraham

Lincoln, pp. 80-95.


Group A Essay due: What made Lincoln such a good public speaker? Consider both content

and speaking style, but focus more on the content. You may read ahead in the Johnson

book to find additional speeches to substantiate your argument. You may also use any

speeches by Lincoln in his “Collected Works,” which can be found online at or in the stacks of Gelman at E 457.91 1953.

MARCH 4: Lincoln the Public Speaker; The Secession Winter

Donald, Lincoln, ch. 10; Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 96-126

Group B Essay due: What made Lincoln such a great writer? You may read ahead in the

Johnson book to find additional letters to substantiate your argument. You may also

use any writings by Lincoln in his “Collected Works,” which can be found online at or in the stacks of Gelman at E 457.91 1953.

MARCH 11: Lincoln as Commander-in- Chief, Part One

Donald, Lincoln, chs. 11-12; McPherson, Tried By War, chs. 1-5.

MARCH 18 and 25: NO CLASS!!!!

APRIL 1: Lincoln and Emancipation

Donald, Lincoln, chs. 13-16; Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 179-219; Ira Berlin, et. al., "The

Destruction of Slavery," in Slaves No More; James McPherson, "Who Freed The

Slaves?" in Drawn with the Sword; Cox, Lincoln and Black Freedom, ch. 1 (all these

will be placed on Electronic Reserve on Blackboard).

Group A Essay due: How much credit does Lincoln deserve for “freeing the slaves”?

APRIL 8: Lincoln as Commander, Part Two

McPherson, Tried By War, chs. 6-10

Group B Essay due: Rate Lincoln as the nation’s military leader.

APRIL 15: The Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Re-election

Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg, pp. 19-175

APRIL 22: A Psychohistory of Lincoln

Strozier, Lincoln’s Quest for Union, all

Groups A and B Essays due: How useful is psychohistory for understanding the life of

Abraham Lincoln?

APRIL 30 (NOTE DATE!!): Lincoln’s Reconstruction Plans, the End of the War, Assassination,


Donald, Lincoln, chs. 17-21; Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 281-306.

Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period.
--March 9, 1832 - First Political Announcement

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