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The young Lincoln in sculpture at Senn Park, Chicago.
The young Lincoln in sculpture at Senn Park, Chicago.

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War —its bloodiest war and perhaps its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. In doing so, he preserved the Union, paved the way for the abolition of slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the economy.

Born in Hodgenville, Kentucky, Lincoln grew up on the western frontier in Kentucky and Indiana. Largely self-educated, he became a lawyer in Illinois, a Whig Party leader, and was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, in which he served for eight years. Elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1846, Lincoln promoted rapid modernization of the economy and opposed the Mexican–American War. After a single term, he returned to Illinois and resumed his successful law practice. Reentering politics in 1854, he became a leader in building the new Republican Party, which had a statewide majority in Illinois. As part of the 1858 campaign for US Senator from Illinois, Lincoln took part in a series of highly publicized debates with his opponent and rival, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas; Lincoln spoke out against the expansion of slavery, but lost the race to Douglas. In 1860, Lincoln secured the Republican Party presidential nomination as a moderate from a swing state, though most delegates originally favored other candidates. Though he gained very little support in the slaveholding states of the South, he swept the North and was elected president in 1860.

Though there were attempts to bridge the differences between North and South, ultimately Lincoln's victory prompted seven southern slave states to secede from the United States and form the Confederate States of America before he moved into the White House. The Confederate attack on Fort Sumter inspired the North to rally behind the Union. As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican Party, Lincoln confronted Radical Republicans, who demanded harsher treatment of the South, War Democrats, who rallied a large faction of former opponents into his camp, anti-war Democrats (called Copperheads), who despised him, and irreconcilable secessionists, who plotted his assassination. Lincoln fought back by pitting his opponents against each other, by carefully planned political patronage, and by appealing to the American people with his powers of oratory. His Gettysburg Address became an iconic endorsement of nationalism, republicanism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy. He suspended habeas corpus, leading to the controversial ex parte Merryman decision, and he averted potential British intervention by defusing the Trent Affair. Lincoln closely supervised the war effort, especially the selection of generals, including his most successful general, Ulysses S. Grant. He made major decisions on Union war strategy, including a naval blockade that shut down the South's trade. As the war progressed, his complex moves toward ending slavery included the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863; Lincoln used the U.S. Army to protect escaped slaves, encouraged the border states to outlaw slavery, and pushed through Congress the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which permanently outlawed slavery.

An astute politician deeply involved with power issues in each state, Lincoln reached out to the War Democrats and managed his own re-election campaign in the 1864 presidential election. Anticipating the war's conclusion, Lincoln pushed a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to reunite the nation speedily through a policy of generous reconciliation in the face of lingering and bitter divisiveness. On April 14, 1865, five days after the surrender of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, Lincoln was assassinated by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth and died the next day. Lincoln has been consistently ranked both by scholars and the public as among the greatest U.S. presidents.

Family and childhood


Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, the second child of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, in a one-room log cabin on the Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky. He was a descendant of Samuel Lincoln, an Englishman who migrated from Hingham, Norfolk, to its namesake of Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1638. Samuel's grandson and great-grandson began the family's western migration, which passed through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Lincoln's paternal grandfather and namesake, Captain Abraham Lincoln, moved the family from Virginia to Jefferson County, Kentucky, in the 1780s. Captain Lincoln was killed in an Indian raid in 1786. His children, including eight-year-old Thomas, the future president's father, witnessed the attack. After his father's murder, Thomas was left to make his own way on the frontier, working at odd jobs in Kentucky and in Tennessee, before settling with members of his family in Hardin County, Kentucky, in the early 1800s.

Lincoln's mother, Nancy, is widely assumed to have been the daughter of Lucy Hanks, although no record of Nancy Hanks' birth has ever been found.

Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were married on June 12, 1806, in Washington County, and moved to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, following their marriage. They became the parents of three children: Sarah, born on February 10, 1807; Abraham, on February 12, 1809; and another son, Thomas, who died in infancy. Thomas Lincoln bought or leased several farms in Kentucky, including the Sinking Spring farm, where Abraham was born; however, a land title dispute soon forced the Lincolns to move. In 1811, the family moved eight miles (13 km) north, to Knob Creek Farm, where Thomas acquired title to 230 acres (93 ha) of land. In 1815 a claimant in another land dispute sought to eject the family from the farm. Of the 816.5 acres (330.4 ha) that Thomas held in Kentucky, he lost all but 200 acres (81 ha) of his land in court disputes over property titles. Frustrated over the lack of security provided by the Kentucky title survey system in the courts, Thomas sold the remaining land he held in Kentucky in 1814, and began planning a move to Indiana, where the land survey process was more reliable and the ability for an individual to retain land titles was more secure.

In 1816, the family moved north across the Ohio River to Indiana, a free, non-slaveholding territory, where they settled in an "unbroken forest" in Hurricane Township, Perry County. (Their land in southern Indiana became part of Spencer County, Indiana, when the county was established in 1818.) The farm is preserved as part of the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. In 1860, Lincoln noted that the family's move to Indiana was "partly on account of slavery"; but mainly due to land title difficulties in Kentucky. During the family's years in Kentucky and Indiana, Thomas Lincoln worked as a farmer, cabinetmaker, and carpenter. He owned farms, several town lots and livestock, paid taxes, sat on juries, appraised estates, served on country slave patrols, and guarded prisoners. Thomas and Nancy Lincoln were also members of a Separate Baptists church, which had restrictive moral standards and opposed alcohol, dancing, and slavery. Within a year of the family's arrival in Indiana, Thomas claimed title to 160 acres (65 ha) of Indiana land. Despite some financial challenges he eventually obtained clear title to 80 acres (32 ha) of land in what became known as the Little Pigeon Creek Community in Spencer County. Prior to the family's move to Illinois in 1830, Thomas had acquired an additional twenty acres of land adjacent to his property.

