The life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, with his tenure lasting from March of 1861 to his death by assassination on April 15th 1865. He is well remembered for his controversial reign during which he played an instrumental part in abolishing the dreaded practice of slavery in the United States.
Abraham Lincoln Essay
Under his presidency, the country experienced great changes in the social and political sectors, and took the first steps towards establishing itself as a formidable economic and political power in the world. His controversial tenure came to an end on April 15th, 1861, when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at the Ford Theater where he had gone to see an opera. In this essay, let us take a close look at the life, works, and legacy of one of the greatest leaders USA, and arguably the world, has ever seen.
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th, 1809, to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy hanks Lincoln, in the tiny log cabin that has today become a ubiquitous presence in all Lincoln biographies. The second child of the couple, preceded by a sister Sarah, Abraham Lincoln was, in his childhood, much influenced by his mother, a strong, forbearing woman who instilled in the young child much of the perseverance, strength, and humility that later became the hallmarks of his persona.
The family was wealthy, having permanent or temporary ownership in several farms in Sinking Spring County in Kentucky, where Lincoln was born. However, due to disputes regarding the title deed, Lincoln’s father soon lost almost all his land, and moved to Knob Creek County before eventually settling in Indiana.
Lincoln’s childhood and adolescence was, by all accounts, a turbulent one. His family lost their security and wealth on more than one occasion, and a bigger blow came when Nancy succumbed to milk fever. Thomas remarried shortly afterwards, and Lincoln developed a very close relationship with his stepmother. Is short-lived happiness was soon disrupted by his sister Sarah’s death while delivering a stillborn, an event that affected Lincoln deeply.
As a child, he certainly was far removed from the rest; a deep dislike for the difficult life characteristic of the frontier developed within him, and he sought refuge in poetry, writing, and all kinds of literature. Despite his bookish interests, however, he was strong and athletic, and readily took up his family’s responsibility when adolescence set in.
From adolescence onwards, Abraham Lincoln’s relationship with his father grew distant. By this time, Lincoln was a well-educated young man, and the difference between him and his little educated father became prominent. His family moved to Illinois, a new, non-slaveholding state, and amidst concerns regarding the family’s current financial status, young Abraham Lincoln decided to become independent and travelled down Sangamon river to New Salem, where he got a job as crew member in a goods-carrying flatboat. At this point, New Salem was deeply entrenched in slavery, and this was Lincoln’s first brush with the practice he made his life’s work to abolish.
While in New Salem, Lincoln met his future wife, Mary Todd, the daughter of a wealthy slave-owner. The couple broke off their engagement once, and after finally marrying, they became parents to four children, three of whom died young. Abraham Lincoln, who began experiencing meteoric rise in his career after his marriage, became a distant but affectionate father and husband, and his relationship with his family was judged to be tender and aloof by outsiders and extended relatives alike.
Legal and Political Career
Lincoln’s political career began at the age of 23, shortly after he had bought and sold a general store in New Salem. He began his career by campaigning for the Illinois General Assembly, which he lost despite his popularity, which can probably be attributed to the fact that he neither had a formal education nor powerful connections. Following this, he enlisted in the military of the United States, and served as a captain in the Illinois militia regiment in the Black Hawk War.
His dreams of making it big in the political scene, however had not yet been fulfilled, and upon return from the war, he launched yet another campaign for the next election of the Illinois General Assembly. He did not get elected, although his popularity did not diminish. He began serving as the postmaster and then county surveyor in New Salem. During this time, he developed an interest in the law, and, deciding to become a lawyer, embarked on a self-teaching process with the help of extant important law books. Finally, in 1834, he was elected as a member of the State Legislature.
More success ensued. In 1836, Abraham Lincoln became licensed to practice law, and was offered a place in the Illinois bar. His first position as a lawyer was under the guidance of his wife’s cousin, John T. Stuart. He was particularly known for his skill at cross-examinations of witnesses, and his powerful opening and closing arguments.
