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School of Education, Health and Human Behavior
School of Education

Abraham Lincoln - Opposing Viewpoints

th Grade

Social Studies

45 minutes - 1 hour

15 students


People are viewed differently as history progresses. This lesson will look at two different view of Lincoln, one positive and one negative. Students will compare these viewpoints and discuss possible reasons for these attitudes towards Lincoln.

NYS Standards

NYS Social Studies #1: Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in the history of the United States and New York.

NYS ELA #1: Students will read, write, listen, and speak for information and understanding.

NYS ELA #3: Students will read, write, listen, and speak for critical analysis and evaluation.


Students will evaluate two primary sources pertaining to the life of Abraham Lincoln, in order to determine how the author felt about Lincoln.

Students will draw conclusions about why people held different attitudes towards Lincoln.


Source Document 1: William Dennison - Telegram of Support

Source Document 2: Anonymous letter critical of lack of policy

Chart Paper


Handout Questions


Anonymous. "A Republican" to Abraham Lincoln, Wednesday, April 03, 1861 (Critical

of Lincoln's lack of policy) (Document 2)

William Dennison, et al. to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, May 24, 1861 (Telegram of

support) (Document 1)

Background Information

Students will already have some basic information about the life of Lincoln. We will have discussed his presidency, the time in which he lived, the Civil War, and slavery. Most students have a very positive view of Lincoln, which will be important when discussing opposing viewpoints.

Preparation of Learning Environment

Students will read the documents with a partner, and the discussion afterwards will be conducted as a whole group.

Anticipatory Set

You have all heard about Abraham Lincoln. What can you tell me about him? (Record student answers on chart paper.) What kind of person was he? (most responses should be positive)

Most people today like Abraham Lincoln. Many would call him a hero. But this was not always the case. Today we are going to look at some people who had very different opinions about Lincoln. It will be your job to try to figure out why the people felt this way.


1) Students will work in groups of 2 to read a positive article about Lincoln (Document 1). They will be handed copies of the actual letter and be allowed appx. 5 minutes to look over the document and attempt to read it. Highlighters can be used to locate parts and students may want to write a transcription of their own.

2) Groups will then be given a typed Transcript to read and write notes. Students should locate the sender and recipient of the letter, as well as the date, city, and content of the message.

3) After discussing with a partner, students will share the content of the letter with the class. Teacher will facilitate discussion.

4) Students will then receive a copy of Document 2 and will repeat steps 1-3.

5) After discussing both documents students will engage in a whole class discussion comparing and contrasting the differing viewpoints of Lincoln. Teacher will record ideas and information on chart paper.

6) Students will brainstorm other possible reasons why people may have disliked Lincoln.


Students who have more difficulty reading can work in a small group with a teacher to discuss documents.

Extension Activities

Students can find and analyze additional documents to determine the author's point of view and feelings regarding Lincoln.


Students will be informally assessed during class discussion by their participation. Since the majority of this lesson will be conducted as a whole group there will not be an individual assessment. 

Anonymous. "A Republican" to Abraham Lincoln, April 3, 1861

New York April 3d 1861

Dear Sir

I voted for you thinking that in you the country would find a defender of its rights & honor. I am totally disappointed. You are as destitute of policy, as weak, and as vassalating as was your predecessor when he begged the enemies of the country to defer the execution of their schemes of wickedness until he was out of office. Dare you imagine your course is meeting the favor of republicans -- even in New York? No Sir! Democrats rejoice over it, knowing that it will demoralize & overthrow the party. Give up Sumpter, Sir, & you are as dead politically as John Brown is physically. You have got to fight. Issue a proclamation to the Union loving men of the Slave States & tell them, it is not them but their enemies -- who would subject them to grieveius taxations to support over them a military despotism -- that you fight. You have got to do this thing Sir, else the country will do it without you. Do you think New York is going to sit quietly by & see its commerce diverted to Southron ports -- foreign imports sent into the West & North West -- duty free through the ports of of the South? No Sir. As the New York Times says this morning -- "Your want of policy &action has demoralized the country more than all of the 3 months of Buchannans imbicility did all together"-- As a republican I am sorry to have to say these things. But facts vindicate this statement. Either act, immediately & decisivlyor resign & go home.

A Republican

William Dennison, et al. to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, May 24, 1861 (Telegram of support)

From William Denison et al. to Abraham Lincoln, May 24, 1861

Indianapolis May 24 1861.

We congratulate you that the campaign is successfully & energetically opened on Virginia soil. We hope that the West will not be long held back but will be permitted to take its part in the contest & push the war to a prompt conclusion

W Dennison

Richd Yates

Lyman Trumbull

O P Morton

G B McLellan

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