A British and Scottish Protestant denomination, Presbyterianism stands within the Reformed tradition. The church is different from some other Protestant denominations because it has an established creed and is governed by a hierarchy of church courts made up of lay and clerical elders, or presbyters. Many Presbyterians migrated to the United States prior to the American Revolution, and by 1716, the church was established enough to create its own synod. The Presbyterian Church in America experienced three schisms prior to the Civil War, two involving theology and one race and slavery. In the 1740s, Presbyterian ministers divided into Old Sides and New Sides over the nature and significance of the First Great Awakening, and theological issues raised by evangelicalism played a role in the split into Old School and New School factions in the 1830s. Debate over the future of slavery lead to divisions along sectional lines among the Old School Presbyterians in 1857 and New School Presbyterians at the beginning of the Civil War. After the war, Old School and New School factions in the North and South reunited, but the sectional divide continued into the twentieth century. Abraham Lincoln attended Presbyterian churches in Illinois and Washington, DC. He never officially became a member, although Mary Lincoln joined the church.

Glenn T. Miller, "Presbyterianism," Dictionary of American History, rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), 5:391-92; Bradley J. Longfield, Presbyterians and American Culture: A History (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), 1-116; Mark Noll, "The Puzzling Faith of Abraham Lincoln," Christian History No. 1 9 (Winter 1992), 10,, accessed May 21, 2019; Stacy Pratt McDermott, Mary Lincoln: Southern Girl, Northern Woman(New York and London: Routledge, 2015), 70.