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Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia

Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln (/ˈlɪŋkən/;[2] February 12, 1809 – April 15,
1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the
16th president of the United States from March 1861 until his
assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the
American Civil War, its bloodiest war and its greatest moral,
constitutional, and political crisis.[3][4] He preserved the Union,
abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and
modernized the U.S. economy.
Born in a log cabin, Lincoln grew up on the frontier (mainly in
Spencer County, Indiana) in a poor family. Self-educated, he
became a lawyer, Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator, and
U.S. Congressman from Illinois. In 1849, he left the government
to resume his law practice but angered by the Kansas–Nebraska
Act's opening of the prairie lands to slavery, reentered politics in
1854. He became a leader in the new Republican Party and
gained national attention in the 1858 debates against national
Democratic leader Stephen Douglas in the U.S Senate campaign
in Illinois. He then ran for President in 1860, sweeping the
North and winning. Southern pro-slavery elements took his win
as proof that the North was rejecting the constitutional rights of
Southern states to practice slavery. They began the process of
seceding from the union. To secure its independence, the new
Confederate States of America fired on Fort Sumter, one of the
few U.S. forts in the South. Lincoln called up volunteers and
militia to suppress the rebellion and restore the Union.
As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican Party,
Lincoln confronted Radical Republicans, who demanded
harsher treatment of the South; War Democrats, who rallied a
large faction of former opponents into his camp; anti-war
Democrats (called Copperheads), who despised him; and
irreconcilable secessionists, who plotted his assassination.
Lincoln fought the factions by pitting them against each other,
by carefully distributing political patronage, and by appealing to
the American people.[5]:65–87 His Gettysburg Address became
an iconic call for nationalism, republicanism, equal rights,
liberty, and democracy. He suspended habeas corpus, and he
averted British intervention by defusing the Trent Affair.
Lincoln closely supervised the war effort, including the selection
of generals and the naval blockade that shut down the South's
Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln in November 1863
16th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865
Vice President
Hannibal Hamlin
Andrew Johnson
(Mar–Apr. 1865)
Preceded by
James Buchanan
Succeeded by
Andrew Johnson
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1847 – March 3, 1849
Preceded by
John Henry
Succeeded by
Thomas L. Harris
Member of the
Illinois House of Representatives
from Sangamon County
In office
December 1, 1834 – December 4,
Personal details
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
trade. As the war progressed, he maneuvered to end slavery,
issuing the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863; ordering the
Army to protect escaped slaves, encouraging border states to
outlaw slavery, and pushing through Congress the Thirteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlawed
slavery across the country.
Lincoln managed his own re-election campaign. He sought to
reconcile his damaged nation by avoiding retribution against the
secessionists. A few days after the Battle of Appomattox Court
House, he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and
Confederate sympathizer, on April 14, 1865, and died the
following day. Abraham Lincoln is remembered as the United
States' martyr hero. He is consistently ranked both by
scholars[6] and the public[7] as among the greatest U.S.
Family and childhood
Early life
Mother's death
Marriage and children
Early career and militia service
February 12, 1809
Sinking Spring
Farm, Kentucky,
April 15, 1865
(aged 56)
Washington, D.C.,
Cause of death Assassination
(gunshot wound to
the head)
Resting place
Lincoln Tomb
Political party
Whig (before 1854)
Republican (1854–
National Union
6 ft 4 in (193 cm)[1]
Mary Todd
(m. 1842)
Robert · Edward ·
Willie · Tad
Thomas Lincoln and
Nancy Hanks
Military service
Illinois state legislature
U.S. House of Representatives, 1847–1849
Committee assignments
Political views
Prairie lawyer
Republican politics 1854–1860
Emergence as Republican leader
Lincoln–Douglas debates and Cooper Union speech
1860 presidential election
Secession and inauguration
The Civil War
Native American policy
Other enactments
Judicial appointments
United States
Branch/service Illinois Militia
Years of
American Indian
Black Hawk War
Battle of
Battle of
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
States admitted to the Union
Funeral and burial
Religious and philosophical beliefs
Historical reputation
Memory and memorials
See also
External links
Media coverage
Family and childhood
Early life
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, as the second child of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy
Hanks Lincoln, in a one-room log cabin on Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky.[8]:20–22
He was a descendant of Samuel Lincoln, an Englishman who migrated from Hingham, Norfolk, to its
namesake, Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1638. Samuel's grandson and great-grandson began the
family's westward migration, passing through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.[9]:3,4[8]:20
Lincoln's paternal grandfather and namesake, Captain Abraham Lincoln, moved the family from
Virginia to Jefferson County, Kentucky, in the 1780s.[9]:4 Captain Lincoln was killed in an Indian raid
in 1786. His children, including eight-year-old Thomas,[10][11] Abraham's father, witnessed the
attack.[8]:21[12]:1–2[13]:12–13 Thomas then worked at odd jobs in Kentucky and in Tennessee, before
settling with members of his family in Hardin County, Kentucky, in the early 1800s.[9]:5[8]:21
Lincoln's mother, Nancy, is widely assumed to have been the daughter of Lucy Hanks, although no
record documents this.[14]:79 Thomas and Nancy married on June 12, 1806, in Washington County,
and moved to Elizabethtown, Kentucky.[9]:9 They produced three children: Sarah, born on February
10, 1807; Abraham, on February 12, 1809; and Thomas, who died in infancy.[9]:9–10
Thomas Lincoln bought or leased farms in Kentucky. Thomas became embroiled in legal disputes,
and lost all but 200 acres (81 ha) of his land in court disputes over property titles.[15]:20 In 1816, the
family moved to Indiana, where the survey process was more reliable and land titles were more
secure.[9]:13 Indiana was a "free" (non-slaveholding) territory, and they settled in an "unbroken
forest"[9]:26 in Hurricane Township, Perry County, Indiana. (Their land eventually became part of
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Spencer County, Indiana, when the county was established in
1818.)[9]:16 and 43[14]:3, 5, 16 In 1860, Lincoln noted that the
family's move to Indiana was "partly on account of slavery", but
mainly due to land title difficulties.[15]:20[8]:23–24
The farm site where Lincoln grew up
in Spencer County, Indiana
In Kentucky and Indiana, Thomas worked as a farmer,
cabinetmaker, and carpenter.[14]:34, 156 He owned farms, town
lots and livestock, paid taxes, sat on juries, appraised estates,
served on country slave patrols, and guarded prisoners. Thomas
and Nancy were members of a Separate Baptists church, which
forbade alcohol, dancing, and slavery.[8]:22–24
Overcoming financial challenges, Thomas eventually obtained clear title to 80 acres (32 ha) of land in
what became known as the Little Pigeon Creek Community.[14]:24, 104
Mother's death
On October 5, 1818, Nancy Lincoln died of milk sickness, leaving
11-year-old Sarah in charge of a household that included her
father, 9-year-old Abraham, and Dennis Hanks, Nancy's 19-yearold orphaned cousin.[14]:22–23, 77 Ten years later, on January 20,
1828, Sarah died while giving birth to a stillborn son. Lincoln was
very distraught over his sister's death.[8]:20, 30–33[14]:37
On December 2, 1819, Thomas married Sarah "Sally" Bush
Johnston, a widow from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, with three
children of her own.[14]:23, 83 Abraham became close to his
Young Lincoln by Charles Keck at
stepmother, whom he referred to as "Mother".[8]:26–27[14]:10
Senn Park, Chicago
Lincoln disliked the hard labor associated with farm life. He was
called lazy for all his "reading, scribbling, writing, ciphering,
and 47[8]:33 His stepmother acknowledged he did not enjoy
writing Poetry, etc.".
"physical labor", but loved to read.
Lincoln was largely self-educated. His formal schooling (from travelling teachers) was intermittent,
totaling less than 12 months; however, he was an avid reader and retained a lifelong interest in
learning.[14]:10, 33[17]:110 Family, neighbors, and schoolmates recalled that he read and reread the King
James Bible, Aesop's Fables, John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe,
Mason Locke Weems's The Life of Washington, and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,
among others.[8]:29–31, 38–43
Teenaged Lincoln took responsibility for chores. He accepted the customary practice that a son give
his father all earnings from work outside the home until age 21.[8]:30–33 Lincoln became adept at
using an axe. Tall for his age, Lincoln was strong and athletic.[9]:134–35 He became known for his
strength and audacity after winning a wrestling match with the renowned leader of a group of ruffians
known as "the Clary's Grove boys".[8]:41
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
In early March 1830, partly out of fear of another milk sickness outbreak, several members of the
extended Lincoln family moved west to Illinois, a free state, and settled in Macon County, 10 miles
(16 km) west of Decatur.[8]:36 Historians disagree on who initiated the move; Thomas Lincoln had no
obvious reason to do so. One possibility is that other members of the family, including Dennis Hanks,
might not have matched Thomas's stability and steady income.[14]:38–40
After the family relocated to Illinois, Abraham became increasingly distant from Thomas,[14]:71 in part
because of his father's lack of education, although occasionally lending him money.[8]:28 and 152 In
1831, as Thomas and other family prepared to move to a new homestead in Coles County, Illinois,
Abraham left home.[18]:15–17 He lived in New Salem for six years.[19]:23–53 Lincoln and some friends
took goods by flatboat to New Orleans, where he witnessed slavery firsthand.[15]:22–23[8]:38
Marriage and children
According to some sources, Lincoln's first
romantic interest was Ann Rutledge, whom he
met when he first moved to New Salem; these
sources indicate that by 1835, they were in a
relationship but not formally engaged.[20] She
died on August 25, 1835, most likely of typhoid
fever.[8]:55–58 In the early 1830s, he met Mary
Owens from Kentucky.[8]:67–69[19]:56–57, 69–70
Late in 1836, Lincoln agreed to a match with
Owens if she returned to New Salem. Owens
1864 photo of President
arrived in November 1836, and Lincoln courted
Lincoln with youngest son,
her for a time; however, they both had second
thoughts. On August 16, 1837, Lincoln wrote
Owens a letter suggesting he would not blame
her if she ended the relationship. She never replied.[8]:67
Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of
Abraham Lincoln, age 28
In 1840, Lincoln became engaged to Mary Todd, a daughter of Robert Smith Todd, a wealthy slaveowner in Lexington, Kentucky.[21]:3 They met in Springfield, Illinois in December 1839[15]:46–48 and
were engaged a year later.[8]:86 A wedding set for January 1, 1841, was canceled at Lincoln's
initiative.[15]:46–48[8]:87 They reconciled and married on November 4, 1842, in the Springfield
mansion of Mary's married sister.[15]:50–51 While anxiously preparing for the nuptials, Lincoln was
asked where he was going and replied, "To hell, I suppose."[8]:93 In 1844, the couple bought a house in
Springfield near Lincoln's law office. Mary kept house, often with the help of a relative or hired
He was an affectionate, though often absent, husband and father of four children. Robert Todd
Lincoln was born in 1843 and Edward Baker Lincoln (Eddie) in 1846. Edward died on February 1,
1850, in Springfield, probably of tuberculosis. "Willie" Lincoln was born on December 21, 1850, and
died of a fever on February 20, 1862. The Lincolns' fourth son, Thomas "Tad" Lincoln, was born on
April 4, 1853, and died of heart failure at the age of 18 on July 16, 1871.[13]:179–181, 476 Robert reached
adulthood and produced children. The Lincolns' last descendant, great-grandson Robert Todd Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Beckwith, died in 1985.[23] Lincoln "was remarkably fond of children",[13]:126 and the Lincolns were
not considered to be strict with their own.[22]:120 In fact, Lincoln's law partner William H. Herndon
would grow irritated when Lincoln would bring his children to the law office. Their father, it seemed,
was often too absorbed in his own work to notice his children's behaviour. Herndon recounted, "I
have felt many and many a time that I wanted to wring their little necks, and yet out of respect for
Lincoln I kept my mouth shut. Lincoln did not note what his children were doing or had done."[24]
The deaths of their sons had profound effects on both parents. Abraham suffered from "melancholy",
a condition later referred to as clinical depression.[25] Later in life, Mary struggled with the stresses of
losing her husband and sons, and Robert committed her temporarily to a mental health asylum in
Lincoln's father-in-law and others of the Todd family were either slave owners or slave traders.
