Lincoln Heritage Museum remains open for normal operating hours (Tuesday-Friday 9 am to 4 pm and Saturday 1 pm to 4 pm), despite the closure of Lincoln College in May of 2022.



Leadership – showing an ability to lead others in service and with justice & fairness

Being a Leader with Character


Leadership is not just rested and invested in the hands of the person who leads a company, or is in charge of an organization, or who teaches in a classroom, or who commands others in battle, or who is elected to a political office.  All of us have the potential and capacity for leadership.  There are qualities each one of us have which can contribute to a team, and any team member exercises aspects of leadership just as much as the person who is in charge.  Leadership takes many forms, and “servant leadership” (leadership with humility, justice, and sacrifice at the service of others) is as critical to society or an organization as much as top level leadership.


With any type of leadership, there are certain universal constants which Lincoln exercised and is known for.  Here are the top ten leadership traits that can be learned from Abraham Lincoln:

Top Ten leadership traits that can be learned from Abraham Lincoln:


  1.  Listen to different points of view
  2.  Learn from one’s own mistakes and be keenly aware of one’s own weaknesses
  3.  Share credit for success and to praise colleagues
  4.  Shoulder blame for the mistakes of one’s subordinates
  5.  Lead with humility and service to others
  6.  Do not let resentments fester, or allow hurts lead to revenge
  7.  Defuse tense situations with a good story or lightheartedness when appropriate
  8.  Connect with those you lead and get to know them personally 
  9.  Have courage, integrity, and resolve to stick to core principles and to a clear vision
  10.  Communicate goals and values to others so they can understand and be willing to follow


What personal leadership attributes do you possess, and which would you like to have more of?  How could you live these in your everyday life, and in your community, your school, your workplace, and in your home?


Examples of Leadership

  • From the very first days in New Salem he proved his ability to become a leader and trusted friend and neighbor, elected as captain of his Black Hawk War unit just one year after coming to town penniless and friendless
  • His decision to invite into the Cabinet those people who had previously opposed him
  • Even those around him who were archrivals quickly became confident and impressed in Lincoln’s leadership as president.
  • Lincoln set the example, fostered collaboration within his Cabinet, encouraged others around him, recognized contributions, challenged conventional wisdom (even his own), and maintained his credibility throughout the process

Quotations about Leadership


  • “I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.” – Abraham Lincoln in his first campaign for public office, March 9, 1832
  • “I will not take part in any hangings. Enough lives have been sacrificed.” – Abraham Lincoln as recorded by Gideon Welles on the hanging of the Confederate leaders, April 1865
  • “I am a patient man—always willing to forgive on the Christian terms of repentance; and also to give ample time for repentance.” –Abraham Lincoln to Reverdy Johnson, July 26, 1862 
  • The President is …the most perfect representative of the purely American character now in public life—perhaps the most perfect that ever has existed.” — William O. Stoddard on Lincoln, July 21, 1862
  • “Executive force and vigor are rare qualities. The president is the best of us.” – Secretary Of State William Seward on Abraham Lincoln, April 1, 1861



Stories in Lincoln’s Life Regarding Leadership



The Sangamon delegation to the Legislature, there being two Senators and seven members of the House,—nine in all, and each over six feet high—was known as the “Long Nine,” and Lincoln, being tallest of all, was called the “Sangamon Chief.” Among his colleagues from Sangamon were Edward D. Baker and Ninian W. Edwards, son of Governor Ninian Edwards. Among his fellow-members of the House were Stephen Arnold Douglas, John J. Hardin, James Shields,. . . and others who became prominent in the State and nation. In this canvass Lincoln mmix w. Edwards had received, as in 1834, the highest vote 0ne of the.. ^ Nine.. and hus.given to any man on the ticket. … b,nd of M”ry Tod ’5>

For the immediate constituents of Sangamon County, Lincoln and the “Long Nine” succeeded in getting a law passed removing the [State] capital from Vandalia to Springfield. A fellow-member, one of the “Nine,” speaking of this measure, says: “When our bill, to all appearance, was dead, and beyond resuscitation…. and our friends could see no hope, Lincoln never for a moment despaired, but, collecting his colleagues in his room for consultation, his practical common sense, his thorough knowledge of human nature, made him an over-match for his compeers, and for any man I have ever known.”

