English Literature
Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

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The Life and Legacy of President Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, born in 1809, is widely recognized as the 16th President of the United States. He was a self-taught lawyer and his political journey began with local offices, leading to his election to Congress and the Senate, ultimately earning him national recognition. As a President with strong anti-slavery views, several Southern states seceded from the Union. However, his determination to preserve the United States and his great leadership skills have earned him a place among the greatest presidents in American history. Unfortunately, he was assassinated in 1865 and has since been regarded as a martyr for the values of individual liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness, as stated in The Declaration of Independence.

The most iconic photograph of Abraham Lincoln was captured by Alexander Gardner on November 8, 1863 and can be found on Wikimedia Commons.

Early Life and Education

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a log cabin in Hodgenville, Kentucky. He was the son of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln and had two siblings, Sarah and Thomas. His brother passed away as an infant and his mother died from milk sickness when he was only nine years old. His sister Sarah became his parent figure and the family moved to Indiana in 1816 for better land titles. Unfortunately, they had to move again to New Salem, Illinois due to another milk sickness outbreak.

Lincoln was physically fit and skilled with an ax during his youth, but he showed a strong inclination towards reading over manual labor. He was mostly self-educated with occasional lessons from traveling teachers. His early readings included the Bible, Robinson Crusoe, and the memoirs of Benjamin Franklin.

Marriage and Children

In 1839, Lincoln met Mary Todd and the two got married in 1842. They had four sons, but only one, Thomas, survived into adulthood as the rest passed away from illnesses. Lincoln often brought his children to his law office, which sometimes annoyed his law partner, William Herndon.

Early Political Career

After settling in New Salem, Illinois, Lincoln had his first opportunity to live on his own at the age of 21. He opened a shop and a tavern with a business partner and also worked at the post office. During a flatboat trip to New Orleans, he witnessed the harsh realities of slavery, which greatly influenced his personal and political beliefs.

In 1833, he ran for the Illinois General Assembly but was unsuccessful due to lack of resources, education, and political connections. However, he was known for his powerful public speaking skills that attracted large crowds. In 1834, he ran again and won, serving four terms in the Illinois House of Representatives for Sangamon County. During this time, he strongly advocated for the "free soil" policy.

Lincoln was admitted to the Illinois state bar in 1836 and worked under his wife's cousin, John T. Stuart, before partnering with Stephen T. Logan. He eventually started his own practice with William Herndon, who would later complain about the Lincoln children running around the office. In 1844, Lincoln was elected as a U.S. Congressman for one term.

National Politics and Legacy

In 1847, Lincoln ran for the United States House of Representatives and served one term until 1849. He publicly stated that he would only serve one term, but his impact was lasting. He was a staunch supporter of the "free soil" policy and was renowned for his oratory skills. Despite his short tenure in national politics, Abraham Lincoln's legacy continues to inspire generations and his contributions to preserving the Union will never be forgotten.

In 1846, Lincoln was elected as a congressman and had a portrait taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd, marking his return to national politics. A few years later, he publicly spoke out against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which was introduced by his future political rival, Stephen A. Douglas.

Although Lincoln initially had aspirations for a career in the administration of presidential candidate Zachary Taylor, he declined an offer to be governor of the Oregon territory and returned to his successful career as a lawyer.

The Peoria Speech: Abraham Lincoln's Bold Anti-Slavery Stance and Return to National Politics

In 1854, the divisive Kansas-Nebraska Act aimed to resolve the ongoing dispute between pro-slavery and anti-slavery states by allowing individual territories to decide on the issue for themselves. This led to the demise of the Whig party and the formation of the Republican party, which was dedicated to abolishing slavery. Former Whig member Abraham Lincoln joined the Republicans and quickly emerged as a prominent leader and symbol of their cause. Four years later, in 1858, Lincoln delivered a powerful speech at the Bloomington Convention, solidifying his rising star status within the newly established Illinois Republican Party.

Despite losing the US senate race against Douglas in 1858, Lincoln's oratory skills gained him national attention through a series of debates with his opponent. These highly-publicized debates, which drew in crowds of thousands, became the most popular in US history at the time. Lincoln's popularity continued to grow through his nationwide speeches, culminating in his influential "Cooper Union speech" in New York City, which won over Eastern voters and strengthened his chances in the presidential race against the pro-slavery Democrat party.

Initially, Lincoln was not actively seeking the presidency, but the growing momentum and support from the Republican party led to his nomination at the 1860 Republican National Convention. The North was determined to counter the South's increasing influence in national policies, particularly with the passage of the controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act. Northern states saw Lincoln as a strong candidate who would promote policies to weaken Southern power and ultimately abolish slavery.

The Southern states, heavily reliant on slave labor, felt threatened by Lincoln's potential election and began seceding from the Union. By the time Lincoln took office in March 1861, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana had all seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. Despite Lincoln's assurance in his inaugural address that he had no intention of abolishing slavery, tensions continued to escalate, and the newly-elected president even faced assassination attempts on his journey to Washington D.C.

Eventually, Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard's attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, 1861, marked the beginning of the American Civil War. President Lincoln, determined to preserve the Union, used his powers as commander-in-chief and led the Union forces throughout the war. His legacy as a visionary leader and anti-slavery advocate remains a crucial part of American history.

