Abraham Lincoln (Born February 12, 1809, Hodgenville, Kentucky - died April 15, 1865, Washington D.C.) was the President of the United States, as well as a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a lawyer, and a member of the Illinois State Senate. Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, by southern actor, John Wilkes Booth.
Lincoln was born in a one-roomed log cabin on February 12, 1809 to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. In 1816, the Lincoln family relocated to Perry (now Spencer) County, Indiana. Lincoln later noted that "the movement was partially on the account of slavery, partly on the account of Kentucky Land Deeds." In 1818, Lincoln's mother died of Milk sickness. Soon after, Thomas remarried, to Sarah Bush Johnson. Lincoln affectionately called her "mother." In 1830, Lincoln left his family, and moved to Sangamon County, Illinois. He took up residence in the hamlet of New Salem, about 20 miles from the large town of Springfield. Lincoln, whose total education equaled about 18 months, had to teach himself most fundamentals. At 6' 4" (1.93 m) Lincoln was unnaturally tall for his time, and was a popular local wrestler, as well as an excelent shot, however, he detested hunting.
During the Black Hawk War (1833) Lincoln was elected a captain in the Illinois Militia. After the rather anti-climactic war, Lincoln returned to private life. In 1834, Lincoln won election to the Illinois state Legislature, and in 1837, passed the state bar exam, becoming a member of the Illinois 11th Circut Court of Appeals. Also in 1837, Lincoln gave his first anti-slavery speech. In 1844, Lincoln entered the law practice of William Herndon, a fellow Springfield lawyer.
On November 4, 1842, Lincoln married Mary Todd, the daughter of a prominet slave-holding member of the Kentucky State Legislature. The couple had four sons, only one of whom passed the age of 20. Robert Todd Lincoln was born on August 1, 1843, and died in 1924. Eddie Baker Lincoln was born on March 10, 1846, and died on February 1, 1850. William Wallace Lincoln was born on December 21, 1850, and died on February 20, 1862. Thomas Lincoln was born on April 4, 1853, and died on July 16, 1871.
The Republican Party
Lincoln became a listed member of the new Republican party on January 22, 1854. In 1858, Lincoln ran against incumbent Democrat, Stephen A. Douglass, for a seat in the United States Senate. Lincoln, having served in the House of Representatives in 1848-1850, was narrowly defeated by Douglass, but he had the attention of Republican officials.
The Election of 1860
Lincoln was chosen as the Republican candidate for the 1860 election for several reasons. His expressed views on slavery were seen as more moderate than those of rivals William H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase. His "Western" origins also appealed to the newer states: other contenders, especially those with more governmental experience, had acquired enemies within the party and were weak in the critical western states, while Lincoln was perceived as a moderate who could win the West. 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 he denied that there would ever be a civil war, and his supporters repeatedly rejected claims that his election would incite secession. On May 9-10, 1860, the Illinois Republican State Convention was held in Decatur. At this convention, Lincoln received his first endorsement to run for the presidency.
Throughout the general election, Lincoln did not campaign or give speeches. This was handled by the state and county Republican organizations, who used the latest techniques to sustain party enthusiasm and thus obtain high turnout. There was little effort to convert non-Republicans, and there was virtually no campaigning in the South except for a few border cities such as St. Louis, Missouri, and Wheeling, Virginia; indeed, the party did not even run a slate in most of the South. In the North, there were thousands of Republican speakers, tons of campaign posters and leaflets, and thousands of newspaper editorials. These focused first on the party platform, and second on Lincoln's life story, making the most of his boyhood poverty, his pioneer background, his native genius, and his rise from obscurity. His nicknames, "Honest Abe" and "the Rail-Splitter," were exploited to the full. The goal was to emphasize the superior 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 as the 16th President of the United States, beating Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, John C. Breckinridge of the Southern Democrats, and John Bell of the new Constitutional Union Party. He was the first Republican president, winning 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 other Southern states. 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. There were fusion tickets in some states, but even if his opponents had combined in every state, Lincoln had a majority vote in all but two of the states in which he won the electoral votes and would still have won the electoral college and the election.
