Abraham Lincoln

Abe.jpg“Washington was a typical American. Napoleon was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country - bigger than all the Presidents together."
-Doris Kearns Goodwin

Declared as one of the greatest leaders of all time and a political genius, Abraham Lincoln showed everyone that one man could accomplish a plethora of achievements in their lifetime. Raised from humble a beginning, Lincoln worked his way up to be known as the man who abolished slavery, the hero of the Civil War, and one of most influential presidents in history. His success did not come easy; his journey to presidency involved failure and rejections, but he fought through the troubles and eventually became our sixteenth president (Encyclopedia). In his two terms as the president, Lincoln preserved the Union, prevented outside forces to intervene in war, and helped thousands of people to claim their right to freedom. His life was unjustly cut short when he was assassinated, but it is undeniable that he left a legacy that will never be forgotten (Impact).


Background


"Abraham Lincoln comes from nothing, has no education, no money, lives in the middle of nowhere on the frontier. And despite the fact that he suffers one tragedy and one setback after another, through sheer force of will, he becomes something extraordinary: not only the president but the person who almost single-handedly united the country."
-Seth Grahame-Smith

"...Lincoln's road to success was longer, more tortuous and far less likely" because unlike his fellow colleagues, Abraham Lincoln had a rough upbringing (Goodwin 46). He was born on February 12, 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky as the second child of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. His father was an uneducated man who earned his money by picking up any jobs he could while his mother was considered an intelligent and remarkable women who was superior to her husband. Throughout his childhood, Lincoln moved quite frequently (Encyclopedia). When he was two years old, his family moved from Hardin County to Knob Creek. Then at the age of seven, his family picked up their bags again and moved to Indiana. Tragically, in the autumn of 1818, his mother died from milk sickness when Lincoln was nine (the sickness also took the lives of his aunt and uncle). Soon after, his father went back to Kentucky to find another wife. In the months when his father was gone, Lincoln's sister, Sarah (died a decade later giving birth), had to take care of him. When Thomas came back months later with a new wife, Sarah Bush Johnston cam to love Lincoln like her own son and pushed him to get an education (Goodwin 46-47). In his youth, Lincoln was enchanted by his father's ability to tell a story. He would sit in the corner and watch in awe as he watched his father in his element. The next day, he would re-tell those stories and captivate his own audience (Goodwin 50). His family moved yet again in 1830 to Illinois and Lincoln found a job as a clerk in New Salem. During his stalincolndouglas.jpgy in New Salem, he served two terms as the state legislature and received his license to practice law. Wanting a change of scenery, Lincoln moved to Springfield where he junior partner with John Stuart and made his first public speech against slavery (American Story).

Lincoln was not a ladies' man; he was awkward and self-conscious when he was around women, but he did have a few relationships. His first interest was Ann Rutledge, she was a few years younger than Lincoln and at first they began as friends, but their relationship blossomed and they had an understanding that after finishing her schooling, they would wed. Tragically, in the summer of 1835, a deadly fever spread and took the life of Ann (Goodwin 55). A year after the death of Ann, he met and courted Mary Owens, the sister of one of his friends, but soon doubted the engagement. He wrote a letter trying to convince Owens that she would not appreciate living in Springfield and marrying a man with not a lot of money; the engagement ended and after eighteen months, Lincoln was engaged to Mary Todd (Goodwin 93-94). With the fear of marriage and the distraction of purpose and concentration, Lincoln called off the engagement. After eighteen months without contact with Mary Todd, his doubt about the marriage faded and was ready to marry (Goodwin 98-101). On November 4, 1842, Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd wed and they would have four sons together: Robert, Edward, William, and Thomas (Monroe).

In summer of 1856, Abraham Lincoln became a member of the Republican Party and emerged a good leader. Lincoln's popularity grew as majority of shifted from the southern part of Illinois to the northern and central parts. With his popularity rising increasingly, he was nominated to run for a senate seat against Stephen A. Douglass. A series of legendary debates arose as the election took place. Unfortunately, Douglass won the election, but Lincoln gained the attention of a nation and became a national figure. In 1860, Lincoln was nominated for president and handily defeated three other candidates, which included Stephan A. Douglass. Lincoln's victory unsettled a portion of
the country and seven states succeeded form the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. In mid-April of 1861, the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter and this marked the beginning of the Civil War. In 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves and delivered the Gettysburg Address. One year later, Abraham Lincoln was reelected for a second term of presidency, but his victory was short lived as he was assassinated in April 15, 1865 (American Story).



