What: After Abraham Lincoln was re-elected U.S. president, Princeton trustees awarded the former Illinois lawyer a doctor of laws degree. Lincoln’s handwritten reply to President John Maclean (Dec. 27, 1864) is a University treasure.
He expressed gratitude for “this high compliment” from “a body of gentlemen of such character and intelligence in this time of public trial. ... Thoughtful men must feel that the fate of civilization upon this continent is involved.” He appreciated “the hearty devotion everywhere exhibited by our schools and colleges to the national cause.”
One of Lincoln’s staunch backers, just-retired New Jersey governor Charles Olden, recently had joined the Princeton board of trustees. Honest Abe never attended college but was awarded three honorary degrees — earlier, he received one from Knox College in Illinois, and another from Columbia University.
Southbound for his inaugural in 1861, Lincoln acknowledged cheers from Princeton undergraduates as his train crossed Alexander Street by the canal. Four years later, a mournful student body marched to the new Princeton Junction station to see his funeral train roll by.
Where: Abraham Lincoln Collection, Box 1, Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library