Abraham Lincoln in Illinois
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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January 2, 1840

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Born just twenty-six years after the end of the Revolutionary War, Abraham Lincoln had a lifelong respect for the generation that fought that war. Many of his most famous speeches, including the Lyceum Address of 1838, the Cooper Union Speech, his farewell address to Springfield, and the Gettysburg Address, make mention of the Revolutionary generation. As an attorney, Lincoln once defended the widow of a Revolutionary War soldier and brought to the case an added zeal.

After the Revolution, the federal government voted to give veterans a small pension for their service and put the War Department in charge of disbursing the funds. This document, written by Lincoln, is an amendment to a revenue bill. Its purpose is to grant tax relief to pensioners of the Revolutionary War who would be taxed by the state if they made any interest income from their pension allotment. Originally written as a stand-alone bill, Lincoln instead chose to take it and make it an amendment to a revenue bill. As such, the top of the piece of paper, which would have had the phrase "A bill for an…" was torn off of the document. This amendment was adopted and added to the revenue bill but the bill itself failed to make it out of the House.

Points to Consider

Why would Lincoln feel such an attachment to Revolutionary War pensioners?

What do you think was the age range of Revolutionary War pensioners in Illinois in 1840?

In addition to pensions, what other benefits has the U.S. government awarded to military veterans?

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