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Abraham Lincoln: Life and Legacy

Updated on April 12, 2019
Larry Slawson profile image

Larry Slawson received his Masters Degree in History at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian history.

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln | Source

Introduction

Birth Name: Abraham Thomas Lincoln

Date of Birth: 12 February 1809

Place of Birth: Sinking Spring Farm, Kentucky

Date of Death: 15 April 1865

Place of Death: Petersen House, Washington, D.C.

Cause of Death: Assassination (John Wilkes Booth)

Place of Burial: Lincoln Tomb (Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois)

Spouse(s): Marry Todd Lincoln (Married in 1842)

Children: Robert; Edward; Willie; Tad

Father: Thomas Lincoln

Mother: Nancy Hawks Lincoln

Siblings: Sarah Lincoln Grigsby (Sister); Thomas Lincoln Jr. (Brother)

Occupation(s): Illinois Militia; Lawyer; State Representative for Illinois; 16th President of the United States of America

Political Affiliation(s): Whig Party (Prior to 1854); Republican Party (1854-1864); National Union (1864-1865)

Best Known For: Preserving the Union during the United States Civil War; Emancipation of the slaves and the abolishment of slavery.

Lincoln and his youngest son, Tad.
Lincoln and his youngest son, Tad. | Source

Quick Facts About Lincoln

Quick Fact #1: Abraham Thomas Lincoln was born on 12 February 1809 to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln in Sinking Spring Farm, Kentucky. Lincoln grew up on a farm for much of his youth; a life that he greatly despised due to the hard labor associated with farming. Despite being labeled as lazy, Lincoln showed great interest in reading and writing. Lincoln received little schooling due to the fact that much of it was done by an itinerant teacher. Nevertheless, Lincoln’s love for reading proved monumental in providing a fundamental basis for his overall education.

Quick Fact #2: At the age of twenty-one, Lincoln and his family moved to Macon County, Illinois where young Abraham began working on a river flatboat along the Mississippi River; shipping materials downstream to New Orleans. He later settled in the town of New Salem, Illinois, where he became involved with politics for the first time. Under the banner of the Whig Party, Lincoln eventually won election to the Illinois state legislature in the year 1834. From his earliest years in politics, Lincoln was a staunch opponent of slavery, and opposed the expansion of slavery into American territories in the West. Unlike Thomas Jefferson’s vision for an “Empire of Liberty,” Lincoln believed that the United States should focus its energy into the development of cities and commerce, rather than farming and agriculture which promulgated the spread of slavery.

Quick Fact #3: For the next two years, following his election to the state legislature, Lincoln dedicated himself to learning law and passed the bar examination in the year 1836. In the year that followed, Lincoln moved to Springfield, Illinois where he worked as a lawyer, earning the nickname “Honest Abe” after working with a large array of individuals and businesses in the area. It was also here that Lincoln met his future wife, Mary Todd, from Kentucky. The pair married in 1842. The pair produced four children: Robert Todd, Edward, William, and Thomas.

Quick Fact #4: In 1845, Lincoln ran for U.S. Congress, winning election for one term as a U.S. Representative. He later ran (unsuccessfully) for the U.S. Senate only a short while later, but lost the election. His loss wasn’t for nothing, however, as Lincoln gained national recognition during his election campaign for his arguments and statements against slavery across the United States. As a result, when Lincoln ran for President in 1860, he was able to win election by running on the newly-formed Republican party ticket (a party devoted to stopping the spread of slavery outside of the southern United States).

Mary Todd Lincoln (Lincoln's Wife)
Mary Todd Lincoln (Lincoln's Wife) | Source

Quick Facts Continued...

Quick Fact #5: Even before Lincoln was inaugurated as President, southern states began to secede from the Union in protest of his anti-slavery policies (South Carolina being the first). Six additional states followed suit, forming the basis for a Confederate government. Only a few months after he was swore in, the Civil War began on 12 April 1861 at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. The deep South, which feared being outnumbered in regard to the debate over slavery, felt that open rebellion was its best option for preserving their political power as well as to protect their livelihood (slavery) from being destroyed by the federal government. Although Lincoln initially resisted the idea of using force to prevent the South from seceding from the Union, the Battle of Fort Sumter forced Lincoln to authorize a war with the Confederacy as federal troops came under attack by rebel forces.