Lincoln was close to the Todds, and he and his family occasionally visited them.[27]:440–447
Mary cooked for Lincoln often during his presidency. Raised by a wealthy family, her cooking was
simple, but satisfied Lincoln's tastes, which included imported oysters.[28]
Early career and militia service
In 1832, Lincoln and partner Denton Offutt bought a general store on credit in New Salem,
Illinois.[29] Although the economy was booming, the business struggled and Lincoln eventually sold
his share. That March he entered politics, running for the Illinois General Assembly, advocating
navigational improvements on the Sangamon River. He could draw crowds as a raconteur, but he
lacked an education, powerful friends, and money and lost the election.[8]:41[30]
Lincoln interrupted his campaign to briefly serve as a captain in the Illinois Militia (during the Black
Hawk War).[31]:86–95 He then returned to his campaign. At his first speech, he observed a supporter
in the crowd under attack, grabbed the assailant by his "neck and the seat of his trousers" and tossed
him.[8]:46 Lincoln finished eighth out of 13 candidates (the top four were elected), though he received
277 of the 300 votes cast in the New Salem precinct.[31]:114–116
Lincoln served as New Salem's postmaster and later as county surveyor, all the while reading
voraciously. He decided to become a lawyer and began teaching himself law by reading Blackstone's
Commentaries on the Laws of England and other law books. Of his learning method, Lincoln stated:
"I studied with nobody".[8]:53–55
Illinois state legislature
His second state legislature campaign in 1834 was successful. Although he ran as a Whig, many
Democrats favored him over a more powerful Whig opponent.[13]:59 Lincoln served four successive
terms in the Illinois House of Representatives as a Whig from Sangamon County.[32]:283 He
supported the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, later serving as a Canal
Commissioner.[33] In the 1835–36 legislative session, he voted to expand suffrage beyond white
landowners to all white males.[32]:130 He was known for his "free soil" stance of opposing both slavery
and abolitionism. He first articulated this in 1837, saying, "[The] Institution of slavery is founded on
both injustice and bad policy, but the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
than abate its evils."[8]:134 He followed Henry Clay in supporting
the American Colonization Society program of advocating
abolition and helping freed slaves to settle in Liberia.[34]:17–19, 67
Lincoln's home in Springfield, Illinois
Admitted to the Illinois bar in 1836,[8]:64 he moved to Springfield,
Illinois, and began to practice law under John T. Stuart, Mary
Todd's cousin.[13]:71, 79, 108 Lincoln developed a reputation as a
formidable adversary during cross-examinations and closing
arguments. He partnered with Stephen T. Logan from 1841 until
1844. Then Lincoln began his practice with William Herndon,
whom Lincoln thought "a studious young man".[8]:17
U.S. House of Representatives, 1847–1849
From the early 1830s, Lincoln was a steadfast Whig and professed to
friends in 1861 to be "an old line Whig, a disciple of Henry Clay".[8]:222
The party, including Lincoln, favored economic modernization in
banking, tariffs to fund internal improvements including railroads, and
Lincoln ran for the Whig nomination for Illinois's 7th district of the U.S.
House of Representatives in 1843, but was defeated by John J. Hardin.
However, Lincoln won support for the principle of rotation, whereby
Hardin would retire after only one term. Lincoln hoped that this
arrangement would lead to his nomination in 1846.[13]:123–124 Lincoln
was indeed elected to the House of Representatives in 1846, where he
Lincoln in his late 30s as a
member of the U.S. House
served one two-year term. He was the only Whig in the Illinois
of Representatives. Photo
delegation, showing party loyalty by participating in almost all votes and
taken by one of Lincoln's
making speeches that echoed the party line.
Lincoln, in
law students around 1846.
collaboration with abolitionist Congressman Joshua R. Giddings, wrote a
bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia with compensation for
the owners, enforcement to capture fugitive slaves, and a popular vote on the matter. He abandoned
the bill when it failed to garner sufficient Whig supporters.[37]:54[34]:57
Committee assignments
Committee on Post Office and Post Roads
Committee on Expenditures in the War Department[38]
Political views
On foreign and military policy, Lincoln spoke out against the Mexican–American War, which he
attributed to President James K. Polk's desire for "military glory—that attractive rainbow, that rises in
showers of blood".[39]:181–183 Lincoln supported the Wilmot Proviso, which if passed would have
banned slavery in any U.S. territory won from Mexico.[40][41]:63
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Lincoln emphasized his opposition to Polk by drafting and introducing his Spot Resolutions. The war
had begun with a Mexican slaughter of American soldiers in territory disputed by Mexico, and Polk
insisted that Mexican soldiers had "invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on
our own soil".[36]:79–80[42]:199–202 Lincoln demanded that Polk show Congress the exact spot on
which blood had been shed and prove that the spot was on American soil.[42]:199–202[43]:40
Congress neither debated nor enacted the resolution, the national papers ignored it, and it cost
Lincoln political support in his district. One Illinois newspaper derisively nicknamed him "spotty
Lincoln".[44]:33[42]:202[45] Lincoln later regretted some of his statements, especially his attack on
presidential war-making powers.[8]:128
Realizing Clay was unlikely to win the presidency, Lincoln, who had pledged in 1846 to serve only one
term in the House, supported General Zachary Taylor for the Whig nomination in the 1848
presidential election.[8]:124–126 Taylor won and Lincoln hoped to be appointed Commissioner of the
General Land Office, but lost out.[8]:140 The administration offered him the consolation prize of
secretary or governor of the Oregon Territory.[46] This distant territory was a Democratic stronghold,
and acceptance of the post would have effectively ended his legal and political career in Illinois, so he
declined and resumed his law practice.[37]:55–57
Prairie lawyer
Lincoln in 1857
Lincoln practiced law in Springfield, handling "every kind of business
that could come before a prairie lawyer".[8]:96 Twice a year for 16 years,
10 weeks at a time, he appeared in county seats in the midstate region
when the county courts were in session.[8]:105–106, 158 Lincoln handled
transportation cases in the midst of the nation's western expansion,
particularly river barge conflicts under the many new railroad bridges.
As a riverboat man, Lincoln initially favored those interests, but
ultimately represented whoever hired him.[8]:142–143 He later
represented a bridge company against a riverboat company in a
landmark case involving a canal boat that sank after hitting a
bridge.[47][48] In 1849, he received a patent for a flotation device for the
movement of boats in shallow water. The idea was never
commercialized, but Lincoln is the only president to hold a
In 1851, he represented the Alton & Sangamon Railroad in a dispute with shareholder James A.
Barret, who had refused to pay the balance on his pledge to buy shares on the grounds that the
company had changed its original train route.[8]:155[50]:92 Lincoln successfully argued that the
railroad company was not bound by its original charter; the charter was amended in the public
interest to provide a newer, superior, and less expensive route, and the corporation retained the right
to demand Barret's payment. The decision by the Illinois Supreme Court was cited by many other
courts.[8]:155 Lincoln appeared before the Illinois Supreme Court in 175 cases, in 51 as sole counsel, of
which 31 were decided in his favor.[51]:440 From 1853 to 1860, another of Lincoln's largest clients was
the Illinois Central Railroad.[8]:155–156, 196–197 Lincoln's legal reputation gave rise to his nickname
"Honest Abe".[52]
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Lincoln's most notable criminal trial occurred in 1858 when he defended William "Duff" Armstrong,
who was on trial for the murder of James Preston Metzker.[8]:150–151 The case is famous for Lincoln's
use of a fact established by judicial notice in order to challenge the credibility of an eyewitness. After
an opposing witness testified to seeing the crime in the moonlight, Lincoln produced a Farmers'
Almanac showing the moon was at a low angle, drastically reducing visibility. Armstrong was
Lincoln rarely raised objections; but in an 1859 case, where he defended a cousin, Peachy Harrison,
who was accused of killing a man, Lincoln angrily protested the judge's decision to exclude evidence
favorable to his client. Instead of holding Lincoln in contempt of court as was expected, the judge, a
Democrat, reversed his ruling, allowing the evidence and acquitting Harrison.[8]:150–151[53]:270
Republican politics 1854–1860
Emergence as Republican leader
The debate over the status of slavery in the territories exacerbated
sectional tensions between the slave-holding South and the free North.
The Compromise of 1850 failed to defuse the issue.[13]:175–176 In the
early 1850s, Lincoln supported sectional mediation, and his 1852 eulogy
for Clay focused on the latter's support for gradual emancipation and
opposition to "both extremes" on the slavery issue.[13]:182–185 As the
1850s progressed, the debate over slavery in the Nebraska Territory and
Kansas Territory became particularly acrimonious, and Senator Douglas
proposed popular sovereignty as a compromise measure; the proposal
would allow the electorate of each territory to decide the status of
slavery. The proposal alarmed many Northerners, who hoped to prevent
the spread of slavery into the territories. Despite this Northern
opposition, Douglas's Kansas–Nebraska Act narrowly passed Congress
in May 1854.[13]:188–190
Lincoln in 1858, the year of
his debates with Stephen
Douglas over slavery.