Lincoln was the first U. S. President elected from Illinois, and the only one until Barack Obama was elected 148 years later.
Eruption of the American Civil War
Lincoln was still President Elect when South Carolina seceeded from the Union. However, on March 4, 1861, Lincoln took office, and the new president was baptized by fire when South Carolina Militia fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Lincoln issued a call for able-bodied men, and the newly-expanded United States army was defeated by the Army of the Confederacy at First Bull Run, or First Manassas.
The Emancipation Proclamation
In July 1862, Congress moved to free the slaves by passing the Second Confiscation Act. The goal was to weaken the rebellion, which was led and controlled by slave owners. While it did not abolish the legal institution of slavery (the Thirteenth Amendment did that), the Act showed that Lincoln had the support of Congress in liberating slaves owned by rebels. This new law was implemented with Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation."
Ending slavery was always a primary goal of the Lincoln administration. However, the American public was slow to embrace the idea. In a shrewdly penned letter to Horace Greeley, editor of The New York Tribune, Lincoln masked his goal of ending slavery by making it subservient to the cause of preserving the union:
"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." ... 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."
The Emancipation Proclamation, announced on September 22 and put into effect on January 1, 1863, freed slaves in territories not under Union control. As Union armies advanced south, more slaves were liberated until all of them in Confederate hands (over three million) were freed. Lincoln 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 the abolition of slavery in the rebel states an official war goal. Lincoln then threw his energies into passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to permanently abolish slavery throughout the nation.
In September 1862, thirteen northern governors met in Altoona, Pennsylvania, at the Loyal War Governors' Conference to discuss the Proclamation and Union war effort. In the end, the state executives fully supported the president's Proclamation and also suggested the removal of General George B. McClellan as commander of the Union's Army of the Potomac.
For some time, Lincoln continued earlier plans to set up colonies for the newly freed slaves. He commented favorably on colonization in the Emancipation Proclamation, but all attempts at such a massive undertaking failed. As Frederick Douglass observed, Lincoln was, "The first great man that I talked with in the United States freely who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color."
End of the War, and Assassination
Lincoln was re-elected in a landslide in 1864, against Democrat, Former General George B. McClellan. On April 2, 1865, newly-promoted General in Chief, Uylsses S. Grant, broke through Confederate General In Cheif Robert E. Lee's lines after a 6 week siege at Petersburg, Virginia. Lincoln, on April 8, was touring Richmond, and Lee was retreating towards North Carolina, Grant neck and neck with him. On April 9, Lee surrendered all Confederate forces under his command, and Lincoln gave stump speeches all over Washington City. One such, given on April the 11th, called for African American men to be given the vote. A listener, actor John Wilkes Booth exclaimed, "By god, that means Nego citizenship. Now, by god, I will put him through. That is the last speech he will ever give!" Booth held true, and on April 14, when Lincoln was at the Theater with his wife and two guest, Booth shot Lincoln in the back of the head at point-blank range. Lincoln held on for ten hours, finally dying at 7:22 the next morning. Booth was captured and killed on April 26.
Scene from the television film "The Day Lincoln Was Shot". Copyrighted to TNT/Turner.
Lincoln is monumented in the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, at whose dedication his son Robert was present. He is also memorialized by the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House, and an official portrait in the State Dining Room, also in the White House. The Lincoln Insurance Company is named after him, as well as the Lincoln automobile company, the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, Lincoln, IL, and many other cities and towns, and the U.S. Congress Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
In 2007, Dr. John Sotos proposed that Lincoln had multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 2B (MEN2B). This theory suggests Lincoln had all the major features of the disease: a marfan-like body shape, large, bumpy lips, constipation, hypotonia, a history compatible with cancer and a family history of the disorder - his sons Eddie, Willie, and Tad, and probably his mother. The "mole" on Lincoln's right cheek, the asymmetry of his face, his large jaw, his drooping eyelid, and "pseudo-depression" are also suggested as manifestations of MEN2B. Lincoln's longevity is the principal challenge to the MEN2B theory, which could be proven by DNA testing. However, there are no living decendents of Lincoln, and Lincoln's remains are buried under 20 feet of steel and concrete.