The Life and Presidency of Abraham Lincoln


Abraham Lincoln, born on February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky, was the 16th President of the United States. His parents were Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. He had two siblings, an older sister, Sarah, who died in 1828 from complications of childbirth; and, a younger brother, Thomas, who died as an infant in 1812.

Later known as "the Great Emancipator", Lincoln had very little formal education; and, in fact, attended school only for a few weeks in 1815. The following year the family moved to what is now Spencer County, Indiana. Two years later, his mother died during an epidemic of "milk sickness" an illness caused by cows poisoned by the snakeroot plant, now very rare. Thomas Lincoln remarried in 1819 to Sarah Bush Johnston of Kentucky. Although Lincoln's father was a Baptist, Lincoln himself never became affiliated with any organized religion. In 1830, Thomas Lincoln relocated to Illinois where Abraham worked and raised a family with wife, Mary Todd, whom he married on November 4, 1842.

They had four children, only one who survived into adulthood, Robert Todd, born in 1843. The Lincolns' second child, Edward Baker, was born in 1846 only to die in 1850 from an extended illness. Later that year, the Lincolns' third son, William Wallace was born, only to pass away in 1862. In 1853, Thomas (Tad) became the Lincolns' fourth son and final child. He died in 1871 likely of tuberculosis. The Lincoln family suffered many family losses in a relatively short period. Health problems beset the parents as both suffered from forms of clinical depression.

Jobs and Politics: The Early Years

After a stint as a store clerk in 1831, Lincoln began to dabble in politics in 1832. In March, he became as legislative candidate favoring navigational improvements on the Sangamon River near Springfield, Illinois, education for the masses and changes in usury laws. The following month, Lincoln was elected a 31st Regiment, Illinois Militia captain, becoming involved in the Black Hawk War from April through July. Lincoln was defeated in his legislative bid for office in August finishing toward the bottom of the candidate list. In a second bid, he is elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. Other jobs Lincoln had for a short time were store owner, surveyor, and as the New Salem postmaster where he served until 1836 when he was elected to a second term in the House and became a lawyer. In 1838, he was elected to a third term as representative. He argued his first case as an Illinois Supreme Court attorney in 1840.

Lincoln began his political career as a Whig, but became a Republican in 1856. He was elected to a fourth term as representative while campaigning in Illinois as a presidential elector for Henry Clay. Lincoln was elected three more times, in 1844, 1852 and in 1856. He was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate in Chicago.

"A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand."

Lincoln became President on March 4, 1861, the first Republican to have done so. By then, seven states had seceded from the Union; soon after, newly seceded Charleston, South Carolina's Fort Sumter had been fired upon and the United States found itself in the throes of Civil War.

Lincoln was not an abolitionist. He only wanted to restore the union. In his famous debates against Democatic Senator Steven A. Douglas ,which established him on a national level as a viable presidential candidate, Lincoln felt that the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, giving states popular sovereignty to adopt slavery, would possibly nationalize what he later felt would further divide the nation. As President, Lincoln knew that slavery would render the union further dissolvable and thrust it into further chaos. He also understood that as President that he had the ability to abolish slavery and perhaps reconstruct the United States of America as a whole.

Many people did not like Lincoln's pro-civil liberty stance and his approval ratings were mixed, eventually declining to the lowest approval ratings of any American president, some polls say as low as 14 percent. Lincoln stood by his convictions, giving his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation speech in 1862 and its final version freeing slaves in 1863, much to the chagrin of Southerners like John Wilkes Booth.

After the Battle of Gettysburg, where over 51,000 men died, were wounded, or captured, during the three days battle, July 1-3, 1863, Lincoln addressed the troops and the nation with his famous Gettysburg Address.

John Wilkes Booth, plotted, shot, and assassinated President Abraham Lincoln while he was sitting at Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865. He died the next day.

For detailed information about Lincoln's life, speeches, and legacy, note the links below:

Lincoln Project Historical Links

Lincoln Chronology

The Emancipation Proclamation

The Gettysburg Address

Abraham Lincoln's Legacy