The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Isaac N. Arnold, page 50



Before Lincoln’s departure for Washington to enter on his duties as a member of Congress, the Mexican War had begun. The volunteers had gone forward, and at the head of the regiments from Illinois some of the bravest men and best legal talent in Springfield had marched. Hardin, Baker, Bissell, and even the dramatic Shields had enlisted. The issues of the war and the manner of its prosecution were in every man’s mouth. Naturally, therefore, a Congressman-elect would be expected to publish his views and define his position early in the day.

Although, in common with the Whig party, opposing the declaration of war, Lincoln, now that hostilities had commenced, urged a vigorous prosecution… He was the only Whig from Illinois. . . In the Senate, Douglas had made his appearance for the first time. . Robert C. Winthrop, of Massachusetts, was chosen Speaker. John Ouincy Adams, Horace Mann, Caleb Smith, Alexander H. Stephens, Robert Toombs, Howell Cobb, and Andrew Johnson were important members of the House.

Herndcm’s Lincoln. William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, Vol. I, page 260.



While a member of Congress and otherwise immersed in politics, Lincoln seemed to lose all interest in the law. . . . When he returned, our practice was as extensive as that of any other firm at the bar. … I could notice a difference in Lincoln’s movements as a lawyer from this time forward. . . . There was, of course, the same riding on the circuit as before, but the courts had improved in tone and morals, … at least it appeared so to Lincoln. Political defeat had wrought a marked effect on him. It went below the skin and made a changed man of him. He was not soured at his seeming political decline, but still he determined to eschew politics from that time forward and devote himself entirely to the law.

No man had greater power of application than he. Once fixing his mind on any subject, nothing could interfere with or disturb him. Frequently I would go out on the circuit with him. We usually, at the little country inns, occupied the same bed. In most cases the beds were too short for him, and his feet would hang over the foot-board. Placing a candle on a chair at the head of the bed, he would read and study for hours I have known him to study in this position till two o’clock in the morning. Meanwhile, I and others who chanced to occupy the same room would be safely and soundly asleep. On the circuit in this way he studied Euclid until he could with ease demonstrate all the propositions in the six books

In the role of a story-teller I . . . regard Mr. Lincoln as without an equal. I have seen him surrounded by a crowd numbering 200 to 300 persons, all deeply interested in a story v hich, when he had finished it, speedily found repetition in every grocery and lounging-place within reach. His power of mimicry and his manner of recital were unique. . . . His countenance and all his features seemed to take part in the performance As he neared the pith or point of the story every vestige of seriousness disappeared from his face. His little gray eyes sparkled; a smile seemed to gather up, curtain like, the corners of his mouth; his frame quivered with suppressed excitement; and when the point—or “nub” of the story, as he called it—came, no one’s lau’. h was heartier than his. .

Every recital was followed by its “storm of laughter and chorus of cheers.”… When Lincoln, Murray and Engle met, there was sure to be a crowd. All were more or less masters in their art. … I have known these story-telling jousts to continue long after midnight—in some cases till the very small hours of the morning.

I have seen Judge Treat, who was the impersonation of gravity itself, sit up till the last and laugh until, as he often expressed it, he “almost shook his ribs loose.” The next day he would ascend the bench and listen to Lincoln in a murder trial, with all the seeming severity of an English judge in wig and gown.

Herndon’s Lincoln, William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, Vol. I, page 307



General McClellan had little or no conception of the greatness of Abraham Lincoln. As time went on, he began to show his contempt of the President, frequently allowing him to wait in the anteroom of his house while he transacted business with others. [On one occasion McClellan went up stairs to bed, leaving the President and an attendant waiting below.—W. W.]

The discourtesy was so open that McClellan’s staff noticed it, and newspaper correspondents commented on it. The President was too keen not to see the situation, but he was-strong enough to ignore it. It was a battle he wanted from McClellan, not deference. “I will hold McClellan’s horse, if he will only bring us success,” he said one day.

“Abe” Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories. Edited by Col. Alex. K. McClure, page 241.



In 1834, Lincoln was a candidate for the Legislature, and was elected by the highest vote cast for any candidate. Major John T. Stuart, an officer in the Black Hawk War, and whose acquaintance Lincoln made at Beardstown, was also elected. Major Stuart had already conceived the highest opinion of the young man, and seeing much of him during the canvass for the election, privately advised him to study law. Stuart was himself engaged in a large and lucrative practice at Springfield.

