Abraham Lincoln

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Template:Infobox President Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809April 15, 1865), sometimes called Abe Lincoln and nicknamed Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter, and the Great Emancipator, was the 16th President of the United States (1861 to 1865), and the first president from the Republican Party.

Lincoln staunchly opposed the expansion of slavery into federal territories, and his victory in the 1860 presidential election further polarized an already divided nation. Before his inauguration in March of 1861, seven southern slave states seceded1 from the United States, formed the Confederate States of America, and took control of U.S. forts and other properties within their boundaries. These events soon led to the American Civil War.

Lincoln is often praised for his work as a wartime leader who proved adept at balancing competing considerations and at getting rival groups to work together toward a common goal. Lincoln had to negotiate between Radical and Moderate Republican leaders, who were often far apart on the issues, while attempting to win support from War Democrats and loyalists in the seceding states. He personally directed the war effort, which ultimately led the Union forces to victory over the Confederacy.

His leadership qualities were evident in his diplomatic handling of the border slave states at the beginning of the fighting, in his defeat of a congressional attempt to reorganize his cabinet in 1862, in his many speeches and writings which helped mobilize and inspire the North, and in his defusing of the peace issue in the 1864 presidential campaign. Copperheads vehemently attacked him for violating the Constitution, overstepping the bounds of executive power, refusing to compromise on slavery, declaring martial law, suspending habeas corpus, ordering the arrest of thousands of public officials and a number of newspaper publishers, and killing hundreds of thousands of young men. Radical Republicans criticized him for going too slow on abolition of slavery, and not being ruthless enough toward the conquered South.

Lincoln is most famous for his roles in preserving the Union and ending slavery in the United States with the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Some historians also argue that Lincoln had a lasting influence on U.S. political and social institutions, importantly setting a precedent for greater centralization of powers in the federal government and the weakening of the powers of the individual state governments. This claim, however, is disputed as the federal government largely reverted to its former weakness after Reconstruction and the modern administrative state would only emerge with the New Deal some seventy years later.

Lincoln spent most of his attention on miltary matters and politics but with his strong support his administration established the current system of national banks with the National Bank Act. He increased the tariff to raise revenue and encourage factories, imposed the first income tax, issued hundreds of millions of dollars of bonds and Greenbacks, encouraged immigration from Europe, built the transcontinental railroad, set up Department of Agriculture, encouraged farm ownership with the Homestead Act of 1862, and set up the modern system of state universities with the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act. During the war his Treasury department effectively controlled all cotton trade in the occupied South--the most dramatic incursion of federal controls on the economy. During his administration West Virginia and Nevada were admitted as states.

Lincoln is usually ranked as one of the greatest presidents. Because of his roles in destroying slavery, redefining national values, and saving the Union, his assassination made him a martyr to millions of Americans.


Early life

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a one-room log cabin on a 348 acre (1.4 km²) Sinking Spring Farm in the Southeast part of Hardin County, Kentucky, then considered the frontier (now part of LaRue Co., in Nolin Creek, three miles (5 km) south of Hodgenville), to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks. Lincoln was named after his deceased grandfather, who was scalped in 1786 in an Indian raid. He had no middle name. Lincoln's parents were uneducated illiterate farmers. Later, when Lincoln became more renowned, reporters and storytellers often exaggerated the poverty and obscurity of Lincoln's birth. In fact, Lincoln's father Thomas was a respected and relatively affluent citizen of the Kentucky backcountry. He had purchased the Sinking Spring Farm in December 1808 for $200 cash and assumption of a debt. His parents belonged to a Baptist church that had pulled away from a larger church because they refused to support slavery. Accordingly, from a very young age, Lincoln was exposed to anti-slavery sentiment. However he never joined his parents' church, or any other church, and as a youth ridiculed religion.

Three years after purchasing the property, a prior land claim filed in Hardin Circuit Court forced the Lincolns to move. Thomas continued legal action until he lost the case in 1815. Money spent on the lawsuit contributed to family difficulties. In 1811, they were able to lease 30 acres (0.1 km²) of a 230 acre (0.9 km²) farm on Knob Creek a few miles away, where they then moved. In a valley of the Rolling Fork River, this was some of the best farmland in the area. At this time, Lincoln's father was a respected community member and a successful farmer and carpenter. Lincoln's earliest recollections are from this farm. In 1815, another claimant sought to eject the family from the Knob Creek farm. Frustrated with litigation and lack of security provided by Kentucky courts, Thomas decided to move to Indiana, which had been surveyed by the federal government, making land titles more secure. It is possible that these episodes motivated Abraham to later learn surveying and become an attorney.

In 1816, when Lincoln was seven years old, he and his parents moved to Spencer County, Indiana, he would state "partly on account of slavery" and partly because of economic difficulties in Kentucky. In 1818 Lincoln's mother along with others in the town, died of "milk sickness". Nancy Hanks Lincoln was only thirty-four years old when she died, and her son Abraham was nine. Soon afterwards, Lincoln's father remarried to Sarah Bush Johnston. Sarah Lincoln raised young Lincoln like one of her own children. Years later she compared Lincoln to her own son, saying "Both were good boys, but I must say -- both now being dead that Abe was the best boy I ever saw or ever expect to see." (Lincoln, by David Herbert Donald, 1995)

In 1830, after more economic and land-title difficulties in Indiana, the family settled on government land on a site selected by Lincoln's father in Macon County, Illinois. The following winter was especially brutal, and the family nearly moved back to Indiana. When his father relocated the family to a nearby site the following year, the 22-year-old Lincoln struck out on his own, canoeing down the Sangamon to Sangamon County, Illinois (now in Menard County), in the village of New Salem. Later that year, hired by New Salem businessman Denton Offutt and accompanied by friends, he took goods from New Salem to New Orleans via flatboat on the Sangamon, Illinois and Mississippi rivers. While in New Orleans, he may have witnessed a slave auction that left an indelible impression on him for the rest of his life. Whether he actually witnessed a slave auction at that time or not, living in a country with a considerable slave presence, he probably saw similar atrocities from time to time.

His formal education consisted of perhaps 18 months of schooling from itinerant teachers. In effect he was self-educated, studying every book he could borrow. He mastered the Bible, Shakespeare, English history and American history, and developed a plain style that puzzled audiences more used to orotund oratory. He avoided hunting and fishing because he did not like killing animals even for food and, though unusually tall and strong, spent so much time reading that some neighbors thought he must be doing it to avoid strenuous manual labor. He was skilled with an axe --they called him the "rail splitter--and a good wrestler.

