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Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country

Abraham Lincoln November 1863

through its greatest internal crisis, the American Civil War, preserving the Union and ending slavery. Before his election in 1860 as the first Republican president, Lincoln had been a country lawyer, an Illinois state legislator, a member of the United States House of Representatives, and twice an unsuccessful candidate for election to the U.S. Senate. As an outspoken opponent of the expansion of slavery in the United States,[1]

Lincoln won the Republican Party nomination in 1860 and was elected president later that year. His tenure in office was occupied primarily with the defeat of the secessionist Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. He introduced measures that resulted in the abolition of slavery, issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoting the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Six days after the large-scale surrender of Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee, Lincoln became the first American president to be assassinated.

Lincoln had closely supervised the victorious war effort, especially the selection of top generals, including Ulysses S. Grant. Historians have concluded that he handled the factions of the Republican Party well, bringing leaders of each faction into his cabinet and forcing them to cooperate. Lincoln successfully defused the Trent affair, a war scare with Britain late in 1861. Under his leadership, the Union took control of the border slave states at the start of the war. Additionally, he managed his own reelection in the 1864 presidential election.

Copperheads and other opponents of the war criticized Lincoln for refusing to compromise on the slavery issue. Conversely, the Radical Republicans, an abolitionist faction of the Republican Party, criticized him for moving too slowly in abolishing slavery. Even with these opponents, Lincoln successfully rallied public opinion through his rhetoric and speeches; his Gettysburg Address (1863) became an iconic symbol of the nation's duty. At the close of the war, Lincoln held a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to speedily reunite the nation through a policy of generous reconciliation. Lincoln has consistently been ranked by scholars as one of the greatest of all U.S. Presidents.

Personal life[]

Childhood and education[]


Samuel Lincoln, first American ancestor of Abraham, worshipped at Old Ship Church, Hingham, Massachusetts

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Lincoln (née Hanks), two farmers, in a one-room log cabin on the 348-acre (1.4 km2) Sinking Spring Farm in southeast Hardin County, Kentucky[2] (now part of LaRue County), making him the first president born in the west. Lincoln was not given a middle name.[3] A fusion of Welsh and Latin, his surname means "from the lake colony" or one from Lincoln, England.[4] He is descended from Samuel Lincoln, who arrived in Hingham, Massachusetts from England in the 17th century.[5] His grandfather, also named Abraham Lincoln, had moved to Kentucky, where he owned over 5,000 acres (20 km2), and was ambushed and killed by an Indian raid in 1786.[6]

Thomas Lincoln was a respected citizen of rural Kentucky. He owned several farms, including the Sinking Spring Farm, although he was not wealthy. The family belonged to a Separate Baptists church, which had high moral standards, frowning on alcohol consumption and dancing, and many church members were opposed to slavery.[7] Abraham himself never joined their church, or any other church.[8][9]

In 1816, the Lincoln family left Kentucky to avoid the expense of fighting for one of their properties in court, and made a new start in Perry County, Indiana (now in Spencer County). Lincoln later noted that this move was "partly on account of slavery," and partly because of difficulties with land deeds in Kentucky. Abraham's father disapproved of slavery on religious grounds and it was hard to compete economically with farms operated by slaves. Unlike land in the Northwest Territory, Kentucky never had a proper U.S. survey, and farmers often had difficulties proving title to their property.[10]


Symbolic log cabin at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

When Lincoln was nine, his mother, then 34 years old, died of milk sickness. Soon afterwards, his father remarried, to Sarah Bush Johnston. Lincoln and his stepmother were close; he called her "Mother" for the rest of his life, but he became increasingly distant from his father. Abraham felt his father was not a success, and did not want to be like him. In later years, he would occasionally lend his father money.[11] In 1830, fearing a milk sickness outbreak, the family settled on public land in Macon County, Illinois.[12]

The next year, when his father relocated the family to a new homestead in Coles County, Illinois, 22-year-old Lincoln struck out on his own, canoeing down the Sangamon River to the village of New Salem in Sangamon County.[13] Later that year, hired by New Salem businessman Denton Offutt and accompanied by friends, he took goods from New Salem to New Orleans via flatboat on the Sangamon, Illinois and Mississippi rivers.[14]

Lincoln's formal education consisted of about 18 months of schooling; but he was an avid reader and largely self-educated. He was also skilled with an axe and a talented local wrestler, the latter of which helped give him self-confidence.[15] Lincoln avoided hunting and fishing because he did not like killing animals, even for food.[16]

Marriage and family[]

File:Mary Todd Lincoln 1846-1847 restored cropped.png

Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln, age 28

Lincoln's first love was Ann Rutledge. He met her when he first moved to New Salem, and by 1835 they had reached a romantic understanding. Rutledge, however, died on August 25, probably of typhoid fever.[17]

Earlier, in either 1833 or 1834, he had met Mary Owens, the sister of his friend Elizabeth Abell, when she was visiting from her home in Kentucky. Late in 1836, Lincoln agreed to a match proposed by Elizabeth between him and her sister, if Mary ever returned to New Salem. Mary did return in November 1836 and Lincoln courted her for a time; however they both had second thoughts about their relationship. On August 16, 1837, Lincoln wrote Mary a letter from Springfield, to which he had moved that April to begin his law practice, suggesting he would not blame her if she ended the relationship. She never replied, and the courtship was over.[18]

In 1840, Lincoln became engaged to Mary Todd, from a wealthy slaveholding family based in Lexington, Kentucky.[19] They met in Springfield in December 1839,[20] and were engaged sometime around that Christmas.[21] A wedding was set for January 1, 1841, but the couple split as the wedding approached.[20] They later met at a party, and then married on November 4, 1842, in the Springfield mansion of Mary's married sister.[22] In 1844, the couple bought a house on Eighth and Jackson in Springfield, near Lincoln's law office.[23]

The Lincolns soon had a budding family, with the birth of son Robert Todd Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois on August 1, 1843, and second son Edward Baker Lincoln on March 10, 1846, also in Springfield.[24] According to a house girl, Abraham "was remarkably fond of children."[24] The Lincolns did not believe in strict rules and tight boundaries when it came to their children.[25]


1864 Mathew Brady photo depicts President Lincoln reading a book with his youngest son, Tad

Robert, however, would be the only one of the Lincolns' children to survive into adulthood. Edward Lincoln died on February 1, 1850 in Springfield, likely of tuberculosis.[26] The Lincolns' grief over this loss was somewhat assuaged by the birth of William "Willie" Wallace Lincoln nearly eleven months later, on December 21. But Willie himself died of a fever at the age of eleven on February 20, 1862, in Washington, D.C., during President Lincoln's first term.[27] The Lincolns' fourth son Thomas "Tad" Lincoln was born on April 4, 1853, and, although he outlived his father, died at the age of eighteen on July 16, 1871 in Chicago.[28] Robert Lincoln eventually went on to attend Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard College. His (and by extension, his father's) last known lineal descendant, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, died December 24, 1985.[29]

The death of the Lincolns' sons had profound effects on both Abraham and Mary. Later in life, Mary Todd Lincoln found herself unable to cope with the stresses of losing her husband and sons, and this (in conjunction with what some historians consider to have been pre-existing bipolar disorder[30]) eventually led Robert Lincoln to involuntarily commit her to a mental health asylum in 1875.[31] Abraham Lincoln himself was contemporaneously described as suffering from "melancholy" throughout his legal and political life, a condition which modern mental health professionals would now typically characterize as clinical depression.[32]

Early political career and military service[]

File:Abe Lincoln young.jpg

Sketch of a young Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln began his political career in March 1832 at age 23 when he announced his candidacy for the Illinois General Assembly. He was esteemed by the residents of New Salem, but he did not have an education, powerful friends, or money. The centerpiece of his platform was the undertaking of navigational improvements on the Sangamon River. Before the election he served as a captain in a company of the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War, although he never saw combat. Lincoln returned from the militia after a few months and was able to campaign throughout the county before the August 6 election. At Template:Convert/LoffAoffDbSoff2, he was tall and "strong enough to intimidate any rival." At his first political speech, he grabbed a man accosting a supporter by his "neck and the seat of his trousers" and threw him. When the votes were counted, Lincoln finished eighth out of thirteen candidates (only the top four were elected), but he did manage to secure 277 out of the 300 votes cast in the New Salem precinct.[33]

File:Young Lincoln-1c.jpg

US Postage, 1959 issue, depicting the young Abe Lincoln.