The Leadership of Abraham Lincoln During the Civil War

As the Civil War raged on, President Abraham Lincoln's main objectives were to minimize the extent of the conflict, prevent external intervention, and bring it to a swift conclusion. In pursuit of these goals, he issued several executive orders, most notably the 'Emancipation Proclamation' on January 1, 1863. This document declared all slaves free and granted former slaves the opportunity to join the Union army. Later that year, during the dedication of the first national soldier's cemetery, President Lincoln delivered his memorable 'Gettysburg Address'. He was re-elected for a second term as President on November 8, 1864.

The Civil War officially came to an end on April 9, 1865, when the last Confederate army surrendered. However, just four days later, the nation was struck by tragedy as President Lincoln was assassinated. While attending a play with his wife and guests, John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer, fatally shot Lincoln in the back of the neck. After a brief standoff, Booth was killed, but Lincoln's wound proved fatal, and he passed away on April 15, 1865. His body was transported by train to Springfield, Illinois, with thousands of people paying their respects along the way.

The Life and Legacy of Abraham Lincoln

Considered a near-mythic figure in American history, Abraham Lincoln embodies many of the core principles upon which the United States was founded. From his humble beginnings in a log cabin, to his drive for self-education and personal ambition, Lincoln's life is an inspiration for the pursuit of individual liberty and the American dream. Even in his death, he can be seen as a testament to the sacrifice for upholding these ideals. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, and his inclusion in the Mount Rushmore National Monument are just a few ways his legacy continues to be honored and remembered.

The Notable Works of Abraham Lincoln

While President Lincoln was known for his prolific writing and speeches, two of his most famous works are the 'Emancipation Proclamation' and the 'Gettysburg Address'.

Signed on January 1, 1863, the 'Emancipation Proclamation' declared all slaves free, significantly damaging the South's economy and rallying support for the Union army. This strategic move was aimed at disrupting the Confederacy's momentum, as the North had suffered several critical military defeats. The proclamation also offered refuge to escaping slaves and encouraged them to fight for the Union cause.

Delivered on November 19, 1863, the 'Gettysburg Address' was a brief yet impactful speech given by President Lincoln at the dedication of the first Soldier's National Cemetery. It came a few months after the Battle of Gettysburg, which is considered a turning point in the Civil War as it halted Robert E. Lee's advance into the Union.

The Legacy of Abraham Lincoln: Lessons for Us Today

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, remains a significant figure in American history, known for his leadership during the Civil War and his famous speeches. Born into poverty, he rose to become a successful lawyer and politician through his commitment to self-education. Here are some key takeaways from the life of this iconic figure.

The Battle of Gettysburg

One of the defining moments of the Civil War was the Battle of Gettysburg, where the highest number of casualties were suffered. Between 46,000 and 51,000 lives were lost, and today, the Gettysburg National Cemetery stands as a testament to those sacrifices.

Preserving the Union and Ending Slavery

Lincoln's top priority as President was to preserve the Union. He firmly believed that a nation founded on the principles of liberty and equality could not survive if it was divided. He famously declared that he would do whatever it takes to save the Union, even if it meant not freeing any slaves. However, he ultimately issued the Emancipation Proclamation, effectively ending slavery in the Confederacy and boosting support for the Union cause.

The Power of Education and Self-Determination

As a self-educated individual, Lincoln understood the value of education for personal and national growth. He strongly advocated for the right to choose one's own education, a belief rooted in his own experience of teaching himself to read and write.

The Political Career of Abraham Lincoln

As a member of the newly formed Republican Party, Lincoln opposed the expansion of slavery into new territories, a stance that ultimately led to his election as President and played a crucial role in shaping the future of the United States.

The Remarkable Achievements of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, rose to national prominence with his exceptional oratory skills. Despite being born into poverty, he taught himself how to read and write and eventually became a self-made lawyer. But that was just the beginning of Lincoln's journey to greatness.

Key Takeaways from Abraham Lincoln

  • Lincoln was a self-taught lawyer who started his own practice
  • He believed in preserving the Union and was against the expansion of slavery
  • Lincoln took bold steps to end slavery, such as issuing the Emancipation Proclamation
  • He expanded the power of the presidency during the Civil War

Facts about Abraham Lincoln

  • He was the first Republican President
  • Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation effectively put an end to slavery in the Confederacy
  • He is remembered as a martyr and a hero for his leadership and accomplishments

Abraham Lincoln: The Party Affiliation Debate

Although Lincoln was a Republican, it's important to note that the Republican party at that time was against the expansion of slavery. Lincoln's anti-slavery stance and dedication to preserving the Union made him a popular and influential leader.

What Made Abraham Lincoln an Exceptional President?

As President, Abraham Lincoln played a vital role in strategizing and implementing policies during the Civil War. He utilized the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery and garner support for the Union cause. He also expanded the power of the presidency, setting a precedent for future leaders to follow.


  • Oates, Stephen B. Abraham Lincoln: The Man Behind the Myths (1994)
  • Sanders, Gerald. Abraham Lincoln: Fact Book & Teacher's Guide (1982)
  • Lincoln, Abraham. "First Political Announcement". Abraham Lincoln Online. (2022)

The Enduring Legacy of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln's principles and actions continue to inspire and impact people long after his presidency. His unwavering commitment to justice, equality, and the preservation of the nation's core values makes him a true hero and one of the greatest presidents in American history. His contributions to the country will always be remembered and celebrated, making him a timeless and cherished figure in the hearts of many.

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