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Young Abraham Lincoln

Early career

Lincoln began his political career in 1832 at the age of 23 with a campaign for the Illinois General Assembly as a member of the Whig Party. The centerpiece of his platform was the undertaking of navigational improvements on the Sangamon River in the hopes of attracting steamboat traffic to the river, which would allow sparsely populated, poor areas along and near the river to grow and prosper. He served as a captain in a company of the Illinois militia drawn from New Salem during the Black Hawk War, although he never saw combat. He wrote after being elected by his peers that he had not had "any such success in life which gave him so much satisfaction."

He later tried and failed at several small-time business ventures. He held an Illinois state liquor license and sold whiskey. Finally, after coming across the second volume of Sir William Blackstone's four-volume Commentaries on the Laws of England, he taught himself the law, and was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1837. That same year, he moved to Springfield, Illinois and began to practice law with Stephen T. Logan. He became one of the most highly respected and successful lawyers in the prairie state, and grew steadily more prosperous. Lincoln served four successive terms in the Illinois House of Representatives, as a representative from Sangamon County, beginning in 1834. He became a leader of the Whig party in the legislature. In 1837 he made his first protest against slavery in the Illinois House, stating that the institution was "founded on both injustice and bad policy." [1]

Lincoln shared a bed with Joshua Fry Speed from 1837 to 1841 in Springfield. While many claim it was not uncommon in the mid-19th century for men to share a bed (just as two men today may share a house or an apartment), C. A. Tripp's 2005 biography, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, suggesting that their relationship may also have been sexual, has generated a great deal of controversy. However, even when Lincoln was bitterly reviled for any number of faults by many enemies during the Civil War, not one ever suggested he had ever engaged in homosexual activities.

In 1841 Lincoln entered law practice with William Herndon, a fellow Whig. In 1856 both men joined the fledgling Republican Party. Following Lincoln's assassination, Herndon began collecting stories about Lincoln from those who knew him in central Illinois, eventually publishing a book, Herndon's Lincoln. Lincoln never joined an antislavery society and denied he supported the abolitionists. He married into a prominent slave-owning family from Kentucky, and allowed his children to spend time there surrounded by slaves. Several of his in-laws became Confederate officers. He greatly admired the science that flourished in New England, and was perhaps the only father in Illinois at the time to send his son, Robert Todd Lincoln, to elite eastern schools, Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard College.


On November 4, 1842, at the age of 33, Lincoln married Mary Todd. The couple had four sons.

Only Robert survived into adulthood. Of Robert's three children, only Jessie Lincoln had any children (two: Mary Lincoln Beckwith and Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith). Neither Robert Beckwith nor Mary Beckwith had any children, so Abraham Lincoln's bloodline ended when Robert Beckwith (Lincoln's great-grandson) died on December 24, 1985. [2]

Illinois politics

Lincoln in 1846 or 1847

In 1846 Lincoln was elected to one term in the House of Representatives as a member of the United States Whig Party. A staunch Whig, Lincoln often referred to Whig leader Henry Clay as his political idol. As a freshman House member, Lincoln was not a particularly powerful or influential figure in Congress. He used his office as an opportunity to speak out against the war with Mexico, which he attributed to President Polk's desire for "military glory — that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood."

Lincoln was a key early supporter of Zachary Taylor's candidacy for the 1848 Whig Presidential nomination. When his term ended, the incoming Taylor administration offered Lincoln the governorship of remote Oregon Territory. Acceptance would end his career in the fast-growing state of Illinois, so he declined. Returning instead to Springfield, Illinois he turned most of his energies to making a living at the bar, which involved extensive travel on horseback from county to county.

Prairie Lawyer

By the mid-1850s, Lincoln had acquired prominence in Illinois legal circles, especially through his involvement in litigation involving competing transportation interests — both the river barges and the railroads. In 1849, he received a patent related to buoying vessels.

Lincoln represented the Alton & Sangamon Railroad, for example, in an 1851 dispute with one of its shareholders, James A. Barret. Barret had refused to pay the balance on his pledge to that corporation on the ground that it had changed its originally planned route. Lincoln argued that as a matter of law a corporation is not bound by its original charter when that charter can be amended in the public interest, that the newer proposed Alton & Sangamon route was superior and less expensive, and that accordingly the corporation had a right to sue Mr. Barret for his delinquent payment. He won this case, and the decision by the Illinois Supreme Court was eventually cited by several other courts throughout the United States.

Another important example of Lincoln's skills as a railroad lawyer was a lawsuit over a tax exemption that the state granted to the Illinois Central Railroad. McLean County argued that the state had no authority to grant such an exemption, and it sought to impose taxes on the railroad notwithstanding. In January 1856, the Illinois Supreme Court delivered its opinion upholding the tax exemption, accepting Lincoln's arguments.

Lincoln's most notable criminal trial came in 1858 when he defended William "Duff" Armstrong, who was on trial for the murder of James Preston Metzker. The case is famous for when Lincoln used judicial notice, a rare tactic at that time, to show an eyewitness had lied on the stand, claiming he witnessed the crime in the moonlight. Lincoln produced a Farmer's Almanac to show that the moon on that date was at such a low angle it could not have produced enough illumination for the would-be witness to see anything clearly. Based upon this evidence, Armstrong was acquitted.

Republican Politics 1854-1860

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which expressly repealed the limits on slavery's spread that had been part of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, drew Lincoln back into politics. Illinois Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, the most powerful man in the Senate, proposed popular sovereignty as the solution to the slavery impasse, incorporating it into the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Douglas argued that in a democracy the people of a territory should decide whether to allow slavery or not, and not have a decision imposed on them by Congress. It was a speech against Kansas-Nebraska, on October 16, 1854 in Peoria, that caused Lincoln to stand out among the other free soil orators of the day. He helped form the new Republican party, drawing on remnants of the old Whig, Free Soil, Liberty and Democratic parties. In a stirring campaign, the Republicans carried Illinois in 1854, and elected a senator. Lincoln was the obvious choice, but to keep party unity he allowed the election to go to his colleague Lyman Trumbull.

In 1857-58 Douglas broke with President Buchanan, leading to a terrific fight for control of the Democratic party. Some eastern Republicans even favored the reelection of Douglas in 1858, since he led the opposition to the administration's push for the Lecompton Constitution which would have admitted Kansas as a slave state. Accepting the Republican nomination for the Senate in 1858, Lincoln delivered a famous speech [3] in which he stated, "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." The speech created a lasting image of the danger of disunion due to slavery, and rallied Republicans across the north.