Lincoln said he was poor—that he had no money to buy books, or to live where books might be borrowed or used. Major Stuart offered to lend him all he needed, and he decided to take the kind lawyer’s advice, and accept his offer. At the close of the canvass which resulted in his election, he walked to Springfield, borrowed “a load” of books of Stuart, and took them home with him to New Salem.

Here he began the study of law in good earnest, though with no preceptor. He studied while he had bread, and then started out on a surveying tour to win the money that would buy more. One who remembers his habits during this period says that he went, day after day, for weeks, and sat under an oak tree near New Salem and read, moving around to keep in the shade as the sun moved. He was so much absorbed that some people thought and said he was crazy.

Not unfrequently he met and passed his best friends without noticing them. The truth was that he had found the pursuit of his life, and had become very much in earnest.

During Lincoln’s campaign he possessed and rode a horse, to procure which he had quite likely sold his compass and chain, for, as soon as the canvass had closed, he sold the horse and bought these instruments, indispensable to him in the only pursuit by which he could make his living. When the time for the assembly of the Legislature had arrived Lincoln dropped his law books, shouldered his pack, and, on foot, trudged to Vandalia, then the Capital of the State, about a hundred miles, to make his entrance into public life.

From Lincoln’s Life, Stories and Speeches by Paul Selby



In the Black Hawk War in 1832 were Lincoln served as captain, an old Indian strayed, hungry and helpless, into the camp one day. The soldiers were conspiring to kill him as a spy. A letter from General Cass, recommending him, for his past kind and faithful service to the whites, the trembling old savage drew from beneath the folds of his blankets; but failed in any degree to appease the wrath of the men who confronted him. “Make an example of him,” they exclaimed; “the letter is a forgery, and he is a spy.”

They might have put their threats into execution had not the tall form of their captain, his face swarthy with resolution and rage, interposed itself between them and their defenseless victim. Lincoln’s determined look and demand that it must not be done were enough. They sullenly desisted, and the Indian, unmolested, continued on his way.

From Lincoln’s Life, Stories and Speeches by Paul Selby



In the threatening aspect of the Black Hawk War, Governor Reynolds issued a call for volunteers, and among the companies that immediately responded was one from Menard County, Illinois. Many of the volunteers were from New Salem and Clary’s Grove, and Lincoln, being out of business, was first to enlist. The company being full, they held a meeting at Richland for the election of officers. Lincoln had won many hearts, and they told him that he must be their captain. It was an office that he did not aspire to, and one for which he felt that he had no special fitness; but he consented to be a candidate. There was but one other candidate for the office (a Mr. Kirkpatrick), and he was one of the most influential men of the County. Previously, Kirkpatrick had been an employer of Lincoln, and was so overbearing in his treatment of the young man that the latter left him.

The simple mode of their electing their captain, adopted by the company, was by placing the candidates apart, and telling the men to go and stand with the one they preferred. Lincoln and his competitor took their positions, and then the word was given. At least three out of every four went to Lincoln at once. When it was seen by those who had arranged themselves with the other candidate that Lincoln was the choice of the majority of the company, they left their places, one by one, and came over to the successful side, until Lincoln’s opponent in the friendly strife was left standing almost alone.

“I felt badly to see him cut so,” says a witness of the scene.

Here was an opportunity for revenge. The humble laborer was his employer’s captain, but the opportunity was never improved. Mr. Lincoln frequently confessed that no subsequent success of his life had given him half the satisfaction that this election did. He had achieved public recognition; and to one so humbly bred, the distinction was inexpressibly delightful.

From Lincoln’s Life, Stories and Speeches by Paul Selby



The Sangamon County delegation to the Illinois Legislature, in 1834, of which Lincoln was a member, consisting of nine representatives, was so remarkable for the physical altitude of its members that they were known as “The Long Nine.” Not a member of the number was less than six feet high, and Lincoln was the tallest of the nine, as he was the leading man intellectually in and out the House.

