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Current Exhibit

Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War
at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
January 26-March 6, 2015

The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site is hosting Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War, an exhibit presented by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This compelling exhibit examines how President Lincoln used the Constitution to confront three intertwined crises of the Civil War—the secession of the Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties. It develops a more complete understanding of Abraham Lincoln as president and the Civil War as the nation's gravest constitutional crisis. Find out more at PresidentBenjaminHarrison.org.

LIVE: Abraham Lincoln
Grand Opening Event
January 29 • 5:30-7pm • Reservations recommended

Have you ever wanted to meet Abraham Lincoln in person? This is your chance—or at least as close as you'll ever be able to in this life!

Join us and one of the nation's foremost Lincoln reenactors, Fritz Klein, as we celebrate the grand opening of Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War. Klein bears an uncanny resemblance to Lincoln and is recognized for his ability to bring his words and deeds vividly alive. Based out of Springfield, Illinois, Klein has been a professional actor and speaker for many years and has performed as Lincoln in 38 states and internationally.

Admission is free but space is limited. Guarantee your spot by calling 317.631.1888 or online at PresidentBenjaminHarrison.org.
Eventbrite - LIVE:  Abraham Lincoln

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The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site is hosting Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War an exhibit present by the American Library Association and the National Constitution Center, January 26th to March 6th, 2015. The exhibit examines how President Lincoln used the Constitution to confront three intertwined crises of the Civil War—the secession of Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties. It develops a more complete understanding of Abraham Lincoln as president and the Civil War as the nation’s gravest constitutional crisis.

Lincoln is widely acknowledged as one of America's greatest presidents, but his historical reputation is contested. Was he a calculating politician willing to accommodate slavery, or a principled leader justly celebrated as the Great Emancipator? This exhibition provides no easy answers. Rather, it encourages visitors to form a nuanced view of Lincoln by engaging them with Lincoln's struggle to reconcile his policy preferences with basic American ideals of liberty and equality. 

Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860, at a time when the nation was on the brink of war. Lincoln struggled to resolve the basic questions that divided Americans at the most perilous moment in the nation's history: Was the United States truly one nation, or was it a confederacy of sovereign and separate states? How could a country founded on the belief that "all men are created equal" tolerate slavery? In a national crisis, would civil liberties be secure? President Lincoln used the Constitution to confront these three crises of war, ultimately reinventing the Constitution and the promise of American life.

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On July 1, 1862, a full year after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln appealed for an additional 300,000 men in the Union Army. Along with 17 other governors, Governor Oliver P. Morton of Indiana pledged to aid in the call for reinforcements. Morton shared his concerns about raising troops; he was quite depressed at the people's slow response. Harrison felt that he was addressing him personally. Harrison was so moved that he offered: "Governor, if I can be of any service, I will go." Morton immediately asked him to raise a regiment. Harrison went right out and started recruiting for Company A of the Indiana 70th Regiment. The new soldiers put into camp on the west side of Indianapolis and began their drills.

The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site collection contains many Lincoln related artifacts that were personal belongings of the Harrison family. One such prized possession is Harrison’s Civil War commission signed by President Lincoln dated March 22nd, 1865. A mere 23 days before he died on the morning of April 15th, 1865. The following is an excerpt from a speech where Benjamin Harrison gives his thoughts on Lincoln some 40 years later after his own presidency in 1898, while speaking to the Chicago Marquette Club:

“The Civil War called for a president who had faith in time, for his country as well as himself; who could endure the impatience of others and bide his time.

…a man who could win and hold the love of the soldier and the masses of the people; a man who could be just without pleasure in the severities of justice, who loved to forgive and pardon…

Qualities of heart and mind combined to make him a man who has won the love of mankind. He is beloved. He stands like a great lighthouse to show the way of duty to all his countrymen and to send afar a beam of courage to those who beat against the winds. We do him reverence. We bless tonight the memory of Lincoln.”

Some artifacts have interesting stories that are often hard to prove. A wooded plaque eleven inches tall and four and half inches wide holds a poem printed on a silk ribbon and a note card. The card states: The walnut (wooded plaque) was from Lincoln's headboard of his bed sent by I. H. Beidler with poems of the 100th year of the Presidency, July 15, 1889.

A drawing of Abraham Lincoln by Thomas Johnson was given to Harrison in 1892 at a dinner for the Republican Club. It is signed T. Johnson / Artist proof. Two items in the political case displayed on the third floor relate to Lincoln. A metal badge for the Lincoln Club of Cincinnati incorporated in 1879, a silver coin or medal with image of Lincoln "Great Statesman & Beloved President/Abraham Lincoln/ 1865” both saved by the Harrison family. A few other Lincoln artifacts have been donated to the museum though the years and will be display along with the exhibit.

President Benjamin Harrison was a great Constitutional lawyer. Many of his cases involved Constitutional issues. The Harrison family's belief in the Constitution held
strong through the generations.

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Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War, a traveling exhibition for libraries, was organized by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. The traveling exhibition has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the National Constitution Center.

Special Thanks to Supporters:

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“An American citizen could not be a good citizen who did not have a hope in his heart.” ~ Benjamin Harrison

Share Harrison's passion for giving and become a member, donor or volunteer of the Benjamin Harrision Presidential Site.