The 1858 campaign featured the Lincoln-Douglas debates, a nationally noticed discussion on the issues that threatened to split the nation in two. Lincoln forced Douglas to propose his Freeport Doctrine, which lost him further support among slave-holders and speeded the division of the Democratic Party. Though the Republican legislative candidates won more popular votes, the Democrats won more seats and the legislature reelected Douglas to the Senate (this was before the 17th Amendment prescribed popular vote for Senate seats). Nevertheless, Lincoln's eloquence transformed him into a national political star.

Election of 1860

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"The Rail Candidate", political cartoon, 1860

Lincoln was chosen as the Republican presidential candidate for the 1860 election for several reasons: because his views on slavery were seen as more moderate; because of his Western origins (in contrast to his main rival for the nomination, the New Yorker William H. Seward), and because several other contenders had enemies within the party. During the campaign, Lincoln was dubbed "The Rail Splitter" by Republicans to emphasize the power of "free labor" whereby a common farm boy could work his way to the top by his own efforts.

On November 6, 1860, Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States, beating Douglas, Breckenridge, and Bell. Lincoln was the first Republican president. He won entirely on the strength of his support in the North: he was not even on the ballot in nine states in the South — and won only 2 of 996 counties in the entire South. Lincoln gained 1,865,908 votes (39.9% of the total,) for 180 electoral votes, Douglas 1,380,202 (29.5%) for 12 electoral votes, Breckenridge 848,019 (18.1%) for 72 electoral votes, and Bell 590,901 (12.5%) for 39 electoral votes. It was quite impossible ideologically for his opponents to combine, but if they had done so, Lincoln would nevertheless have won the electoral college and the election.

Secession winter 1860-61

As Lincoln's election became more and more probable secessionists made it clear that their states would leave the Union. South Carolina took the lead followed by six other cotton-growing states: Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The upper South (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas) listened to and rejected the secessionist appeal. They decided to stay in the Union, though warning Lincoln they would not support an invasion through their territory. The seven Confederate states seceded before Lincoln took office, forming an entirely new nation, the Confederate States of America. President Buchanan and president-elect Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy.

President-elect Lincoln survived an assassination threat in Baltimore, and on February 23, 1861 arrived in disguise in Washington. At Lincoln's inauguration on March 4, 1861, the Turners formed Lincoln's bodyguard; and a sizable garrison of federal troops was also present, ready to protect the capital from Confederate invasion or insurrection from Confederates in the capital city.

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Photograph showing March 4, 1861 inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in front of U.S. Capitol

In his First Inaugural Address, Lincoln declared, "I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments", arguing further that the purpose of the United States Constitution was "to form a more perfect union" than the Articles of Confederation which were explicitly perpetual, and thus the Constitution too was perpetual. He asked rhetorically that even were the Constitution construed as a simple contract, would it not require the agreement of all parties to rescind it?

Also in his inaugural address, in a final attempt to unite the Union and prevent the looming war, Lincoln supported the proposed Corwin Amendment to the constitution, of which he had been a driving force. It would have explicitly protected slavery in those states in which it already existed, and had already passed both houses. Lincoln adamantly opposed the Crittenden Compromise, however, which would have permitted slavery in the territories, renewing the boundary set by the Missouri Compromise and extending it to California. Despite support for this compromise among some Republicans, Lincoln declared that were the Crittenden Compromise accepted, it "would amount to a perpetual covenant of war against every people, tribe, and state owning a foot of land between here and Tierra del Fuego."

Because opposition to slavery expansion was the key issue uniting the Republican Party at the time, Lincoln is sometimes criticized for putting politics ahead of the national interest in refusing any compromise allowing the expansion of slavery. Supporters of Lincoln, however, point out that he did not oppose slavery because he was a Republican, but became a Republican because of his opposition to the expansion of slavery, that he opposed several other Republicans who were in favor of compromise, and that he clearly thought his course of action was in the national interest. By the time Lincoln took office the Confederacy was an established fact and not a single leader of that country ever proposed rejoining the USA on any terms. No compromise was found because no compromise was possible. Lincoln perhaps could have allowed the southern states to secede, and some Republicans recommended that. However conservative Democratic nationalists, such as Jeremiah S. Black, Joseph Holt, and Edwin M. Stanton had taken control of Buchanan's cabinet around January 1, 1861, and refused to accept secession. Lincoln, and nearly all Republican leaders, adopted this nationalistic position by March, 1861: the Union could not be broken.

War begins: 1861-62

After Union troops at Fort Sumter were fired on and forced to surrender in April, Lincoln called on governors of every state to send 75,000 troops to recapture forts, protect the capital, and "preserve the Union", which in his view still existed intact despite the actions of the seceding states. Virginia, which had repeatedly warned Lincoln it would not allow an invasion of its territory or join an attack on another state, now seceded, along with North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas. The slave states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware did not secede, and Lincoln urgently negotiated with state leaders there promising not to interfere with slavery in loyal states.

Emancipation Proclamation

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Lincoln met with his Cabinet for the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation draft on July 22, 1862.

Template:See Congess in July 1862 moved to free the slaves by passing the Second Confiscation Act. It provided:

That if any person shall hereafter incite, set on foot, assist, or engage in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States, or the laws thereof, or shall give aid or comfort thereto, or shall engage in, or give aid and comfort to, any such existing rebellion or insurrection, and be convicted thereof, such person shall be punished by imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years, or by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars, and by the liberation of all his slaves, if any he have; or by both of said punishments, at the discretion of the court. .... SEC. 9. And be it further enacted, That all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the government of the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the army; and all slaves captured from such persons or deserted by them and coming under the control of the government of the United States; and all slaves of such person found on [or] being within any place occupied by rebel forces and afterwards occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves.

Thus everyone who 60 days after July 17, 1862 supported the rebellion was to be punished by having all their slaves freed. The goal was to weaken the rebellion, which was led and controlled by slave owners. This did not abolish the legal institution of slavery (the XIII Amendment did that), but it proves Congress wanted to liberate the slaves owned by rebels. Lincoln implemented the new law by his "Emancipation Proclamation."

