Abraham Lincoln Online Speeches and Writings
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Frequently Asked Questions
about Lincoln's Speeches and Writings

Where can I read the letter written to a widow who lost several sons in the Civil War?

This is the so-called "Bixby Letter" of Saving Private Ryan fame. Click here for the full text.

I think I have the original Bixby letter. How much is it worth?

The original was either discarded by the newspaper editor who published it or destroyed by Mrs. Bixby, believed to be a Confederate sympathizer who resented President Lincoln. What you probably have is a copy of an early forgery -- it may be an old paper, but it is not valued by collectors.

There's a story or quote I think Lincoln said. How do I find the source?

This can be difficult to determine. If the quotation was from conversation, you have to weigh the reliability of the source, and even historians don't agree on sources. The safest ground is Lincoln's own speeches and writings, found in the The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy Basler and published by the Abraham Lincoln Association (a multi-volume set of books), or short one-volume versions also by Basler. A small selection of speeches and writings are on this web site, which are searchable. We've added a quotes page to help you.

Where can I learn the value of an old Lincoln document?

If you have possible Lincoln document you want appraised or sold, contact a dealer in rare/used books or Lincolniana. You can visit an online buy-and-sell service at The Railsplitter. Also see the dealers listed under Lincoln Bookstores. Or, you can email Kent Tucker of Illinois, an appraiser of Lincolniana. To look up all sorts of Lincoln collectibles, consult Collecting Lincoln With Values by Stuart Schneider (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Co., Ltd, 1997). This book is available in public libraries and through Inter-Library Loan.

Did Lincoln write the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope?

Despite stories circulating about this, there is no evidence that Lincoln dashed off the speech as he rode the train to Gettysburg. As President, Lincoln prepared his speeches with great care. There are several original copies of the speech, none of which appear on envelopes. You can read the Gettysburg Address text and see helpful links on this web page.

Where can I see the text of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates?

You can read the complete speeches in the The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. There are also debate titles on our book page.

Did Lincoln say something about "the better angels of our nature?"

Yes. That expression is found at the end of Lincoln's First Inaugural Address given on March 4, 1861.

Which Lincoln writings are inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.?

Carved into the walls are Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address.

Did Lincoln write a letter to a girl who asked him to grow a beard?

Yes. He wrote a reply to Grace Bedell of Westfield, New York, who suggested he grow a beard to help his presidential prospects.

Where can I see poetry that Lincoln wrote?

You can read this page of poems Lincoln wrote in the 1840s.

How can I see the proclamation Lincoln issued about Thanksgiving Day?

Lincoln signed a proclamation on October 3, 1863, which set the precedent for the national Thanksgiving Day celebrated today.

Did Lincoln write a letter about corporations threatening the country's welfare?

No such letter exists. This is a forgery which surfaced during the presidential campaign of 1888. Helen Nicolay, the daughter of John Nicolay, one of Lincoln's White House secretaries, said her father worked to refute this error. She explained, "The truth is that Lincoln was no prophet of a distant day. His heart and mind were busy with the problems of his own time. The legacy he left his countrymen was not the warning of a seer, but an example and an obligation to face their own dark shadows with the sanity and courageous independence he showed in looking upon those that confronted him." Those who have read The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln in its entirety also recognize that the forged text bears no resemblance to Lincoln's usual speech and writing patterns.

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