In 1834, he won an election to the state legislature. He was labeled a Whig, but ran a bipartisan campaign.[34] He then decided to become a lawyer, and began teaching himself law by reading Commentaries on the Laws of England.[35] Admitted to the bar in 1837, he moved to Springfield, Illinois, that April,[36] and began to practice law with John T. Stuart, Mary Todd's cousin, who let Lincoln have the run of his law library while studying to be a lawyer.[37] With a reputation as a formidable adversary during cross-examinations and closing arguments, Lincoln became an able and successful lawyer. In 1841, Lincoln entered law practice with William Herndon, whom Lincoln thought "a studious young man."[38] He served four successive terms in the Illinois House of Representatives as a representative from Sangamon County, affiliated with the Whig party.[39] In 1837, he and another legislator declared that slavery was "founded on both injustice and bad policy"[40][41] the first time he had publicly opposed slavery. In the 1835–1836 legislative session he voted to continue the restriction on suffrage to whites only, but with no requirement to own property[42]. He was known for his "free soil" stance of opposing both slavery and abolitionism.[43] </ref>

National politics[]


Lincoln in 1846 or 1847

Lincoln was a Whig, and since the early 1830s had strongly admired the policies and leadership of Henry Clay.[44] "I have always been an old-line Henry Clay Whig" he professed to friends in 1861.[45]The party favored economic modernization, including banking, railroads, internal improvements (such as canals), and urbanization.[46] In 1846, Lincoln was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served one two-year term.[47] As a House member, Lincoln was a dedicated Whig, showing up for most votes and giving speeches that echoed the party line.[48] He used his office as an opportunity to speak out against the Mexican–American War, which he attributed to President Polk's desire for "military glory — that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood."[49] Lincoln's main stand against Polk occurred in his Spot Resolutions: The war had begun with a violent confrontation on territory disputed by Mexico and Texas,[50] but as Lincoln pointed out, Polk had insisted that Mexican soldiers had "invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil."[51] Lincoln demanded that Polk show Congress the exact spot on which blood had been shed, and prove that the spot was on American soil.[51] Congress never enacted the resolution or even debated it,[52] and its introduction resulted in a loss of political support for Lincoln in his district;[53] one Illinois newspaper derisively nicknamed him "spotty Lincoln."[54]

Realizing Clay was unlikely to win the presidency, Lincoln became a key early supporter of war hero General Zachary Taylor for the Whig nomination in the 1848 presidential election.[55] Taylor won and his administration offered him the governorship of the Oregon Territory. The territory leaned heavily Democratic, and Lincoln doubted they would elect him as governor or as a senator after they were admitted to the union, so he returned to Springfield without any appointment.[56]

Prairie lawyer[]

Back in Springfield, Lincoln turned most of his energies to making a living practicing law, handling "every kind of business that could come before a prairie lawyer."[57] He "rode the circuit"—that is, appeared in county seats in the mid-state region when the county courts were in session.[58]

His reputation grew, and he appeared before the Supreme Court of the United States, arguing a case involving a canal boat that sank after hitting a bridge.[59]

Lincoln represented numerous transportation interests, such as the river barges and the railroads. As a riverboat man, Lincoln had initially favored riverboat interests, but ultimately he represented whoever hired him.[60] In 1849, he had received a patent for a "device to buoy vessels over shoals." Lincoln's goal had been to lessen the draft of a river craft by pushing horizontal floats into the water alongside the hull. The floats would have served as temporary ballast tanks.[61] The idea was never commercialized, but Lincoln is still the only person to hold a patent and serve as President of the United States.[62] In 1851, he represented the Alton & Sangamon Railroad in a dispute with one of its shareholders, James A. Barret, who had refused to pay the balance on his pledge to the railroad on the grounds that it had changed its originally planned route.[63][64] Lincoln argued that as a matter of law a corporation is not bound by its original charter when that charter can be amended in the public interest, that the newer proposed Alton & Sangamon route was superior and less expensive, and that accordingly the corporation had a right to sue Mr. Barret for his delinquent payment. He won this case, and the decision by the Illinois Supreme Court was eventually cited by 25 other courts throughout the United States.[63] Lincoln appeared in front of the Illinois Supreme Court 175 times, 51 times as sole counsel, of which, 31 were decided in his favor.[65]

Lincoln's most notable criminal trial came in 1858 when he defended William "Duff" Armstrong, who was on trial for the murder of James Preston Metzker.[66] The case is famous for Lincoln's use of judicial notice to show an eyewitness had lied on the stand. After the witness testified to having seen the crime in the moonlight, Lincoln produced a Farmers' Almanac to show that the moon on that date was at such a low angle it could not have produced enough illumination to see anything clearly. Based on this evidence, Armstrong was acquitted.[66]

Republican politics 1854–1860[]

Lincoln returned to politics in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), which expressly repealed the limits on slavery's extent as established by the Missouri Compromise (1820). Illinois Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, the most powerful man in the Senate, proposed popular sovereignty as the solution to the slavery impasse, and incorporated it into the Kansas–Nebraska Act. Douglas argued that in a democracy the people should have the right to decide whether to allow slavery in their territory, rather than have such a decision imposed on them by the national Congress.[67]

File:Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Helser, 1860-crop.jpg

Lincoln in 1860

On October 16, 1854, "Peoria Speech,"[68] Lincoln outlined his position on slavery that he would repeat over the next six years on the route to the presidency.[69]

[The Act has a] declared indifference, but as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate it. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world — enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites — causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty — criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.[70]

According to a newspaper account of the speech, Lincoln spoke with "a thin high-pitched falsetto voice of much carrying power, that could be heard a long distance in spite of the hustle and bustle of the crowd ... [with] the accent and pronunciation peculiar to his native state, Kentucky."[71]

In late 1854, Lincoln decided to run for the United States Senate as a Whig.[72] Despite leading in the first six rounds of voting in the state legislature, Lincoln instructed his backers to vote for Lyman Trumbull to prevent pro-Nebraska candidate Joel Aldrich Matteson from winning. Trumbull beat Matteson in the tenth round of voting.[73] The Whigs had been irreparably split by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. "I think I am a Whig, but others say there are not Whigs, and I am an abolitionist, even though I do no more than oppose the expansion of slavery" he said. Drawing on remnants of the old Whig party, and on disenchanted Free Soil, Liberty, and Democratic party members, he was instrumental in forging the shape of the new Republican Party.[74] At the Republican convention in 1856, Lincoln placed second in the contest to become the party's candidate for Vice-President.[75]

In 1857–58, Douglas broke with President Buchanan, leading to a fight for control of the Democratic Party. Some eastern Republicans even favored the reelection of Douglas in 1858, since he had led the opposition to the Lecompton Constitution, which would have admitted Kansas as a slave state.[76] Accepting the Republican nomination for Senate in 1858, Lincoln delivered his famous speech: "'A house divided against itself cannot stand.'(Mark 3:25) 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."[77] The speech created an evocative image of the danger of disunion caused by the slavery debate, and rallied Republicans across the north.[78]

File:Lincoln Douglas Debates 1958 issue-4c.jpg

US Postage, 1958 issue, commemorating the Lincoln and Douglas debates.

