Historical Highlights

The House’s Commemoration of the Centennial of President Lincoln’s Birth

February 12, 1909
The House’s Commemoration of the Centennial of President Lincoln’s Birth Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Abraham Lincoln of Illinois served for one term in the House of Representatives. He declined renomination to the 31st Congress (1849–1851).
On this date, the House of Representatives paid tribute to President Abraham Lincoln on the 100th anniversary of his birth. In the opening prayer for the legislative session, House Chaplain Henry Couden asked the Members to recall the memory of “one of nature’s noblemen, a statesman, a patriot, a seer, a prophet, a philanthropist, a knight clad in the armor of righteousness, whose heart went out in love and sympathy to all men—our beloved Abraham Lincoln.” Representative Henry Boutell of Illinois followed the invocation with a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation on the House Floor. During the tribute, Congressman Frank Nye of Minnesota received frequent applause for his remarks on Lincoln, who served a single term as a Whig Representative from Illinois (1847–1849) before becoming the 16th U.S. President (1861–1865). “And when we had emerged from the thick darkness of our national distresses, as we had hoped, into the light of a national—not sectional—victory,” Nye pronounced, “this man, repeating what he had often said, ‘Malice toward none and charity for all,’ flung over his wounded country the mantle of love and mercy.” The celebration of Lincoln’s birth extended beyond the House Chamber. Speaker  Joe Cannon of Illinois addressed a large public gathering at the Masonic Temple in Washington, D.C., and President Theodore Roosevelt traveled to Kentucky to lay the cornerstone for a memorial at the birthplace of Lincoln. The House and Senate further honored Lincoln by passing a joint resolution declaring February 12, 1909, a holiday in the nation’s capital and U.S. territories, further recommending that state governors follow suit in paying homage to the former President.

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