Gabor S. Boritt with Matthew Pinsker
My friends—No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be every where for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
Lincoln's heart was heavy. His old life was behind him. History tells us that he had very good reason to wonder "when, or whether ever" he would see his home again. The burdens upon him crushed him to the ground.
Humbly he gave credit to his hometown and to his neighbors for all that he was, for all that he had attained. He said, and he knew, that he, by himself, was nothing. But bowed down to the ground though he was, he still could not but fix his eyes on heights heretofore unscaled by any American. He had always looked up thus. Before him he now saw a task greater than Washington's—greater than the founding of the nation. The arrogance of such a view (however obscured by sincere humility), as well as the historical accuracy of it, is striking. Leaving the safe haven of his little western town, Lincoln sensed that if he should succeed at his task, his achievement and, one would suppose, his fame would surpass that of Washington.
The man from Illinois was fit for the task before him. Utter humility and strength rarely matched were his to the full. It is not surprising that he, a product of the Bible more than any American president before him or since, is so well summed up by an old Hasidic saying: "Everyone must have two pockets so that he can reach into one or the other, according to his needs. In his right pocket are to be the words 'For my sake was the world created,' and in his left, 'I am dust and ashes.' "
Lincoln was born on the Kentucky frontier in 1809, at the dawn of the Republic, to the nearly illiterate Thomas Lincoln and the probably illegitimate Nancy Hanks Lincoln. He was thus southern born, as were his parents, though his ancestry reached back to Pennsylvania and New England. In 1816 his family moved to the new state of Indiana and, as he reached adulthood, to Illinois. Raised to farm work in "a wild region," he found around him absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education. "Of course when I came of age," he recounted in his brief autobiography, "I did not know much."
The Bible he did know and in a way and to an extent that are almost unknown to our times. It left deep marks on both his language and his morality. So too, but to a lesser degree, did Shakespeare, some history, poetry, and, as the years went on, Blackstone, Euclid, and liberal texts on economics. Because his reading was so limited and his mind so excellent, he dug very deeply into what he did study. Moreover, what he did study deserved to be studied. Thus it is not romantic to suggest that, his protestations notwithstanding, in fundamental ways Lincoln's education was fortunate.
Lincoln's mother died when her son was nine years old. No small part of the tenderness of both Lincoln's public and private self can be tied to the young boy's loss. Indeed, the "riddle of mortality," to quote the historian Robert Bruce, became his intimate companion throughout life.
His first exposure to the wider world came when, in 1828 and 1831, Lincoln traveled in a flatboat down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Thereafter, for many years, he found central Illinois to be good enough to stay in, first in the pioneer village of New Salem and then in Springfield. He volunteered to fight Indians as a citizen soldier, but saw no action. He started studying law. Later, he made fun of his military experience, removing it as far as possible from a real war experience, speaking of it as consisting of "bloody struggles with musquitos" and "charges upon wild onions." Being elected captain of volunteers did give him his first important indication of his gift for leading men—"a success," he wrote in 1859, "which gave me more pleasure than any I have had since."
Early Political Career
After an initial defeat, in 1832, Lincoln was elected two years later to the Illinois House of Representatives. He succeeded to leadership rapidly, earning a local reputation as a follower of Henry Clay and as a capable politician in his own right. For a young man who would rise in life, the Whig party provided a hospitable political home. Indeed, into the 1850s, Lincoln's main political task remained advocating his own brand of an economic vision that called for the development of the United States through the nurturing of banking, commerce, industry, and transportation, and through the movement from a poor sort of farming toward intensive, scientific agriculture. Westward expansion held little appeal for him, westerner though he was, a product of his people's westerning experience.
Like other Whigs, he countered the Jacksonian manifest destiny for America with a call for the internal improvement of the nation. At the heart of his persuasion was an intense and continually developing commitment to the ideal that all men should receive a full, good, and ever-increasing reward for their labors so that they might have the opportunity to rise in life. Lincoln's political emphases would not change until the mid-1850s when, at last, he permitted himself to fully face the fact that slavery subverted the "American dream."