Lincoln–Douglas debates of 1858[]

The 1858 campaign featured the Lincoln–Douglas debates, generally considered the most famous political debate in American history.[79] Lincoln warned that "The Slave Power" was threatening the values of republicanism, while Stephen A. Douglas emphasized the supremacy of democracy, as set forth in his Freeport Doctrine, which said that local settlers should be free to choose whether to allow slavery or not and could overrule the Supreme Court's Dred Scott v. Sandford decision.[80]

Though the Republican legislative candidates won more popular votes, the Democrats won more seats, and the legislature reelected Douglas to the Senate. Nevertheless, Lincoln's definition of the issues gave him a national political reputation.[81]

Preparing for the 1860 elections[]

In May 1859, Lincoln purchased the Illinois Staats-Anzeiger, a German-language newspaper in Springfield that sang his praises; most of the state's 130,000 German Americans voted Democratic but there was Republican support that a German-language paper could mobilize.[82]

On February 27, 1860, New York party leaders invited Lincoln to give a speech at Cooper Union to group of powerful Republicans. In one of the most important speeches of his career, Lincoln showed that he was a contender for the Republican's presidential nomination. Journalist Noah Brooks reported, "No man ever before made such an impression on his first appeal to a New York audience."[83]

1860 Presidential election[]

File:The Rail Candidate.jpg

"The Rail Candidate" – Lincoln's 1860 candidacy is held up by the slavery issue (slave on left) and party organization (New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley) on right.

On May 9–10, 1860, the Illinois Republican State Convention was held in Decatur.[84] At this convention, Lincoln received his first endorsement to run for the presidency.[85]

On May 18, at the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Lincoln emerged as the Republican candidate on the third ballot, beating candidates such as William H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase.[86]

Why Lincoln won the nomination has been subject of much debate. His expressed views on slavery were seen as more moderate than those of rivals Seward and Chase.[87] Some feel that Seward lost more than Lincoln won, including Seward himself. Others attribute it to luck, and the fact that the convention was held in Lincoln's home state. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin believes the real reason was Lincoln's skill as a politician.[88]

Most Republicans agreed with Lincoln that the North was the aggrieved party[89] as the Slave Power tightened its grasp on the national government with the Dred Scott decision and the presidency of James Buchanan. Throughout the 1850s Lincoln denied that there would ever be a civil war, and his supporters repeatedly rejected claims that his election would incite secession.[90]

Meanwhile, Douglas was selected as the candidate of the northern Democrats, with Herschel Vespasian Johnson as the vice-presidential candidate. Delegates from eleven slave states walked out of the Democratic convention, disagreeing with Douglas's position on Popular sovereignty, and ultimately selected John C. Breckinridge as their candidate.[91]

As Douglas stumped the country, Lincoln was the only one of the four major candidates to give no speeches whatever. Instead he monitored the campaign closely but relied on the enthusiasm of the Republican Party. It did the leg work that produced majorities across the North. It produced tons of campaign posters and leaflets, and thousands of newspaper editorials. There were thousands of Republican speakers who focused first on the party platform, and second on Lincoln's life story, emphasizing his childhood poverty. The goal was to demonstrate the superior power of "free labor," whereby a common farm boy could work his way to the top by his own efforts. The Republican Party's production of campaign literature dwarfed the combined opposition. A Chicago Tribune writer produced a pamphlet that detailed Lincoln's life, and sold one million copies.[92][93] It was during this campaign that Lincoln became the first President to have placed his photo on a campaign button.[94]


1860 presidential election results

On November 6, 1860, Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States, beating Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, John C. Breckinridge of the Southern Democrats, and John Bell of the new Constitutional Union Party. He was the first Republican president, winning entirely on the strength of his support in the North: he was not even on the ballot in ten states in the South, and won only two of 996 counties in all the Southern states.[95] Lincoln received 1,866,452 votes, Douglas 1,376,957 votes, Breckinridge 849,781 votes, and Bell 588,789 votes. The electoral vote was decisive: Lincoln had 180 and his opponents added together had only 123. Turnout was 82.2%, with Lincoln winning the free northern states. Douglas won Missouri, and split New Jersey with Lincoln.[96] Bell won Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and Breckinridge won the rest of the South.[97] There were fusion tickets in which all of Lincoln's opponents combined to form one ticket in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, but even if the anti-Lincoln vote had been combined in every state, Lincoln still would have won because he would still have had a majority in the electoral college.[98]

Presidency and the Civil War[]

File:Lincoln 1896 issue-4c.jpg

US Postage
Issue of 1896.

With the emergence of the Republicans as the nation's first major sectional party by the mid-1850s, the old Second Party System collapsed and a realignment created the Third Party System. It became the stage on which sectional tensions were played out. Although little of the West–the focal point of sectional tensions– was fit for cotton cultivation, Southern secessionists read the political fallout as a sign that their power in national politics was rapidly weakening. The slave system had been buttressed by the Democratic Party, which was increasingly seen by anti-slavery elements as representing a more pro-Southern position that unfairly permitted the Slave Power to prevail in the nation's territories and to dominate national policy before the Civil War. Yet the Democrats suffered a significant reverse in the electoral realignment of the mid-1850s; they lost the dominance they had achieved over the Whig Party and, indeed, were the minority party in most of the northern states. The 1854 election was a Realigning election or "critical election" that saw a realignment of voting patterns.[99] Abraham Lincoln's election was a watershed in the balance of power of competing national and parochial interests and affiliations.[100]

Secession winter 1860–1861[]

As Lincoln's election became more likely, secessionists made clear their intent to leave the Union.[101] On December 20, 1860, South Carolina took the lead; by February 1, 1861, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana,[102] and Texas had followed.[103] The seven states soon declared themselves to be a new nation, the Confederate States of America.[102] The upper South (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas) listened to, but initially rejected, the secessionist appeal.[104][105] President Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy.[106] Attempts at compromise, such as the Crittenden Compromise which would have extended the Missouri line of 1820, were discussed.[107] Despite support for the Crittenden Compromise among some Republicans, Lincoln denounced it in private letters,[107] saying "either the Missouri line extended, or ... Pop. Sov. would lose us everything we gained in the election; that filibustering for all South of us, and making slave states of it, would follow in spite of us, under either plan,"[108] while another Republican Congressman warned it "would amount to a perpetual covenant of war against every people, tribe, and state owning a foot of land between here and Tierra del Fuego."[109]

The Confederate States of America selected Jefferson Davis on February 9, 1861, as their provisional President.[110]

File:Abraham lincoln inauguration 1861.jpg

A photograph of the March 4, 1861 inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in front of United States Capitol

President-elect Lincoln evaded possible assassins in Baltimore, and on February 23, 1861, arrived in disguise in Washington, D.C.[111] At his inauguration on March 4, 1861, sharpshooters watched the inaugural platform, while soldiers on horseback patrolled the surrounding area.[112] In his first inaugural address, Lincoln declared, "I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments," arguing further that the purpose of the United States Constitution was "to form a more perfect union" than the Articles of Confederation which were explicitly perpetual, thus the Constitution too was perpetual. He asked rhetorically that even were the Constitution a simple contract, would it not require the agreement of all parties to rescind it?[113]

Also in his inaugural address, in a final attempt to reunite the states and prevent certain war, Lincoln supported the pending Corwin Amendment to the Constitution, which had passed Congress the previous day. This amendment, which explicitly protected slavery in those states in which it already existed, was considered by Lincoln to be a possible way to stave off secession.[114] A few short weeks before the war he went so far as to pen a letter to every governor asking for their support in ratifying the Corwin Amendment.[115]