Lincoln is well known for ending slavery in the United States and he personally opposed slavery as a profound moral evil not in accord with the principle of equality asserted in the Declaration of Independence. Yet, Lincoln's views of the role of the federal government on the subject of slavery are more complicated. Before the Confederate state seceded Lincoln had campaigned against the expansion of slavery into the territories, where Congress had authority. However, he maintained that the federal government could not constitutionally bar slavery in states where it already existed. That no longer held now that the states were in rebellion. During his presidency, Lincoln made it clear that the North was fighting the war to preserve the Union, not to abolish slavery, but that he would use the "slave card" to weaken the rebellion by destroying the economic base of its leadership class. He was criticized both at home and abroad for his refusal to take a stand for the complete abolition of slavery. On August 22, 1862, a few weeks before signing the Proclamation, and after it had already been drafted, Lincoln responded by letter to an editorial by Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune which had urged abolition:

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. 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 shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free. [4]

With the Emancipation Proclamation issued in two parts on September 22, 1862 and January 1, 1863, Lincoln made the abolition of slavery a goal of the war. Lincoln addresses the issue of his consistency (or lack thereof) between his earlier position and his later position on emancipation in an 1864 letter to Albert G. Hodges[5]

Lincoln is often credited with freeing enslaved African Americans with the Emancipation Proclamation. However, border states that still allowed slavery but were under Union control were exempt from the emancipation because they were not in rebellion. The proclamation on its first day, January 1, 1863, freed only a few escaped slaves, but as Union armies advanced south more and more slaves were liberated until hundreds of thousands were freed (exactly how many is unknown). Lincoln signed the Proclamation as a wartime measure, insisting that only the outbreak of war gave constitutional power to the President to free slaves in states where it already existed. Acting entirely on his presidential powers, he did not ask or receive approval of Congress for the declaration. He later said: "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper." The proclamation made abolishing slavery in the rebel states an official war goal and it became the impetus for the enactment of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution which abolished slavery; Lincoln was the main promoter of the Amendment. Politically, the Emancipation Proclamation did much to help the Northern cause; Lincoln's strong abolitionist stand finally convinced the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and other foreign countries that they could not support the Confederate States of America. In emancipating the slaves Lincoln did so without any vote in the House or Senate. This move remains one of the great "pushes for power" by the Executive Branch. Lincoln justified this move by arguing that in times of war Presidents have extended powers. Lincoln had no interest in making the negroes equal to whites. He thought negores could be more than slaves, but never equal. Lincoln excerpt from the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858:

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races [applause]--that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people, and I will say in addition to this that there is physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior. I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say, upon the occasion, I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the black should be denied everything. [6]

Lincoln began plans to move the nearly 4 million newly freed slaves to Africa and South America, but all attempts failed. This was in accordance with his earlier view that whites and blacks could never live together in complete harmony.

Important domestic measures of Lincoln's first term

While Lincoln is usually portrayed bearded, he first grew a beard in 1861 at the suggestion of 11-year-old Grace Bedell.

Lincoln believed in the Whig theory of the presidency, which left Congress to write the laws. He signed them, vetoing only bills that threatened his war powers. Thus he signed the Homestead Act in 1862, making available millions of acres of government-held land in the west for purchase at very low cost. The Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, also signed in 1862, provided government grants for agricultural universities in each state. The most important legislation involved money matters, including the first income tax and higher tariffs. Most important was the creation of the system of national banks by the National Banking Acts of 1863, 1864 and 1865. They allowed the creation of a strong national financial system.

Lincoln sent a senior general to put down the "Sioux Uprising" of August 1862 in Minnesota. Presented with 303 death warrants for convicted Santee Dakota who had massacred innocent farmers, Lincoln affirmed 39 of these for execution (one was later reprieved).

1864 election and second inauguration

After Union victories at Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Chattanooga in 1863, many in the North believed that victory was soon to come after Lincoln appointed U.S. Grant General-in-Chief on March 12, 1864. Although no president since Andrew Jackson had been elected to a second term (and none since Van Buren had been re-nominated), Lincoln's re-election was considered a certainty.

However, when the spring campaigns, east and west, all turned into bloody stalemates, Northern morale dipped and Lincoln seemed less likely to be re-nominated. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase strongly desired the Republican nomination and was working hard to win it, while John Fremont was nominated by a breakoff group of radical Republicans, potentially taking away crucial votes in the November elections.

Fearing he might lose the election, Lincoln wrote out and signed the following pledge, but did not show it to his cabinet, asking them each to sign the sealed envelope. Lincoln wrote:

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.

The Democrats, hoping to make setbacks in the war a top campaign issue, waited until late summer to nominate a candidate. Their platform was heavily influenced by the Peace wing of the party, calling the war a "failure," but their candidate, former General George McClellan, was a War Democrat, determined to prosecute the war until the Union was restored, although willing to compromise on all other issues, including slavery.

McClellan's candidacy was soon undercut as on September 1, just two days after the convention, Atlanta was abandoned by the Confederate army. Coming on the heels of David Farragut's capture of Mobile Bay and followed by Phil Sheridan's crushing victory over Jubal Early's army at Cedar Creek, it was now apparent that the tide had turned in favor of the Union and that Lincoln may be reelected despite the costs of the war.

Still, Lincoln believed that he would win the electoral vote by only a slim margin, failing to give him the mandate he'd need if he was to push his lenient reconstruction plan. To his surprise, Lincoln ended up winning all but two states, capturing 212 of 233 electoral votes.

After Lincoln's election, on March 4, 1865, he delivered his second inaugural address, which was his favorite of all his speeches. At this time, a victory over the rebels was within sight, slavery had effectively ended, and Lincoln was looking to the future.

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 two hundred and fifty 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 three thousand 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 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 nations.

Civil War and reconstruction

Conducting the war effort

The war was a source of constant frustration for the president, and it occupied nearly all of his time. Lincoln had a contentious relationship with General George B. McClellan, who became general-in-chief of all the Union armies in the wake of the embarrassing Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run and after the retirement of Winfield Scott in late 1861. Lincoln wished to take an active part in planning the war strategy despite his inexperience in military affairs. Lincoln's strategic priorities were two-fold: first, to ensure that Washington, D.C., was well-defended; and second, to conduct an aggressive war effort in hopes of ending the war quickly and appeasing the Northern public and press, who pushed for an offensive war. McClellan, a youthful West Point graduate and railroad executive called back to military service, took a more cautious approach. McClellan took several months to plan and execute his Peninsula Campaign, which involved capturing Richmond by moving the Army of the Potomac by boat to the peninsula between the James and York Rivers. McClellan's delay irritated Lincoln, as did McClellan's insistence that no troops were needed to defend Washington, D.C. Lincoln insisted on holding some of McClellan's troops to defend the capital, a decision McClellan blamed for the ultimate failure of his Peninsula Campaign.