For months after its passage, Lincoln did not publicly comment, but he
came to strongly oppose it.[13]:196–197 On October 16, 1854, in his "Peoria Speech", Lincoln declared
his opposition to slavery, which he repeated en route to the presidency.[19]:148–152 Speaking in his
Kentucky accent, with a powerful voice,[13]:199 he said the Kansas Act had a "declared indifference,
but as I must think, a covert real zeal for the spread of slavery. I cannot but hate it. I hate it because of
the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just
influence in the world ..."[42]:255 Lincoln's attacks on the Kansas–Nebraska Act marked his return to
political life.[13]:203–205
Nationally, the Whigs were irreparably split by the Kansas–Nebraska Act and other efforts to
compromise on the slavery issue. Reflecting the demise of his party, Lincoln wrote in 1855, "I think I
am a Whig, but others say there are no Whigs, and that I am an abolitionist [...] I do no more than
oppose the extension of slavery."[13]:215–216 Drawing on the antislavery portion of the Whig Party, and
combining Free Soil, Liberty, and antislavery Democratic Party members, the new Republican Party
formed as a northern party dedicated to antislavery.[44]:38–39 Lincoln resisted early recruiting
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
attempts, fearing that it would serve as a platform for extreme abolitionists.[13]:203–204 Lincoln hoped
to rejuvenate the Whigs, though he lamented his party's growing closeness with the nativist Know
Nothing movement.[13]:191–194
In the 1854 elections, Lincoln was elected to the Illinois legislature but declined to take his
seat.[13]:203–205 In the elections' aftermath, which showed the power and popularity of the movement
opposed to the Kansas–Nebraska Act, Lincoln instead sought election to the United States
Senate.[13]:204–205 At that time, senators were elected by the state legislature.[36]:119 After leading in
the first six rounds of voting, he was unable to obtain a majority. Lincoln instructed his backers to
vote for Lyman Trumbull. Trumbull was an antislavery Democrat, and had received few votes in the
earlier ballots; his supporters, also antislavery Democrats, had vowed not to support any Whig.
Lincoln's decision to withdraw enabled his Whig supporters and Trumbull's antislavery Democrats to
combine and defeat the mainstream Democratic candidate, Joel Aldrich Matteson.[13]:205–208
1856 campaign
In part due to the ongoing violent political confrontations in Kansas, opposition to the Kansas–
Nebraska Act remained strong throughout the North. As the 1856 elections approached, Lincoln
joined the Republicans. He attended the May 1856 Bloomington Convention, which formally
established the Illinois Republican Party. The convention platform asserted that Congress had the
right to regulate slavery in the territories and called for the immediate admission of Kansas as a free
state. Lincoln gave the final speech of the convention, in which he endorsed the party platform and
called for the preservation of the Union.[13]:216–221 At the June 1856 Republican National Convention,
Lincoln received significant support to run for vice president, though the party nominated William
Dayton to run with John C. Frémont. Lincoln supported the Republican ticket, campaigning
throughout Illinois. The Democrats nominated former Secretary of State James Buchanan, who had
been out of the country serving as the U.S. representative to Britain since 1853 and thus had avoided
the slavery debate, while the Know Nothings nominated former Whig President Millard
Fillmore.[13]:224–228 Buchanan defeated both his challengers. Republican William Henry Bissell won
election as Governor of Illinois. Lincoln's vigorous campaigning had made him the leading
Republican in Illinois.[13]:229–230
Eric Foner (2010) contrasts the abolitionists and anti-slavery Radical Republicans of the Northeast,
who saw slavery as a sin, with the conservative Republicans, who thought it was bad because it hurt
white people and blocked progress. Foner argues that Lincoln was a moderate in the middle, opposing
slavery primarily because it violated the republicanism principles of the Founding Fathers, especially
the equality of all men and democratic self-government as expressed in the Declaration of
Dred Scott
In March 1857, in Dred Scott v. Sandford, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote that
blacks were not citizens and derived no rights from the Constitution. While many Democrats hoped
that Dred Scott would end the dispute over slavery in the territories, the decision sparked further
outrage in the North.[13]:236–238 Lincoln denounced it, alleging it was the product of a conspiracy of
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Democrats to support the Slave Power.[54]:69–110 Lincoln argued, "The
authors of the Declaration of Independence never intended 'to say all
were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social
capacity', but they 'did consider all men created equal—equal in certain
inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of
Lincoln–Douglas debates and Cooper Union speech
Douglas was up for re-election in 1858, and Lincoln hoped to defeat him.
With the former Democrat Trumbull now serving as a Republican
senator, many in the party felt that a former Whig should be nominated
in 1858, and Lincoln's 1856 campaigning and willingness to support
Trumbull in 1854 had earned him favor.[13]:247–248 Some eastern
Republicans favored Douglas's re-election in 1858, since he had led the
opposition to the Lecompton Constitution, which would have admitted
Kansas as a slave state.[36]:138–139 Many Illinois Republicans resented
this eastern interference. For the first time, Illinois Republicans held a
convention to agree upon a Senate candidate, and Lincoln won the
nomination with little opposition.[13]:247–250
A portrait of Dred Scott.
Lincoln denounced the
Supreme Court decision in
Dred Scott v. Sandford as
part of a conspiracy to
extend slavery.
Accepting the nomination, Lincoln delivered his House Divided
Speech, drawing on Mark 3:25, "A house divided against itself
cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure
permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to
be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it
will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the
other."[13]:251 The speech created an evocative image of the
danger of disunion.[37]:98 The stage was then set for the campaign
for statewide election of the Illinois legislature which would, in
turn, select Lincoln or Douglas.[8]:209 When informed of Lincoln's
nomination, Douglas stated, "[Lincoln] is the strong man of the
party ... and if I beat him, my victory will be hardly
The Senate campaign featured seven debates, the most famous
political debates in American history.[56]:182 The principals stood
in stark contrast both physically and politically. Lincoln warned
that "The Slave Power" was threatening the values of
Abraham Lincoln (1860) by Mathew
republicanism, and accused Douglas of distorting the values of
Brady, taken the day of the Cooper
the Founding Fathers that all men are created equal, while
Union speech.
Douglas emphasized his Freeport Doctrine, that local settlers
were free to choose whether to allow slavery, and accused Lincoln
of having joined the abolitionists.
The debates had an atmosphere of a prize fight and drew
crowds in the thousands. Lincoln's argument was rooted in morality. He claimed that Douglas
represented a conspiracy to extend slavery to free states. Douglas's argument was legal, claiming that
Lincoln was defying the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Dred Scott decision.[8]:223
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Though the Republican legislative candidates won more
popular votes, the Democrats won more seats, and the
legislature re-elected Douglas. Lincoln's articulation of
the issues gave him a national political presence.[57]:89–90
In May 1859, Lincoln purchased the Illinois StaatsAnzeiger, a German-language newspaper that was
consistently supportive; most of the state's 130,000
German Americans voted Democratic but the Germanlanguage paper mobilized Republican support.[8]:242, 412
In the aftermath of the 1858 election, newspapers
frequently mentioned Lincoln as a potential Republican
presidential candidate, rivaled by William H. Seward,
Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Simon Cameron.
While Lincoln was popular in the Midwest, he lacked
support in the Northeast, and was unsure whether to seek
the office.[13]:291–293 In January 1860, Lincoln told a
group of political allies that he would accept the
nomination if offered, and in the following months several
local papers endorsed his candidacy.[13]:307–308
Locations in Illinois where Lincoln and
Douglas debated. Green denotes debates
between Lincoln and Douglas while purple
denotes places where they spoke separately
within a day of each other.
On February 27, 1860, New York party leaders invited
Lincoln to give a speech at Cooper Union to a group of
powerful Republicans. Lincoln argued that the Founding
Fathers had little use for popular sovereignty and had
repeatedly sought to restrict slavery. Lincoln insisted that
morality required opposition to slavery, and rejected any "groping for some middle ground between
the right and the wrong".[55]:473 Despite his inelegant appearance—many in the audience thought him
awkward and even ugly[41]:108–111—Lincoln demonstrated intellectual leadership that brought him
into contention. Journalist Noah Brooks reported, "No man ever before made such an impression on
his first appeal to a New York audience."[57]:97[41]:157
Historian David Herbert Donald described the speech as a "superb political move for an unannounced
candidate, to appear in one rival's (Seward) own state at an event sponsored by the second rival's
(Chase) loyalists, while not mentioning either by name during its delivery".[8]:240 In response to an
inquiry about his ambitions, Lincoln said, "The taste is in my mouth a little."[8]:241
1860 presidential election
On May 9–10, 1860, the Illinois Republican State Convention was held in Decatur.[8]:244 Lincoln's
followers organized a campaign team led by David Davis, Norman Judd, Leonard Swett, and Jesse
DuBois, and Lincoln received his first endorsement.[36]:175–176 Exploiting his embellished frontier
legend (clearing land and splitting fence rails), Lincoln's supporters adopted the label of "The Rail
Candidate".[8]:245 In 1860, Lincoln described himself: "I am in height, six feet, four inches, nearly;
lean in flesh, weighing, on an average, one hundred and eighty pounds; dark complexion, with coarse
black hair, and gray eyes."[58]
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
On May 18, at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Lincoln
won the nomination on the third ballot, beating candidates such as
Seward and Chase. A former Democrat, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, was
nominated for Vice President to balance the ticket. Lincoln's success
depended on his campaign team, his reputation as a moderate on the
slavery issue, and his strong support for Whiggish programs of internal
improvements and the tariff.[59]:609–629
Pennsylvania put him over the top, led by Pennsylvania iron interests
who were reassured by his tariff support.[60]:50–55 Lincoln's managers
had focused on this delegation, while following Lincoln's dictate to
"Make no contracts that bind me".[8]:247–250
A Timothy Cole wood
engraving taken from a May
20, 1860, ambrotype of
Lincoln, two days following
his nomination for president
Most Republicans agreed with Lincoln that the North was the aggrieved
party, as the Slave Power tightened its grasp on the national government.
Throughout the 1850s, Lincoln doubted the prospects of civil war, and
his supporters rejected claims that his election would incite
secession.[35]:10, 13, 18 Douglas was selected as the candidate of the Northern Democrats. Delegates
from eleven slave states walked out of the Democratic convention, disagreeing with Douglas's position
on popular sovereignty, and ultimately selected incumbent Vice President John C. Breckinridge as
their candidate.[8]:253 A group of former Whigs and Know Nothings formed the Constitutional Union
Party and nominated John Bell of Tennessee. Lincoln and Douglas competed for votes in the North,
while Bell and Breckinridge primarily found support in the South.[13]:247–248
Lincoln's campaign team carefully projected his image as an ideal candidate. Michael Martinez wrote:
Lincoln and his political advisers manipulated his image and background....Sometimes he
appeared as a straight-shooting, plain-talking, common-sense-wielding man of the people.
