President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), Sixteenth President of the United States. He was born in a crude log cabin on a farm near Hodgenville in Hardin County (now Larue) Kentucky. His father was Thomas Lincoln, an illiterate pioneer farmer, the fifth generation descendant of Samuel Lincoln, who emigrated from Norwich, England, to Massachusetts around 1638.
The young Abraham Lincoln learned the little that was taught in backwoods schools, and was employed in rough farm work until, at the age of nineteen, he took a cargo on a flat boat to New Orleans. There he had his first close view of slavery, which made a lasting impression on his mind. When he was twenty-one, his father removed to central Illinois, where Abraham assisted in felling trees, building another log cabin, and splitting rails for fences. After a second trading voyage to New Orleans, he returned to become a clerk in a country store in New Salem Illinois. He was made village postmaster and deputy to the county surveyor, and the light duties of his offices allowed him time to study law and grammar. Elected to the State legislature in 1834, he served until 1841, when he declined re-nomination. During this time he suffered a severe personal loss in the death of Ann Rutledge, who died in 1835 shortly after they had become engaged. In the legislature he became leader of the Whigs, and was influential in having the State capital removed in 1839 from Vandalia to Springfield, where he had made his home. There, too, he met and courted Mary Todd (1818-1882), and in November, 1842, they were married. She was a devoted wife and mother, but their married life was not entirely happy. Of their four sons, one died in infancy and another died at the age of twelve in the White House; Abraham Lincoln was survived by the youngest, Thomas, who died in 1871, and the eldest, Robert Todd Lincoln.
In 1846 Abraham Lincoln was elected to the United States House of Representatives, but his service was limited to a single term. His private law practice was steadily drawing him away from interest in politics when in 1854 Kansas-Nebraska bill of Stephen A. Douglas repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and reopened the question of slavery in the territories. The bill aroused intense feeling throughout the North, and Douglas decided to defend his position in a speech at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in October. On the same day Abraham Lincoln delivered an opposition speech, the first which fully revealed his power as a political debater. Against his inclination Lincoln was then elected to the State legislature and the Whigs in that body endeavored to elect him to the United States Senate, but finally, at his request, joined in electing Lyman Trumbull, an anti-Douglas Democrat. When the Republican Party was organized in 1856 o oppose the extension of slavery, Abraham Lincoln was its most prominent leader in Illinois.
In 1858 the State Republican Convention nominated Abraham Lincoln for United States Senator. He accepted with his famous "House divided" speech in which he said "a house divided against it self cannot stand; I believe this government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free." His opponent was Stephen A. Douglas, and during the campaign the candidates toured the State, holding a series of seven debates on the issue of slavery, one in each election district. Abraham Lincoln won the popular election, but the existing apportionment in the legislature gave the senatorial election to Douglas by a margin of five votes. Although Lincoln lost the election, the issues he raised during the campaign made him the leading candidate for the next Republican Presidential nomination. He was called to speak in other Northern States, and finally, by a speech at Cooper Union in New York, in which he showed that the founders of the nation desired the restriction of slavery, he confirmed his leadership. The Cooper Union speech was delivered in February, 1860, and in May of the same year, the Republican Party Convention, meeting in Chicago, nominated Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency. Douglas was nominated by the Northern faction of the Democratic Party, and John C. Breckinridge by the Southern minority; an independent ticket was headed by John Bell of Tennessee. Abraham Lincoln won the popular vote. Of the electoral vote, Lincoln received 180; Breckenridge, 72; Bell, 39; and Douglas, 12.
The proslavery leaders forthwith put into execution their plans for the secession of their States. South Carolina moved first, and, with Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, formed the Confederate States of America n February, 1861. President Abraham Lincoln left Springfield on February 1, passing through the principal Northern cities and making brief addresses at various points, reaching Washington on the 24th. In his inaugural address on March 4, he declared the Union to be perpetual and argued the futility of secession; he expressed his determination that the laws should be faithfully executed in all the States; he deprecated the impending evils, and appealed to friends of the Union to preserve it.
n April 12, 1861, the Confederate general Beauregard attacked Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War having thus commenced, President Abraham Lincoln called a special session of Congress, summoned 75,000 militia, and ordered the expansion of the regular army by the enlistment of 65,000 volunteers. He proclaimed a blockade of the Southern ports, and suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the disaffected areas. The Confederacy soon consisted of eleven States, and put armies totaling 100,000 men into the field. The first important battle was fought at Bull Run, Virginia, July 21, 1861, and resulted in a startling rout of the Union Army. The struggle which sanguine Northern Leaders had predicted would end in a few months was prolonged over four years, and foreign intervention on behalf of the South, which seemed imminent at the beginning of the war, was averted with difficulty.
On September 22, 1862, just after General George B. McClellan's victory at Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that on and after January 1, 1863, all slaves in States or parts of States then in the rebellion should be free. On that date he issued the final Emancipation Proclamation. This was the greatest achievement of President Abraham Lincoln's administration; it was completed by the passage of the thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which was not fully ratified until December, 1865.
The capture of Vicksburg in July, 1863, by General Ulysses S. Grant restored full control of the Mississippi River to the Union, and the defeat of General Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg by General George G. Meade destroyed the last hope for the Confederacy of transferring the theater of war to the north of the Potomac River. In November of that year, at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg address.
Grant was appointed Abraham Lincoln to the chief command of the Union armies in March, 1864, and entered on the policy of attrition of the Confederate forces which finally brought victory to the Union. The following June, at the Republican Party Convention at Baltimore, Abraham Lincoln was unanimously nominated for a second term. In Chicago in August, the convention of the Democratic Party declared the war to be a failure, and nominated General McClellan. In the Election Abraham Lincoln Won both the popular and electoral votes.
In his second inaugural address President Abraham Lincoln prophetically set forth the profound moral significance of the war. Five weeks later Lee surrendered the principal army of the Confederacy and the city of Richmond to Grant. President Lincoln turned to consideration of new problems presented by the overthrow of the Confederacy, but his death was near. On April 14, while seeking relaxation with his family at Ford's Theater in Washington, he was shot by a crazed secession zealot, John Wilkes Booth, and died the following mourning. The national rejoicing over the return of peace was turned to grief for the martyred President Abraham Lincoln, and the entire civilized world joined in expression of sorrow at his fate.
In his lifetime President Abraham Lincoln was one of the most hated, as well as a one of the most loved, American Presidents. In the South his name was anathema, and even in a foreign country, England, periodicals caricatured him mercilessly, making him the butt of public ridicule and scorn. Time has erased the local bitterness and factional hatreds, however, and today President Abraham Lincoln is revered throughout the world as "The Great Emancipator", champion of freedom and hero of American history.