By the time Lincoln took office, the Confederacy was an established fact,[102] and no leaders of the insurrection proposed rejoining the Union on any terms. The failure of the Peace Conference of 1861 rendered legislative compromise virtually impossible. Buchanan might have allowed the southern states to secede, and some members of his cabinet recommended that. However, conservative Democratic nationalists, such as Jeremiah S. Black, Joseph Holt, and Edwin M. Stanton had taken control of Buchanan's cabinet in early January, and refused to accept secession.[116] Lincoln and nearly every Republican leader adopted this position by March 1861: the Union could not be dismantled. Believing that a peaceful solution was still possible, Lincoln decided to not take any action against the South unless the Unionists themselves were attacked first.[citation needed] This finally happened in April 1861.[117]

Historian Allan Nevins argues that Lincoln made three miscalculations in believing that he could preserve the Union, hold government property, and still avoid war. He "temporarily underrated the gravity of the crisis," overestimated the strength of Unionist sentiment in the South and border states, and misunderstood the conditional support of Unionists in the border states.[118] Future general William Tecumseh Sherman, then a civilian, visited Lincoln in the White House during inauguration week and was "sadly disappointed" at Lincoln's seeming failure to realize that "the country was sleeping on a volcano" and the South was "'preparing for war.'"[119]

Fighting begins[]

On April 12, 1861, Union troops at Fort Sumter were fired upon and soon forced to surrender.[117] On April 15, Lincoln called on the states to send detachments totaling 75,000 troops,[120] to recapture forts, protect the capital, and "preserve the Union," which in his view still existed intact despite the actions of the seceding states.[121] These events forced the states to choose sides. Virginia declared its secession, after which the Confederate capital was moved from Montgomery to Richmond. North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas also voted for secession over the next two months. Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland threatened secession,[120] but neither they nor the slave state of Delaware seceded. Lincoln urgently negotiated with state leaders there, promising not to interfere with slavery.[citation needed] Troops headed south towards Washington, D.C. to protect the capital in response to Lincoln's call. On April 19, angry secessionist mobs in Baltimore, a Maryland city to the north of Washington that controlled the rail links, attacked Union troops traveling to the capital. George William Brown, the Mayor of Baltimore, and other suspect Maryland politicians were arrested and imprisoned at Fort McHenry.[122] Rebel leaders were also arrested in other border areas[citation needed] and held in military prisons without trial. Over 18,000 were arrested. One, Clement Vallandigham, was exiled, but the remainder were released, usually after two or three months (see: Ex parte Merryman).[123]

Conducting the war effort[]


"Running the 'Machine'": An 1864 political cartoon featuring Lincoln; William Fessenden, Edwin Stanton, William Seward, and Gideon Welles take a swing at the Lincoln administration

The war was a source of constant frustration for the president and occupied nearly all of his time. He had a contentious relationship with General McClellan,[124] who became general-in-chief of all the Union armies in the wake of the embarrassing Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run and after the retirement of Winfield Scott in late 1861.[125] Despite his inexperience in military affairs, Lincoln immediately took an active part in determining war strategy. His priorities were twofold: to ensure that Washington was well defended; and to conduct an aggressive war effort that would satisfy the demand in the North for prompt, decisive victory.[126] McClellan, a youthful West Point graduate and railroad executive called back to active military service,[127] took a more cautious approach.[66] He took several months to plan and execute his Peninsula Campaign, with the objective of capturing Richmond by moving the Army of the Potomac by boat to the peninsula and then traveling by land to Richmond. McClellan's delay concerned Lincoln, as did his insistence that no troops were needed to defend Washington. Lincoln insisted on holding some of McClellan's troops to defend the capital, a decision McClellan blamed for the ultimate failure of the Peninsula Campaign.[66] McClellan, a conservative Democrat,[128] was passed over for general-in-chief (that is, chief strategist) in favor of Henry Wager Halleck, after giving Lincoln his Harrison's Landing Letter, where he offered unsolicited political advice to Lincoln urging caution in the war effort.[129] McClellan's letter incensed Radical Republicans, who successfully pressured Lincoln to appoint John Pope, a Republican, as head of the new Army of Virginia. Pope complied with Lincoln's strategic desire to move toward Richmond from the north, thus protecting the capital from attack. However, Pope was soundly defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run in the summer of 1862, forcing the Army of the Potomac to defend Washington for a second time.[130] In response to his failure, Pope was sent to Minnesota to fight the Sioux.[131]

Despite his dissatisfaction with McClellan's failure to reinforce Pope, Lincoln restored him to command of all forces around Washington, to the dismay of his cabinet (all save Seward), who wished McClellan gone.[132] Two days after McClellan's return to command, General Lee's forces crossed the Potomac River into Maryland, leading to the Battle of Antietam (September 1862).[133] The ensuing Union victory, one of the bloodiest in American history, enabled Lincoln to give notice that he would issue an Emancipation Proclamation in January,[134] but he relieved McClellan of his command after waiting for the conclusion of the 1862 midterm elections and appointed Republican Ambrose Burnside to head the Army of the Potomac.[135] Burnside was politically neutral, which Lincoln desired, and for the most part supported the President's aims.[136] Burnside had promised to follow through on Lincoln's strategic vision for a strong offensive against Lee and Richmond. After Burnside was stunningly defeated at Fredericksburg in December,[137] Joseph Hooker took command, despite his history of "loose talk" and criticizing former commanders.[138] Hooker was routed by Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May, 1863,[139] but continued to command his troops for roughly two months. Hooker did not agree with Lincoln's desire to divide his troops, and possibly force Lee to do the same, and tendered his resignation, which was accepted. During the Gettysburg Campaign he was replaced by George Meade.[140]

Using black troops and former slaves was official government policy after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. At first Lincoln was reluctant to fully implement this program, but by the spring of 1863 he was ready to initiate "a massive recruitment of Negro troops." In a letter to Andrew Johnson, the military governor of Tennessee, encouraging him to lead the way in raising black troops, Lincoln wrote, "The bare sight of fifty thousand armed, and drilled black soldiers on the banks of the Mississippi would end the rebellion at once."[141] By the end of 1863, at Lincoln's direction, General Lorenzo Thomas had recruited twenty regiments of African Americans from the Mississippi Valley.[142]



Lincoln, in a top hat, with Allan Pinkerton and Major General John Alexander McClernand at Antietam

After the Union victory at Gettysburg, Meade's failure to pursue Lee and months of inactivity for the Army of the Potomac persuaded Lincoln that a change was needed. McClellan was seeking the Democratic nomination for President, and Lincoln worried that Grant might also have political aspirations. Lincoln convinced himself that Grant did not have political aspirations, in the immediate at least, and made Ulysses S. Grant commander of the Union Army.[143] Grant already had a solid string of victories in the Western Theater, including the battles of Vicksburg and Chattanooga.[144] Responding to criticism of Grant after the 1862 battle of Shiloh, Lincoln reportedly had said, "I can't spare this man. He fights."[145] Grant waged his bloody Overland Campaign in 1864. This is often characterized as a war of attrition, given high Union losses at battles such as the Wilderness and Cold Harbor. However, even though they had the advantage of fighting on the defensive, the Confederate forces had "almost as high a percentage of casualties as the Union forces." [146] The high Union casualty figures alarmed the North, and, after Grant lost a third of his army, Lincoln asked what Grant's plans were. "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer," replied Grant. Lincoln and the Republican party mobilized support throughout the North, backed Grant to the hilt, and replaced his losses.[147] The Confederacy was out of replacements, so Lee's army shrank with every battle, forcing it back to trenches outside Petersburg. In April 1865, Lee's army finally crumbled under Grant's pounding, and Richmond fell.[148]