In 1842, after a tumultuous courtship, he married Mary Todd, the lovely, cultured daughter of a Kentucky banker. By then he had transformed himself from the barefoot penniless boy into a lawyer-politician in a frockcoat and, in the eyes of some, into "the candidate of pride, wealth, and aristocratic family distinction." The couple had four children, all boys, only one of whom lived to manhood. The family had a satisfying domestic life until the presidency, the war, and the death of a child destroyed a crucial part of their tranquillity. But love never deserted the Lincolns.
In 1847 the couple moved to Washington, D.C. Lincoln served a single term in the United States House of Representatives supporting governmental aid for the economic development of the country and opposing the Mexican War. He represented his constituency well, but he failed to distinguish himself, became frustrated by tensions within the Whig party, and so began to lose interest in politics. Law became ever more attractive to him; it provided a good middle-class living for his family and, quite important to Lincoln, also "a superior opportunity" for "being a good man."
Then the 1850s brought a revolution to American politics, making slavery the issue of the times. Lawyering again faded into the background as Lincoln seized the opportunity to reenter the political arena and reinvigorate the Democratic opposition in Illinois. He left the old Whig party to help form the new Republican movement. He won election once again to the Illinois House of Representatives but resigned before serving to pursue a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1855. Although Lincoln lost a close contest, he improved his standing as a leader for the new politicial alignment and emerged in 1856 as a prominent contender for the Republican party's first vice presidential nomination. Two years later, Lincoln ran for the Senate as the endorsed nominee of the Illinois Republicans against the incumbent, Stephen A. Douglas. It was the Lincoln-Douglas debates during their senatorial campaign that made Lincoln a nationally known figure and popularized his views.
The language he spoke and the moral convictions he championed were memorable:
The ant, who has toiled and dragged a crumb to his nest will furiously defend the fruit of his labor, against whatever robber assails him. So plain, that the most dumb and stupid slave that ever toiled for a master, does constantly know that he is wronged.
If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.
Free labor has the inspiration of hope, pure slavery has not hope.
At rare moments Lincoln proclaimed the full implication of his views:
I want every man to have a chance—and I believe a black man is entitled to it—in which he can better his condition—when he may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him!
Free men had to oppose slavery because it subverted the American dream in myriad ways but, perhaps most important, because by denying blacks the right to rise, slavery endangered that right for all. Though Lincoln did not call for the political or social equality of black people, the issue he and the Republicans presented to the America of the 1850s was huge enough: " 'Can we, as a nation, continue together permanently—forever —half slave, and half free?' The problem is too mighty for me. May God, in his mercy, superintend the solution."
Lincoln himself gave one answer when he accepted the nomination for senator: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." But Lincoln and the nation were quite unprepared for the violence that came with the answer. Indeed, to fight the political war against slavery, he turned a blind eye toward the probability of a bloody war that would be the price of freedom. He was a pacific man, and as a mature adult he denounced war and military glory as an "attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood—that serpent's eye, that charms to destroy." Looking at the future he confused prognosis and preference. Then at age fifty-two he found himself the leader of a nation at war with itself.
Election of 1860
Lincoln's election to the presidency gave him anything but a solid mandate to lead. In 1860 the Democratic party split into northern and southern branches. Douglas of Illinois ran on the northern ticket, and, though the only candidate to win substantial numbers of votes in all the states, he carried only Missouri. John C. Breckinridge, later a Confederate general, carried the southern Democratic banner and won all the slave states except a few on the border. Some former Whigs and Know-Nothings formed the Constitutional Union party, nominated John Bell, and carried Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The Republicans' Lincoln took every free state except New Jersey, where he received four of seven electoral votes. His honest rail-splitter image, with its connotation of the right to rise blending into his stand opposing slave labor, was enough to give him the electoral college. There being almost no Republican votes in the southern states, his popular vote (1.9 million) was not quite 40 percent of the total. (He received 180, or 59.41 percent, of the electoral vote.) A shift of 25,000 votes, out of a total of 675,000 in New York, an area with a high concentration of swing voters, would have thrown the election into Congress, where his chances would have been very slim. Thirty-nine thousand voters merely staying away from the polls in four smaller strategic states would have done the same.