Several significant family events took place during Lincoln's youth in Indiana.

As a youth, Lincoln disliked the hard labor associated with frontier life.

As he grew into his teens, Lincoln took responsibility for the chores expected of him as one of the boys in the household.

In early March 1830, partly out of fear of a milk sickness outbreak along the Ohio River, several members of the extended Lincoln family moved west to Illinois, a non-slaveholding state, and settled in Macon County, 10 miles (16 km) west of Decatur. Historians disagree on who initiated the move; Thomas Lincoln had no obvious reason to leave Indiana, and one possibility is that other members of the family, including Dennis Hanks, might not have attained the stability and steady income that Thomas Lincoln had. After the family relocated to Illinois, Abraham became increasingly distant from his father, in part because of his father's lack of education, and occasionally lent him money. In 1831, as Thomas and other members of the family prepared to move to a new homestead in Coles County, Illinois, Abraham was old enough to make his own decisions and struck out on his own. Traveling down the Sangamon River, he ended up in the village of New Salem in Sangamon County. Later that spring, Denton Offutt, a New Salem merchant, hired Lincoln and some friends to take goods by flatboat from New Salem to New Orleans via the Sangamon, Illinois, and Mississippi rivers. After arriving in New Orleans—and witnessing slavery firsthand—Lincoln returned to New Salem, where he remained for the next six years.

According to some sources, Lincoln's first romantic interest was Ann Rutledge, whom he met when he first moved to New Salem; these sources indicate that by 1835, they were in a relationship but not formally engaged. She died at the age of 22 on August 25, 1835, most likely of typhoid fever. In the early 1830s, he met Mary Owens from Kentucky when she was visiting her sister.

Late in 1836, Lincoln agreed to a match with Mary if she returned to New Salem.

In 1840, Lincoln became engaged to Mary Todd, who was from a wealthy slave-holding family in Lexington, Kentucky. They met in Springfield, Illinois, in December 1839 and were engaged the following December. A wedding set for January 1, 1841, was canceled when the two broke off their engagement at Lincoln's initiative. They later met again at a party and married on November 4, 1842, in the Springfield mansion of Mary's married sister. While preparing for the nuptials and feeling anxiety again, Lincoln, when asked where he was going, replied, "To hell, I suppose." In 1844, the couple bought a house in Springfield near Lincoln's law office. Mary Todd Lincoln kept house, often with the help of a relative or hired servant girl.

He was an affectionate, though often absent, husband and father of four children.

The deaths of their sons had profound effects on both parents.

Lincoln's father-in-law and others of the Todd family were either slave owners or slave traders.

During his term as President of the United States of America, Mary was known to cook for Lincoln often.

Early career and militia service


In 1832, at age 23, Lincoln and a partner bought a small general store on credit in New Salem, Illinois. Although the economy was booming in the region, the business struggled and Lincoln eventually sold his share. That March he began his political career with his first campaign for the Illinois General Assembly. He had attained local popularity and could draw crowds as a natural raconteur in New Salem, though he lacked an education, powerful friends, and money, which may be why he lost. He advocated navigational improvements on the Sangamon River.

Before the election, Lincoln served as a captain in the Illinois Militia during the Black Hawk War. Following his return, Lincoln continued his campaign for the August 6 election for the Illinois General Assembly. At 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm), he was tall and "strong enough to intimidate any rival". At his first speech, when he saw a supporter in the crowd being attacked, Lincoln grabbed the assailant by his "neck and the seat of his trousers" and threw him. Lincoln finished eighth out of 13 candidates (the top four were elected), though he received 277 of the 300 votes cast in the New Salem precinct.

Lincoln served as New Salem's postmaster and later as county surveyor, all the while reading voraciously.

Admitted to the Illinois bar in 1836, he moved to Springfield, Illinois, and began to practice law under John T. Stuart, Mary Todd's cousin. Lincoln became an able and successful lawyer with a reputation as a formidable adversary during cross-examinations and closing arguments. He partnered with Stephen T. Logan from 1841 until 1844. Then Lincoln began his practice with William Herndon, whom Lincoln thought "a studious young man".

Successful on his second run for office, Lincoln served four successive terms in the Illinois House of Representatives as a Whig representative from Sangamon County. He supported the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which he remained involved with later as a Canal Commissioner. In the 1835–36 legislative session, he voted to expand suffrage to white males, whether landowners or not. He was known for his "free soil" stance of opposing both slavery and abolitionism. He first articulated this in 1837, saying, "[The] Institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils." His stance closely followed Henry Clay in supporting the American Colonization Society program of making the abolition of slavery practical by its advocation and helping the freed slaves to settle in Liberia in Africa.

U.S. House of Representatives, 1847–49


From the early 1830s, Lincoln was a steadfast Whig and professed to friends in 1861 to be "an old line Whig, a disciple of Henry Clay".

Lincoln ran for the Whig nomination for Illinois's 7th district of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1843, but was defeated by John J. Hardin. However, Lincoln won support for the principle of rotation, whereby Hardin would retire after only one term to allow for the nomination of another candidate. Lincoln hoped that this arrangement would lead to his nomination in 1846. Lincoln was indeed elected to the House of Representatives in 1846, where he served one two-year term. He was the only Whig in the Illinois delegation, but he showed his party loyalty by participating in almost all votes and making speeches that echoed the party line. Lincoln, in collaboration with abolitionist Congressman Joshua R. Giddings, wrote a bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia with compensation for the owners, enforcement to capture fugitive slaves, and a popular vote on the matter. He abandoned the bill when it failed to garner sufficient Whig supporters.