Lincoln authorized Grant to target the Confederate infrastructure – such as plantations, railroads, and bridges – hoping to destroy the South's morale and weaken its economic ability to continue fighting. This strategy allowed Generals Sherman and Sheridan to destroy plantations and towns in the Shenandoah Valley, Georgia, and South Carolina. The damage caused by Sherman's March to the Sea through Georgia totaled more than $100 million by the general's own estimate.[149]

Lincoln grasped the need to control strategic points (such as the Mississippi River and the fortress city of Vicksburg) and understood the importance of defeating the enemy's army, rather than simply capturing territory. He had, however, limited success in motivating his commanders to adopt his strategies until late 1863, when he found a man who shared his vision of the war in Ulysses S. Grant. Only then could he relentlessly pursue a series of coordinated offensives in multiple theaters, and have a top commander who agreed on the use of black troops.[150] Two days a week, Lincoln would meet with his cabinet in the afternoon, and occasionally his wife would force him to take a carriage ride because she was concerned he was working too hard. Throughout the war, Lincoln showed an intense interest in the military campaigns. He spent hours at the War Department telegraph office, reading dispatches from the field.[151] He visited battle sites frequently, and seemed fascinated by scenes of war.[citation needed] During Jubal Anderson Early's raid on Washington, D.C. in 1864, Lincoln was watching the combat from an exposed position; captain Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. shouted at him, "Get down, you damn fool, before you get shot!"[152]

Emancipation Proclamation[]

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Lincoln maintained that the powers of his administration to end slavery were limited by the Constitution. He expected to cause the eventual extinction of slavery by stopping its further expansion into any U.S. territory, and by persuading states to accept compensated emancipation if the state would outlaw slavery (an offer that took effect only in Washington, D.C.). Guelzo says Lincoln believed that shrinking slavery in this way would make it uneconomical, and place it back on the road to eventual extinction that the Founders had envisioned.[153]

In July 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act, which freed the slaves of anyone convicted of aiding the rebellion. Although Lincoln believed it was not in Congress's remit to free any slaves, he approved the bill. He felt freeing the slaves could only be done by the Commander in Chief during wartime, and that signing the bill would help placate those in Congress who wanted to do it through legislation. In that month, Lincoln discussed a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation with his cabinet. In it, he stated that "as a fit and necessary military measure" (and according to Donald not for moral reasons) on January 1, 1863, "all persons held as a slaves" in the Confederate states will " thenceforward, and forever, be free."[154]

In a shrewdly penned August reply to an editorial by Horace Greeley in the influential New York Tribune, with a draft of the Proclamation already on Lincoln's desk, the president subordinated the goal of ending slavery to the cause of preserving the Union, while, at the same time, preparing the public for emancipation being incomplete at first. Lincoln had decided at this point that he could not win the war without freeing the slaves, and so it was a necessity "to do more to help the cause":[citation needed]

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." ... My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views. I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.[155]

The Emancipation Proclamation, announced on September 22, 1862, and put into effect on January 1, 1863, freed slaves in territories not already under Union control. As Union armies advanced south, more slaves were liberated until all of them in Confederate territory (over three million) were freed. Lincoln later said: "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper." The proclamation made the abolition of slavery in the rebel states an official war goal. Lincoln then threw his energies into passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to permanently abolish slavery throughout the nation.[156] He personally lobbied individual Congressmen for the Amendment, which was passed by the Congress in early 1865, shortly before his death.[157] A few days after the Emancipation was announced, thirteen Republican governors met at the War Governors' Conference; they supported the president's Proclamation, but suggested the removal of General George B. McClellan as commander of the Union's Army of the Potomac.[158] For some time, Lincoln continued earlier plans to set up colonies for the newly freed slaves. He commented favorably on colonization in the Emancipation Proclamation, but all attempts at such a massive undertaking failed. As Frederick Douglass observed, Lincoln was, "The first great man that I talked with in the United States freely who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color."[159]

Gettysburg Address[]

Although the Battle of Gettysburg was a Union victory, it was also the bloodiest battle of the war and dealt a blow to Lincoln's war effort. As the Union Army decreased in numbers due to casualties, more soldiers were needed to replace the ranks. Lincoln's 1863 military drafts were considered "odious" among many in the north, particularly immigrants. The New York Draft Riots of July 1863 were the most notable manifestation of this discontent. Writing to Lincoln in September 1863, the Governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew Gregg Curtin, warned that political sentiments were turning against Lincoln and the war effort:

If the election were to occur now, the result would be extremely doubtful, and although most of our discreet friends are sanguine of the result, my impression is, the chances would be against us. The draft is very odious in the State ... the Democratic leaders have succeeded in exciting prejudice and passion, and have infused their poison into the minds of the people to a very large extent, and the changes are against us.[160]

Therefore, in the fall of 1863, Lincoln's principal aim was to sustain public support for the war effort. This goal became the focus of his address at the Gettysburg battlefield cemetery on November 19.

The Gettysburg Address is one of the most quoted speeches in United States history.[161][162][163] It was delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, during the American Civil War, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the decisive Battle of Gettysburg. Abraham Lincoln's carefully crafted address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but as "a new birth of freedom" that would bring true equality to all of its citizens, and that would also create a unified nation in which states' rights were no longer dominant. Beginning with the now-iconic phrase, Four score and seven years ago ..., Lincoln referred to the events of the Civil War and described the ceremony at Gettysburg as an opportunity not only to consecrate the grounds of a cemetery, but also to dedicate the living to the struggle to ensure that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."[164]

1864 election[]


1864 Presidential election results

After Union victories at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga in 1863, overall victory seemed at hand, and Lincoln promoted Ulysses S. Grant General-in-Chief on March 12, 1864. When the spring campaigns turned into bloody stalemates, Lincoln supported Grant's strategy of wearing down Lee's Confederate army at the cost of heavy Union casualties. With an election looming, he easily defeated efforts to deny his renomination. At the Convention, the Republican Party selected Andrew Johnson, a War Democrat from the Southern state of Tennessee, as his running mate to form a broader coalition. They ran on the new Union Party ticket uniting Republicans and War Democrats.

Nevertheless, Republicans across the country feared that Lincoln would be defeated. Acknowledging this fear, Lincoln wrote and signed a pledge that, if he should lose the election, he would still defeat the Confederacy before turning over the White House:[165]

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.[166]

Lincoln did not show the pledge to his cabinet, but asked them to sign the sealed envelope. While the Democratic platform followed the Peace wing of the party and called the war a "failure," their candidate, General George B. McClellan, supported the war and repudiated the platform. Lincoln provided Grant with new replacements and mobilized his party to support Grant and win local support for the war effort. Sherman's capture of Atlanta in September ended defeatist jitters; the Democratic Party was deeply split, with some leaders and most soldiers openly for Lincoln; the Union party was united and energized, and Lincoln was easily reelected in a landslide. He won all but three states, including 78% of the Union soldiers' vote.[167]

Second Inaugural Address[]

File:Lincoln second.jpg

The only known photographs of Lincoln giving a speech were taken as he delivered his second inaugural address. Here, he stands in the center, with papers in his hand.

On March 4, 1865, Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address, his favorite of all his speeches. At this time, a victory over the rebels was at hand, slavery was dead, and Lincoln was looking to the future.

Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether." 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 nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.[168]


Reconstruction began during the war as Lincoln and his associates pondered questions of how to reintegrate the Southern states and what to do with Confederate leaders and the freed slaves. Lincoln led the "moderates" regarding Reconstruction policy, and was usually opposed by the Radical Republicans, under Thaddeus Stevens in the House and Charles Sumner and Benjamin Wade in the Senate (though he cooperated with these men on most other issues). Determined to find a course that would reunite the nation and not alienate the South, Lincoln urged that speedy elections under generous terms be held throughout the war in areas behind Union lines. His Amnesty Proclamation of December 8, 1863, offered pardons to those who had not held a Confederate civil office, had not mistreated Union prisoners, and would sign an oath of allegiance.[169] Critical decisions had to be made as state after state was reconquered. Of special importance were Tennessee, where Lincoln appointed Andrew Johnson as governor, and Louisiana, where Lincoln attempted a plan that would restore statehood when 10% of the voters agreed to it. The Radicals thought this policy too lenient, and passed their own plan, the Wade-Davis Bill, in 1864. When Lincoln pocket vetoed the bill, the Radicals retaliated by refusing to seat representatives elected from Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee.[170]

Near the end of the war, Lincoln made an extended visit to Grant's headquarters at City Point, Virginia. This allowed the president to confer in person with Grant and Sherman about ending hostilities (as Sherman coincidentally managed a hasty visit to Grant from his forces in North Carolina at the same time).[171] Lincoln also was able to visit Richmond after it was taken by the Union forces and to make a public gesture of sitting at Jefferson Davis' own desk, symbolically saying to the nation that the President of the United States held authority over the entire land. He was greeted at the city as a conquering hero by freed slaves, whose sentiments were epitomized by one admirer's quote, "I know I am free for I have seen the face of Father Abraham and have felt him." When a general asked Lincoln how the defeated Confederates should be treated, Lincoln replied, "Let 'em up easy."[172][173] Lincoln arrived back in Washington on the evening of April 9, 1865, the day Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The war was effectively over. The other rebel armies surrendered soon after, and there was no subsequent guerrilla warfare.[174]

Home front[]


The last known high-quality photograph of Lincoln, taken March 1865

Redefining republicanism[]

Lincoln's rhetoric defined the issues of the war for the nation, the world, and posterity. The Gettysburg Address defied Lincoln's own prediction that "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here." His second inaugural address is also greatly admired and often quoted. In recent years, historians have stressed Lincoln's use of and redefinition of republican values. As early as the 1850s, a time when most political rhetoric focused on the sanctity of the Constitution, Lincoln shifted emphasis to the Declaration of Independence as the foundation of American political values—what he called the "sheet anchor" of republicanism.[175] The Declaration's emphasis on freedom and equality for all, rather than the Constitution's tolerance of slavers, shifted the debate. As Diggins concludes regarding the highly influential Cooper Union speech, "Lincoln presented Americans a theory of history that offers a profound contribution to the theory and destiny of republicanism itself."[176] His position gained strength because he highlighted the moral basis of republicanism, rather than its legalisms.[177] Nevertheless, in 1861 Lincoln justified the war in terms of legalisms (the Constitution was a contract, and for one party to get out of a contract all the other parties had to agree), and then in terms of the national duty to guarantee a "republican form of government" in every state.[178] That duty was also the principle underlying federal intervention in Reconstruction. In his Gettysburg Address Lincoln redefined the American nation, arguing that it was born not in 1789 but in 1776, "conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." He declared that the sacrifices of battle had rededicated the nation to the propositions of democracy and equality, "that this nation 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." By emphasizing the centrality of the nation, he rebuffed the claims of state sovereignty. While some critics say Lincoln moved too far and too fast, they agree that he dedicated the nation to values that marked "a new founding of the nation."[179]

Civil liberties suspended[]

During the Civil War, Lincoln appropriated powers no previous President had wielded: he used his war powers to proclaim a blockade, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, spent money before Congress appropriated it, and imprisoned between 15,000 and 18,000 suspected Confederate sympathizers without trial.[180]

Domestic measures[]

Lincoln believed in the Whig theory of the presidency, which left Congress to write the laws while he signed them; Lincoln exercised his veto power only four times, the only significant instance being his pocket veto of the Wade-Davis Bill.[181] Thus, he signed the Homestead Act in 1862, making millions of acres of government-held land in the West available for purchase at very low cost. The Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, also signed in 1862, provided government grants for state agricultural colleges in each state. The Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864 granted federal support for the construction of the United States' First Transcontinental Railroad, which was completed in 1869.[182] The passage of the Homestead Act and the Pacific Railway Acts was made possible by the absence of Southern congressmen and senators who had opposed the measures in the 1850s.[183]

Other important legislation involved two measures to raise revenues for the Federal government: tariffs (a policy with long precedent), and a Federal income tax (which was new). In 1861, Lincoln signed the second and third Morrill Tariff (the first had become law under James Buchanan). In 1861, Lincoln signed the Revenue Act of 1861[184] creating the first U.S. income tax. This created a flat tax of 3% on incomes above $800 ($19,307 in current dollars), which was later changed by the Revenue Act of 1862[185] to a progressive rate structure.[186]

Lincoln also presided over the expansion of the federal government's economic influence in several other areas. The creation of the system of national banks by the National Banking Acts of 1863, 1864, and 1865 allowed the creation of a strong national financial system. In 1862, Congress created, with Lincoln's approval, the Department of Agriculture, although that institution would not become a Cabinet-level department until 1889. The Legal Tender Act of 1862 established the United States Note, the first paper currency in United States history since the Continentals that were issued during the Revolution. This was done to increase the money supply to pay for fighting the war.

In 1862, Lincoln sent a senior general, John Pope, to put down the "Sioux Uprising" in Minnesota. Presented with 303 death warrants for convicted Santee Dakota who were accused of killing innocent farmers, Lincoln ordered a personal review of these warrants, eventually approving 39 of these for execution (one was later reprieved).[187]

Abraham Lincoln is largely responsible for the institution of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. Prior to Lincoln's presidency, Thanksgiving, while a regional holiday in New England since the 17th century, had only been proclaimed by the federal government sporadically, and on irregular dates. The last such proclamation was during James Madison's presidency fifty years before. In 1863, Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November to be a day of Thanksgiving, and the holiday has been celebrated annually then ever since.[188]


File:The Assassination of President Lincoln - Currier and Ives 2.png

Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. From left to right: Henry Rathbone, Clara Harris, Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth

Originally, John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor and a Confederate spy from Maryland, had formulated a plan to kidnap Lincoln in exchange for the release of Confederate prisoners. After attending an April 11 speech in which Lincoln promoted voting rights for blacks, an incensed Booth changed his plans and determined to assassinate the president.[189]

Learning that the President and First Lady would be attending Ford's Theatre, he laid his plans, assigning his co-conspirators to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward. Without his main bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon, to whom he related his famous dream regarding his own assassination, Lincoln left to attend the play Our American Cousin on April 14, 1865.