McClellan, a lifelong Democrat who was temperamentally conservative, was relieved as general-in-chief after releasing his Harrison's Landing Letter, where he offered unsolicited political advice to Lincoln urging caution in the war effort. McClellan's letter incensed Radical Republicans, who successfully pressured Lincoln to appoint fellow Republican John Pope as head of the new Army of Virginia. Pope complied with Lincoln's strategic desire for the Union to move towards Richmond from the north, thus guarding Washington, D.C. However, Pope was soundly defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run during the summer of 1862, forcing the Army of the Potomac back into the defenses of Washington for a second time. Pope was sent to Minnesota to fight the Sioux.

Panicked by Confederate General Robert E. Lee's invasion of Maryland, Lincoln restored McClellan to command of all forces around Washington in time for the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. It was the Union victory in that battle that allowed Lincoln to release his Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln relieved McClellan of command shortly after the 1862 midterm elections and appointed Republican Ambrose Burnside to head the Army of the Potomac, who promised to follow through on Lincoln's strategic vision for an aggressive offensive against Lee and Richmond. After Burnside was stunningly defeated at Fredericksburg, Joseph Hooker was given command, despite his idle talk about becoming a military strong man. Hooker was routed by Lee at Chancellorsville in May 1863 and also relieved of command.

After the Union victory at Gettysburg, Meade's failure to pursue Lee, and months of inactivity for the Army of the Potomac, Lincoln decided to bring in a western general: General Ulysses S. Grant. He had a solid string of victories in the Western Theater, including Vicksburg and Chattanooga. Earlier, reacting to criticism of Grant, Lincoln was quoted as saying, "I cannot spare this man. He fights." Grant waged his bloody Overland Campaign in 1864, using a strategy of a war of attrition, characterized by high Union losses at battles such as the Wilderness and Cold Harbor, but by proportionately higher losses in the Confederate army. Grant's aggressive campaign would eventually bottle up Lee in the Siege of Petersburg and result in the Union taking Richmond and bringing the war to a close in the spring of 1865.

Lincoln authorized Grant to use a scorched earth approach to destroy the South's morale and economic ability to continue the war. This allowed Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan to destroy farms and towns in the Shenandoah Valley, Georgia, and South Carolina. The damage in Sherman's March to the Sea through Georgia totaled in excess of $100 million.

Lincoln had a star-crossed record as a military leader, possessing a keen understanding of strategic points (such as the Mississippi River and the fortress city of Vicksburg) and the importance of defeating the enemy's army, rather than simply capturing cities. However, he had little success in his efforts to motivate his generals to adopt his strategies. Eventually, he found in Grant a man who shared his vision of the war and was able to bring that vision to reality with his relentless pursuit of coordinated offensives in multiple theaters of war.

Lincoln, perhaps reflecting his lack of military experience, developed a keen curiosity with military campaigning during the war. He spent hours at the War Department telegraph office, reading dispatches from his generals through many a night. He frequently visited battle sites and seemed fascinated by watching scenes of war. During Jubal A. Early's raid into Washington, D.C., in 1864, Lincoln had to be told to duck his head to avoid being shot observing the scenes of battle.


Lincoln was more successful in giving the war meaning to Northern civilians through his oratorical skills. Despite his meager education and “backwoods” upbringing, Lincoln possessed an extraordinary command of the English language, as evidenced by the Gettysburg Address, a speech dedicating a cemetery of Union soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg that he delivered on November 19, 1863. While the featured speaker, orator Edward Everett, spoke for two hours, Lincoln's few choice words resonated across the nation and across history, defying Lincoln's own prediction that "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here." Lincoln's second inaugural address is also greatly admired and often quoted. In these speeches, Lincoln articulated better than any of his contemporaries the rationale behind the Union effort.

During the Civil War, Lincoln exercised powers no previous president had wielded; he proclaimed a blockade, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, spent money without congressional authorization, and imprisoned thousands of accused Confederate sympathizers without trial. There is a fragment of uncorraborated evidence that Lincoln made contingency plans to arrest Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, though the allegation remains unresolved and controversial (see the Taney Arrest Warrant controversy).

Lincoln was the first U.S. President to face a presidential election during a war (in 1864). The long war and the issue of emancipation appeared to be severely hampering his prospects and pessimists warned that defeat appeared likely. Lincoln ran under the Union party banner, composed of War Democrats and Republicans. General Grant was facing severe criticism for his conduct of the bloody Overland Campaign that summer and the seemingly endless Siege of Petersburg. However, the Union capture of the key railroad center of Atlanta by Sherman's forces in September changed the situation dramatically and Lincoln was reelected.


The reconstruction of the Union weighed heavy on the President's mind throughout the war effort. He was determined to take a course that would not permanently alienate the former Confederate states, and throughout the war Lincoln urged speedy elections under generous terms in areas behind Union lines. This irritated congressional Republicans, who urged a more stringent Reconstruction policy. One of Lincoln's few vetoes during his term was of the Wade-Davis Bill, an effort by congressional Republicans to impose harsher Reconstruction terms on the Confederate areas. Republicans in Congress retaliated by refusing to seat representatives elected from Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee during the war under Lincoln's generous terms.

"Let 'em up easy," he told his assembled military leaders Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (a future president), Gen. William T. Sherman and Adm. David Dixon Porter in an 1865 meeting on the steamer River Queen. When Richmond, the Confederate capital, was at long last captured, Lincoln went there to make a public gesture of sitting at Jefferson Davis's own desk, symbolically saying to the nation that the President of the United States held authority over the entire land. He was greeted at the city as a conquering hero by freed slaves, whose sentiments were epitomized by one admirer's quote, "I know I am free for I have seen the face of Father Abraham and have felt him."

On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. This left only Joseph Johnston's forces in the East to deal with. Weeks later Johnston would defy Jefferson Davis and surrender his forces to Sherman. Of course, Lincoln would not survive to see the surrender of all Confederate forces; just five days after Lee surrendered, Lincoln was assassinated. He was the first President to be assassinated, and the third to die in office.


The assassination of Abraham Lincoln. From left to right: Henry Rathbone, Clara Harris, Mary Todd Lincoln, Lincoln, and Booth.

Lincoln had met frequently with Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant as the war drew to a close. The two men planned matters of reconstruction, and it was evident to all that they held each other in high regard. During their last meeting, on April 14, 1865 (Good Friday), Lincoln invited Grant to a social engagement that evening. Grant declined (Grant's wife, Julia Dent Grant, is said to have strongly disliked Mary Todd Lincoln). The President's eldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, also turned down the invitation.

John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor and Southern sympathizer from Maryland, heard that the president and Mrs. Lincoln, along with the Grants, would be attending Ford's Theatre. Having failed in a plot to kidnap Lincoln earlier, Booth informed his co-conspirators of his intention to kill Lincoln. Others were assigned to assassinate Vice-President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward.

