‘I Would Save the Union’: Analyzing the Lincoln-Greeley Letters
Students analyze an exchange of “open letters” between abolitionist and editor Horace Greeley and President Abraham Lincoln over slavery in the Union.
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- Civil War
- Divide students into small groups.
- Tell them: As President Lincoln worked toward balancing the goals of preserving the Union and ending slavery, he turned to the press to explain the challenges he faced and to defend his methods. The issue came to a head in a striking and unusual exchange of "open letters" between abolitionist and publisher Horace Greeley and the ever-pragmatic Lincoln.
- Project the Lincoln-Greeley newspaper images on the board or share the lesson link for students at individual computers. (Click on each image below to view or to download a pdf of it.) Have students examine each newspaper and complete the worksheet. Have each group share their answers. Possible prompts are in Discussion Questions.
- Internet connection
- Lincoln-Greeley newspaper images, in artifact viewer below
- Lincoln-Greeley Letter Analysis worksheet (download), one per student or small group
- Lincoln-Greeley lesson plan with additional background information (download, optional)
- The Emancipation Proclamation Announcement (optional)
- Article on the Passage of the 13th Amendment (optional)
- Did you find Greeley’s letter persuasive? Why or why not?
- How is Greeley's letter organized? Do you think this organization is effective?
- Do you think the length of Lincoln's letter is a strength or a weakness? Why?
- What is the role of the press during war? How has technology affected news coverage of war today?
- How do these front pages compare with a modern newspaper front page? Where do editorials and letters typically appear in today's newspapers?
- How does their placement compare with the website of an online news source?