File:Abraham Lincoln 1866 Issue-15c.jpg

On April 14, 1866, one year to the day after Lincoln's assassination, the US Post Office issued its first postage stamp honoring the fallen President

As a lone bodyguard wandered, and Lincoln sat in his state box (Box 7) in the balcony, Booth crept up behind the President and waited for what he thought would be the funniest line of the play ("You sock-dologizing old man-trap"), hoping the laughter would muffle the noise of the gunshot. When the laughter began, Booth jumped into the box and aimed a single-shot, round-ball .44 caliber (11 mm) Deringer at his head, firing at point-blank range. Major Henry Rathbone momentarily grappled with Booth but was cut by Booth's knife. Booth then leaped to the stage and shouted "Sic semper tyrannis!" (Template:Lang-la) and escaped, despite suffering a broken leg in the leap.[190]


Lincoln's funeral train carried his remains, as well as 300 mourners and the casket of his son, William, 1,654 miles (2,662 km) to Illinois

An army surgeon, Doctor Charles Leale, initially assessed Lincoln's wound as mortal. The President was taken across the street from the theater to the Petersen House, where he lay in a coma for nine hours before dying. Several physicians attended Lincoln, including U.S. Army Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes of the Army Medical Museum. Using a probe, Barnes located some fragments of Lincoln's skull and the ball lodged 6 inches (15 cm) inside his brain. Lincoln never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at 7:22:10 a.m. April 15, 1865. He was the first president to be assassinated or to lie in state. Lincoln's body was carried by train in a grand funeral procession through several states on its way back to Illinois.[191] A twelve-day manhunt ensued, in which Booth was chased by Federal agents (under the direction of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton).[192] He was eventually cornered in a Virginia barn house and shot, dying of his wounds soon after.[193] While much of the nation mourned him as the savior of the United States, Copperheads celebrated the death of a man they considered a tyrant. The Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, is 177 feet (54 m) tall and, by 1874, was surmounted with several bronze statues of Lincoln. To prevent repeated attempts to steal Lincoln's body and hold it for ransom, Robert Todd Lincoln had it exhumed and reinterred in concrete several feet thick in 1901.

Administration, Cabinet and Supreme Court appointments 1861–1865[]

Template:Col-1-of-2 Lincoln appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:
Judge Seat State Began active
Ended active
Noah Haynes Swayne Seat 7 Virginia 18620127January 27, 1862 18810124January 24, 1881
Samuel Freeman Miller Seat 8 Maine 18620721July 21, 1862 18901013October 13, 1890
David Davis Seat 9 Maryland 18621210December 10, 1862 18770304March 4, 1877
Stephen Johnson Field Seat 10 California 18630520May 20, 1863 18971201December 1, 1897
Salmon P. Chase Seat 1 New Hampshire 18641215December 15, 1864 18730507May 7, 1873


The Lincoln Cabinet
President Abraham Lincoln 1861–1865
Vice President Hannibal Hamlin 1861–1865
Andrew Johnson 1865
State William H. Seward 1861–1865
War Simon Cameron 1861–1862
Edwin M. Stanton 1862–1865
Treasury Salmon P. Chase 1861–1864
William P. Fessenden 1864–1865
Hugh McCulloch 1865
Justice Edward Bates 1861–1864
James Speed 1864–1865
Post Montgomery Blair 1861–1864
William Dennison, Jr. 1864–1865
Navy Gideon Welles 1861–1865
Interior Caleb B. Smith 1861–1862
John P. Usher 1863–1865


States admitted to the Union[]

  • West Virginia – June 20, 1863
  • Nevada – October 31, 1864

Religious and philosophical beliefs[]


File:Abraham Lincoln William Morris Hunt.jpeg

Lincoln in 1865, portrait by William Morris Hunt

In March 1860 in a speech in New Haven, Connecticut, Lincoln said, regarding slavery, "Whenever this question shall be settled, it must be settled on some philosophical basis. No policy that does not rest upon some philosophical public opinion can be permanently maintained." The philosophical basis for Lincoln's beliefs regarding slavery and other issues of the day require that Lincoln be examined "seriously as a man of ideas." Lincoln was a strong supporter of the American Whig version of liberal capitalism.[195] More than any political leader of the day he fashioned public policy into the mold of religious language, especially a kind of Old School Calvinism that avoided the evangelical, revivalistic fervor of the Second Great Awakening.[196]

There were few people who strongly or directly influenced Lincoln's moral and intellectual development and perspectives. There was no teacher, mentor, church leader, community leader, or peer that Lincoln would credit in later years as a strong influence on his intellectual development. Lacking a formal education, Lincoln's personal philosophy was shaped by "an amazingly retentive memory and a passion for reading and learning." It was Lincoln's reading, rather than his relationships, that were most influential in shaping his personal beliefs.[197][198]

Even as a child, Lincoln largely rejected organized religion, but the Calvinistic "doctrine of necessity" would remain a factor throughout his life. In 1846 Lincoln described the effect of this doctrine as "that the human mind is impelled to action, or held in rest by some power, over which the mind itself has no control."[199] In April 1864, in justifying his actions regarding Emancipation, Lincoln wrote, "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years struggle the nation's condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it."[200]

As Lincoln matured, and especially during his term as president, the idea of a divine will somehow interacting with human affairs increasingly influenced his public expressions. On a personal level, the death of his son Willie in February 1862 may have caused Lincoln to look towards religion for answers and solace.[201] After Willie's death, in the summer or early fall of 1862, Lincoln attempted to put on paper his private musings on why, from a divine standpoint, the severity of the war was necessary:

The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party—and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect his purpose. I am almost ready to say this is probably true—that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere quiet power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.[202]

Lincoln's religious skepticism was fueled by his readings in Enlightenment and classical liberalism, especially economic liberalism.[197] Consistent with the common practice of the Whig party, Lincoln would often use the Declaration of Independence as the philosophical and moral expression of these two philosophies.[203] In a February 22, 1861 speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia Lincoln said,

I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. ... It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men. This is a sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence.[204]

He found in the Declaration justification for Whig economic policy and opposition to territorial expansion and the nativist platform of the Know Nothings. In claiming that all men were created free, Lincoln and the Whigs argued that this freedom required economic advancement, expanded education, territory to grow, and the ability of the nation to absorb the growing immigrant population.[205]

It was the "Declaration of Independence," rather than the Bible, that Lincoln most relied on to oppose any further territorial expansion of slavery. He saw the Declaration as more than a political document. To him, as well as to many abolitionists and other antislavery leaders, it was, foremost, a moral document that had forever determined valuable principles for the future shaping of the nation.[206]

Legacy and memorials[]


File:Aerial view of Lincoln Memorial - east side EDIT.jpeg

Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Lincoln's death made the President a national martyr,[207] regarded by historians in numerous polls as among the greatest presidents in U.S. history, usually in the top three, along with George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt.[208] A study published in 2004, found that scholars in the fields of history and politics ranked Lincoln number one, while law scholars placed him second after Washington.[209] Among contemporary admirers, Lincoln is usually seen as personifying classical values of honesty and integrity, as well as respect for individual and minority rights, and human freedom in general. Many American organizations of all purposes and agendas continue to cite his name and image, with interests ranging from the gay rights-supporting Log Cabin Republicans to the insurance corporation Lincoln National Corporation. The Lincoln automobile brand is also named after him.

The ballistic missile submarine Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602) and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) were named in his honor.[210] During the Spanish Civil War, the American faction of the International Brigades named themselves the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.[211] Lincoln has been memorialized in many town, city, and county names,[212] including the capital of Nebraska.[213] Lincoln, Illinois, is the only city to be named for Abraham Lincoln before he became President.[214]


The Apotheosis of Abraham Lincoln, greeted by George Washington in heaven (an 1860s work)

Lincoln's name and image appear in numerous places. These include the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.,[213] the U.S. Lincoln $5 bill and the Lincoln cent, and Lincoln's sculpture on Mount Rushmore. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville, Kentucky,[215] Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, Indiana,[216] and Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois,[217] commemorate the president.[218] In addition, New Salem, Illinois (a reconstruction of Lincoln's early adult hometown),[219] Ford's Theatre, and Petersen House (where he died) are all preserved as museums.[220]

The state nickname for Illinois is Land of Lincoln; the slogan has appeared continuously on nearly all Illinois license plates issued since 1954.[221]

Abraham Lincoln's birthday, February 12, was never a national holiday, but it was observed by 30 states.[212] In 1971, Presidents Day became a national holiday, combining Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays, and replacing most states' celebration of his birthday.[222] As of 2005, Lincoln's Birthday is a legal holiday in 10 states.[223] The Abraham Lincoln Association was formed in 1908 to commemorate the centennial of Lincoln's birth.[224] The Association is now the oldest group dedicated to the study of Lincoln.[225]

The United States Postal Service honored Lincoln with a Liberty Issuepostage stamp on November 19, 1954, and a Prominent Americans series (1965-1978) 4¢ postage stamp.

