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Thinking About Peace Through Library of Congress Primary Sources

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This guest post is from the Library of Congress Teacher in Residence, Earnestine Sweeting.

“Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time…” Abraham Lincoln’s closing remarks, expressing a desire for peace, in an 1863 letter written to deal with a difficult political situation in Illinois.

For centuries, national and global leaders have appeared to take important steps toward peace, while still pursuing political concerns. The Library of Congress’s collections of primary sources can encourage students to explore the impact of a variety of peace settlements and how we can find peaceful solutions in our own  lives.

I asked my students, “How do you express disagreement respectfully?” and “How does it look?” Some hastily responded with explanations, while others paused. When I introduced the concept of nonviolent efforts to resolve conflict to my elementary students, having them make personal connections in their own lives prepared them for later lessons involving our country’s historic and current peacekeeping missions.

“After You”

The political cartoon “After you” provides students an example of how individuals with opposing views take steps to demonstrate peaceful gestures.  German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck and French emperor Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte motion simultaneously to each other to enter the door of peace first. Though each seems peaceful and courteous, neither is taking the first step toward peace. On closer observation, students may discover a female figure, holding an olive branch, opening the door.  After analyzing the drawing, students can further investigate to find out why the artist chose these particular two leaders, beginning with clues in the bibliographic record. Students can also explore the significance of the olive branch.

Another way I’ve engaged my students in how individuals take steps toward peace is through the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914 found in this newspaper article, Miracle is Wrought by Spirit in Hostile Trenches.  In this informal Christmas Truce, unarmed English soldiers crossed into the German trenches for a “sing-song” and a football match in the spirit of peace. Enemy soldiers found peace in the midst of America’s Great War? Have students investigate the extraordinary actions of these soldiers in Chronicling America’s historic newspapers.

For more legislative information, go to, use the dropdown list to limit the search to change the search from “All Sources” to “Legislation (2001-present)” and search on “peace treaties.” (Including the quotation marks around the search term yields more precise results.)


  1. peace is very good word all peoples liks this word ,but we when to get on that all people have two sign:1-awarences2-freedown
    when we to create our culture with two words we can to hope for future and sence in life the concept of peace

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