Among those who composed the House were Gen. John A. McClernand, afterward a member of Congress; Jesse K. DeBois, afterwards Auditor of the State; James Semple, afterwards twice the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and subsequently United States Senator; Robert Smith, afterwards member of Congress; John Hogan, afterwards a member of Congress from St. Louis; Gen. James Shields, afterwards United States Senator (who died recently); John Dement, who has since been Treasurer of the State; Stephen A. Douglas, whose subsequent career is familiar to all; Newton Cloud, President of the Convention which framed the present State Constitution of Illinois; John J. Hardin, who fell at Buena Vista; John Moore, afterward Lieutenant-Governor of the State; William A. Richardson, subsequently United States Senator, and William McMurtry, who has since been Lieutenant-Governor of the State.

This list does not embrace all who had then, or who have since been distinguished, but it is large enough to show that Lincoln was, during the term of this Legislature, thrown into association and often into antagonism, with the brightest men of the new State.

From Lincoln’s Life, Stories and Speeches by Paul Selby



At one time Major Hill charged Lincoln with making defamatory remarks about his wife. Hill was insulting in his language to Lincoln, who never lost his temper. When he saw his chance to edge a word in, Lincoln denied emphatically using the language or anything like that attributed to him. He entertained, he insisted, a high regard for Mrs. Hill, and the only thing he knew to her discredit was the fact that she was Major Hill’s wife.

From Lincoln’s Life, Stories and Speeches by Paul Selby



The late General Shields was Auditor of the State of Illinois in 1839. While he occupied this important office he was involved in an “affair of honor” with a Springfield lawyer—no less a personage than Abraham Lincoln. At this time, “James Shields, Auditor,” was the pride of the young Democracy, and was considered a dashing fellow by all, the ladies included.

In the summer of 1842, the Springfield Journal contained some letters from the “Lost Township,” by a contributor whose nom de plume was “Aunt Becca,” which held up the gallant young Auditor as “a ballroom dandy, floatin’ about on the earth without heft or substance, just like a lot of cat fur where cats had been fightin’.”

These letters caused intense excitement in the town. Nobody knew or guessed their authorship. Shields swore it would be coffee and pistols for two if he should find out who had been lampooning him so unmercifully. Thereupon “Aunt Becca” wrote another letter, which made the furnace of his wrath seven times hotter than before, in which she made a very humble apology, and offered to let him squeeze her hand for satisfaction, adding:

“If this should not answer, there is one thing more I would rather do than get a lickin’. I have all along expected to die a widow; but, as Mr. Shields is rather good-looking than otherwise, I must say I don’t care if we compromise the matter by—really, Mr. Printer, I can’t help blushing—but I must come out—I—but widowed modesty—well, if I must, I must—wouldn’t he—maybe sorter let the old grudge drap if I was to consent to be—be—his wife? I know he is a fightin’ man, and would rather fight than eat; but isn’t marryin’ better than fightin’, though it does sometimes run into it? And I don’t think, upon the whole, I’d be sich a bad match neither; I’m not over sixty, and am just four feet three in my bare feet, and not much more around the girth; and for color, I wouldn’t turn my back to nary a girl in the Lost Townships. But, after all, maybe I’m counting my chickens before they’re hatched, and dreamin’ of matrimonial bliss when the only alternative reserved for me may be a lickin’. Jeff tells me the way these fire-eaters do is to give the challenged party the choice of weapons, which being the case, I tell you in confidence, I never fight with anything but broomsticks or hot water, or a shovelful of coals, or some such thing; the former of which, being somewhat like a shillelah, may not be so very objectionable to him. I will give him a choice, however, in one thing, and that is whether, when we fight, I shall wear breeches or he petticoats, for I presume this change is sufficient to place us on an equality.”

Of course, some one had to shoulder the responsibility of these letters after such a shot. The real author was none other than Miss Mary Todd, afterward the wife of Abraham Lincoln, to whom she was engaged, and who was in honor bound to assume, for belligerent purposes, the responsibility of her sharp pen-thrusts. Mr. Lincoln accepted the situation. Not long after, the two men, with their seconds, were on their way to the field of honor. But the affair was fixed up without any fighting, and thus ended in a fizzle the Lincoln-Shields duel of the Lost Township.

From Lincoln’s Life, Stories and Speeches by Paul Selby



Old-time politicians, says a correspondent, will readily recall the heated political campaign of 1843, *n the neighboring State of Illinois. The chief interest of the campaign lay in the race for Congress in the Capital district, which was between Hardin—fiery, eloquent, and impetuous Democrat— and Lincoln—plain, practical, and ennobled Whig. The world knows the result. Lincoln was elected.