On foreign and military policy, Lincoln spoke out against the Mexican–American War, which he attributed to President Polk's desire for "military glory—that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood". Lincoln also supported the Wilmot Proviso, which, if it had been adopted, would have banned slavery in any U.S. territory won from Mexico.

Lincoln emphasized his opposition to Polk by drafting and introducing his Spot Resolutions. The war had begun with a Mexican slaughter of American soldiers in territory disputed by Mexico and the U.S. Polk insisted that Mexican soldiers had "invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil". Lincoln demanded that Polk show Congress the exact spot on which blood had been shed and prove that the spot was on American soil.

Congress never enacted the resolution or even debated it, the national papers ignored it, and it resulted in a loss of political support for Lincoln in his district.

Realizing Clay was unlikely to win the presidency, Lincoln, who had pledged in 1846 to serve only one term in the House, supported General Zachary Taylor for the Whig nomination in the 1848 presidential election. Taylor won and Lincoln hoped to be appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office, but that lucrative patronage job went to an Illinois rival, Justin Butterfield, considered by the administration to be a highly skilled lawyer, but in Lincoln's view, an "old fossil". The administration offered him the consolation prize of secretary or governor of the Oregon Territory. This distant territory was a Democratic stronghold, and acceptance of the post would have effectively ended his legal and political career in Illinois, so he declined and resumed his law practice.

Prairie lawyer


Lincoln returned to practicing law in Springfield, handling "every kind of business that could come before a prairie lawyer".

In 1851, he represented the Alton & Sangamon Railroad in a dispute with one of its shareholders, James A. Barret, who had refused to pay the balance on his pledge to buy shares in the railroad on the grounds that the company had changed its original train route. Lincoln successfully argued that the railroad company was not bound by its original charter extant at the time of Barret's pledge; the charter was amended in the public interest to provide a newer, superior, and less expensive route, and the corporation retained the right to demand Barret's payment. The decision by the Illinois Supreme Court has been cited by numerous other courts in the nation. Lincoln appeared before the Illinois Supreme Court in 175 cases, in 51 as sole counsel, of which 31 were decided in his favor. From 1853 to 1860, another of Lincoln's largest clients was the Illinois Central Railroad. Lincoln's reputation with clients gave rise to his nickname "Honest Abe."

Lincoln's most notable criminal trial occurred in 1858 when he defended William "Duff" Armstrong, who was on trial for the murder of James Preston Metzker. The case is famous for Lincoln's use of a fact established by judicial notice in order to challenge the credibility of an eyewitness. After an opposing witness testified seeing the crime in the moonlight, Lincoln produced a Farmers' Almanac

Lincoln rarely raised objections in the courtroom; but in an 1859 case, where he defended a cousin, Peachy Harrison, who was accused of stabbing another to death, Lincoln angrily protested the judge's decision to exclude evidence favorable to his client.

Republican politics 1854–60


The debate over the status of slavery in the territories exacerbated sectional tensions between the slave-holding South and the North, and the Compromise of 1850 failed to defuse the issue. In the early 1850s, Lincoln supported efforts for sectional mediation, and his 1852 eulogy for Henry Clay focused on the latter's support for gradual emancipation and opposition to "both extremes" on the slavery issue. As the 1850s progressed, the debate over slavery in the Nebraska Territory and Kansas Territory became particularly acrimonious, and Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois proposed popular sovereignty as a compromise measure; the proposal would take the issue of slavery out of the hands of Congress by allowing the people of each territory to decide the status of slavery themselves. The proposal alarmed many Northerners, who hoped to stop the spread of slavery into the territories. Despite this Northern opposition, Douglas's Kansas-Nebraska Act narrowly passed Congress in May 1854.

For months after its passage, Lincoln did not publicly comment on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, but he came to strongly oppose it.

Nationally, the Whigs were irreparably split by the Kansas–Nebraska Act and other efforts to compromise on the slavery issue.

In the 1854 elections, Lincoln was elected to the Illinois legislature but declined to take his seat.

In part due to the ongoing violent political confrontations in the Kansas, opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act remained strong in Illinois and throughout the North. As the 1856 elections approached, Lincoln abandoned the defunct Whig Party in favor of the Republicans. He attended the May 1856 Bloomington Convention, which formally established the Illinois Republican Party. The convention platform asserted that Congress had the right to regulate slavery in the territories and called for the immediate admission of Kansas as a free state. Lincoln gave the final speech of the convention, in which he endorsed the party platform and called for the preservation of the Union. At the June 1856 Republican National Convention, Lincoln received significant support on the vice presidential ballot, though the party nominated a ticket of John C. Frémont and William Dayton. Lincoln strongly supported the Republican ticket, campaigning for the party throughout Illinois. The Democrats nominated former Ambassador James Buchanan, who had been out of the country since 1853 and thus had avoided the debate over slavery in the territories, while the Know Nothings nominated former Whig President Millard Fillmore. In the 1856 elections, Buchanan defeated both his challengers, but Frémont won several Northern states and Republican William Henry Bissell won election as Governor of Illinois. Though Lincoln did not himself win office, his vigorous campaigning had made him the leading Republican in Illinois.

