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By law, we recognize March 4 each year as the anniversary of the day on which President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 signed the bill creating Idaho Territory. From the outset, Idaho was formed in the crucible of American history. Two months earlier, the sixteenth president issued his and our Emancipation Proclamation. Seven months later, Lincoln at Gettysburg would remind us that all men (and women) are created equal.

Just a week after March 4, in the same room at the White House where he earlier pondered and produced emancipation, Honest Abe gave Idaho an honest start by appointing the first of a total of 15 loyal “Union Men” which he would send to Idaho to be our earliest territorial officers over the next two years. During the rest of his presidency, Lincoln kept abreast of Idaho political affairs. For instance, he commented in his 1863 and 1864 Messages to Congress on the state of the territory’s political organization, the wealth of our mineral riches, and the situation of our Native American relations.

David H. Leroy is president of the Idaho Lincoln Institute and former Attorney General and Lt. Governor of Idaho.

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