His image as the "Rail Splitter" dates from this era. His supporters also portrayed him as
"Honest Abe," the country fellow who was simply dressed and not especially polished or
formal in his manner but who was as honest and trustworthy as his legs were long. Even
Lincoln's tall, gangly frame was used to good advantage during the campaign as many
drawings and posters show the candidates sprinting past his vertically challenged rivals.
At other times, Lincoln appeared as a sophisticated, thoughtful, articulate, "presidential"
Prior to the Republican convention, the Lincoln campaign began cultivating a nationwide youth
organization, the Wide Awakes, which it used to generate popular support throughout the country to
spearhead voter registration drives, thinking that new voters and young voters tended to embrace new
parties.[62] Lincoln's ideas of abolishing slavery grew, drawing more supporters. People of the
Northern states knew the Southern states would vote against Lincoln and rallied supporters for
As Douglas and the other candidates campaigned, Lincoln was the only one to give no speeches.
Instead, he relied on the enthusiasm of the Republican Party. The party did the leg work that
produced majorities across the North, and produced an abundance of campaign posters, leaflets, and
newspaper editorials. Thousands of Republican speakers focused first on the party platform, and
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
second on Lincoln's life story, emphasizing his childhood poverty.
The goal was to demonstrate the superior power of "free labor",
whereby a common farm boy could work his way to the top by his
own efforts.[8]:254–256 The Republican Party's production of
campaign literature dwarfed the combined opposition; a Chicago
Tribune writer produced a pamphlet that detailed Lincoln's life,
and sold 100,000–200,000 copies.[8]:254
On November 6, Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the
United States. He was the first Republican president and his
victory was entirely due to his support in the North and West; no
ballots were cast for him in 10 of the 15 Southern slave states, and
he won only two of 996 counties in all the Southern states.[64]:61
Lincoln received 1,866,452 votes, or 39.8% of the total in a fourway race. He won the free Northern states, as well as
California and Oregon.[13]:350
The Rail Candidate—Lincoln's 1860
candidacy is depicted by critics as
held up by the slavery issue—a
slave on the left and party
organization on the right.
Lincoln's victory in the electoral college was decisive:
Lincoln had 180 and his opponents added together
had only 123.[65]:4:312
Secession and inauguration
In 1860, northern and western electoral votes
(shown in red) put Lincoln into the White House.
After the November election, secessionists planned to
leave the Union before he took office in March.[66]:350
On December 20, 1860, South Carolina took the lead by adopting an ordinance of secession; by
February 1, 1861, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas had
followed.[8]:267[67]:498 Six of these states declared themselves to be a sovereign nation, the
Confederate States of America and adopted a constitution.[8]:267 The upper South and border states
(Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas)
listened to, but initially rejected, the secessionist appeal.[13]:362 President Buchanan and Presidentelect Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy, declaring secession illegal.[67]:520, 569–570 The
Confederacy selected Jefferson Davis as its provisional President on February 9, 1861.[13]:369
Attempts at compromise followed. Lincoln and the Republicans rejected the proposed Crittenden
Compromise as contrary to the Party's free-soil in the territories platform.[13]:360–361 Lincoln rejected
the idea, saying, "I will suffer death before I consent ... to any concession or compromise which looks
like buying the privilege to take possession of this government to which we have a constitutional
Lincoln did tacitly support the proposed Corwin Amendment to the Constitution, which passed
Congress before Lincoln came into office and was then awaiting ratification by the states. That
proposed amendment would have protected slavery in states where it already
existed.[68]:22[69]:280–281 A few weeks before the war, Lincoln sent a letter to every governor
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
informing them Congress had passed a joint resolution to amend the Constitution.[70] Lincoln was
open to the possibility of a constitutional convention to make further amendments to the
En route to his inauguration, Lincoln addressed crowds and
legislatures across the North.[8]:273–277 The president-elect
evaded possible assassins in Baltimore. On February 23, 1861, he
arrived in disguise in Washington, D.C., which was placed under
substantial military guard.[8]:277–279 Lincoln directed his
inaugural address to the South, proclaiming once again that he
had no intention, or inclination, to abolish slavery in the
Southern states:
Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the
Southern States that by the accession of a Republican
Administration their property and their peace and
personal security are to be endangered. There has
never been any reasonable cause for such
apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the
contrary has all the while existed and been open to
their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published
speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but
quote from one of those speeches when I declare that
"I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere
with the institution of slavery in the States where it
exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I
have no inclination to do so."
March 1861 inaugural at the Capitol
building. The dome above the
rotunda was still under construction.
— First inaugural address, 4 March 1861[71]:212
Lincoln cited his plans for banning the expansion of slavery as the key source of conflict between
North and South, stating "One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be
extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only
substantial dispute." The President ended his address with an appeal to the people of the South: "We
are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies ... The mystic chords of memory, stretching
from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad
land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better
angels of our nature."[8]:283–284 The failure of the Peace Conference of 1861 signaled that legislative
compromise was impossible. By March 1861, no leaders of the insurrection had proposed rejoining
the Union on any terms. Meanwhile, Lincoln and the Republican leadership agreed that the
dismantling of the Union could not be tolerated.[8]:268, 279 Lincoln said in his second inaugural
Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the Nation
survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
The Civil War
Fort Sumter's commander, Major Robert Anderson, sent a
request for provisions to Washington, and the execution of
Lincoln's order to meet that request was seen by the secessionists
as an act of war. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on
Union troops at Fort Sumter and began the fight. Historian Allan
Nevins argued that the newly inaugurated Lincoln made three
miscalculations: underestimating the gravity of the crisis,
exaggerating the strength of Unionist sentiment in the South, and
not realizing the Southern Unionists were insisting there be no
Lincoln at Antietam
William Tecumseh Sherman talked to Lincoln during inauguration week and was "sadly
disappointed" at his failure to realize that "the country was sleeping on a volcano" and that the South
was preparing for war.[73]:185–186 Donald concludes that, "His repeated efforts to avoid collision in the
months between inauguration and the firing on Ft. Sumter showed he adhered to his vow not to be
the first to shed fraternal blood. But he also vowed not to surrender the forts. The only resolution of
these contradictory positions was for the confederates to fire the first shot; they did just that."[8]:293
On April 15, Lincoln called on the states to send detachments totaling 75,000 troops to recapture
forts, protect Washington, and "preserve the Union", which, in his view, remained intact despite the
seceding states. This call forced states to choose sides. Virginia seceded and was rewarded with the
Confederate capital, despite the exposed position of Richmond close to Union lines. North Carolina,
Tennessee, and Arkansas followed over the following two months. Secession sentiment was strong in
Missouri and Maryland, but did not prevail; Kentucky remained neutral.[18]:226 The Fort Sumter
attack rallied Americans north of the Mason-Dixon line to defend the nation.
States sent Union regiments south. On April 19, mobs in Baltimore, which controlled rail links,
attacked Union troops who were changing trains. Local leaders' groups later burned critical rail
bridges to the capital. The Army responded by arresting local Maryland officials. Lincoln suspended
the writ of habeas corpus in areas the army felt it needed to secure for troops to reach
Washington.[74]:174 John Merryman, a Maryland official involved in hindering the U.S. troop
movements, petitioned Supreme Court Chief Justice and Marylander, Roger B. Taney, author of the
Dred Scott opinion, to issue a writ of habeas corpus. In June Taney, acting as a circuit judge and not
speaking for the Supreme Court, issued the writ, because in his opinion only Congress could suspend
the writ. Lincoln continued the army policy that the writ was suspended in limited areas despite the
ex parte Merryman ruling.[75][76]:3–31
Union military strategy
After the Battle of Fort Sumter, Lincoln took executive control of the war and formed an overall Union
military strategy. Lincoln responded to this unprecedented political and military crisis as
commander-in-chief, using unprecedented powers. He expanded his war powers, imposed a blockade
on Confederate ports, disbursed funds before appropriation by Congress, suspended habeas corpus,
and arrested and imprisoned thousands of suspected Confederate sympathizers. Lincoln was
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
supported by Congress and the northern public for these actions. In addition, Lincoln had to reinforce
Union sympathies in the border slave states and keep the war from becoming an international
The war dominated Lincoln's time and attention. From the start,
it was clear that bipartisan support would be essential to success,
and that any compromise would alienate factions on both sides of
the aisle, such as the appointment of Republicans and Democrats
to command positions. Copperheads criticized Lincoln for
refusing to compromise on slavery. The Radical Republicans
criticized him for moving too slowly in abolishing
slavery.[8]:315, 331–333, 338–339, 417 On August 6, 1861, Lincoln
signed the Confiscation Act that authorized judicial proceedings
to confiscate and free slaves who were used to support the
Confederates. In practice, the law had little effect, but it did signal
political support for abolishing slavery.[8]:314[57]:178
Running the 'Machine: An 1864
political cartoon satirizing Lincoln's
administration — featuring William
Fessenden, Edwin Stanton, William
Seward, Gideon Welles, Lincoln,
and others
In late August 1861, General John C. Frémont, the 1856
Republican presidential nominee, without consulting his
superiors in Washington, proclaimed a very harsh martial law in
Missouri. Lincoln cancelled the proclamation, saying its emancipation plan was political, lacking
military necessity and a legal basis.[8]:314–317 After Lincoln acted, Union enlistments from Maryland,
Kentucky, and Missouri increased by over 40,000.[57]:181
In foreign policy, Lincoln's main goal was to stop military aid to the Confederacy.[35]:213–214 Lincoln
left most diplomatic matters to his Secretary of State, William Seward.[35]:213–214 At times Seward
was too bellicose, so for balance Lincoln maintained a close working relationship with Senate Foreign
Relations Committee chairman Charles Sumner.[8]:322 The Trent Affair of late 1861 threatened war
with Great Britain. The U.S. Navy had illegally intercepted a British mail ship, the Trent, on the high
seas and seized two Confederate envoys; Britain protested vehemently while the U.S. cheered. Lincoln
ended the crisis by releasing the two diplomats. Biographer James G. Randall dissected Lincoln's
successful techniques:[77]
his restraint, his avoidance of any outward expression of truculence, his early softening of
State Department's attitude toward Britain, his deference toward Seward and Sumner, his
withholding of his own paper prepared for the occasion, his readiness to arbitrate, his
golden silence in addressing Congress, his shrewdness in recognizing that war must be
averted, and his clear perception that a point could be clinched for America's true position
at the same time that full satisfaction was given to a friendly country.