Personality Traits


With Lincoln's lanky figure, tall build, brown furrowed face, and deep-set eyes it is hard to imagine this man being able to capture a nation's attention. His features always expressed that of a gloomy and dark mood, but when he spoke all indication of sorrow left his face. The face that once held grief had been wiped away with his brilliant smile and humorous personality (Goodwin 6). Even when he was young, Lincoln had an uncanny ability to capture an audience's undivided attention with his exceptional talent to speak. As a child, Lincoln desired to learn and was determined to improve himself; he read and borrowed every book he could from the library and his neighbors. He especially was drawn to poetry and could recite them from memory, this shows the intelligence Lincoln held as a child (Goodwin 50-53). With his gregarious and charming personality, it was not difficult to make friends. His charisma and talent to speak helped Lincoln in his political career. In addition, Lincoln was also extremely persistent and had the personality that never let him give up. Even though Lincoln faced several defeats and failures, he kept pursuing his political career until he finally succeeded into becoming the president. Also, he earned the nickname Honest Abe when he was working a store clerk and accidentally gave a customer the wrong about of change. Usually, the person would not care and forget about the situation, but Lincoln was different. He walked a considerable amount of distance to give the customer back the correct amount of change (Abraham Lincoln). Lincoln also had a different side to him; he was not always this jolly and personable man, there was a dark side to Lincoln. He was chronically depressed and suffered from melancholy due to his unstable marriage and the early death of his children (Smithsonian).


Obstacles

Lincoln had many struggles throughout his life, both politically and privately. When Lincoln was young, his education was limited because the schools required the
aa_lincoln_youth_2_e.jpgfamilies to pay tuition. Even if families could pay the tuition, anyone could be a teacher because the requirements to teach were extremely low. Lincoln received most of his education from any book he could get his hands on. His stepmother encouraged his strive for education, but his father opposed and disapproved; he would rather have Lincoln do chores with him (Goodwin 50-53). At twenty-three, Lincoln was drawn to the world of politics and was defeated in his campaign to become the state legislature from Sangamon County. That was not the only defeat that Abraham Lincoln faced in his political career; he was defeated several times in his attempts for Congress and Senate, rejected for the job at the General Land Office, and defeated in his campaign for Vice President (American Story). Lincoln's beliefs brought criticism and doubts about his patriotism. When Lincoln was elected as president, parts of nation reacted harshly because of his stand on slavery and seven states seceded from the Union. Those seven states banded together to form the Confederate Union and forbids passing bills that would outlaw slavery. This sparked the Civil War where Lincoln had many challenges to ahead of him. He was the head of all agencies in the government and was criticized for his early failures (Encyclopedia). Lincoln's biggest obstacle was his depression. As a child, he suffered from melancholy, which caused him to isolate himself and resolve issues on his own. With the loss of his sons, the death of his first love, and the many defeats he suffered, Lincoln fell into depression (Goodwin 102-103).


Historical Significance ​


Abraham Lincoln is most prominently known as the man who liberated slaves, but Lincoln did so much more in his lifetime. During his two terms of presidency, Lincoln managed to lead the Union to victory and keep his country unified. Several states made it clear that they would secede the Union if Lincoln was elected into presidency
lincolnmemorial.jpgbecause they opposed his views on slavery and a war was undoubtedly brewing. South Carolina was the first state to secede followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee (Park Service). The Civil broke out as the Confederates fired shots at Fort Sumter in 1861 and as the war neared its third year, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which was an ingenious political move that freed the slaves in the Confederate states and changed the reason of the Civil War. Now, not only was the goal of the Union was to reunite the country, but was also to abolish slavery. In addition, this prevented any European forces from intervening from the war because it would make them seem in favor of slavery. The proclamation weakened the South and led to the acceptance of the abolition of slavery (War Trust).

Lincoln is considered one of the greatest presidents in history, if not the greatest. What separates him to the others was his legacy and accomplishments of preserving the Union, vindicating democracy, and abolishing slavery. Lincoln was committed into preserving the Union and "understood that ending slavery required patience, careful timing, shrewd calculations, and an iron resolve". No president had to face a national crisis and accomplish so much as Lincoln had. Following his assassination in 1865, Lincoln left behind a legacy that is still remembered till this very day (Impact).





References

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<http://www.cr.nps.gov/logcabin/html/al.html>.

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<http://www.presidentlincoln.org/timeline/timeline.html

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<http://millercenter.org/president/lincoln/essays/biography/9>.