It is not so much his election as the manner in which he secured his nomination with which we have to deal. Before that ever-memorable spring, Lincoln vacillated between the courts of Springfield, rated as a plain, honest, logical Whig, with no ambition higher politically than to occupy some good home office. Late in the fall of 1842 his name began to be mentioned in connection with Congressional aspirations, which fact greatly annoyed the leaders of his political party, who had already selected as the Whig candidate one Baker, afterward the gallant Colonel who fell so bravely and died such an honorable death on the battlefield of Ball’s Bluff in 1862. Despite all efforts of his opponents within his party, the name of the “gaunt rail-splitter” was hailed with acclaim by the masses, to whom he had endeared himself by his witticisms, honest tongue, and quaint philosophy when on the stump, or mingling with them in their homes.

The convention, which met in early spring, in the city of Springfield, was to be composed of the usual number of delegates. The contest for the nomination was spirited and exciting. A few weeks before the meeting of the convention the fact was found by the leaders that the advantage lay with Lincoln, and that unless they pulled some very fine wires nothing could save Baker.

They attempted to play the game that has so often won, by “convincing” delegates under instructions for Lincoln, to violate them, and vote for Baker. They had apparently succeeded. “The plans of mice and men aft gang aglee.” So it was in this case. Two days before the convention, Lincoln received an intimation of this, and, late at night, indited the following letter. The letter was addressed to Martin Morris, who resides at Petersburg, an intimate friend of his, and by him circulated among those who were instructed for him at the county convention.

It had the desired effect. The convention met, the scheme of the conspirators miscarried, Lincoln was nominated, made a vigorous canvass, and was triumphantly elected, thus paving the way for his more extended and brilliant conquests. This letter, Lincoln had often told his friends, gave him ultimately the Chief Magistracy of the nation. He has also said, that, had he been beaten before the convention he would have been forever obscured. The following is a verbatim copy of the epistle: “April 14, 1843. “Friend Morris: I have heard it intimated that Baker is trying to get you or Miles, or both of you, to violate the instructions of the meeting that appointed you, and to go for him. I have insisted, and still insist, that this cannot be true.

“Sure Baker would not do the like. As well might Hardin ask me to vote for him in the convention.

“Again, it is said there will be an attempt to get instructions in your county requiring you to go for Baker. This is all wrong. Upon the same rule, why might I not fly from the decision against me at Sangamon and get up instructions to their delegates to go for me. There are at least 1,200 Whigs in the county that took no part, and yet I would as soon stick my head in the fire as attempt it. making some remarks that were offensive to certain political rowdies in the crowd, they cried: “Take him off the stand!” Immediate confusion ensued, and there was an attempt to carry the demand into execution. Directly over the speaker’s head was an old scuttle, at which it appeared Mr. Lincoln had been listening to the speech. In an instant, Mr. Lincoln’s feet came through the scuttle, followed by his tall and sinewy frame, and he was standing by Colonel Baker’s side. He raised his hand, and the assembly subsided into silence. “Besides, if anyone should get the nomination by such extraordinary means, all harmony in the district would inevitably be lost. Honest Whigs (and very nearly all of them are honest) would not quietly abide such enormities. “I repeat, such an attempt on Baker’s part cannot be true. Write me at Springfield how the matter is. Don’t show or speak of this letter. “A. Lincoln.”

Mr. Morris did show the letter, and Mr. Lincoln always thanked his stars that he did.

From Lincoln’s Life, Stories and Speeches by Paul Selby



“War Department, Washington, July 22, ’62. “First ordered that military commanders within the States of Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas, in an orderly manner, seize and use any property, real or personal, which may be necessary or convenient for their several commands, for supplies, or for other military purposes; and that while property may be all stored for proper military objects, none shall be destroyed in wantonness nor malice.

“Second: That military and naval commanders shall employ as laborers within and from said states, so many persons of African descent as can be advantageously used for military or naval purposes, giving them reasonable wages for their labor.

“Third: That as to both property and persons of African descent, accounts shall be kept sufficiently accurate and in detail to show quantities and amounts, and from whom both property and such persons shall have come, as a basis upon which compensation can be made in proper cases; and the several departments of this Government shall attend to and perform their appropriate parts towards the execution of these orders. By order of the President.”

From Lincoln’s Life, Stories and Speeches by Paul Selby