To commemorate his 200th birthday in February 2009, Congress established the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC) in 2000 to honor Lincoln.[226] The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is located in Springfield and is run by the State of Illinois.[227]

File:Abraham Lincoln Airmail 1960 Issue-25c.jpg

Abraham Lincoln is the only President whose portrait appears on U.S.Air Mail Postage

Lincoln owned a model 1857 Waltham William Ellery watch, with serial number 67613. This watch is now in the custody of the Smithsonian Museum.[228] On March 11, 2009, the National Museum of American History found a message engraved inside Lincoln's watch by a watchmaker named Jonathan Dillon who was repairing it at the outbreak of the American Civil War. The engraving reads (in part): "Fort Sumpter was attacked by the rebels" and "thank God we have a government."[229]

Motorists on Interstate 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming pass a roadside park with the depiction of Lincoln's head on the top of a rock monument. The head was sculpted by Robert Russin, a University of Wyoming art professor and an admirer of Lincoln. When Russin died in 2007, his ashes were interred in the hollow monumeny. The statue originally stood at Sherman Summit, 8,878 feet above sea level, the highest point along the former Lincoln Highway. When I-80 was completed in 1969, the head was moved to the current site. Though it was reduced in height, it attracted a wider viewing audience.[230]

See also[]

File:Acw bs 7a.png American Civil War portal
[[File:Template:Portal/Images/Default|32x28px|alt=]] Military of the United States portal
  • Bibliography of Abraham Lincoln
  • American School, Lincoln's economic views.
  • Electoral history of Abraham Lincoln
  • Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
  • Lincoln Kennedy coincidences urban legend
  • Lincoln Memorial University
  • Lincoln family tree
  • John T. Morse's 2-volume biography of Lincoln
  • Poetry of Abraham Lincoln


  1. Goodwin, p. 91; Holzer, p. 232.
  2. Donald (1996), pp. 20–22
  3. Thornton, p. 101
  4. LINCOLN - Name Meaning & Origin
  5. Donald (1996), p. 20
  6. White, p. 12, 13
  7. Donald (1996), pp. 22, 24
  8. Lamb, p. 189.
  9. Gilgoff, Dan (February 12, 2009). "Abraham Lincoln's Religious Uncertainty". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  10. Donald (1996), pp. 23–24.
  11. Donald (1996), pp. 28, 152
  12. Donald (1996), p. 36
  13. Fehrenbacher, p. 163.
  14. Sandburg, pp. 22–23
  15. White, pp. 25, 31, 47.
  16. Sandberg (1974), p. 10.
  17. Donald (1996), pp. 55–58
  18. Donald (1996), pp. 67–69; Thomas, pp. 56–57, 69–70. Donald quotes a key phrase from the letter, "I now say, that you can now drop the subject [of marriage], dismiss your thoughts (if you ever had any) from me forever, and leave this letter unanswered, without calling forth one accusing murmur from me." Donald (1996), pp. 67–69.
  19. Lamb, p. 43.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Sandburg, pp. 46–48.
  21. Donald (1996), p. 86
  22. Sandburg, pp. 50–51.
  23. White, p. 125.
  24. 24.0 24.1 White, p. 126.
  25. Baker, p. 120.
  26. White, p. 179.
  27. White, pp. 181, 476.
  28. White, p. 181.
  29. "Lincoln's Last Descendant Dies". The Spkesman-Review (Associated Press). December 26, 1985.,5684384. 
  30. Emerson, p. page number needed
  31. Emerson, Jason (June/July 2006). "The Madness of Mary Lincoln". American Heritage. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  32. Shenk, Joshua Wolf (October 2005). "Lincoln's Great Depression". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  33. Donald (1996), pp. 41–46.
  34. White, p. 59.
  35. Dirck, p. 16.
  36. Lincoln (1992), p. 17.
  37. White, pp. 71, 79, 108.
  38. Donald (1996), pp. 67–69, pp. 100–101.
  39. Donald (1996), pp. 67–69 pp. 75, 121.
  40. Sandburg, p. 40.
  41. Holzer (2006), p. 16;
  42. Paul Simon, Lincoln's preparation for greatness: the Illinois legislative years (1989) p 130
  43. He said in 1837 that the "institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils." Thomas, Lincoln p. 64; Basler, ed. Collected Works vol 1 p 75
  44. Donald (1996), pp. 212, 222.
  45. Guelzo, p. 63.
  46. Gabor S. Boritt, Lincoln and the Economics of the American Dream (1978) Book 1
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  48. Oates, p. 79.
  49. Heidler, pp. 181–182.
  50. Oates, pp. 79–80.
  51. 51.0 51.1 Basler (ed.) 2001, pp. 199–202.
  52. McGovern, p. 33.
  53. Basler (ed.) 2001, p. 202.
  54. Mueller, Jean West; Wynell B. Schamel. "Teaching With Documents: Lincoln's Spot Resolutions". National Archives. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
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  61. "Abraham Lincoln's Patent Model: Improvement for Buoying Vessels Over Shoals". National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2008-06-17.  See also Emerson, Jason (Winter 2009). "A Man of Considerable Mechanical Genius". Invention and Technology 23 (4): 10–13. 
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  65. Handy, James S. (January 1917). "Book Review: Abraham Lincoln, the Lawyer-Statesman". Illinois Law Review (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Law Pub. Association) 11 (6): 440. 
  66. 66.0 66.1 66.2 66.3 Donald (1996), pp. 150–151. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ReferenceA" defined multiple times with different content
  67. McGovern, pp. 36–37.
  68. Goodwon, p. 792.
  69. Prokopowicz, pp. 94–95.
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  72. Oates, p. 119.
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  74. McGovern, pp. 38–39.
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  78. Harris, p. 98.
  79. McPherson (1993), p. 182.
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  87. Roland, p. 24.
  88. Goodwin, pp. 253–254.
  89. Boritt 1997, p. 10.
  90. Boritt 1997, pp. 13, 18.
  91. Nevins (1950), pp. 261–272.
  92. Nevins (1950), pp. 277, 290, 298–305.
  93. Luthin, pp. 171, 197–198, 202–203, 210, 218.
  94. "Zzzzzz" Pawn Stars; Season 2, Episode 30; April 25, 2010
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  98. Nevins (1950), p. 312 notes that if the opposition had formed fusion tickets in every state, Lincoln still would have 169 electoral votes; he needed 152 to win the Electoral College. Potter, p. 437, and Luthin, p. 227 both conclude it was impossible for Lincoln's opponents to combine because they hated each other.
  99. Steven Hansen, The making of the third party system: voters and parties in Illinois, 1850–1876 (1980); Michael F. Holt, "The New Political History and the Civil War Era," Reviews in American History, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Mar., 1985), pp. 60–69 in JSTOR
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  101. Edgar, Walter B. (1998). South Carolina: A History. University of South Carolina Press. p. 350. ISBN 9781570032554. 
  102. 102.0 102.1 102.2 Donald (1996), p. 267.
  103. Potter, p. 498.
  104. Crofts, Daniel W. (1993). Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis. 
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  115. Abraham Lincoln and the Corwin Amendment
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  118. Nevins (2000), p. 29.
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  126. Donald (1996), pp. 295–296 notes that major northern newspapers expected victory within 90 days.
  127. White Jr., p. 440
  128. White, p. 440
  129. Donald (1996), p. 360, 361
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  132. Goodwin, p. 478, 479
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