Eric Foner (2010) contrasts the abolitionists and anti-slavery Radical Republicans of the Northeast who saw slavery as a sin, with the conservative Republicans who thought it was bad because it hurt white people and blocked progress. Foner argues that Lincoln was a moderate in the middle, opposing slavery primarily because it violated the republicanism principles of the Founding Fathers, especially the equality of all men and democratic self-government as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

In March 1857, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford ; Chief Justice Roger B. Taney opined that blacks were not citizens, and derived no rights from the Constitution. While many Democrats hoped that Dred Scott would end the dispute over slavery in the territories, the decision sparked further outrage in the North. Lincoln denounced the decision, alleging it was the product of a conspiracy of Democrats to support the Slave Power. Lincoln argued, "The authors of the Declaration of Independence never intended 'to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity', but they 'did consider all men created equal—equal in certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'."

Douglas was up for re-election in 1858, and Lincoln hoped to defeat the powerful Illinois Democrat.

Accepting the nomination, Lincoln delivered his House Divided Speech, drawing on Mark 3:25, "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other." The speech created an evocative image of the danger of disunion caused by the slavery debate, and rallied Republicans across the North. The stage was then set for the campaign for statewide election of the Illinois legislature which would, in turn, select Lincoln or Douglas as its U.S. senator. On being informed of Lincoln's nomination, Douglas stated "[Lincoln] is the strong man of the party...and if I beat him, my victory will be hardly won."

The Senate campaign featured the seven Lincoln–Douglas debates of 1858, the most famous political debates in American history. The principals stood in stark contrast both physically and politically. Lincoln warned that "The Slave Power" was threatening the values of republicanism, and accused Douglas of distorting the values of the Founding Fathers that all men are created equal, while Douglas emphasized his Freeport Doctrine, that local settlers were free to choose whether to allow slavery or not, and accused Lincoln of having joined the abolitionists. The debates had an atmosphere of a prize fight and drew crowds in the thousands. Lincoln stated Douglas' popular sovereignty theory was a threat to the nation's morality and that Douglas represented a conspiracy to extend slavery to free states. Douglas said that Lincoln was defying the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Dred Scott decision.

Though the Republican legislative candidates won more popular votes, the Democrats won more seats, and the legislature re-elected Douglas to the Senate.

On February 27, 1860, New York party leaders invited Lincoln to give a speech at Cooper Union to a group of powerful Republicans. Lincoln argued that the Founding Fathers had little use for popular sovereignty and had repeatedly sought to restrict slavery. Lincoln insisted the moral foundation of the Republicans required opposition to slavery, and rejected any "groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong". Despite his inelegant appearance—many in the audience thought him awkward and even ugly—Lincoln demonstrated an intellectual leadership that brought him into the front ranks of the party and into contention for the Republican presidential nomination. Journalist Noah Brooks reported, "No man ever before made such an impression on his first appeal to a New York audience."

Historian Donald described the speech as a "superb political move for an unannounced candidate, to appear in one rival's (Seward) own state at an event sponsored by the second rival's (Chase) loyalists, while not mentioning either by name during its delivery". In response to an inquiry about his presidential intentions, Lincoln said, "The taste is in my mouth a little."

On May 9–10, 1860, the Illinois Republican State Convention was held in Decatur.

On May 18, at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Lincoln's friends promised and manipulated and won the nomination on the third ballot, beating candidates such as Seward and Chase. A former Democrat, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, was nominated for Vice President to balance the ticket. Lincoln's success depended on his reputation as a moderate on the slavery issue, and his strong support for Whiggish programs of internal improvements and the protective tariff.

On the third ballot Pennsylvania put him over the top.

Most Republicans agreed with Lincoln that the North was the aggrieved party, as the Slave Power tightened its grasp on the national government with the Dred Scott decision and the presidency of James Buchanan. Throughout the 1850s, Lincoln doubted the prospects of civil war, and his supporters rejected claims that his election would incite secession. Meanwhile, Douglas was selected as the candidate of the Northern Democrats. Delegates from 11 slave states walked out of the Democratic convention, disagreeing with Douglas' position on popular sovereignty, and ultimately selected incumbent Vice President John C. Breckinridge as their candidate. A group of former Whigs and Know Nothings formed the Constitutional Union Party and nominated John Bell of Tennessee. Lincoln and Douglas would compete for votes in the North, while Bell and Breckinridge primarily found support in the South.

Prior to the Republican convention, the Lincoln campaign began cultivating a nationwide teen and young adult organization, the Wide Awakes, which it used to generate popular support for Lincoln throughout the country to spearhead large voter registration drives, knowing that new voters and young voters tend to embrace new and young parties. As Lincoln's ideas of abolishing slavery grew, so did his supporters. People of the Northern states knew the Southern states would vote against Lincoln because of his ideas of anti-slavery and took action to rally supporters for Lincoln.

As Douglas and the other candidates went through with their campaigns, Lincoln was the only one of them who gave no speeches.

Presidency


On November 6, 1860, Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States, beating Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell.

Lincoln received 1,866,452 votes, Douglas 1,376,957 votes, Breckinridge 849,781 votes, and Bell 588,789 votes.

Although Lincoln won only a plurality of the popular vote, his victory in the electoral college was decisive: Lincoln had 180 and his opponents added together had only 123. There were fusion tickets in which all of Lincoln's opponents combined to support the same slate of Electors in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, but even if the anti-Lincoln vote had been combined in every state, Lincoln still would have won a majority in the Electoral College.

As Lincoln's election became evident, secessionists made clear their intent to leave the Union before he took office the next March.

There were attempts at compromise.

Lincoln, however, did tacitly support the proposed Corwin Amendment to the Constitution, which passed Congress before Lincoln came into office and was then awaiting ratification by the states. That proposed amendment would have protected slavery in states where it already existed and would have guaranteed that Congress would not interfere with slavery without Southern consent. A few weeks before the war, Lincoln sent a letter to every governor informing them Congress had passed a joint resolution to amend the Constitution. Lincoln was open to the possibility of a constitutional convention to make further amendments to the Constitution.