Lincoln painstakingly monitored the telegraph reports coming into War Department. He tracked all
phases of the effort, consulted with governors, and selected generals based on their success (as well as
their state and party). In January 1862, after many complaints of inefficiency and profiteering in the
War Department, Lincoln replaced Simon Cameron with Edwin Stanton as War Secretary. Stanton
centralized the War Department's activities, auditing and cancelling contracts, saving the federal
government $17,000,000.[36]:115 Stanton was a staunchly Unionist, pro-business, conservative
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Democrat who moved toward the Radical Republican faction. He worked more often and more closely
with Lincoln than any other senior official. "Stanton and Lincoln virtually conducted the war
together," say Thomas and Hyman.[78]
In terms of war strategy, Lincoln articulated two priorities: to ensure that Washington was welldefended, and to conduct an aggressive war effort leading to prompt, decisive victory. However major
Northern newspapers demanded more—they expected victory within 90 days.[8]:295–296 Twice a
week, Lincoln met with his cabinet in the afternoon. Occasionally Mary would force him to take a
carriage ride, concerned that he was working too hard.[8]:391–392 Lincoln learned from reading his
chief of staff General Henry Halleck's book, a disciple of the European strategist Jomini; he began to
appreciate the critical need to control strategic points, such as the Mississippi River.[79]:7, 66, 159
Lincoln saw the importance of Vicksburg and understood the necessity of defeating the enemy's army,
rather than simply capturing territory.[8]:432–436
General McClellan
After the Union rout at Bull Run and Winfield Scott's retirement, Lincoln appointed Major General
George B. McClellan general-in-chief.[8]:318–319 McClellan then took months to plan his Peninsula
Campaign. McClellan's slow progress frustrated Lincoln, as did his position that no troops were
needed to defend Washington. McClellan blamed Lincoln's holding troops back for his campaign's
subsequent failure.[8]:349–352 Lincoln went as far as meeting with General McClellan in his home to
discuss matters privately. Once McClellan heard Lincoln was in his home, McClellan stayed hidden
away until Lincoln left.
Lincoln removed McClellan in March 1862, after McClellan
offered unsolicited political advice.[8]:360–361 In July Lincoln
elevated Henry Halleck.[80] Lincoln appointed John Pope as head
of the new Army of Virginia. Pope complied with Lincoln's desire
to advance on Richmond from the north, thus protecting
Washington from counterattack.[65]:2:159–162
Pope was then soundly defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run
in the summer of 1862, forcing the Army of the Potomac back to
defend Washington.[81]:2:159–162
Lincoln and McClellan
Despite his dissatisfaction with McClellan's failure to reinforce
Pope, Lincoln restored him to command of all forces around Washington.[82]:478–479 Two days after
McClellan's return to command, General Robert E. Lee's forces crossed the Potomac River into
Maryland, leading to the Battle of Antietam in September.[82]:478–480 The ensuing Union victory was
among the bloodiest in American history, but it enabled Lincoln to announce that he would issue an
Emancipation Proclamation in January. Lincoln had waited for a military victory so that the
Proclamation would not be perceived as the product of desperation.[82]:481
McClellan then resisted the president's demand that he pursue Lee's army, while General Don Carlos
Buell likewise refused orders to move the Army of the Ohio against rebel forces in eastern Tennessee.
Lincoln replaced Buell with William Rosecrans; and, after the 1862 midterm elections, replaced
McClellan with Ambrose Burnside. Both were presumably more supportive of the commander-inchief.[8]:389–390
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Burnside, against presidential advice, launched an offensive across the Rappahannock River and was
defeated by Lee at Fredericksburg in December. Desertions during 1863 came in the thousands and
increased after Fredericksburg.[8]:429–431 Lincoln promoted Joseph Hooker.[65]:6:433–44
The midterm elections in 1862 cost the Republicans severe losses due to rising inflation, high taxes,
rumors of corruption, suspension of habeas corpus, military draft law, and fears that freed slaves
would come North and undermine the labor market. The Emancipation Proclamation gained votes for
Republicans in rural New England and the upper Midwest, but cost votes in the Irish and German
strongholds and in the lower Midwest, where many Southerners had lived for generations.[65]:6:322
In the spring of 1863, Lincoln became optimistic about upcoming military campaigns to the point of
thinking the end of the war could be near if a string of victories could be put together; these plans
included attacks by Hooker on Lee north of Richmond, Rosecrans on Chattanooga, Grant on
Vicksburg, and a naval assault on Charleston.[8]:422–423
Hooker was routed by Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May.[65]:6:432–450 He then resigned and
was replaced by George Meade as Lee moved north. Meade followed Lee into Pennsylvania and beat
him in the Gettysburg Campaign, but then failed to follow up despite Lincoln's demands. At the same
time, Grant captured Vicksburg and gained control of the Mississippi River, splitting off the far
western rebel states.[8]:444–447
Emancipation Proclamation
The Federal government's power to end slavery was
limited by the Constitution, which before 1865,
committed the issue to individual states. Lincoln argued
that slavery would end by preventing its expansion into
new territories. He sought to persuade the states to
accept compensated emancipation in return for their
prohibition of slavery. Lincoln believed that curtailing
slavery would make it obsolete.[83] Lincoln rejected
Fremont's two emancipation attempts in August 1861
and one by Major General David Hunter in May 1862, on
the grounds that it was not within their power, and
would upset loyal border states.[84]:290–291
First Reading of the Emancipation
Proclamation of President Lincoln by Francis
Bicknell Carpenter (1864)
On June 19, 1862, endorsed by Lincoln, Congress passed an act banning slavery on all federal
territory. In July, the Confiscation Act of 1862 was enacted, which set up court procedures to free the
slaves of those convicted of aiding the rebellion. Although Lincoln believed this was not within
Congress's power, he approved the bill in deference to the legislature. He felt such action could be
taken only by the Commander-in-Chief, using Constitutional war powers, which he planned to do.
Lincoln discussed a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation with his cabinet.[8]:364–365
Privately, Lincoln concluded that the Confederacy's slave base had to be eliminated. However,
Copperheads argued that emancipation was a stumbling block to peace and reunification. Republican
editor Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune agreed.[85]:124 Lincoln rejected this argument directly
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
in his letter of August 22, 1862. Although he said he personally wished all men could be free, Lincoln
stated that the primary goal of his actions as president (he used the first person pronoun and
explicitly refers to his "official duty") was that of preserving the Union:[86]:147–153
My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to
destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I
could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some
and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored
race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear
because I do not believe it would help to save the Union ... [¶] I have here stated my
purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oftexpressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.[42]:388
The Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 22, 1862, with effect on January 1, 1863,
declared free the slaves in 10 states not then under Union control, with exemptions specified for areas
under Union control in two states.[8]:364, 379 Lincoln spent the next 100 days preparing the army and
the nation for emancipation, while Democrats rallied their voters by warning of the threat that freed
slaves posed to northern whites.[87]
Once the abolition of slavery in the rebel states became a military objective, Union armies advancing
south liberated three million slaves. Lincoln's comment on the signing of the Proclamation was: "I
never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper."[8]:407
Lincoln continued earlier plans to set up colonies for the newly freed slaves. He supported this in the
Proclamation, but the undertaking failed.[8]:408
Enlisting former slaves became official policy. By the spring of 1863, Lincoln was ready to recruit
black troops in more than token numbers. In a letter to Tennessee military governor Andrew Johnson
encouraging him to lead the way in raising black troops, Lincoln wrote, "The bare sight of 50,000
armed and drilled black soldiers on the banks of the Mississippi would end the rebellion at
once".[8]:430–431 By the end of 1863, at Lincoln's direction, General Lorenzo Thomas had recruited 20
regiments of blacks from the Mississippi Valley.[8]:431
Gettysburg Address (1863)
Lincoln spoke at the Gettysburg battlefield cemetery on November 19, 1863.[8]:453–460 Defying his
prediction that "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here", the Address became
the most quoted speech in American history.[12]:222
In 272 words, and three minutes, Lincoln asserted that the nation was born not in 1789, but in 1776,
"conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal". He defined the
war as dedicated to the principles of liberty and equality for all. He declared that the deaths of so
many brave soldiers would not be in vain, that slavery would end, and the future of democracy would
be assured, that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the
earth".[8]:460–466[88]:20, 27, 105, 146
General Grant
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Grant's victories at the Battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg
campaign impressed Lincoln. Responding to criticism of Grant
after Shiloh, Lincoln had said, "I can't spare this man. He
fights."[19]:315 With Grant in command, Lincoln felt the Union
Army could advance in multiple theaters, and incorporate black
troops. Meade's failure to capture Lee's army after Gettysburg
and the continued passivity of the Army of the Potomac
persuaded Lincoln to promote Grant to supreme commander.
Grant stayed with Meade's army and told Meade what to
Lincoln was concerned that Grant might be considering a
presidential candidacy in 1864, as was McClellan. Lincoln
arranged for an intermediary to inquire into Grant's political
intentions. Assured that he had none, Lincoln submitted Grant's
appointment to the Senate. He obtained Congress's
consent to make him Lieutenant General, a rank that had
The only confirmed photo of
Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg,
some three hours before the
speech. Lincoln is slightly left of
center, just behind the mass of
blurry people.
