The son of a Kentucky frontiersman, Lincoln had to struggle for a living and for learning. Five months before receiving his partys nomination for President, he sketched his lifeI was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished familiessecond families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks. My father removed from Kentucky to Indiana, in my eighth year. It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up. Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher but that was all.
Lincoln made extraordinary efforts to attain knowledge while working on a farm, splitting rails for fences, and keeping store at New Salem, Illinois. He was a captain in the Black Hawk War, spent eight years in the Illinois legislature, and rode the circuit of courts for many years. His law partner said of him, His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest.He married Mary Todd, and they had four boys, only one of whom lived to maturity. In 1858 Lincoln ran against Stephen A. Douglas for Senator. He lost the election, but in debating with Douglas he gained a national reputation that won him the Republican nomination for President in 1860.
As President, he built the Republican Party into a strong national organization. Further, he rallied most of the northern Democrats to the Union cause. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy.Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated most movingly in dedicating the military cemetery at Gettysburg that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vainthat this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedomand that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Lincoln won re election in 1864, as Union military triumphs heralded an end to the war. In his planning for peace, the President was flexible and generous, encouraging Southerners to lay down their arms and join speedily in reunion.The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address, now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C. With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nations wounds.On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Fords Theatre in Washington by John Wilkes Booth, an actor, who somehow thought he was helping the South. The opposite was the result, for with Lincolns death, the possibility of peace with magnanimity died.The Presidential biographies on WhiteHouse.
When young Abraham was 9 years old his mother died of tremetol (milk sickness) at age 34 and the event was devastating on him. The 9 year old Abraham grew more alienated from his father and quietly resented the hard work placed on him at an early age. A few months after Nancys death, Thomas married Sarah Bush Johnston, a Kentucky widow with three children of her own. She was a strong and affectionate woman with whom Abraham quickly bonded. Though both his parents were most likely illiterate, Sarah encouraged Abraham to read. It was while growing into manhood that he received his formal educationan estimated total of 18 monthsa few days or weeks at a time. Reading material was in short supply in the Indiana wilderness. Neighbors recalled how Abraham would walk for miles to borrow a book. He undoubtedly read the family Bible and probably other popular books at that time such as Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrims Progress and Aesops Fables.
After the Black Hawk War, Abraham Lincoln began his political career and was elected to the Illinois state legislature in 1834 as a member of the Whig Party. He supported the Whig politics of government sponsored infrastructure and protective tariffs. This political understanding led him to formulate his early views on slavery, not so much as a moral wrong, but as an impediment to economic development. It was around this time that he decided to become a lawyer, teaching himself the law by reading William Blackstones Commentaries on the Laws of England. After being admitted to the bar in 1837, he moved to Springfield, Illinois and began to practice in the John T. Stuart law firm. It was soon after this that he purportedly met and became romantically involved with Anne Rutledge. Before they had a chance to be engaged, a wave of typhoid fever came over New Salem and Anne died at age 22. Her death was said to have left Lincoln severely depressed. However, several historians disagree on the extent of Lincolns relationship with Rutledge and his level of sorrow at her death may be more the makings of legend.
In 1844, Abraham Lincoln partnered with William Herndon in the practice of law. Though the two had different jurisprudent styles, they developed a close professional and personal relationship. Lincoln made a good living in his early years as a lawyer, but found that Springfield alone didnt offer enough work, so to supplement his income, he followed the court as it made its rounds on the circuit to the various county seats in Illinois.
By the 1850s, the railroad industry was moving west and Illinois found itself becoming a major hub for various companies. Abraham Lincoln served as a lobbyist for the Illinois Central Railroad as its company attorney. Success in several court cases brought other business clients as wellbanks, insurance companies and manufacturing firms. Lincoln also did some criminal trials. In one case, a witness claimed that he could identify Lincolns client who was accused of murder, because of the intense light from a full moon. Lincoln referred to an almanac and proved that the night in question had been too dark for the witness to see anything clearly. His client was acquitted.
About a year after the death of Anne Rutledge, Lincoln courted Mary Owens. The two saw each other for a few months and marriage was considered. But in time Lincoln called off the match. In 1840, Lincoln became engaged to Mary Todd, a high spirited, well educated woman from a distinguished Kentucky family. In the beginning, many of the couples friends and family couldnt understand Marys attraction, and at times Lincoln questioned it himself. However, in 1841, the engagement was suddenly broken off, most likely at Lincolns initiative. They met later, at a social function and eventually married on November 4, 1842. The couple had four children, of which only one, Robert, survived to adulthood.
The 1858 Senate campaign featured seven debates held in different cities all over Illinois. The two candidates didnt disappoint the public, giving stirring debates on issues ranging from states rights to western expansion, but the central issue in all the debates was slavery. Newspapers intensely covered the debates, often times with partisan editing and interpretation. In the end, the state legislature elected Douglas, but the exposure vaulted Lincoln into national politics.In 1860, political operatives in Illinois organized a campaign to support Lincoln for the presidency. On May 18th at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Abraham Lincoln surpassed better known candidates such as William Seward of New York and Salmon P. Chase of Ohio. Lincolns nomination was due in part to his moderate views on slavery, his support for improving the national infrastructure, and the protective tariff. In the general election, Lincoln faced his friend and rival, Stephan Douglas, this time besting him in a four way race that included John C. Breckinridge of the Northern Democrats and John Bell of the Constitution Party. Lincoln received not quite 40 percent of the popular vote, but carried 180 of 303 Electoral votes. Abraham Lincoln selected a strong cabinet composed of many of his political rivals, including William Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates and Edwin Stanton. Formed out the adage Hold your friends close and your enemies closer, Lincolns Cabinet became one of his strongest assets in his first term in office
The Union Armys first year and a half of battlefield defeats made it especially difficult to keep morale up and support strong for a reunification the nation. With the hopeful, but by no means conclusive Union victory at Antietam on September 22, 1862, Abraham felt confident enough to reshape the cause of the war from union to abolishing slavery. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which stated that all individuals who were held as slaves henceforward shall be free.
Gradually, the war effort improved for the North, though more by attrition than by brilliant military victories. But by 1864, the Confederacy had hunkered down to a guerilla war and Lincoln was convinced hed be a one term president. His nemesis, George B. McClellan, the former commander of the Army of the Potomac, challenged him for the presidency, but the contest wasnt even close. Lincoln received 55 percent of the popular vote and 212 of 243 Electoral votes. On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Virginia, surrendered his forces to Union General Ulysses S. Grant and the war for all intents and purposes was over.