En route to his inauguration by train, Lincoln addressed crowds and legislatures across the North.

The President ended his address with an appeal to the people of the South: "We are not enemies, but friends.

The commander of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, Major Robert Anderson, sent a request for provisions to Washington, and the execution of Lincoln's order to meet that request was seen by the secessionists as an act of war. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Union troops at Fort Sumter, forcing them to surrender, and began the war. Historian Allan Nevins argued that the newly inaugurated Lincoln made three miscalculations: underestimating the gravity of the crisis, exaggerating the strength of Unionist sentiment in the South, and not realizing the Southern Unionists were insisting there be no invasion.

William Tecumseh Sherman talked to Lincoln during inauguration week and was "sadly disappointed" at his failure to realize that "the country was sleeping on a volcano" and that the South was preparing for war. Historian Donald concludes that, "His repeated efforts to avoid collision in the months between inauguration and the firing on Ft. Sumter showed he adhered to his vow not to be the first to shed fraternal blood. But he also vowed not to surrender the forts. The only resolution of these contradictory positions was for the confederates to fire the first shot; they did just that."

On April 15, Lincoln called on all the states to send detachments totaling 75,000 troops to recapture forts, protect Washington, and "preserve the Union", which, in his view, still existed intact despite the actions of the seceding states.

States sent Union regiments south in response to Lincoln's call to save the capital and confront the rebellion.

After the Battle of Fort Sumter, Lincoln realized the importance of taking immediate executive control of the war and making an overall Union military strategy to put down the rebellion. Lincoln encountered an unprecedented political and military crisis, and he responded as commander-in-chief, using unprecedented powers. He expanded his war powers, and imposed a blockade on all the Confederate shipping ports, disbursed funds before appropriation by Congress, and after suspending habeas corpus, arrested and imprisoned thousands of suspected Confederate sympathizers. Lincoln was supported by Congress and the northern public for these actions. In addition, Lincoln had to contend with reinforcing strong Union sympathies in the border slave states and keeping the war from becoming an international conflict.

The war effort was the source of continued disparagement of Lincoln, and dominated his time and attention.

In late August 1861, General John C. Frémont, the 1856 Republican presidential nominee, issued, without consulting his superiors in Washington, a proclamation of martial law in Missouri. He declared that any citizen found bearing arms could be court-martialed and shot, and that slaves of persons aiding the rebellion would be freed. Frémont was already under a cloud with charges of negligence in his command of the Department of the West compounded with allegations of fraud and corruption. Lincoln overruled Frémont's proclamation. Lincoln believed that Fremont's emancipation was political; neither militarily necessary nor legal. After Lincoln acted, Union enlistments from Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri increased by over 40,000 troops.

In foreign policy, Lincoln's main goal was to stop military aid from countries abroad to the Confederacy.

Lincoln painstakingly monitored the telegraphic reports coming into the War Department headquarters. He kept close tabs on all phases of the military effort, consulted with governors, and selected generals based on their past success (as well as their state and party). In January 1862, after many complaints of inefficiency and profiteering in the War Department, Lincoln replaced Simon Cameron with Edwin Stanton as War Secretary. Stanton centralized the War Department's activities, auditing and cancelling contracts, saving the federal government $17,000,000. Stanton was a staunchly Unionist pro-business conservative Democrat who moved toward the Radical Republican faction. Nevertheless, he worked more often and more closely with Lincoln than any other senior official. "Stanton and Lincoln virtually conducted the war together," say Thomas and Hyman.

In terms of war strategy, Lincoln articulated two priorities: to ensure that Washington was well-defended, and to conduct an aggressive war effort that would satisfy the demand in the North for prompt, decisive victory; major Northern newspaper editors expected victory within 90 days.

After the Union rout at Bull Run, the first major battle of the Civil War, and the retirement of the aged Winfield Scott in late 1861, Lincoln appointed Major General George B. McClellan general-in-chief of all the Union armies. McClellan, a young West Point graduate, railroad executive, and Pennsylvania Democrat, took several months to plan and attempt his Peninsula Campaign, longer than Lincoln wanted. The campaign's objective was to capture Richmond by moving the Army of the Potomac by boat to the peninsula and then overland to the Confederate capital. McClellan's repeated delays frustrated Lincoln and Congress, as did his position that no troops were needed to defend Washington. Lincoln insisted on holding some of McClellan's troops in defense of the capital; McClellan, who consistently overestimated the strength of Confederate troops, blamed this decision for the ultimate failure of the Peninsula Campaign.

Lincoln removed McClellan as general-in-chief in March 1862, after McClellan's "Harrison's Landing Letter", in which he offered unsolicited political advice to Lincoln urging caution in the war effort.

However, lacking requested reinforcements from McClellan, now commanding the Army of the Potomac, Pope was soundly defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run in the summer of 1862, forcing the Army of the Potomac to defend Washington for a second time. The war also expanded with naval operations in 1862 when the CSS Virginia, formerly the USS Merrimack, damaged or destroyed three Union vessels in Norfolk, Virginia, before being engaged and damaged by the USS Monitor. Lincoln closely reviewed the dispatches and interrogated naval officers during their clash in the Battle of Hampton Roads.

Despite his dissatisfaction with McClellan's failure to reinforce Pope, Lincoln was desperate, and restored him to command of all forces around Washington, to the dismay of all in his cabinet but Seward.

