“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…. “
– Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was born Feb 12, 1809, in Hardin Country, Kentucky. His family upbringing was modest; his parents from Virginia were neither wealthy or well known. At an early age, the young
Abraham lost his mother and his father moved away to Indiana. Abraham had to work hard splitting logs and other manual labour. But, he also had a thirst for knowledge and worked very hard to excel in his studies. This led him to become trained as a lawyer. He spent eight years working on the Illinois court circuit; his ambition, drive and capacity for hard work were evident to all around him. He also had a good sense of humour and was depreciating about his looks.
“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”
He married Mary Todd and had four children, although three died before reaching maturity.
As a lawyer, Abraham developed a great capacity for quick thinking and oratory. His interest in public issues encouraged him to stand for public office. In 1854 he was elected to the House of Representatives and he tried to gain nomination for the Senate in 1858. Although he lost this election, his debating skills caused him to become well known within the Republican party. In particular, during this campaign he gave one of his best remembered speeches.
A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South (House Divided)
In this House divided speech, Lincoln gave a prophetic utterance to the potential for slavery to divide the nation.
The reputation he gained on the campaign trail caused him to be elected as Republican nominee for President in 1860.
The election of Lincoln as President in 1861, sparked the South to succeed from the North. Southern independence sentiment had been growing for many years and the election of a president opposed to slavery was the final straw. However, Lincoln resolutely opposed the breakaway of the South and so this led to the American civil war. The civil war was much more costly than many people anticipated and at times Lincoln appeared to be losing the support of the general population. But, he managed to keep the Republican party together, stifling dissent by promoting the various Republican factions into the cabinet. Lincoln oversaw many of the military aspects of the war and promoted the general Ulysses S Grant to oversee the northern forces.
Initially the war was primarily about succession and the survival of the Union, but as the war progressed Lincoln increasingly made the issue of ending slavery paramount. To Lincoln, slavery was fundamentally wrong.
“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”
On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued his memorable Emancipation Proclamation that declared the freedom of slaves within the Confederacy.
“… all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons,…” (Emancipation Proclamation)
Eventually, after four years of attrition, the Federal forces secured the surrender of the defeated south. Lincoln had saved the union and also brought to head the end of slavery.
Dedicating the ceremony at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863, Lincoln declared:
“that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain–that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Lincoln was tragically assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, an actor on, April 14, 1865. He is widely regarded as one of America’s most influential and important presidents. As well as saving the union, Lincoln was viewed as embodying the ideals of honesty and integrity.