Quick Fact #6: After the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln issued the “Emancipation Proclamation” on 1 January 1863 which officially freed all slaves in the Confederate states; effectively paving the way for the eradication of slavery in the United States once the Civil War ended. Only two years later (after nearly four years of war and nearly 600,000 American deaths), the Civil War officially ended on 9 April 1865 with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Rather than heeding the calls by some to punish or demoralize the South even further, however, Lincoln only wished for the United States to heal, to forgive, and to rebuild following the Civil War. To punish the South, he believed, would only lead to further division and conflict in the decades that followed. The preservation of the Union, therefore, was of the utmost concern to Lincoln following the terrible conflict.

Quick Fact #7: Before Lincoln could see the country fully healed and rebuilt, he was assassinated by an actor named John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Booth, who was a southern sympathizer from the North, believed that a southern victory was still possible if Lincoln (along with his Vice President and Secretary of State) could be killed. On the night of 14 April 1865, Booth along with several co-conspirators carried out the attack against Lincoln. After shooting Lincoln in the back of the head with a small pistol, Booth went on the run for several days (resulting in one of the biggest manhunts in United States history). Sadly, Lincoln lived only a short while from the wound, and died on 15 April 1865. His death was a source of great pain and anger by the Union, as his body was carried by train across the Northern United States before being laid to rest.

Lincoln in his thirties.
Lincoln in his thirties. | Source

Fun Facts

Fun Fact #1: Abraham Lincoln was the tallest American President to date. He was approximately Six Foot, Four Inches tall.

Fun Fact #2: Although Lincoln’s Presidency is often overshadowed by the Civil War, he managed to accomplish several things during his time in office, including the establishment of a national banking system, as well as establishing the Department of Agriculture.

Fun Fact #3: Lincoln is well known for his tall hat, which made him appear even taller than he was. It is said that Lincoln often used his hat to store letters and documents while walking around.

Fun Fact #4: On the day Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln reportedly told one of his bodyguards that he had a dream the night before about being shot.

Fun Fact #5: Lincoln was the only American President to have a patent. Early in his life, he had devised a contraption that would help free steamboats that had ran aground.

Fun Fact #6: Although Lincoln considered himself deeply religious (and was known to read the Bible on a daily basis), he never joined an organized church during his lifetime.

Fun Fact #7: Lincoln was the first President to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the United States.

Fun Fact #8: In 1864, nearly a year before he was killed by John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln was nearly assassinated while outside the White House. The would-be killer was able to take one shot at Lincoln, which passed through the top of his long black hat.

Fun Fact #9: United States General Ulysses S. Grant was supposed to have attended Ford’s Theatre with Lincoln on the night he was assassinated. But at the last minute, Grant cancelled due to other plans. Had he been present during the assassination, history may have been far different than what transpired.

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

— Abraham Lincoln

Quotes by Lincoln

Quote #1: “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Quote #2: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Quote #3: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

Quote #4: “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”

Quote #5: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”

Quote #6: “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.”

Quote #7: “I think that slavery is wrong, morally, socially and politically. I desire that it should be no further spread in these United States, and I should not object if it should gradually terminate in the whole Union.”

Quote #8: “Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.”

Quote #9: “Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature – opposition to it is his love of justice. These principles are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely, as slavery extension brings them, shocks and throes and convulsions must ceaselessly follow.”

Quote #10: “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.”

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Conclusion

In closing, Abraham Lincoln remains one of the most important (and fascinating) figures to have emerged from the Nineteenth Century due to his steadfast devotion to ending slavery in the United States, and his dedication in preventing the breakup of the United States into two separate spheres. To this day, Lincoln is remembered by Americans from coast to coast as a true national hero, and as an individual who wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he felt was right. As historians continue to discover more and more about Lincoln and his life, it will be interesting to see what new information can be brought to light about this extraordinary individual in the days, months, and years ahead.

Works Cited:

Images/Photographs:

Wikipedia contributors, "Abraham Lincoln," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Abraham_Lincoln&oldid=890190144 (accessed April 7, 2019).

© 2019 Larry Slawson

Comments

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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 months ago from UK

      This is an interesting and informative article about a key person in American history.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      In the History literature reading for tonight. Slept in a sleeping bag outside the Springfield courthouse once.

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