Grant waged his bloody Overland Campaign in 1864,
with heavy losses on both sides.[89]:113 Despite this, when
Lincoln asked what Grant's plans were, the general
replied, "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all
Grant's army moved steadily south. Lincoln traveled to
Grant's headquarters at City Point, Virginia to confer
with Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman.[90] Lincoln
replaced the Union losses by mobilizing support
throughout the North.[19]:422–424
President Lincoln (center right) with, from left,
Generals Sherman and Grant and Admiral
Porter in The Peacemakers, an 1868 painting
of events aboard the River Queen in March
Lincoln authorized Grant to target infrastructure—
plantations, railroads, and bridges—hoping to destroy
the South's morale and weaken its fighting ability. Lincoln emphasized defeat of the Confederate
armies rather than destruction (which was considerable) for its own sake.[91]:434–458
In 1864 Confederate general Jubal Early raided Washington, D.C., while Lincoln watched from an
exposed position; Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes shouted at him, "Get down, you damn fool, before
you get shot!"[19]:434
As Grant continued to attrit Lee's forces, efforts to discuss peace began. Confederate Vice President
Stephens led a group to meet with Lincoln, Seward, and others at Hampton Roads. Lincoln refused to
allow any negotiation with the Confederacy as a coequal; his sole objective was an agreement to end
the fighting and the meetings produced no results.[8]:565 On April 1, 1865, Grant nearly encircled
Petersburg. The Confederate government evacuated and the city fell. Lincoln visited the conquered
capital. On April 9, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox officially ending the war.[8]:589
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Lincoln ran again in 1864. He united the main
Republican factions, along with War Democrats such as
Edwin M. Stanton and Andrew Johnson. Lincoln used
conversation and his patronage powers—greatly
expanded from peacetime—to build support and fend
At its convention, the
Republicans selected Johnson as his running mate. To
broaden his coalition to include War Democrats as well
as Republicans, Lincoln ran under the label of the new
Union Party.[8]:494–507
An electoral landslide for Lincoln (in red) in the
1864 election; southern states (brown) and
territories (gray) not in play
Grant's bloody stalemates damaged Lincoln's reelection prospects, and many Republicans feared defeat. Lincoln confidentially pledged in writing that
if he should lose the election, he would still defeat the Confederacy before turning over the White
House:[94]:80 Lincoln did not show the pledge to his cabinet, but asked them to sign the sealed
While the Democratic platform followed the "Peace wing" of the party and called the war a "failure",
their candidate, McClellan, supported the war and repudiated the platform. Lincoln provided Grant
with more troops and led his party to renew its support for Grant. Sherman's capture of Atlanta in
September and David Farragut's capture of Mobile ended defeatism.[8]:531 The Democratic Party was
deeply split, with some leaders and most soldiers openly for Lincoln. The National Union Party was
united by Lincoln's support for emancipation. State Republican parties stressed the perfidy of the
Copperheads.[95]:307 On November 8, Lincoln carried all but three states, including 78 percent of
Union soldiers.[94]:80[96]:274–293
On March 4, 1865, Lincoln delivered his second inaugural
address. In it, he deemed the endless casualties to be God's will.
Historian Mark Noll claims this speech to rank "among the small
handful of semi-sacred texts by which Americans conceive their
place in the world".[97]:426 Lincoln said:
Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this
mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if
God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by
the bond-man's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be
sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the
lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword,
as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said,
"the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous
altogether". With malice toward none; with charity for
all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see
the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in;
to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who
Lincoln's second inaugural address
in 1865 at the almost completed
Capitol building
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his
orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a
just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all
Reconstruction began during the war, as Lincoln and his associates considered how to reintegrate the
nation, and the fates of Confederate leaders and freed slaves. Shortly after Lee's surrender, a general
asked Lincoln how to treat defeated Confederates. Lincoln replied, "Let 'em up easy."[19]:509–512
Lincoln was determined to find meaning in the war even when it had passed, and did not want to
continue to outcast the southern states. His main goal was to keep the union together. He planned to
go forward not by focusing on who to blame, but on how to rebuild the nation as one.[99] Lincoln led
the moderates regarding Reconstruction policy, and was opposed by the Radicals, under Rep.
Thaddeus Stevens, Sen. Charles Sumner and Sen. Benjamin Wade, who otherwise remained Lincoln's
allies. Determined to reunite the nation and not alienate the South, Lincoln urged that speedy
elections under generous terms be held. His Amnesty Proclamation of December 8, 1863, offered
pardons to those who had not held a Confederate civil office, had not mistreated Union prisoners, and
would sign an oath of allegiance.[8]:471–472
As Southern states fell, they needed leaders while their
administrations re-formed. In Tennessee and Arkansas, Lincoln
appointed Johnson and Frederick Steele as military governors,
respectively. In Louisiana, Lincoln ordered General Nathaniel P.
Banks to promote a plan that would restore statehood when 10
percent of the voters agreed. Democratic opponents accused
Lincoln of using the military to ensure his and the Republicans'
political aspirations. The Radicals denounced his policy as too
lenient, and passed their own plan, the Wade–Davis Bill, in 1864,
which Lincoln vetoed. The Radicals retaliated by refusing to seat
elected representatives from Louisiana, Arkansas, and
Lincoln's appointments were designed to harness both moderates
and Radicals. To fill Chief Justice Taney's seat on the Supreme
Court, he named the Radicals' choice, Salmon P. Chase, who
Lincoln believed would uphold his emancipation and paper
money policies.[65]:4:206
A political cartoon of Vice President
Andrew Johnson (a former tailor)
and Lincoln, 1865, entitled The 'Rail
Splitter' At Work Repairing the
Union. The caption reads (Johnson):
"Take it quietly Uncle Abe and I will
draw it closer than ever." (Lincoln):
"A few more stitches Andy and the
good old Union will be mended."
After implementing the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln increased pressure on Congress to
outlaw slavery throughout the nation with a constitutional amendment. He declared that such an
amendment would "clinch the whole matter".[8]:561 By December 1863, an amendment was brought
to Congress. This first attempt failed, falling short of the required two-thirds majority on June 15,
1864, in the House of Representatives. Passage became part of the Republican/Unionist platform.
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
After a House debate, the second attempt passed on January 31, 1865.[8]:562–563[100] With
ratification, it became the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution on December 6,
Lincoln believed the federal government had limited responsibility to the millions of freedmen. He
signed Senator Charles Sumner's Freedmen's Bureau bill that set up a temporary federal agency
designed to meet the immediate needs of former slaves. The law opened land for a lease of three years
with the ability to purchase title for the freedmen. Lincoln announced a Reconstruction plan that
involved short-term military control, pending readmission under the control of southern
Historians agree that it is impossible to predict exactly how Reconstruction would have proceeded
had Lincoln lived. Biographers James G. Randall and Richard Current, according to David Lincove,
argue that:[102]
It is likely that had he lived, Lincoln would have followed a policy similar to Johnson's,
that he would have clashed with congressional Radicals, that he would have produced a
better result for the freedmen than occurred, and that his political skills would have
helped him avoid Johnson's mistakes.
Eric Foner argues that:[103]
Unlike Sumner and other Radicals, Lincoln did not see Reconstruction as an opportunity
for a sweeping political and social revolution beyond emancipation. He had long made
clear his opposition to the confiscation and redistribution of land. He believed, as most
Republicans did in April 1865, that the voting requirements should be determined by the
states. He assumed that political control in the South would pass to white Unionists,
reluctant secessionists, and forward-looking former Confederates. But time and again
during the war, Lincoln, after initial opposition, had come to embrace positions first
advanced by abolitionists and Radical Republicans. ... Lincoln undoubtedly would have
listened carefully to the outcry for further protection for the former slaves ... It is entirely
plausible to imagine Lincoln and Congress agreeing on a Reconstruction policy that
encompassed federal protection for basic civil rights plus limited black suffrage, along the
lines Lincoln proposed just before his death.
Native American policy
Lincoln's connection with Indians was pre-dated by his grandfather, who was killed by Indians in
1784. Lincoln claimed Indians were antagonistic toward his father, Thomas Lincoln, and his young
family. Although Lincoln was a veteran of the Black Hawk War, fought in Wisconsin and Illinois, in
1832, he saw no significant action.[104]:3 During his presidency, Lincoln's policy toward Indians was
dominated by political considerations.[104]:3 Lincoln used the Indian Bureau as a source of patronage,
making blanket appointments to his loyal followers in Minnesota and Wisconsin.[104]:4 President
Lincoln faced difficulties guarding Western settlers, railroads, and telegraphs, from Indian
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
On August 17, 1862 the Sioux Uprising, in alliance with the Yankton Indians, started in Minnesota,
killing hundreds of white settlers, forcing 30,000 from their homes.[105]:480 The Indian violence
deeply alarmed the Lincoln administration. Some believed it was a conspiracy by the Confederacy to
launch a war on the Northwestern front.[104]:4–5,7 Taking the matter seriously, Lincoln sent a senior
general, John Pope, to Minnesota, making him commander of the new Northwestern
Department.[104]:7 Lincoln ordered thousands of Confederate prisoners of war (POWs), sent by
railroad, to put down the Sioux Uprising.[105]:481[104]:7 When the Confederates protested turning
POWs into Indian fighters, Lincoln relented, and revoked the policy.[105]:481 Pope campaigned against
the Indians mercilessly and with vigor, even advocating their extinction. Pope ordered Indian farms
and food supplies, to be destroyed, while Indian warriors to be killed.[104]:7 Aiding Pope, Minnesota
Congressman Col. Henry H. Sibley led militiamen and regular troops to defeat the Sioux at Wood
Lake.[105]:481 By October 9, Pope considered the uprising to be ended, although hostilities ceased on
December 26.[104]:8
Presented with 303 execution warrants for Santee Dakota who were convicted of killing innocent
farmers, Lincoln conducted his own personal review of each warrant, eventually approving 39 for
execution (one was later reprieved).[106]:182 Former Governor of Minnesota Alexander Ramsey told
Lincoln, in 1864, that Lincoln would have gotten more presidential election support had he executed
all 303 of the Indians. Lincoln responded, "I could not afford to hang men for votes."[105]:483
Other enactments
Lincoln adhered to the Whig theory of the presidency, giving Congress primary responsibility for
lawmaking while the Executive enforced them. Lincoln vetoed only four bills; the only important one
was the Wade-Davis Bill with its harsh Reconstruction program.[107]:137 The 1862 Homestead Act
made millions of acres of Western government-held land available for purchase at low cost. The 1862
Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act provided government grants for agricultural colleges in each state.
The Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864 granted federal support for the construction of the United
States' First Transcontinental Railroad, which was completed in 1869.[96]:116 The passage of the
Homestead Act and the Pacific Railway Acts was enabled by the absence of Southern congressmen
and senators who had opposed the measures in the 1850s.[56]:450–452
In July 1861, the US issued paper currency for the first time. The currency became known greenbacks,
because it was printed in green on the reverse side.[108]
Other important legislation involved two measures to raise
revenues for the Federal government: tariffs (a policy with long
precedent), and a Federal income tax. In 1861, Lincoln signed the
second and third Morrill Tariffs, following the first enacted by
Buchanan. Also in 1861, Lincoln signed the Revenue Act of 1861,
creating the first U.S. income tax.[8]:424 This created a flat tax of 3
percent on incomes above $800 ($22,300 in current dollar
terms). The Revenue Act of 1862 adopted rates that increased
with income.[96]:111
The Lincoln Cabinet[109]
Secretary of
William H.
Secretary of
Salmon P.
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
William P.
Secretary of
Edwin M.
Montgomery 1861–
Secretary of
the Navy
Secretary of
the Interior
Caleb Blood 1861–
Lincoln presided over the expansion of the federal government's
economic influence in other areas. The National Banking Act
created the system of national banks. It also established a
national currency. In 1862, Congress created the Department of
In response to rumors of a renewed draft, the editors of the New
York World and the Journal of Commerce published a false draft
proclamation that created an opportunity for the editors and
others employed at the publications to corner the gold market.