Without his bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon, to whom he related his famous dream of his own assassination, the Lincolns left to attend the play at Ford's Theater. The play, Our American Cousin, was a musical comedy by the British writer Tom Taylor. As Lincoln sat in his state box in the balcony, Booth crept up behind the President's box and waited for the funniest line of the play, hoping the laughter would cover the gunshot noise. On stage, actor Harry Hawk said the last line Lincoln would ever hear "Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal—you sockdologizing old man-trap...". When the laughter came Booth jumped into the box the president was in and aimed a single-shot, round-slug .44 caliber Deringer at his head, firing at point-blank range. The bullet entered behind Lincoln's left ear and lodged behind his eyeball. Booth then shouted "Sic semper tyrannis!" (Latin: "Thus always to tyrants," and Virginia's state motto; some accounts say he added "The South is avenged!") and jumped from the balcony to the stage below, breaking his leg. Despite his injury, Booth managed to limp to his horse and make his escape.

The mortally wounded and paralyzed President was taken to a house across the street, now called the Petersen House, where he lay in a coma for some time before he quietly expired. Lincoln was officially pronounced dead at 7:22 AM the next morning, April 15, 1865. Upon seeing him die, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton lamented "Now he belongs to the ages." After Lincoln's body was returned to the White House, his body was prepared for his "lying in state."

In 2004 a newly discovered photograph from the estate of photographer, artist and engraver John B. Bachelder, purportedly showing Lincoln but a few hours post mortem, was published in Lloyd Ostendorf's book Lincoln's Photographs: A Complete Album (Rockywood Press, Dayton, Ohio, 2004). If authentic, it is the only immediately post mortem photograph of the late president to be taken by Bachelder.

Secretary Seward, who was also attacked that night, did survive. He was not told of Lincoln's assassination, but on Monday announced from his bed that "the President is dead," after seeing the flag at half-staff over the War Department from his window, and concluding that since Lincoln had neither come to see how he was or sent someone to inquire that he must be dead.

Booth was shot 12 days later while being captured. Four co-conspirators were convicted and hanged, while three others were given life sentences.

Lincoln's funeral train carried his remains, as well as 300 mourners and the casket of his son William, 1,654 miles to Illinois.

Lincoln's body was carried by train in a grand funeral procession through several states on its way back to Illinois. The nation mourned a man whom many viewed as the savior of the United States. He was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, where a 177 foot (54 m) tall granite tomb surmounted with several bronze statues of Lincoln was constructed by 1874. To prevent repeated attempts to steal Lincoln's body and hold it for ransom, Robert Todd Lincoln had Lincoln exhumed and reinterred in concrete several feet thick on September 26, 1901.


Legacy and memorials

Lincoln's death made the President a martyr to many. Today he is perhaps America's second most famous and beloved President after George Washington. Repeated polls of historians have ranked Lincoln as among the greatest presidents in U.S. history. Among contemporary admirers, Lincoln is usually seen as a figure who personifies classical values of honesty, integrity, as well as respect for individual and minority rights, and human freedom in general. Many American organizations of all purposes and agendas continue to cite his name and image, with interests ranging from the gay rights group Log Cabin Republicans to the insurance corporation Lincoln Financial. The Lincoln automobile is also named after him.

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Daniel Chester French's seated Lincoln faces the National Mall to the east.

Over the years Lincoln has been memorialized in many city names, notably the capital of Nebraska; with the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (pictured, right); on the U.S. $5 bill and the 1 cent coin (Illinois is the primary opponent to the removal of the penny from circulation); and as part of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Lincoln's Tomb, Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, New Salem, Illinois (a reconstruction of Lincoln's early adult hometown), Ford's Theater and Petersen House are all preserved as museums. The state nickname for Illinois is Land of Lincoln.

Counties in 18 U.S. states (Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) are named after Lincoln.

On February 12, 1892, Abraham Lincoln's birthday was declared to be a federal holiday in the United States, although in 1971 it was combined with Washington's birthday in the form of President's Day. February 12 is still observed as a separate legal holiday in many states, including Illinois.

Lincoln's birthplace and family home are national historic memorials: Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Hodgenville, Kentucky and Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is also in Springfield. The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery is located in Elwood, Illinois.

Statues of Lincoln can be found in other countries. In Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, is a 13-foot high bronze statue, a gift from the United States, dedicated in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The U.S. received a statue of Benito Juárez in exchange, which is in Washington, D.C. Juárez and Lincoln exchanged friendly letters, and Mexico remembers Lincoln's opposition to the Mexican-American War. There is also a statue in Tijuana, Mexico, showing Lincoln standing and destroying the chains of slavery. There are at least three statues of Lincoln in the United Kingdom—one in London by Augustus St. Gaudens, one in Manchester by George Grey Barnard and another in Edinburgh by George Bissell.

The ballistic missile submarine Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602) and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) were named in his honor. Also, the USS Nancy Hanks was named to honor his mother.

Director Steven Spielberg is currently planning a movie on Lincoln with Liam Neeson in the leading role.

The American Disney theme parks feature an Audio-Animatronics Abraham Lincoln in the show Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and the Hall of Presidents.

In a recent public vote entitled "The Greatest American," Lincoln placed second.

To this day, comedians generally avoid jokes about Lincoln because audiences do not usually appreciate them.


  • Lincoln stood 6'3 3/4" (192.4 cm) tall and thus was the tallest president in U.S. history, just edging out Lyndon Johnson at 6'3 1/2" (191.8 cm).
  • He was born on the same day as Charles Darwin.
  • The last surviving self-described witness to Lincoln's assassination was Samuel J. Seymour (~1860–April 14, 1956), who appeared two months before his death at age 96 on the CBS-TV quiz show I've Got a Secret. He said that as a five-year-old he had thought at first that he, himself, had been shot because his nurse, trying to fix a torn place in his blouse, stuck him with a pin at the moment of the gun's discharge.
  • According to legend, Lincoln was referred to as "two-faced" by his opponent in the 1858 Senate election, Stephen Douglas. Upon hearing about this Lincoln jokingly replied, "If I had another face to wear, do you really think I would be wearing this one?"
  • According to legend, Lincoln also said, as a young man, on his appearance one day when looking in the mirror: "It's a fact, Abe! You are the ugliest man in the world. If ever I see a man uglier than you, I'm going to shoot him on the spot!" It would no doubt, he thought, be an act of mercy.
  • Based on written descriptions of Lincoln, including the observations that he was much taller than most men of his day and had long limbs, an abnormally-shaped chest, and loose or lax joints, it has been conjectured since the 1960s that Lincoln may have suffered from Marfan syndrome.

