Featured Primary Sources

The Failure of Compromise

Nothing can enrich and enliven our understanding of the nation’s past, or dispel apathy about it, more powerfully than primary sources. The primary sources below open up a variety of viewpoints and have been chosen by master teachers specifically for use in the classroom. Affiliate School members can print a packet that includes an image of the document, photograph, or other resource, a transcript where applicable, text to place the document in historical context, and document-based questions. In addition, you may want to search the Gilder Lehrman Collection itself for other resources to enrich your lessons.

 John Brown, “Address of John Brown to the Virginia Court..." December, 1859 (Gi

John Brown’s final speech, 1859

Creator: John Brown Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.

President Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, 1861

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Charleston Mercury, The Union Is Dissolved, December 20, 1860. (Gilder Lehrman C

The Union Is Dissolved!, 1860

Creator: The Charleston Mercury Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
 Braxton Bragg to Henry J. Hunt, April 21, 1861. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

“Almost brothers” divided by the Civil War, 1861

Creator: Braxton Bragg and Henry Hunt Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+

Primary Sources from Other Sub-Eras

Abraham Lincoln, notes for the “House Divided” speech, December 1857 (Gilder

The “House Divided” Speech, ca. 1857–1858

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+