Lincoln attacked the media about such behavior, ordering the
military to seize the two papers. The seizure lasted for two
Lincoln is largely responsible for the Thanksgiving holiday.[8]:471
Thanksgiving had become a regional holiday in New England in
the 17th century. It had been sporadically proclaimed by the
federal government on irregular dates. The prior proclamation
had been during James Madison's presidency 50 years earlier. In
1863, Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November of that
year to be a day of Thanksgiving.[8]:471
In June 1864, Lincoln approved the Yosemite Grant enacted by
Congress, which provided unprecedented federal protection for
the area now known as Yosemite National Park.[110]
Judicial appointments
Supreme Court appointments
Supreme Court Justices
Noah Haynes Swayne
January 21, 1862
January 24, 1862
Samuel Freeman Miller
July 16, 1862
July 16, 1862
David Davis
December 1, 1862
December 8, 1862
Stephen Johnson Field
March 6, 1863
March 10, 1863
Salmon Portland Chase (Chief Justice)
December 6, 1864
December 6, 1864
Salmon Portland Chase
Lincoln's declared philosophy on court nominations was that "we cannot
was Lincoln's choice to be
ask a man what he will do, and if we should, and he should answer us, we
Chief Justice of the United
should despise him for it. Therefore we must take a man whose opinions
are known."[8]:471 Lincoln made five appointments to the United States
Supreme Court. Noah Haynes Swayne was chosen as an anti-slavery
lawyer who was committed to the Union. Samuel Freeman Miller, supported Lincoln in the 1860
election and was an avowed abolitionist. David Davis was Lincoln's campaign manager in 1860 and
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
had served as a judge in Lincoln's Illinois court circuit. Democrat Stephen Johnson Field, a previous
California Supreme Court justice, provided geographic and political balance. Finally, Lincoln's
Treasury Secretary, Salmon P. Chase, became Chief Justice. Lincoln believed Chase was an able jurist,
would support Reconstruction legislation, and that his appointment united the Republican
Other judicial appointments
Lincoln appointed 32 federal judges, including four Associate Justices and one Chief Justice to the
Supreme Court of the United States, and 27 judges to the United States district courts. Lincoln
appointed no judges to the United States circuit courts during his time in office.[112][113]
States admitted to the Union
West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863. Nevada, which became the third State in
the far-west of the continent, was admitted as a free state on October 31, 1864.[8]:300, 539
Shown in the presidential booth of
Ford's Theatre, from left to right, are
assassin John Wilkes Booth,
Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd
Lincoln, Clara Harris, and Henry
Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on
Good Friday, April 14, 1865, while attending a play at Ford's
Theatre, five days after Lee's surrender. Booth was a well-known
actor and a Confederate spy from Maryland; though he never
joined the Confederate army, he had contacts with the
Confederate secret service.[8]:586–587 After attending an April 11,
1865, speech in which Lincoln promoted voting rights for blacks,
Booth decided to assassinate the President.[114]:3–4 Learning of
Lincoln's intent to attend the play with Grant, Booth and his coconspirators planned to assassinate Lincoln and Grant at the
theater and to kill Vice President Johnson and Secretary of State
Seward at their respective homes. Lincoln left to attend the play
Our American Cousin on April 14. At the last minute, Grant
decided to go to New Jersey to visit his children instead of
attending the play.[8]:594–597
Booth crept up from behind and at about 10:13 pm, fired at the
back of Lincoln's head, mortally wounding him. Lincoln's guest
Major Henry Rathbone momentarily grappled with Booth, but Booth stabbed him and
Lincoln was taken across the street to Petersen House. After remaining in a coma for nine hours,
Lincoln died at 7:22 am on April 15. After death his face relaxed into a smile.[116][117][118][119] Stanton
saluted and said, "Now he belongs to the ages."[120]
Lincoln's flag-enfolded body was then escorted in the rain to the White House by bareheaded Union
officers, while the city's church bells rang. President Johnson was sworn in at 10:00 am, less than 3
hours after Lincoln's death.
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Booth was tracked to a farm in Virginia. Refusing to surrender, he was shot on April 26.[26]:153[8]:599
Funeral and burial
The late President lay in state, first in the East Room, and then in the Capitol Rotunda from April 19
through April 21. The caskets containing Lincoln's body and the body of his son Willie traveled for
three weeks on the Lincoln Special funeral train.[121] The train followed a circuitous route from
Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois, stopping at many cities for memorials attended by hundreds
of thousands. Many others gathered along the tracks as the train passed with bands, bonfires, and
hymn singing[121]:31–58[122]:231–238 or in silent grief. Poet Walt Whitman composed When Lilacs Last
in the Dooryard Bloom'd to eulogize him, one of four poems he wrote about Lincoln.[123] AfricanAmericans were especially moved; they had lost 'their Moses'.[124]:164 In a larger sense, the reaction
was in response to the deaths of so many men in the war.[124]:197–199 Historians emphasized the
widespread shock and sorrow, but noted that some Lincoln haters celebrated his
death.[124](pp84, 86, 96–97)
Religious and philosophical beliefs
As a young man, Lincoln was a religious skeptic.[125]:84[57]:4 Later in life,
Lincoln's frequent use of religious imagery and language might have
reflected his own personal beliefs or might have been a device to reach
his audiences, who were mostly evangelical Protestants.[126]:27–55 He
never joined a church, although he frequently attended with his wife.[127]
He was deeply familiar with the Bible, and he both quoted and praised
it.[8]:48–49, 514–515 He was private about his beliefs and respected the
beliefs of others. Lincoln never made a clear profession of Christian
beliefs. However, he did believe in an all-powerful God that shaped
events and by 1865 was expressing those beliefs in major speeches.[128]
In the 1840s, Lincoln subscribed to the Doctrine of Necessity, a belief
Abraham Lincoln, painting
that asserted the human mind was controlled by some higher
by George Peter Alexander
power.[8]:48–49 In the 1850s, Lincoln asserted his belief in "providence"
Healy in 1869
in a general way, and rarely used the language or imagery of the
evangelicals; he regarded the republicanism of the Founding Fathers
with an almost religious reverence.[129] With the death of his son Edward, Lincoln more frequently
expressed a need to depend on God.[130]:227–253 The death of son Willie in February 1862 may have
caused Lincoln to look toward religion for solace.[125]:251–254 After Willie's death, Lincoln considered
why, from a divine standpoint, the severity of the war was necessary. He wrote at this time that God
"could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And
having begun, He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds."[125]:254
On the day Lincoln was assassinated, he reportedly told his wife he desired to visit the Holy
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Several claims have been made that Lincoln's health was declining before the assassination. These are
often based on photographs appearing to show weight loss and muscle wasting. One such claim is that
he suffered from a rare genetic disorder, MEN2b,[131] which manifests with a medullary thyroid
carcinoma, mucosal neuromas and a Marfanoid appearance. Others simply claim he had Marfan
syndrome, based on his tall appearance with spindly fingers, and the association of possible aortic
regurgitation, which can cause bobbing of the head (DeMusset's sign) – based on blurring of Lincoln's
head in photographs, which required long exposure times. Confirmation of this and other diseases
could possibly be obtained via DNA analysis of a pillow case stained with Lincoln's blood, currently in
possession of the Grand Army of the Republic Museum & Library in Philadelphia, but the museum
has so far refused to provide a sample for testing.[131]
The successful reunification of the states had consequences for the name
of the country. The term "the United States" has historically been used,
sometimes in the plural ("these United States"), and other times in the
singular, without any particular grammatical consistency. The Civil War
was a significant force in the eventual dominance of the singular usage
by the end of the 19th century.[132]
Historians such as Harry Jaffa, Herman Belz, John Diggins, Vernon
Burton, and Eric Foner stress Lincoln's redefinition of republican
values. As early as the 1850s, a time when most political rhetoric focused
on the Constitution, Lincoln redirected emphasis to the Declaration of
Independence as the foundation of American political values—what he
Lincoln in February 1865,
two months before his
called the "sheet anchor" of republicanism.
The Declaration's
emphasis on equality and freedom for all, in contrast to the
Constitution's tolerance of slavery, shifted the debate. Regarding the
1860 Cooper Union speech, Diggins notes, "Lincoln presented
Americans a theory of history that offers a profound contribution to the theory and destiny of
republicanism itself."[133]:307 He highlights the moral basis of republicanism, rather than its
legalisms.[34]:215 Nevertheless, Lincoln justified the war via legalisms (the Constitution was a
contract, and for one party to get out of a contract all the other parties had to agree), and then in
terms of the national duty to guarantee a republican form of government in every state.[55]:263 Burton
argues that Lincoln's republicanism was taken up by the emancipated Freedmen.[134]
In Lincoln's first inaugural address, he explored the nature of democracy. He denounced secession as
anarchy, and explained that majority rule had to be balanced by constitutional restraints. He said "A
majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with
deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free
Historical reputation
In his company, I was never reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color.
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
— Frederick Douglass, [136]:259–260
In surveys of U.S. scholars ranking presidents conducted since the
1940s, Lincoln is consistently ranked in the top three, often as number
one.[6][7] A 2004 study found that scholars in the fields of history and
politics ranked Lincoln number one, while legal scholars placed him
second after George Washington.[137]:264 In presidential ranking polls
conducted in the United States since 1948, Lincoln has been rated at the
top in the majority of polls. Generally, the top three presidents are rated
as 1. Lincoln; 2. Washington; and 3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, although
the order varies.[138][139]
President Lincoln's assassination left him a national martyr. He was
viewed by abolitionists as a champion for human liberty. Republicans
linked Lincoln's name to their party. Many, though not all, in the South
considered Lincoln as a man of outstanding ability.[140]:76, 79, 106, 110
Historians have said he was "a classical liberal" in the 19th century sense.
Allen C. Guelzo states that Lincoln was a[141][5]
Lincoln's image carved into
the stone of Mount
classical liberal democrat—an enemy of artificial hierarchy, a friend to trade and business
as ennobling and enabling, and an American counterpart to Mill, Cobden, and Bright
(whose portrait Lincoln hung in his White House office).