McClellan then resisted the President's demand that he pursue Lee's retreating and exposed army, while his counterpart General Don Carlos Buell likewise refused orders to move the Army of the Ohio against rebel forces in eastern Tennessee. As a result, Lincoln replaced Buell with William Rosecrans; and, after the 1862 midterm elections, he replaced McClellan with Republican Ambrose Burnside. Both of these replacements were political moderates and prospectively more supportive of the Commander-in-Chief.

Burnside, against the advice of the president, prematurely launched an offensive across the Rappahannock River and was stunningly defeated by Lee at Fredericksburg in December. Not only had Burnside been defeated on the battlefield, but his soldiers were disgruntled and undisciplined. Desertions during 1863 were in the thousands and they increased after Fredericksburg. Lincoln brought in Joseph Hooker, despite his record of loose talk about the need for a military dictatorship.

The mid-term elections in 1862 brought the Republicans severe losses due to sharp disfavor with the administration over its failure to deliver a speedy end to the war, as well as rising inflation, new high taxes, rumors of corruption, the suspension of habeas corpus, the military draft law, and fears that freed slaves would undermine the labor market. The Emancipation Proclamation announced in September gained votes for the Republicans in the rural areas of New England and the upper Midwest, but it lost votes in the cities and the lower Midwest.

While Republicans were discouraged, Democrats were energized and did especially well in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and New York.

In the spring of 1863, Lincoln was optimistic about upcoming military campaigns to the point of thinking the end of the war could be near if a string of victories could be put together; these plans included Hooker's attack on Lee north of Richmond, Rosecrans' on Chattanooga, Grant's on Vicksburg, and a naval assault on Charleston.

Hooker was routed by Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May, but continued to command his troops for some weeks. He ignored Lincoln's order to divide his troops, and possibly force Lee to do the same in Harper's Ferry, and tendered his resignation, which Lincoln accepted. He was replaced by George Meade, who followed Lee into Pennsylvania for the Gettysburg Campaign, which was a victory for the Union, though Lee's army avoided capture. At the same time, after initial setbacks, Grant laid siege to Vicksburg and the Union navy attained some success in Charleston harbor. After the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln clearly understood that his military decisions would be more effectively carried out by conveying his orders through his War Secretary or his general-in-chief on to his generals, who resented his civilian interference with their own plans. Even so, he often continued to give detailed directions to his generals as Commander-in-Chief.

Lincoln understood that the Federal government's power to end slavery was limited by the Constitution, which before 1865, committed the issue to individual states.

On June 19, 1862, endorsed by Lincoln, Congress passed an act banning slavery on all federal territory.

Privately, Lincoln concluded at this point that the slave base of the Confederacy had to be eliminated.

The Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 22, 1862, and put into effect on January 1, 1863, declared free the slaves in 10 states not then under Union control, with exemptions specified for areas already under Union control in two states.

Once the abolition of slavery in the rebel states became a military objective, as Union armies advanced south, more slaves were liberated until all three million of them in Confederate territory were freed.

Enlisting former slaves in the military was official government policy after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

With the great Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, and the defeat of the Copperheads in the Ohio election in the fall, Lincoln maintained a strong base of party support and was in a strong position to redefine the war effort, despite the New York City draft riots. The stage was set for his address at the Gettysburg battlefield cemetery on November 19, 1863. Defying Lincoln's prediction that "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here", the Address became the most quoted speech in American history.

In 272 words, and three minutes, Lincoln asserted the nation was born not in 1789, but in 1776, "conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal".

Meade's failure to capture Lee's army as it retreated from Gettysburg, and the continued passivity of the Army of the Potomac, persuaded Lincoln that a change in command was needed.

Nevertheless, Lincoln was concerned that Grant might be considering a candidacy for President in 1864, as McClellan was.

Grant waged his bloody Overland Campaign in 1864. This is often characterized as a war of attrition, given high Union losses at battles such as the Battle of the Wilderness and Cold Harbor. Even though they had the advantage of fighting on the defensive, the Confederate forces had "almost as high a percentage of casualties as the Union forces". The high casualty figures of the Union alarmed the North; Grant had lost a third of his army, and Lincoln asked what Grant's plans were, to which the general replied, "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer."

The Confederacy lacked reinforcements, so Lee's army shrank with every costly battle.

Lincoln authorized Grant to target the Confederate infrastructure—such as plantations, railroads, and bridges—hoping to destroy the South's morale and weaken its economic ability to continue fighting.

Confederate general Jubal Early began a series of assaults in the North that threatened the Capital. During Early's raid on Washington, D.C. in 1864, Lincoln was watching the combat from an exposed position; Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes shouted at him, "Get down, you damn fool, before you get shot!" After repeated calls on Grant to defend Washington, Sheridan was appointed and the threat from Early was dispatched.

As Grant continued to wear down Lee's forces, efforts to discuss peace began.

While the war was still being waged, Lincoln faced reelection in 1864.

When Grant's 1864 spring campaigns turned into bloody stalemates and Union casualties mounted, the lack of military success wore heavily on the President's re-election prospects, and many Republicans across the country feared that Lincoln would be defeated.

Lincoln did not show the pledge to his cabinet, but asked them to sign the sealed envelope.

While the Democratic platform followed the "Peace wing" of the party and called the war a "failure", their candidate, General George B. McClellan, supported the war and repudiated the platform.

On March 4, 1865, Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address. In it, he deemed the high casualties on both sides to be God's will. Historian Mark Noll concludes it ranks "among the small handful of semi-sacred texts by which Americans conceive their place in the world". Lincoln said:

Reconstruction began during the war, as Lincoln and his associates anticipated questions of how to reintegrate the conquered southern states, and how to determine the fates of Confederate leaders and freed slaves.

As Southern states were subdued, critical decisions had to be made as to their leadership while their administrations were re-formed.