Quotes by Abraham Lincoln


"Every blade of grass is a study; and to produce two, where there was but one, is both a profit and a pleasure." --From the September 30, 1859 Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society "This leads to the further reflection, that no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture. I know of nothing so pleasant to the mind, as the discovery of anything which is at once new and valuable -- nothing which so lightens and sweetens toil, as the hopeful pursuit of such discovery. And how vast, and how varied a field is agriculture, for such discovery. The mind, already trained to thought, in the country school, or higher school, cannot fail to find there an exhaustless source of profitable enjoyment." --From the September 30, 1859 Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society


"Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed." --From the March 9, 1832 First Political Announcement "You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm." --From the January 26, 1863 Letter to Joseph Hooker


"There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law." --From the January 27, 1838 Lyceum Address "Plainly, the central idea of secession, is the essence of anarchy." --From the March 4, 1861 Inaugural Address


"If any personal description of me is thought desirable, it may be said, 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 grey eyes -- no other marks or brands recollected." --From the December 20, 1859 Autobiography


"If as the friends of colonization hope, the present and coming generations of our countrymen shall by any means, succeed in freeing our land from the dangerous presence of slavery; and, at the same time, in restoring a captive people to their long-lost father-land, with bright prospects for the future; and this too, so gradually, that neither races nor individuals shall have suffered by the change, it will indeed be a glorious consummation." --From the July 6, 1852 Eulogy on Henry Clay


"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 shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan..." --From the March 4, 1865 Inaugural Address


"At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." --From the January 27, 1838 Lyceum Address


"I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence." --From the February 22, 1861 Address in Independence Hall "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." --From the November 19, 1863 Gettysburg Address


"When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic]." --From the August 24, 1855 Letter to Joshua Speed


"If you are resolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already." --From the November 5, 1855 Letter to Isham Reavis "I know not how to aid you, save in the assurance of one of mature age, and much severe experience, that you can not fail, if you resolutely determine, that you will not." --From the July 22, 1860 Letter to George Latham


"The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disentrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country." --From the December 1, 1862 Message to Congress


"The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day." --From the July 1, 1850 [?] Notes for a Law Lecture


"Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT." --From the February 27, 1860 Cooper Union Address


"Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in." --From the March 9, 1832 First Political Announcement "Mr. Clay's lack of a more perfect early education, however it may be regretted generally, teaches at least one profitable lesson; it teaches that in this country, one can scarcely be so poor, but that, if he will, he can acquire sufficient education to get through the world respectably." --From the July 6, 1852 Eulogy on Henry Clay

"A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the [yet] unsolved ones." --From the September 30, 1859 Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society

"The old general rule was that educated people did not perform manual labor. They managed to eat their bread, leaving the toil of producing it to the uneducated. This was not an insupportable evil to the working bees, so long as the class of drones remained very small. But now, especially in these free States, nearly all are educated--quite too nearly all, to leave the labor of the uneducated, in any wise adequate to the support of the whole. It follows from this that henceforth educated people must labor. Otherwise, education itself would become a positive and intolerable evil. No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive." --From the September 30, 1859 Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society


"And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons." --From the January 1, 1863 Final Emancipation Proclamation "You dislike the emancipation proclamation; and, perhaps, would have it retracted. You say it is unconstitutional -- I think differently." --From the August 26, 1863 Letter to James Conkling

"But the proclamation, as law, either is valid, or is not valid. If it is not valid, it needs no retraction. If it is valid, it can not be retracted, any more than the dead can be brought to life." --From the August 26, 1863 Letter to James Conkling


"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it." --From the April 6, 1859 Letter to Henry Pierce "I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free." --From the August 22, 1862 Letter to Horace Greeley

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth." --From the December 1, 1862 Message to Congress

"We have, as all will agree, a free Government, where every man has a right to be equal with every other man. In this great struggle, this form of Government and every form of human right is endangered if our enemies succeed." --From the August 22, 1864 Speech to the One Hundred Sixty-fourth Ohio Regiment


"Towering genius distains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored." --From the January 27, 1838 Lyceum Address


"In the untimely loss of your noble son, our affliction here, is scarcely less than your own. So much of promised usefulness to one's country, and of bright hopes for one's self and friends, have rarely been so suddenly dashed, as in his fall." --From the May 25, 1861 Letter to Ephraim D. and Phoebe Ellsworth "In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares." --From the December 23, 1862 Letter to Fanny McCullough

"I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom." --From the Nov. 21, 1864 Letter to Lydia Bixby


"I believe it is an established maxim in morals that he who makes an assertion without knowing whether it is true or false, is guilty of falsehood; and the accidental truth of the assertion, does not justify or excuse him." --From the August 11, 1846 Letter to Allen N. Ford "Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief -- resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer." --From the July 1, 1850 [?] Notes for a Law Lecture


"John Brown's effort was peculiar. It was not a slave insurrection. It was an attempt by white men to get up a revolt among slaves, in which the slaves refused to participate." --From the February 27, 1860 Cooper Union Address


"Every man is proud of what he does well; and no man is proud of what he does not do well. With the former, his heart is in his work; and he will do twice as much of it with less fatigue. The latter performs a little imperfectly, looks at it in disgust, turns from it, and imagines himself exceedingly tired. The little he has done, comes to nothing, for want of finishing." --From the September 30, 1859 Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society "By the 'mud-sill' theory it is assumed that labor and education are incompatible; and any practical combination of them impossible. According to that theory, a blind horse upon a tread-mill, is a perfect illustration of what a laborer should be -- all the better for being blind, that he could not tread out of place, or kick understandingly. According to that theory, the education of laborers, is not only useless, but pernicious, and dangerous. In fact, it is, in some sort, deemed a misfortune that laborers should have heads at all." --From the September 30, 1859 Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society


"Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others." --From the January 27, 1838 Lyceum Address "Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap -- let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; -- let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars." --From the January 27, 1838 Lyceum Address


"Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser -- in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough." --From the July 1, 1850 [?] Notes for a Law Lecture "Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend than he who habitually overhauls the register of deeds in search of defects in titles, whereon to stir up strife, and put money in his pocket?" --From the July 1, 1850 [?] Notes for a Law Lecture

"Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief -- resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer." --From the July 1, 1850 [?] Notes for a Law Lecture


"The man does not live who is more devoted to peace than I am. None who would do more to preserve it." --From the February 21, 1861 Address to the New Jersey General Assembly "Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time." --From the August 26, 1863 Letter to James Conkling


