Abraham Lincoln Biography

Family and childhood

Abraham Lincoln was an American statesman, 16th US President (1861-1865) and the first one from the Republican Party, the liberator of American slaves, the national hero of the American people. He was born on February 12, 1809, Hodgenville, Kentucky, and died on April 15, 1865, in Washington.

He grew up in the family of a poor farmer. Becoming an adult, he began an independent life, was engaged in self-education, passed exams and obtained permission to practice law. During the Indians’ uprising in Illinois, he joined the militia, was elected a captain, but did not participate in the fighting. He was also a member of the Legislative Assembly of Illinois, the House of Representatives of the US Congress, where he spoke out against the US-Mexican war. In 1858, Lincoln became a candidate for US senators but did not win elections.

As an opponent of the expansion of slavery into new territories, he was one of the initiators of the Republican Party, was chosen as its presidential candidate and won the elections of 1860. His election served as a signal to the separation of the southern states and the emergence of the Confederation. In his inaugural speech, he called for the reunification of the country, but could not prevent the conflict.

His presidential activities led to the strengthening of the executive power and the abolition of slavery in the United States. Lincoln was an outstanding speaker, his speeches inspired the northerners and are a vivid legacy up to date.

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Early Career as a Politician and Lawyer

In 1835, Lincoln was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Illinois, where he joined the Whigs. Learning independently, in 1836 Lincoln passed the exam for the title of lawyer. After the murder of the publisher of the abolitionist newspaper in 1837, Lincoln delivered his first principal speech in Springfield, in which he emphasized the values of democracy, the constitution and the legacy of the “Founding Fathers.”

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Political Career Before the Presidency

In 1846, Lincoln was elected a member of the House of Representatives of Congress for 1847-1849 from the Whig Party. In Washington, not being a particularly influential figure, however, he actively opposed the president’s actions in the US-Mexican war, considering it an unjustified aggression from the side of the United States.

The disapproval of the popular US-Mexican war injured Lincoln’s reputation in his home state, and he decided to refuse to be re-elected to the House of Representatives. Lincoln stepped down from political activities and in the following years practiced law, became one of the state’s leading lawyers, was the legal adviser for the Illinois Central Railroad.

In 1856 he, like many former Whigs, joined the Republican Party opposing slavery, and in 1858 was nominated as a candidate for a mandate in the US Senate. Stephen Douglas from Democratic Party was his rival in the elections.

The debate between Lincoln and Douglas, during which the question of slavery was discussed, was widely known. Trying to challenge Douglas’s arguments, who accused his opponent of radicalism, Lincoln assured that he did not advocate for the granting of political and civil rights to the blacks and interracial marriages, since in his opinion the physical difference between the white and black race and the superiority of the former would never allow them “to coexist in conditions of social and political equality.”

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Presidential Elections

His moderate position on the slavery issue determined the election of Lincoln as a compromise presidential candidate from the Republican Party in the elections of 1860. Lincoln managed to outstrip his rivals in the elections due to the split in the Democratic Party, which nominated two candidates.

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Division of the Union

Lincoln was against the spread of slavery, and his victory in the elections divided the American people even more. Even before his inauguration, the seven southern states initiated by South Carolina announced their withdrawal from the US. The authorized President James Buchanan and Lincoln refused to recognize the secession.

In February 1861, the constitutional congress in Montgomery (Alabama) proclaimed the creation of the Confederate States of America, and Jefferson Davis, who took the oath the same month, was elected president. The capital of the state was Richmond.

Lincoln evaded potential killers in Baltimore and on February 23, 1861, arrived in Washington on a special train. During his inauguration on March 4, the capital was filled with troops that provided order and discipline.

In his speech, Lincoln called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and the restoration of the unity of the United States. However, the division already happened and the Confederation was intensively preparing for military action. The overwhelming majority of representatives of the southern states in the US Congress left it and went over to the South.

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Civil War in the USA

The plight of the federal army aroused public discontent. Lincoln was under the pressure of the Republican Party, which included both supporters of the immediate abolition of slavery and those who advocated the gradual liberation of slaves.

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Homestead

On the initiative of Abraham Lincoln, an act on Homestead was adopted on May 20, 1862, according to which every citizen of the United States who reached the age of 21 and did not fight on the side of the Confederation could receive a land plot of no more than 160 acres (65 hectares) from the lands of the public fund after payment of the registration fee of 10 dollars. This law radically solved the agrarian problem by directing the development of agriculture along the farm path, led to the settlement of still deserted territories and provided Lincoln with the support of the broad masses of the population.

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Liberation of Slaves

Failures in the war and its prolongation gradually changed Lincoln’s attitude to the question of slavery. He came to the idea that the United States would either be completely free or completely slave-owning. It became clear that the main goal of the war – the restoration of the Union, became unattainable without the abolition of slavery. Lincoln, who always advocated the gradual liberation of black people on a compensatory basis, now believed that slavery should be abolished.

On December 30, 1862, the president signed the “Proclamation on the Release of Slaves,” declaring black people living in territories in a state of insurrection against the United States, “free from now and forever.”

The document gave impetus to the adoption of the XIII Amendment (1865) to the American Constitution, which completely abolished slavery in the United States. In addition, it forced foreign states, including Great Britain, not to support the Confederation.

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Battle of Gettysburg

For the first time in the history of the United States, military duty was introduced. At the same time, the rich were allowed to hire other persons instead of themselves and payoff from the service, which provoked unrest, during which many black people died.

In May 1863, the 130,000-strong army of the Union was defeated by Lieutenant Lie. The Northerners retreated, and the Confederates, having bypassed Washington from the north, entered Pennsylvania. In this situation, great importance was gained by the outcome of the three-day battle of Gettysburg, during which more than 50 thousand people died. During the opening of the memorial, Lincoln uttered one of his most famous speeches, which once again confirmed his outstanding oratorical talents.

In December 1863 Lincoln promised the amnesty to all the rebels (except the leaders of the Confederation) if they take the oath of allegiance to the United States and the abolition of slavery.

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The End of the War

The idea of the end of the war was gaining popularity among the people. Lincoln faced the challenge of instilling  the belief in victory in the Americans. The president abolished the transfer of prisoners to court, which allowed imprisoning deserters and the most ardent supporters of slavery. In March 1864, Lincoln appointed Ulysses Grant the commander-in-chief. He carried out the plan developed by Lincoln, whose goal was to apply coordinated strikes to weaken the southerners and smash them. The Democratic Party declared the end of the war and the conduct of negotiations as its slogan.

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The Murder of Lincoln

The Civil War ended by the capitulation of the Confederate States of America on April 9, 1865. Five days after the end of the war, on April 14, 1865, during the performance of “Our American Cousin” (at the Ford Theater), an actor John Wilkes Booth, the supporter of the south, stepped into the presidential loge and shot Lincoln in the head. The next morning, without regaining consciousness, Abraham Lincoln died.

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Famous Speeches 

Abraham Lincoln was widely known as a speechwriter and a speaker. The following is the list of some of his most famous speeches:

Lyceum Address, 1838

Temperance Address, 1842

Eulogy on Henry Clay, 1852

House Divided Speech, 1858

Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 1858

Second Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions, 1859

Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, 1859

Cooper Union Address, 1860

Farewell Address, 1861

Addresses to the New Jersey Senate/General Assembly, 1861

Address in Independence Hall, 1861

First Inaugural Address, 1861

Response to a Serenade, 1863

The Gettysburg Address, 1863

Speeches to Ohio Regiments, 1864

Second Inaugural Address, 1865

Last Public Address, 1865