Abraham Lincoln, born on February 12, 1809, was an American lawyer and statesman who was elected and served as the 16th President of the United States. He was President of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in 1865. The nation was led by Lincoln through the American Civil War and preserved the Union successfully. Also, he abolished slavery, modernized the American economy, and strengthened the federal government.
His Emancipation Proclamation paved the way for the abolition of slavery. Gettysburg Address, on the other hand, is one of the most famous speeches in American history. Abraham Lincoln is remembered as a national hero and a martyr for his leadership during the civil war. Furthermore, Lincoln is often ranked in the popular and academic polls as the greatest president in the history of the United States. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, at the age of 56.
Early Life of Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln in a one-room log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. In 1816, the Lincoln family moved to Southern Indiana. His formal education was limited to three short stints at local schools. This is because Lincoln was born in a poor family and he constantly had to work to support his family.
In 1830, the Lincoln family moved to Macon Country in Southern Illinois. There Lincoln found employment on a riverboat that carried goods up the Mississippi River to New Orleans. After settling in the town of New Salem, Illinois, he worked as a grocer and postmaster. In 1834, Lincoln got involved in local politics as a Whig supporter and won elections in the Illinois State Legislature.
Like his Whig heroes Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, Lincoln opposed the expansion of slavery into the territories and had a grand vision for the expansion of the United States. The main focus was on trade and cities rather than agriculture. In 1836, Lincoln taught himself law and passed the bar exam. The following year he moved to the new state capital, Springfield. Over the next few years, he worked there as a lawyer, serving clients ranging from small-town residents to national rail lines.
Abraham Lincoln’s Marriage
Abraham Lincoln met Mary Todd, a well-to-do Kentucky fair lady with many suitors including Stephen Douglas who was his future political rival. Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd got married in 1842. The Lincolns had four children together, but only one got to reach adulthood.
- Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926)
- Edward Baker Lincoln (1846-1850)
- William Wallace Lincoln (1850-1862)
- Thomas Tad Lincoln (1853-1871)
The war years were difficult for Abraham Lincoln and his family. After Willie’s death because of typhoid fever in 1862, Mary Lincoln went through a fragile emotional and was widely unpopular for her frivolity and wastefulness, held seances at the White House in hopes of communicating with him, winning even more ridiculous.
Abraham Lincoln Enters Politics
In 1846, Lincoln won elections to the United States House of Representatives and began serving his term the following year. Lincoln was unpopular as a congressman with many Illinois voters for his strong stance against the Mexican-American War. In 1849, Lincoln returned to Springfield vowing not to seek re-election.
However, events conspired to push him back into national politics. Douglas, a leading Democrat in Congress, had pressed for passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854). It declared that voters in each territory rather than the federal government had the right to decide whether the territory should be free or slave.
On October 16, 1854, Lincoln appeared before a large crowd in Peoria to argue with Douglas on the merits of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It was to denounce slavery and its extension. Furthermore, it was to call the institution a violation of the most basic principles of the Declaration of Independence.
Lincoln joined the new Republican Party when the Whig Party was in ruins. The Republican Party was formed largest against the spread of slavery in the territories. In 1856, Lincoln ran for the Senate again where he had campaigned unsuccessfully for the siege in 1855. In June, Abraham Lincoln gave his house divided speech which is now famous. In the speech, he quoted the Gospels to illustrate his belief that this government cannot bear to be half slave or half free permanently.
In a series of famous debates, Lincoln faced Douglas. Although he lost the election to the Senate, his performance of Lincoln made his national reputation.
Abraham Lincoln’s Presidential Campaign In 1860
The profile of Lincoln was raised in the early 1860s after he delivered another moving speech at the Cooper Union in New York. In May, Lincoln was chosen by Republicans as their presidential nominee, bypassing Senator William H. Seward of New York along with other strong contenders in favor of the lanky lawyer of Illinois.
In the general election, Lincoln again ran against Douglas, who represented the Northern Democrats. The southern democrats had nominated John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky while John Bell ran for the newly formed Constitutional Union Party. With Bell and Breckenridge splitting the vote in the South, Lincoln won most of the North. Furthermore, Lincoln won the Electoral College to win the White House.
Abraham Lincoln assembled an exceptionally strong cabin made up of many of his political rivals, including Edward Bates, Salmon P. Chase, Seward, and Edwin M. Stanton.
Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War
After years of sectoral tensions, the election of an anti-slavery northerner as the 16th President of the United States brought many southerners to the brink. In March 1861, Lincoln was sworn in as the 16th President of the United States. At that time, the seven southern states had seceded from the Union. Hence, they formed the Confederate States of America.
In April 1861, Lincoln ordered a fleet of Union ships to supply Federal Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The Confederates, as an opposition, fired on the Union fleet and fort, resulting in Civil War. The defeat at the Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) dashed the hopes of Union victory. As a result, Lincoln called up 500,000 more troops as both parties prepared for a longer conflict.
Although Confederate leader Jefferson Davis was a West Point graduate, former secretary of war, and Mexican War hero, Lincoln had only a brief and mediocre stint in the Black Hawks’ War (1832) to his credit. However, Lincoln surprised many by proving to be a capable war leader. He quickly learned tactics and strategies in the early years of the Civil War, especially in choosing the most capable commanders.
During the civil war, Lincoln was criticized for suspending certain civil liberties. It included the right to habeas corpus. However, he considered the measures that were necessary to win the civil war.
Emancipation Proclamation and Gettysburg Address
Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation shortly after the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg). It went into effect on January 1, 1863, which resulted in freeing all the slaves in rebellious states, not under federal control. Also, he left those border states which were loyal to the Union in servitude.
The primary object of Lincoln’s struggle was to save the union and not to save or destroy slavery. He came to regard emancipation as one of his great achievements and would advocate the adoption of constitutional law amendment prohibiting slavery. However, it was passed as the 13th amendment after Lincoln’s death in 1865.
In July 1863, there were two major Union victories at Vicksburg, Mississippi and the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania ultimately turned the tide of the war. General George Meade missed the opportunity to deliver a final blow against the army of Lee at Gettysburg. However, in early 1864, Lincoln became the victor of Vicksburg and Ulysses S. Grant was the supreme commander of the forces of the Union.
Lincoln delivered a brief speech in November 1863 which was only 272 words at the dedication ceremony for the new Gettysburg National Cemetery. It was widely published as the Gettysburg Address which expressed the purpose of the war, recalling the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence. Furthermore, the speech had the quest for equality in humans.
The Gettysburg Address became the famous speech of Lincoln during his presidency. Also, it is one of the most widely quoted speeches in history.
Abraham Lincoln Wins The Presidential Election Of 1864
In 1864, Lincoln faced a tough re-election battle against George McClellan, a Democratic candidate, and former Union General. Union victories in the battle, especially General William T. Sherman in September, changed many votes in the favor of the president. On March 4, 1865, Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address which mentioned the need to rebuild the Union and South.
As Sherman marched triumphantly north through the Carolinas after organizing his March to the Sea from Atlanta, Lee visited Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9. The victory of the Union was near and Lincoln gave a speech on the lawn of the White House on April 11. It was to welcome the Southern States back into the fold. However, Lincoln was not able to realize his vision of reconstruction.
Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
On the night of April 14, 1865, the Confederate and actor sympathizer John Wilkes Booth slipped into the box of Presidents at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. He shot him point-blank in the back of the head. Lincoln was taken to a boarding house across the street from the theater but he never regained consciousness. He died in the early hours of April 15, 1865.
Lincoln became a national martyr after his assassination. On April 21, 1865, a train carrying his casket left Washington, D.C. for Springfield, Illinois. He was buried on May 4 because the funeral train traveled to 180 cities and seven states. It was for the mourners to pay their respect to the fallen president.
Today, Lincoln’s birthday along with George Washington’s birthday is celebrated as President’s Day which falls on the third Monday in February.
Abraham Lincoln – A Man Of His Time, A Man For All Times
The historical significance of Abraham Lincoln continues even two hundred years after his birth. Lincoln is a man of his time, humble from birth, ambitious, and self-taught. He took the advantage of the opportunities of a rapidly expanding society to access the highest office in the country. The timeless rhetoric, determined leadership and strong principles of Lincoln have kept him a man for the ages. Furthermore, he is a globally recognized personality.
Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest self-made men in American history. He dedicated his life to self-learning and hard work, which made him ambitious to make his mark in the history of the United States. He was against slavery due to his experiences in real life, which outline the rights of Americans as life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. After being elected as the 16th President of America in 1864, he continued working on freeing the Americans from slavery. However, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865, by John Wilkes Booth who was a Confederate sympathizer and actor.