the Civil War, Judge Joseph Holt was a key figure in helping to keep
Kentucky in the Union and firmly aligned with the federal government.
He had helped secure a peaceful inauguration for President Abraham
Lincoln and was determined that Kentucky should take its rightful place
as defending the Union.
On July 13, 1861 Holt delivered one of
the most important speeches of his life. "I wish solemnly to declare
before you and the world that I am for this union without conditions,
one and indivisible, now and forever. I am for its preservation at any
cost of blood and treasure against its assailants. I know no neutrality
between my country and its foes, whether they be foreign or domestic;
no neutrality between the glorious flag which floats over us, and the
ingrates and traitors who would trample it in the dust."
impact of the speech was pronounced by one historian as "the most
powerful speech yet given in favor of the federal government and was a
most powerful weapon in the hands of the Union men in Kentucky."
astute political sense recognized that having a prominent southern
Democrat on his side was something the President could make great use
of, since Lincoln had polled so poorly in the Bluegrass State and
needed Kentucky to be successful in the Civil War. An affirmative
opinion on a legal question
given by Holt in 1863 resulted in the strengthening of the Union Armies
by large numbers of African American troops at a time when
reinforcements were badly needed. By this, Judge Holt, joined the
esteemed group of Kentuckians who played significant roles in the Civil
War era including Henry Clay, John C. Breckinridge, John Hunt Morgan,
and many more.
Preservation and rehabilitation
of a site so closely associated with President Abraham Lincoln offers a
tremendous opportunity for Americans to rediscover the story of events
that transpired following his assassination in 1865. The Holt House
also provides a rare opportunity to preserve an important historic
feature on Kentucky's rural landscape associated with our nation's
greatest president, and expand the publics knowledge and understanding
of both the Holt and Lincoln legacies in Kentucky and to our nation.
and restoration of Judge Holt's home has been named a Legacy Project of
the Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, established in
2004 to organize and coordinate the state's commemorative activities in
celebration of the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth in Hodgenville,
Kentucky on February 12, 1809. The commission was charged with ensuring
that Lincoln's Kentucky story is an essential part of the national
celebration, and to reminding the public of the critical role that
Kentucky and Kentuckians played in Lincoln's life and career.
Holt House is also a featured site of the new Kentucky Lincoln Heritage
Trail, which highlights historic sites throughout central Kentucky
directly associated with Lincoln, his friends and family. These include
the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site near Hodgenville;
Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate; and the Mary Todd Lincoln House in
Lexington, and more than a dozen other central Kentucky sites.
Representatives of these organizations and the Holt House Steering
Committee have formed the Kentucky Lincoln Sites Alliance to continue
the long-term promotion of Kentucky Lincoln sites and work together on
initiatives including pursuit of the region as a National Heritage Area.
and preservation of the Judge Joseph Holt House not only encourages
Kentuckians and others across the nation to learn more about the role
Judge Holt played in President Lincoln's cabinet and in a pivotal
moment in our nation's history, but it is also a rare opportunity to
observe the process of acquiring and undertaking the restoration and
interpretation of an important historic site from start to finish. This
project offers unique a case study to expand the public's knowledge
about Lincoln's Kentucky connections and is a unique example of a
comprehensive community undertaking and a public-private partnership
working toward preserving and reintroducing a near-forgotten Kentucky
landmark with national significance.