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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.
~ Lincoln's 'House-Divided' Speech in Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
~ Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.
It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.
~ Lincoln expressing his support for black suffrage, April 11, 1865.

Abraham Lincoln (February 12th, 1809 - April 15th, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States. He was brought up in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. His parents were poor pioneers and Lincoln was largely self-educated. In 1836, he qualified as a lawyer and went to work in a law practice in Springfield, Illinois. He sat in the state legislature from 1834 to 1842 and in 1846 was elected to Congress, representing the Whig Party for a term. In 1856, he joined the new Republican Party and in 1860 he was asked to run as their presidential candidate. In the presidential campaign, Lincoln made his opposition to slavery very clear. His victory provoked a crisis, with many southerners fearing that he would attempt to abolish slavery in the South. Seven southern states left the Union to form the Confederate States of America, also known as the Confederacy. Four more joined later. Lincoln vowed to preserve the Union even if it meant war.  Fighting broke out in April 1861. Lincoln always defined the Civil War as a struggle to save the Union, but in January 1863 he nonetheless issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in areas still under Confederate control. This was an important symbolic gesture that identified the Union's struggle as a war to end slavery.  In the effort to win the war, Lincoln assumed more power than any president before him, declaring martial law and suspending legal rights. He had difficulty finding effective generals to lead the Union armies until the appointment of Ulysses S Grant as overall commander in 1864.  On 19 November 1863, Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address at the dedication of a cemetery at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, a decisive Union victory that had taken place earlier in the year. In 1864, Lincoln stood for re-election and won. In his second inaugural address, he was conciliatory towards the southern states. Five days after the surrender of Confederate commanding General Robert E. Lee, Lincoln was shot while watching the play Our American Cousin with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. and he passed away the next morning. His assassin, John Wilkes Booth was a strong supporter of the Confederacy. 

Biography

Birth and Early Life

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky. He was the son of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and he was named for his paternal grandfather. Thomas Lincoln was a carpenter and farmer. Both of Abraham's parents were members of a Baptist congregation which had separated from another church due to opposition to slavery. He was a descendant of Englishman Samuel Lincoln.

When Abraham was seven, the family moved to southern Indiana. Abraham had gone to school briefly in Kentucky and did so again in Indiana. He attended school with his older sister, Sarah (his younger brother, Thomas, had died in infancy). In 1818 Nancy Hanks Lincoln died from milk sickness, a disease obtained from drinking the milk of cows which had grazed on poisonous white snakeroot. Thomas Lincoln remarried the next year, and Abraham loved his new stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln. She brought three children of her own into the household. Abraham attended school at irregular intervals. In all he spent less than 12 months going to school, and he didn't attend college at all.

As Abraham grew up, he loved to read and preferred learning to working in the fields. This led to a difficult relationship with his father who was just the opposite. Abraham was constantly borrowing books from the neighbors.

In 1828 Abraham's sister, who had married Aaron Grigsby in 1826, died during childbirth. Later in the year, Abraham made a flatboat trip to New Orleans. In 1830 the Lincolns moved west to Illinois.

The next year Lincoln made a second flatboat trip to New Orleans. Afterwards he moved to New Salem, Illinois, where he lived until 1837. While there he worked at several jobs including operating a store, surveying, and serving as postmaster. He impressed the residents with his character, wrestled the town bully, and earned the nickname "Honest Abe." Lincoln, who stood nearly 6-4 and weighed about 180 pounds, saw brief service in the Black Hawk War, and he made an unsuccessful run for the Illinois legislature in 1832. He ran again in 1834, 1836, 1838, and 1840, and he won all four times. Lincoln was a member of the Whig Party; he remained a Whig until 1856 when he became a Republican. Additionally, he studied law in his spare time and became a lawyer in 1836. Stories that Lincoln had a romance with a pretty girl named Ann Rutledge may well be true. Sadly, Ann died in 1835.

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In Springfield in 1839 Lincoln met Mary Todd. Three years later they were married and over the next 11 years had four children: Robert (1843-1926), Edward ("Eddie") 1846-1850, William ("Willie") 1850-1862, and Thomas ("Tad") 1853-1871. Lincoln became a successful attorney, and the family bought a home at the corner of Eighth and Jackson in 1844.

In 1846 Lincoln ran for the United States House of Representatives and won. While in Washington he became known for his opposition to the Mexican War and to slavery. He returned home after his term and resumed his law practice more seriously than ever. Early in 1851 Lincoln's father died.

On 9 April 1865, the Confederate general Robert E Lee surrendered. The war had lasted for more than four years and 600,000 Americans had died. Two days after Lee's army surrendered to Grant, Lincoln gave a speech in which he promoted voting rights for blacks.

Death

President Lincoln awoke the morning of April 14 in a pleasant mood. Robert E. Lee had surrendered several days before to Ulysses Grant, and now the President was awaiting word from North Carolina on the surrender of Joseph E. Johnston. The morning papers carried the announcement that the President and his wife would be attending the comedy, Our American Cousin, at Ford's Theater that evening with General Grant and his wife. 

At 11 o'clock that morning, Lincoln held a meeting with Grant and the Cabinet. Following the conference, Grant gave his regrets that he and his wife could no longer attend the play that evening. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton pleaded with the President not to go out at night, fearful that some rebel might try to shoot him in the street. At lunch the President told his wife the news about the Grants. Disappointed, the Lincolns nonetheless decided to maintain their announced plans and asked Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancee, Clara Harris, to join them.

Arriving after the play had started, the two couples swept up the stairs and into their seats. The box door was closed, but not locked. As the play progressed, police guard John Parker, a notorious drinker, left his post in the hallway leading to the box and went to a saloon next door for a drink. During the third act, the President and Mrs. Lincoln drew closer together, holding hands while enjoying the play. When Actor Harry Hawk said his now infamous line,"Don't know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap." Lincoln was laughing at this line when he was shot; Lincoln immediately lost consciousness. Katherine M. Evans, a young actress in the play, who was offstage in Ford's green room when Lincoln was shot, rushed on the stage after Booth's exit, and said; "I looked and saw President Lincoln unconscious, his head dropping on his breast, his eyes closed, but with a smile still on his face".

A military surgeon described the head wound as mortal. The dying president was moved from the theater to the other side of the street to the Petersen House, where he remained in a coma for nine hours. The next moring Lincoln died at 7:22:10 a.m. As he died his breathing grew quieter, his face more calm. According to some accounts, at his last drawn breath, on the morning after the assassination, he smiled broadly and then expired. Lincoln was the first American president to be assassinated. Lincoln's death is believed to have ended any hope of reuniting the country without any rancor.

Ten weeks after Lincoln's death, the Civil War was over. And Lincoln's Gettysburg declaration was realized. That, "Government of the people, by the people, "for the people, shall not perish from the Earth."

Legacy

Lincoln has been consistently ranked both by scholars and the public as one of the greatest U.S. presidents, alongside George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt. He is often considered the greatest president for his leadship during the American Civil War and his eloquence in speeches such as the Gettysburg Address.

From the moment he died, he will be remembered, in a year's time he will be remembered, in thousands of year's time will be remembered, in millions of year's time he will be remembered, it may just be one single death on the face of this small meaningless planet but he will never be forgotten by its people.

Trivia

  • Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Kentucky.
  • He sailed down the Mississipi as a child.
  • He was a well-practiced lawyer.
  • Lincoln suffered long bouts of depression throughout his life and suffered an apparent breakdown after the death of Ann Rutledge, to whom he was very close. He pulled himself together, though, to serve his country.

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