Often hailed as the greatest president of all times, Abraham Lincoln was a strong leader during one of the worst crises in American history. His impact on America helped to abolish slavery and brought the Union back together. He was a man of many faces, and his character exceeds the photographs seen today. His contributions to the American society will never be forgotten.
Lincoln was born on February 12, 2003 in Hardin County, Kentucky. His parents were Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. Thomas was hard working and enjoyed swapping stories, while his mother Nancy was quiet and literate. She died, however in 1818 due to poisonous milk. His parents were great influences, and greatly shaped the 16th president of the United States. When Thomas remarried, Abe showed great amity towards her, and often referred to her as his “angel mother. ” After relocating on several occasions and at some points having next to nothing, the hardships the Lincoln’s encountered soon passed. Although he showed a compassion for school, he only attended for 9 months, but taught himself arithmetic and grammar. These younger years helped shape Abe Lincoln and create the character of an honest president.
When Lincoln reached 21 he moved to Illinois, where he was hired to build a flatbed boat and transport materials down the Mississippi river. Next he landed a job working at a general store, and it was noted that he was very sociable. Lincoln soon became interested in town affairs and attended meetings regularly. After being asked to do commentary on cases he decided to run for state legislature. The Black Hawk War, however, prevented him from attaining that goal. He gained public interest, which would help in future campaigns. The general store he now owned went bankrupt, and Abe assumed the debt after the death of his partner William Berry. His nickname “honest-Abe” was derived from this .
Deciding to be a lawyer, Lincoln took partnership with Stewart. On September 9, 1836 he received his license to practice law. He ran again and was elected into the state legislature on August 14th. He actively became part of the forming Whig Party, and was involved with The Log Nine, who wanted to relocate the capital from Vandalia to Springfield. Gaining more public support, he ran for state legislature in the election of 1838 against Stephen S Douglas. Little did either know they would become life-long rivalries. He beat Douglas, and during his session worked to improve railroads and canals in Illinois, while supporting the state bank.
In the election of 1840 we saw the first Lincoln-Douglas debates. Although Lincoln admitted his defeat, numerous people saw to it a draw. Lincoln closed the business with Stewart and opened another with Stephen T. Logan, a fellow Whig and judge. Billy Herndon soon joined, and described Lincoln as a person whose “hair was dark- almost black- and lay floating where the fingers or winds left it, pried up and random. His eyebrows cropped out like a huge rock on the brow of a hill. His cheeks were leathery and flabby, falling in loose folds in places, looking sorrowful .” Lincoln eventually took partnership with Herndon, while campaigning in the 1844 election for Henry Clay. However, a personal interruption was now in the middle of his life. Although the two suffered multiple hardships, Abraham Lincoln and Marry Todd were married November 4, 1842. After 1843 they produced 4 sons; Todd, Edward, William and Thomas. Edward died at 4 years of age, William died at 11 years of age, and Thomas died in 1871 at 18 years old.
In May of 1846 he became a candidate for State representative. After being elected the Mexican-American War was ending, and 100 million square miles of new territory was established. This intensified the issue of slavery, and although the Missouri Compromise was in effect many Southerners yearned to destroy it. Lincoln thought that if slavery was not allowed to spread, it would eventually die. He returned to law practice and was desperately needed at home. The spreading of railroads helped to make this possible, and also boosted the state’s economy.
In 1856 Lincoln realized that the Whig Party no longer had the influence needed to advance in the political system. He became an avid organizer in the Republican Party and declared his opposition to the expansion of slavery. In 1858 he ran for US Senator, against Stephen S Douglas. They set up a series of 7 public debates in order to gain popular support, and were more commonly known as the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Their main issues was slavery, and although Lincoln won in the long run, he didn’t gain enough popularity to become US Senator. Although he thought he was not qualified, in 1860 the Republican Party nominated Lincoln for as the candidate for US presidency. He became known as the “rail splitter,” and by his inaugural address on March 4, 1861 6 states had already left the Union. When Major Anderson surrendered at Fort Sumter, the Civil War began.
The first battle the Union lost was the Battle of Bull Run. The Union continued on, however, and captured Fort Henry and Donelson. At this point they controlled all of Kentucky, and Ulysses S. Grand was made major general. While the war was advancing, Lincoln began to realize that defeating the Confederate armies was more important than symbolically taking their capital. The next series of battles was know as the 7 Days Battles, where confederate general Robert E Lee forced Union leader George McClellan back down the peninsula.
On July 22 Lincoln drafted and presented his cabinet with the Emancipation Proclamation, which outlawed slavery. Waiting for the right time to announce it, The Battle of Antietam provided the time. This was known as the bloodiest battle in American History, and after that September 17th day Lincoln announce the proclamation to take effect on New Years Day 1863. This converted the Civil War into a war of freedom.
At this time the North began to abhor Lincoln and the war, and some even wanted to make peace. The Union won the Battle of Vicksburg, in which they now owned the Mississippi River. The President traveled to Gettysburg, PA, where thousands of soldiers were being buried. His speech was so short it startled his audience, and is now considered on of the greatest speeches in American History. AT this time he appointed Ulysses S. Grant general in chief of all the armies, who devised a plan to defeat the south.
Up until the election of 1864 over 100,000 troops were dead. Many republicans continued to want peace, and elected George McClellan as a nominee for president. On Election Day November 8 Lincoln won the presidency and celebrated in the white house. That night his friend Ward Lamon ( U.S. Marshall for Washington) slept outside of Lincoln’s room in fear of him being assassinated.
W. T. Sherman devised a plan (The Sherman Plan) in which the army was to march through Georgia to the sea, destroying everything. On December 22, 1864, he presented Lincoln with the city of Savannah. The13th amendment was passed in January 1865 abolishing slavery. He gave his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, and acknowledged African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Grant captured Richmond on April 3, 1865, and accepted Lee’s surrender on April 9 at Appomattox Court House. On April 26 Sherman received the surrender of J. Johnston, thereby ending the war. The next night Lincoln read a speech and actor John Wilkes Booth swore he would never give another. After 6 months of plotting and recruiting 6 men had tried to capture Lincoln but were unsuccessful. Booth planned to Lincoln while Lewis Payne would kill secretary of State Seward.
The period following the Civil War was known as reconstruction. Abraham proposed the Proclamation of Amnesty, in which 10% of voters were to swear loyalty to the Union. They also had to turn back control of local government to civil authorities. When this happened they could readmit themselves into the Union. This lenient approach was opposed by the Radical Republicans, who passed the Wade-Davis Bill.
On April 14th the president went to Ford’s theatre with his wife to see Our American Cousin. During the 3rd act he was shot, and Booth screamed the words “sic semper tyranus,” which stood Latin for “Thus be it ever to the Tyrants ” The assassination of Seward failed, and on April 26th Booth was shot in the barn after Stanton (US secretary of War) met resistance with him. Lincoln however, had died on April 15, just 9 hours after he was shot.
Abraham Lincoln helped end slavery and helped to keep the American Union from splitting apart during the war. He is considered to be one of the greatest presidents and will forever be remembered for his actions. He believed he proved that democracy could be a lasting form of government. He will forever remain in our hearts and spoke of highly for generations to come.
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