" When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and a true maxim, that a 'drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.'" --From the February 22, 1842 Temperance Address


"It is not merely for to-day, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children's children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives." --From the August 22, 1864 Speech to the One Hundred Sixty-sixth Ohio Regiment "There is more involved in this contest than is realized by every one. There is involved in this struggle the question whether your children and my children shall enjoy the privileges we have enjoyed." --From the August 22, 1864 Speech to the One Hundred Sixty-fourth Ohio Regiment


"To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell." --From the February 11, 1861 Farewell Address "I am much indebted to the good Christian people of the country for their constant prayers and consolations; and to no one of them, more than to yourself." --From the September 4, 1864 Letter to Eliza Gurney

"Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully." --From the March 4, 1865 Inaugural Address


"That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or any denomination of Christians in particular." --From the July 31, 1846 Handbill Replying to Charges of Infidelity "I do not think I could myself, be brought to support a man for office, whom I knew to be an open enemy of, and scoffer at, religion." --From the July 31, 1846 Handbill Replying to Charges of Infidelity

"The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong." --From the September 1862 Meditation on the Divine Will

"I am very glad indeed to see you to-night, and yet I will not say I thank you for this call, but I do most sincerely thank Almighty God for the occasion on which you have called." --From the July 7, 1864 Response to a Serenade

"If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God." --From the April 4, 1864 Letter to Albert Hodges

"We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein." --From the September 4, 1864 Letter to Eliza Gurney


"Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence." --From the February 22, 1842 Temperance Address "Happy day, when, all appetites controlled, all poisons subdued, all matter subjected, mind, all conquering mind, shall live and move the monarch of the world. Glorious consummation! Hail fall of Fury! Reign of Reason, all hail!" --From the February 22, 1842 Temperance Address


"Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation." --From the December 1, 1862 Message to Congress "I freely acknowledge myself the servant of the people, according to the bond of service -- the United States Constitution; and that, as such, I am responsible to them." --From the August 26, 1863 Letter to James Conkling


"The Autocrat of all the Russias will resign his crown, and proclaim his subjects free republicans sooner than will our American masters voluntarily give up their slaves." --From the August 15, 1855 Letter to George Robertson "You know I dislike slavery; and you fully admit the abstract wrong of it." --From the August 24, 1855 Letter to Joshua Speed

"The slave-breeders and slave-traders, are a small, odious and detested class, among you; and yet in politics, they dictate the course of all of you, and are as completely your masters, as you are the master of your own negroes." --From the August 24, 1855 Letter to Joshua Speed

"I believe this Government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free." --From the June 16, 1858 House Divided Speech

"This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave." --From the April 6, 1859 Letter to Henry Pierce

"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." --From the March 4, 1861 Inaugural Address

"I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel. And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling." --From the April 4, 1864 Letter to Albert Hodges

"One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war." --From the March 4, 1865 Inaugural Address


"Then came the Black-Hawk war; and I was elected a Captain of Volunteers -- a success which gave me more pleasure than any I have had since." --From the December 20, 1859 Autobiography "I would like to speak in terms of praise due to the many brave officers and soldiers who have fought in the cause of the war." --From the July 7, 1863 Response to a Serenade

"You say you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you; but, no matter. Fight you, then exclusively to save the Union." --From the August 26, 1863 Letter to James Conkling

"And then, there will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonnet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation..." --From the August 26, 1863 Letter to James Conkling

"I am greatly obliged to you, and to all who have come forward at the call of their country." --From the August 22, 1864 Speech to the One Hundred Sixty-fourth Ohio Regiment


"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." --From the June 16, 1858 House Divided Speech "I hold, that in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual." --From the March 4, 1861 Inaugural Address

"I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken; and to the extent of my ability I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States." --From the March 4, 1861 Inaugural Address

"The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776." --From the March 4, 1861 Inaugural Address

"The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, 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." --From the March 4, 1861 Inaugural Address

"I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be 'the Union as it was.'" --From the August 22, 1862 Letter to Horace Greeley


"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." --From the November 19, 1863 Gettysburg Address "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 .... Fondly do we hope -- fervently do we pray -- that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away." --From the March 4, 1865 Inaugural Address

Presidential appointments


Lincoln was known for appointing his enemies and political rivals to high positions in his Cabinet. Not only did he use great political skill in reducing potential political opposition but he felt he was appointing the best qualified person for the good of the country.

President Abraham Lincoln 1861–1865
Vice President Hannibal Hamlin 1861–1865
  Andrew Johnson 1865
Secretary of State William H. Seward 1861–1865
Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase 1861–1864
  William P. Fessenden 1864–1865
  Hugh McCulloch 1865
Secretary of War Simon Cameron 1861–1862
  Edwin M. Stanton 1862–1865
Attorney General Edward Bates 1861–1864
  James Speed 1864–1865
Postmaster General Horatio King 1861
  Montgomery Blair 1861–1864
  William Dennison 1864–1865
Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles 1861–1865
Secretary of the Interior Caleb B. Smith 1861–1863
  John P. Usher 1863–1865

Supreme Court

Lincoln appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

Major presidential acts

Involvement as President-elect
Enacted as President

States admitted to the Union

See also


Scholarly secondary sources: Biographies

Scholarly Secondary Sources: Specialty topics

Lincoln in art and popular culture

  • Bullard. F. Lauriston, Lincoln in Marble and Bronze, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey 1952
  • Mead, Fanklin B., Heroic Statues in Bronze of Abraham Lincoln: Introducing The Hoosier Youth by Paul Manship, The Lincoln National Life Foundation, Fort Wayne, Indiana 1932
  • Moffatt, Frederick C., Errant Bronzes: George Grey Barnard's Statues of Abraham Lincoln, University of Deleware Press, Newark, DE 1998
  • Murry, Freeman Henry Morris, Emancipation anf the Freed in American Sculpture, Books For Libraries Press, the Black Heritage Library Collection, Freeport, NY 1972 - originally published in 1916
  • Petz, Weldon, Michigan's Monumental Tributes to Abraham Lincoln, Historical Society of Michigan 1987
  • Redway, Maurine Whorton and Dorothy Kendall Bracken, Marks of Lincoln on Our Land. Hastings House, Publishers, New York 1957
  • Savage, Kirk, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race War and Monument in Nineteenth Century America, Princeton University Press, Princeton New Jersey 1997
  • Tice, George, Lincoln, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey 1984

External links

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Neoconfederate Criticisms of Lincoln

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