His political career did not take a backseat either; he managed to secure a seat for a second time in the Legislature. His initiatives for development during his run as a Whig representative was instrumental in shaping his later success; he actively supported the construction of the Illinois and Michigan canal, and became an advocate of suffrage for all white men- landed gentry or otherwise.
It was during this time of his career that Abraham Lincoln became an active opposition for the practice of slavery. According to him, the concept of slavery went against his belief in the very basic right to soil for all people. He was very articulate about his beliefs, calling slavery a practice grounded in ‘bad policy’ and ‘injustice’. However, he was also opposed to abolitionism, maintaining that this will not decrease, but increase the negative impact of the social evil of slavery.
In 1846, Abraham Lincoln was elected to the House of Representatives. He was, however, not able to enjoy the popularity that had surrounded him in his stint at the State Legislature; he had been very outspoken in his opposition of USA’s war with Mexico, and this garnered him a lot of unpopularity among the Michigan voting population. He did not seek reelection but returned to Springfield. However, the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which gave each state the sovereignty to choose between being a slave-free or slaveholding region, propelled him to return to national politics.
Ascension to presidency
Abraham Lincoln ran for President in 1855 and 1858 following the explosive speech he delivered in front of a large crowd in Peoria. During this time, he held a series of debates, all of them revolving around the now-burning issues of slavery and abolitionism. By this time, Lincoln was no longer a Whig- the party was already in shambles- and had joined the newly formed Republican Party that consisted mostly of members who opposed slavery.
Lincoln’s stance against slavery matched theirs’; he was clear that the practice opposed the very basic tenets of the Declaration of Independence that America was founded on. He still had not won the election, but his oratory and powerful principles had bought him immense fame and recognition. Finally, in 1860, Lincoln defeated the Democratic candidates in an almost landslide election and was sworn in as the 16th President of the United States.
The Civil War
Lincoln’s ascension to the White House- despite the huge number of Northern votes, garnered major displeasure in the South. By his inauguration in March 1961, the Confederate of States had come into existence, formed by states that had seceded from the Union. The reason is pretty clear; the Southern states relied heavily on slave labor, and a new antislavery-proclaiming Northerner President possibly acted as a probable harbinger of economic and social doom for the Southerners.
The South’s concerns were not completely unfounded; soon after assuming the role, Lincoln launched a fleet of Union ships carrying supplies to Fort Sumter in South Carolina. An attack by the Confederates on the fleet and the fort officially marked off the beginning of the Civil War. History is unclear, however, on who first launched the attack. Soon, it became clear that the conflict would be long and bloody as both sides geared up for success.
The Civil War became another feather in the already much decorated cap of the President; despite his brief stint as a soldier in the Black Hawk War, Lincoln showed ample knowledge and expertise in wartime tactics, strategy, and administration to tackle the much learned and experienced Jefferson Davis, the Confederate leader.
Under his able guidance and leadership, it eventually became clear that the Union was winning the war, and the bonded slaves in the South and the North started to harbor some hopes for freedom. A preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Lincoln in 1863, two years after the war started and right after the Battle of Antietam, which grated freedom partially; the slaves bonded to the Confederate states were freed, but those residing in the loyal (to the Union) states remained in bondage. The building of a new national cemetery at Gettysburg, and Lincoln’s short, powerful speech that has survived the ravages of time, marked the end of slavery, arguably the most significant achievement of Lincoln’s brilliant career.
Lincoln was reelected as President in 1864, propelled largely forward by his radical theories, skill in war, and the abolition. In his inaugural address, he wished to begin the reconstruction of the South and the remodeling of the Union, aiming to bring both sections together in harmony. Sadly, he could not see his vision come to fruition. A little over a month later, on April 14th 1864, he was fatally wounded by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer. The President died the following day.
Almost 150 years after he walked the earth. Lincoln today remains one of the ablest Presidents the country had even seen. His life and works continue to inspire humans all around the world- political or otherwise. Perhaps the most riveting aspect of his career was the humble beginning he had, and the great heights he rose to with nothing but his own perseverance and honesty to bank on.