Lincoln became a favorite exemplar for liberal intellectuals across the world.[142]
Schwartz argues that Lincoln's American reputation grew slowly from the late 19th century until the
Progressive Era (1900–1920s) when he emerged as one of America's most venerated heroes, even
among white Southerners. The high point came in 1922 with the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial
on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.[143]:109 In the New Deal era, liberals honored Lincoln not so
much as the self-made man or the great war president, but as the advocate of the common man who
they claimed would have supported the welfare state. In the Cold War years, Lincoln's image shifted
to a symbol of freedom who brought hope to those oppressed by Communist regimes.[144]:23, 91–98
By the 1970s, Lincoln had become a hero to political conservatives[145] for his intense nationalism,
support for business, his insistence on stopping the spread of human bondage, his acting in terms of
Lockean and Burkean principles on behalf of both liberty and tradition, and his devotion to the
principles of the Founding Fathers.[146]:514–518[147]:67–94[148]:43–45 As a Whig activist, Lincoln was a
spokesman for business interests, favoring high tariffs, banks, infrastructure improvements, and
railroads, in opposition to the agrarian Democrats.[35]:196, 198, 228, 301 William C. Harris found that
Lincoln's "reverence for the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, the laws under it, and the
preservation of the Republic and its institutions strengthened his conservatism".[37]:2 James G.
Randall emphasizes his tolerance and moderation "in his preference for orderly progress, his distrust
of dangerous agitation, and his reluctance toward ill digested schemes of reform". Randall concludes
that, "he was conservative in his complete avoidance of that type of so-called 'radicalism' which
involved abuse of the South, hatred for the slaveholder, thirst for vengeance, partisan plotting, and
ungenerous demands that Southern institutions be transformed overnight by outsiders."[5]:175
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
By the late 1960s, some African American intellectuals, led by Lerone
Bennett Jr., rejected Lincoln's role as the Great Emancipator.[149][150]
Bennett won wide attention when he called Lincoln a white supremacist
in 1968.[151]:35–42 He noted that Lincoln used ethnic slurs and told jokes
that ridiculed blacks. Bennett argued that Lincoln opposed social
equality, and proposed sending freed slaves to another country.
Defenders, such as authors Dirck and Cashin, retorted that he was not as
bad as most politicians of his day;[152]:31 and that he was a "moral
visionary" who deftly advanced the abolitionist cause, as fast as politically
possible.[153]:2–4 The emphasis shifted away from Lincoln the
Bureau of Engraving and
emancipator to an argument that blacks had freed themselves from
Printing portrait of Lincoln
slavery, or at least were responsible for pressuring the government on
as president
emancipation.[154]:61[155]:228 Historian Barry Schwartz wrote in 2009 that
Lincoln's image suffered "erosion, fading prestige, benign ridicule" in the
late 20th century.
On the other hand, Donald opined in his 1996 biography that Lincoln was
distinctly endowed with the personality trait of negative capability, defined by the poet John Keats
and attributed to extraordinary leaders who were "content in the midst of uncertainties and doubts,
and not compelled toward fact or reason".[8]:15 In the 21st century, President Barack Obama named
Lincoln his favorite president and insisted on using Lincoln's Bible for his inaugural
Lincoln has often been portrayed by Hollywood, almost always in a flattering light.[159][160]
Union nationalism, as envisioned by Lincoln, "helped lead America to the nationalism of Theodore
Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt."[35]:222
Memory and memorials
Lincoln's portrait appears on two denominations of
United States currency, the penny and the $5 bill. His
likeness also appears on many postage stamps[161] and he
has been memorialized in many town, city, and county
names,[162]:194 including the capital of Nebraska.[163]
While he is usually portrayed bearded, he first grew a
beard in 1860 at the suggestion of 11-year-old Grace
The most famous and most visited memorials are
Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Lincoln's sculpture on Mount Rushmore;[164] Lincoln
Memorial, Ford's Theatre, and Petersen House (where he
died) in Washington, D.C.; and the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, not far from Lincoln's home, as well as his
Sociologist Barry Schwartz argues that in the 1930s and 1940s, the memory of Abraham Lincoln was
practically sacred and provided the nation with "a moral symbol inspiring and guiding American life".
During the Great Depression, he argues, Lincoln served "as a means for seeing the world's
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
disappointments, for making its sufferings not so much explicable as meaningful". Franklin D.
Roosevelt, preparing America for war, used the words of the Civil War president to clarify the threat
posed by Germany and Japan. Americans asked, "What would Lincoln do?"[144]:xi, 9, 24 However,
Schwartz also finds that since World War II, Lincoln's symbolic power has lost relevance, and this
"fading hero is symptomatic of fading confidence in national greatness". He suggested that
postmodernism and multiculturalism have diluted greatness as a concept.[144]:xi, 9
The United States Navy Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is named after
Lincoln, the second Navy ship to bear his name.
See also
Outline of Abraham Lincoln
Sexuality of Abraham Lincoln
Dakota War of 1862
Grace Bedell
Lincoln Tower
List of photographs of Abraham Lincoln
List of civil rights leaders
a. Discharged from command-rank of Captain and re-enlisted at rank of Private.
1. Carpenter, Francis B. (1866). Six Months in the White House: The Story of a Picture (https://archiv
e.org/details/sixmonthsatwhit02carpgoog). Hurd and Houghton. p. 217.
2. "Lincoln. (Merriam-Webster)" (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Lincoln).
3. William A. Pencak (2009). Encyclopedia of the Veteran in America (https://books.google.com/boo
ks?id=yyvmcMsNnB4C&pg=PA222). ABC-CLIO. p. 222. ISBN 978-0-313-08759-2. Retrieved
June 27, 2015.
4. Finkelman, Paul; Gottlieb, Stephen E. Toward a Usable Past: Liberty Under State Constitutions (ht
tps://books.google.com/books?id=xJuXT1sVhFcC&pg=PA388year=2009). U of Georgia Press.
p. 388.
5. Randall, James Garfield (1962). Lincoln: The Liberal Statesman (https://books.google.com/book
s?id=DHUqAAAAYAAJ). Dodd, Mead. ASIN B0051VUQXO (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0051V
6. Lindgren, James (November 16, 2000). "Ranking Our Presidents for dealing with the American
Civil War, and slavery" (https://web.archive.org/web/20120131101450/http://history-world.org/pres.
pdf) (PDF). International World History Project. Archived from the original (http://history-world.org/
pres.pdf) (PDF) on January 31, 2012.
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
7. "Americans Say Reagan Is the Greatest U.S. President" (https://web.archive.org/web/2012031421
Gallup.com. February 28, 2011. Archived from the original (https://news.gallup.com/poll/146183/A
mericans-Say-Reagan-Greatest-President.aspx) on March 14, 2012. Retrieved February 13,
8. Donald, David Herbert (November 5, 1996). Lincoln (https://books.google.com/books?id=fuTY3mx
s9awC). Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780684825359.
9. Warren, Louis A. (October 21, 2017). Lincoln's Youth: Indiana Years, Seven to Twenty-One, 18161830 (Classic Reprint) (https://books.google.com/books?id=1zo7tAEACAAJ). Fb&c Limited.
ISBN 9780282908300.
10. Thomas, born January 1778, would have been 8 at the attack, May 1786. Older sources (e.g.
Herndon's Informants use six.
11. Wilson, Douglas Lawson; Davis, Rodney O.; Wilson, Terry; Herndon, William Henry; Weik, Jesse
William (1998). Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln
(https://books.google.com/books?id=s2gilcp4yYQC&pg=PA35). University of Illinois Press.
pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-0-252-02328-6. Archived (https://web.archive.org/web/20180113192331/http
s://books.google.com/books?id=s2gilcp4yYQC) from the original on January 13, 2018.
12. Bulla, David W.; Borchard, Gregory A. (2010). Journalism in the Civil War Era (https://books.googl
e.com/books?id=U67N0GsAUosC). Peter Lang. ISBN 9781433107221.
13. White, Ronald C. (January 13, 2009). A. Lincoln: A Biography (https://books.google.com/books?id
=6kf6Kzz4otYCA.). Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 9781588367754.
14. Bartelt, William E. (2008). There I Grew Up: Remembering Abraham Lincoln's Indiana Youth (http
s://books.google.com/books?id=Ed-NAAAAMAAJ). Indiana Historical Society Press.
ISBN 9780871952639.
15. Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (https://books.google.com/books?id=deFCAAAAIAAJ).
Harcourt, Brace. 1926. OCLC 6579822 (https://www.worldcat.org/oclc/6579822).
16. Miller, William Lee (January 1, 2002). Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography (https://books.googl
e.com/books?id=J9d2AAAAMAAJ). Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780375401589.
17. Madison, James H. (2014). Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana (https://books.google.com/books?i
d=2DvwnQEACAAJ). Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253013088.
18. Oates, Stephen B. (June 30, 2009). With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln (http
s://books.google.com/books?id=Dqti86cewuYC). Harper Collins. ISBN 9780061952241.
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External links
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (https://www.illinois.gov/alplm)
ALPLM's ongoing digitization of all Lincoln papers (https://papersofabrahamlincoln.org/about)
White House biography (https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/abrahamlincoln)
Abraham Lincoln Association (http://www.abrahamlincolnassociation.org/)
Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation (http://www.lincolnbicentennial.org/)
Media coverage
"Abraham Lincoln collected news and commentary" (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/times
topics/people/l/abraham_lincoln/index.html). The New York Times.
United States Congress. "Abraham Lincoln (id: L000313)" (http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/bio
display.pl?index=L000313). Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
Abraham Lincoln: A Resource Guide from the Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/rr/progra
"Life Portrait of Abraham Lincoln" (http://www.c-span.org/video/?125640-1/life-portrait-abraham-lin
coln), from C-SPAN's American presidents: Life Portraits, June 28, 1999
"Writings of Abraham Lincoln" (http://www.c-span.org/video/?164439-1/writings-abraham-lincoln)
from C-SPAN's American Writers: A Journey Through History
Abraham Lincoln: Original Letters and Manuscripts (http://www.shapell.org/Collection/The-LincolnCollection) – Shapell Manuscript Foundation
Lincoln/Net: Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project (http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/) – Northern
Illinois University Libraries
Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia
Teaching Abraham Lincoln (http://edsitement.neh.gov/teaching-abraham-lincoln#node-19470) –
National Endowment for the Humanities
Works by Abraham Lincoln (https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/3) at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about Abraham Lincoln (https://archive.org/search.php?query=%28%28subject%3
0Lincoln%29%29%20AND%20%28-mediatype:software%29) at Internet Archive
Works by Abraham Lincoln (https://librivox.org/author/2233) at LibriVox (public domain
In Popular Song:Our Noble Chief Has Passed Away by Cooper/Thomas (http://memory.loc.gov/di
Abraham Lincoln Recollections and Newspaper Articles Collection (http://www.mchistory.org/perc
McLean County Museum of History
Digitized items in the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana (https://www.loc.gov/collections/
alfred-whital-stern-lincolniana/about-this-collection/) in the Rare Book and Special Collections
Division (https://www.loc.gov/rr/rarebook/) in the Library of Congress
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