Lincoln's appointments were designed to keep both the moderate and Radical factions in harness.

After implementing the Emancipation Proclamation, which did not apply to every state, Lincoln increased pressure on Congress to outlaw slavery throughout the entire nation with a constitutional amendment.

As the war drew to a close, Lincoln's presidential Reconstruction for the South was in flux; having believed the federal government had limited responsibility to the millions of freedmen.

Historians agree that it is impossible to predict exactly what Lincoln would have done about Reconstruction if he had lived, but they make projections based on his known policy positions and political acumen.

Eric Foner argues that:

The successful reunification of the states had consequences for the name of the country.

In recent years, historians such as Harry Jaffa, Herman Belz, John Diggins, Vernon Burton and Eric Foner have stressed Lincoln's redefinition of republican values. As early as the 1850s, a time when most political rhetoric focused on the sanctity of the Constitution, Lincoln redirected emphasis to the Declaration of Independence as the foundation of American political values—what he called the "sheet anchor" of republicanism. The Declaration's emphasis on freedom and equality for all, in contrast to the Constitution's tolerance of slavery, shifted the debate. As Diggins concludes regarding the highly influential Cooper Union speech of early 1860, "Lincoln presented Americans a theory of history that offers a profound contribution to the theory and destiny of republicanism itself." His position gained strength because he highlighted the moral basis of republicanism, rather than its legalisms. Nevertheless, in 1861, Lincoln justified the war in terms of legalisms (the Constitution was a contract, and for one party to get out of a contract all the other parties had to agree), and then in terms of the national duty to guarantee a republican form of government in every state. Burton (2008) argues that Lincoln's republicanism was taken up by the Freedmen as they were emancipated.

In March 1861, in Lincoln's first inaugural address, he explored the nature of democracy. He denounced secession as anarchy, and explained that majority rule had to be balanced by constitutional restraints in the American system. He said "A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people."

Lincoln adhered to the Whig theory of the presidency, which gave Congress primary responsibility for writing the laws while the Executive enforced them.

Other important legislation involved two measures to raise revenues for the Federal government: tariffs (a policy with long precedent), and a new Federal income tax.

Lincoln also presided over the expansion of the federal government's economic influence in several other areas.

In the wake of Grant's casualties in his campaign against Lee, Lincoln had considered yet another executive call for a military draft, but it was never issued.

Lincoln is largely responsible for the institution of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. Before Lincoln's presidency, Thanksgiving, while a regional holiday in New England since the 17th century, had been proclaimed by the federal government only sporadically and on irregular dates. The last such proclamation had been during James Madison's presidency 50 years before. In 1863, Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November of that year to be a day of Thanksgiving. In June 1864, Lincoln approved the Yosemite Grant enacted by Congress, which provided unprecedented federal protection for the area now known as Yosemite National Park.

Lincoln's declared philosophy on court nominations was that "we cannot ask a man what he will do, and if we should, and he should answer us, we should despise him for it.

Lincoln appointed 32 federal judges, including four Associate Justices and one Chief Justice to the Supreme Court of the United States, and 27 judges to the United States district courts. Lincoln appointed no judges to the United States circuit courts during his time in office.

West Virginia, admitted to the Union June 20, 1863, contained the former north-westernmost counties of Virginia that seceded from Virginia after that commonwealth declared its secession from the Union. As a condition for its admission, West Virginia's constitution was required to provide for the gradual abolition of slavery. Nevada, which became the third State in the far-west of the continent, was admitted as a free state on October 31, 1864.

Assassination and funeral


Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, while attending a play at Ford's Theatre as the American Civil War was drawing to a close. The assassination occurred five days after the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Booth was a well-known actor and a Confederate spy from Maryland; though he never joined the Confederate army, he had contacts with the Confederate secret service. In 1864, Booth formulated a plan (very similar to one of Thomas N. Conrad previously authorized by the Confederacy) to kidnap Lincoln in exchange for the release of Confederate prisoners. After attending an April 11, 1865, speech in which Lincoln promoted voting rights for blacks, an incensed Booth changed his plans and became determined to assassinate the president. Learning that the President and Grant would be attending Ford's Theatre, Booth formulated a plan with co-conspirators to assassinate Lincoln and Grant at the theater, as well as Vice President Johnson and Secretary of State Seward at their homes. Without his main bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln left to attend the play Our American Cousin on April 14. At the last minute, Grant decided to go to New Jersey to visit his children instead of attending the play.

Lincoln's bodyguard, John Parker, left Ford's Theater during intermission to drink at the saloon next door.

After being on the run for 12 days, Booth was tracked down and found on a farm in Virginia, some 70 miles (110 km) south of Washington.

Doctor Charles Leale, an Army surgeon, found the President unresponsive, barely breathing and with no detectable pulse. Having determined that the President had been shot in the head, and not stabbed in the shoulder as originally thought, he made an attempt to clear the blood clot, after which the President began to breathe more naturally. The dying President was taken across the street to Petersen House. After remaining in a coma for nine hours, Lincoln died at 7:22 am on April 15. Secretary of War Stanton saluted and said, "Now he belongs to the ages."

Lincoln's flag-enfolded body was then escorted in the rain to the White House by bareheaded Union officers, while the city's church bells rang.

Religious and philosophical beliefs


As a young man, Lincoln was a religious skeptic, or, in the words of a biographer, an iconoclast. Later in life, Lincoln's frequent use of religious imagery and language might have reflected his own personal beliefs or might have been a device to appeal to his audiences, who were mostly evangelical Protestants. He never joined a church, although he frequently attended with his wife. However, he was deeply familiar with the Bible, and he both quoted and praised it. He was private about his beliefs and respected the beliefs of others. Lincoln never made a clear profession of Christian beliefs. However, he did believe in an all-powerful God that shaped events and, by 1865, was expressing those beliefs in major speeches.

In the 1840s, Lincoln subscribed to the Doctrine of Necessity, a belief that asserted the human mind was controlled by some higher power. In the 1850s, Lincoln believed in "providence" in a general way, and rarely used the language or imagery of the evangelicals; he regarded the republicanism of the Founding Fathers with an almost religious reverence. When he suffered the death of his son Edward, Lincoln more frequently expressed a need to depend on God. The death of his son Willie in February 1862 may have caused Lincoln to look toward religion for answers and solace. After Willie's death, Lincoln considered why, from a divine standpoint, the severity of the war was necessary. He wrote at this time that God "could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds." On the day Lincoln was assassinated, he reportedly told his wife he desired to visit the Holy Land.

Health


Several claims abound that Lincoln's health was declining before the assassination.

Historical reputation


In surveys of U.S. scholars ranking presidents conducted since the 1940s, Lincoln is consistently ranked in the top three, often as number one. A 2004 study found that scholars in the fields of history and politics ranked Lincoln number one, while legal scholars placed him second after Washington. In presidential ranking polls conducted in the United States since 1948, Lincoln has been rated at the very top in the majority of polls. Generally, the top three presidents are rated as 1. Lincoln; 2. George Washington; and 3. Franklin D. Roosevelt, although Lincoln and Washington, and Washington and Roosevelt, are occasionally reversed.

President Lincoln's assassination increased his status to the point of making him a national martyr.

Lincoln became a favorite exemplar for liberal intellectuals across Europe and Latin America and even in Asia.

Schwartz argues that Lincoln's American reputation grew slowly in the late 19th century until the Progressive Era (1900–1920s) when he emerged as one of the most venerated heroes in American history, with even white Southerners in agreement. The high point came in 1922 with the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In the New Deal era liberals honored Lincoln not so much as the self-made man or the great war president, but as the advocate of the common man who they believe would have supported the welfare state. In the Cold War years, Lincoln's image shifted to emphasize the symbol of freedom who brought hope to those oppressed by communist regimes.

By the 1970s Lincoln had become a hero to political conservatives for his intense nationalism, support for business, his insistence on stopping the spread of human bondage, his acting in terms of Lockean and Burkean principles on behalf of both liberty and tradition, and his devotion to the principles of the Founding Fathers. As a Whig activist, Lincoln was a spokesman for business interests, favoring high tariffs, banks, internal improvements, and railroads in opposition to the agrarian Democrats. William C. Harris found that Lincoln's "reverence for the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, the laws under it, and the preservation of the Republic and its institutions undergirded and strengthened his conservatism". James G. Randall emphasizes his tolerance and especially his moderation "in his preference for orderly progress, his distrust of dangerous agitation, and his reluctance toward ill digested schemes of reform". Randall concludes that, "he was conservative in his complete avoidance of that type of so-called 'radicalism' which involved abuse of the South, hatred for the slaveholder, thirst for vengeance, partisan plotting, and ungenerous demands that Southern institutions be transformed overnight by outsiders."

By the late 1960s, some African American intellectuals led by Lerone Bennett Jr., rejected Lincoln's role as the Great Emancipator. Bennett won wide attention when he called Lincoln a white supremacist in 1968. He noted that Lincoln used ethnic slurs and told jokes that ridiculed blacks. Bennett argued that Lincoln opposed social equality, and proposed sending freed slaves to another country. Defenders, such as authors Dirck and Cashin, retorted that he was not as bad as most politicians of his day; and that he was a "moral visionary" who deftly advanced the abolitionist cause, as fast as politically possible. The emphasis shifted away from Lincoln-the-emancipator to an argument that blacks had freed themselves from slavery, or at least were responsible for pressuring the government on emancipation. Historian Barry Schwartz wrote in 2009 that Lincoln's image suffered "erosion, fading prestige, benign ridicule" in the late 20th century. On the other hand, Donald opined in his 1996 biography that Lincoln was distinctly endowed with the personality trait of negative capability, defined by the poet John Keats and attributed to extraordinary leaders who were "content in the midst of uncertainties and doubts, and not compelled toward fact or reason". In the 21st century, President Barack Obama named Lincoln his favorite president and insisted on using Lincoln's Bible for his swearing in to office at both his inaugurations.

Lincoln has often been portrayed by Hollywood, almost always in a flattering light.

The Union nationalism as envisioned by Lincoln, "helped lead America to the nationalism of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt."

Memory and memorials


Lincoln's portrait appears on two denominations of United States currency, the penny and the $5 bill. His likeness also appears on many postage stamps and he has been memorialized in many town, city, and county names, including the capital of Nebraska. While he is usually portrayed bearded, he first grew a beard in 1860 at the suggestion of 11-year-old Grace Bedell.

The most famous and most visited memorials are Lincoln's sculpture on Mount Rushmore; Lincoln Memorial, Ford's Theatre, and Petersen House (where he died) in Washington, D.C.; and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, not far from Lincoln's home, as well as his tomb.

There was also the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln exhibit in Disneyland, and the Hall of presidents at Walt Disney World, which had to do with Walt Disney admiring Lincoln ever since he was a little boy.

Barry Schwartz, a sociologist who has examined America's cultural memory, argues that in the 1930s and 1940s, the memory of Abraham Lincoln was practically sacred and provided the nation with "a moral symbol inspiring and guiding American life".

The United States Navy Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is named after Lincoln, the second Navy ship to bear his name.

See also


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