The votes were barely counted when, in December 1860, South Carolina declared its secession from the Union. It was followed early in 1861 by all the states of the Deep South: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. In February these seven states formed the Confederate States of America and adopted a constitution much like that of the United States. They elected Jefferson Davis president, and Alexander H. Stephens, Lincoln's friend from his first stay in Washington, vice president.
The First Term
In his inaugural address, early in March, the president of the United States tried to be conciliatory without giving ground on the Republican principle of opposition to the further growth of slavery. He deprecated war, but war came when Lincoln refused to give up Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and the rebels fired upon it on 12 April. Four more states, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina, seceded quickly to join the Confederacy. Its capital was moved from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia.
Lincoln called for seventy-five thousand volunteers for three months—he still did not understand the magnitude of the struggle he was to lead. Nonetheless, following and enlarging the path of strong presidents like George Washington and Andrew Jackson, Lincoln acted with great vigor. He commenced his "reign," as opponents would quickly label it, by refusing to call Congress into session in the face of an unprecedented emergency. He proceeded then to double the size of the army and navy; institute an economic blockade of the South on land, as well as at sea; spend treasury funds without appropriations; and suspend both the writ of habeas corpus (where he saw fit) and the freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. Lincoln was going to save the Union and, more important, as he understood it, the principles it stood for.
His vigorous and seemingly arbitrary actions immediately called into question among many of his contemporaries the character of his presidency. Criticism grew as the years went by, for he added to his list of unprecedented policies presidential conscription, presidential reconstruction, and presidential emancipation until "this most abused of presidents," to quote historian Don E. Fehrenbacher, "suffered his worst abuse as the alleged assassin of his country's freedom."
In a famous episode in the spring of 1861, John Merryman of Maryland, a leading secessionist, was arrested while the allegiance of the state to the Union hung in the balance. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney issued a writ of habeas corpus and, when it was ignored by military authorities, called upon Lincoln to do his duty. For good measure, in a written opinion Taney declared the presidential suspension of habeas corpus, under article I, section 2 of the Constitution, as well as military arrests to be unconstitutional.
Lincoln ignored Ex parte Merryman. In doing so, he did less than defy the Court, because the Merryman opinion was solely Taney's. Indeed, the full Court wisely refused to hear a similar case on technical grounds. Over the years Lincoln defended often, in his homely fashion, his stance on civil liberties and their relationship to the Constitution: "Often limb must be amputated to save a life; but life is never given to save a limb." By examining literally thousands of less-publicized cases, historian Mark Neely has shown how Lincoln tried repeatedly to achieve that precarious balance between order and liberty during wartime. Eventually both the Congress and the Court approved the emergency measures. When the war was over, however, Lincoln's good friend David Davis spoke for the Supreme Court in Ex parte Milligan (1866), ruling that military trials of civilians while regular courts were functioning were unconstitutional.
In the Merryman case, symbolic of the issue of civil liberties in general, historians tend to defend both Lincoln and Taney because, on the one hand, the Civil War demanded strong practical action to save the Union and, on the other, the affirmation of the fundamental rights of freemen was equally indispensable. Justice Robert H. Jackson summed up matters felicitously in 1955: "Had Mr. Lincoln scrupulously observed the Taney policy I do not know whether we would have had any liberty, and had the Chief Justice adopted Mr. Lincoln's philosophy as the philosophy of the law, I again do not know whether we would have had any liberty."
Though Lincoln is generally seen as a model of the strong president who stood up to Confederates, Peace Democrats ("Copperheads"), Radical Republicans, and a southern-minded chief justice, it is important to clarify that paradoxically he was also a "Whig in the White House," as historian David Herbert Donald has noted. The Whigs, building on the colonial tradition of enmity toward executive usurpations, took their name from the English foes of large royal powers. In the 1830s the American Whigs united against "King Andrew I" (Jackson), and in time Lincoln accepted this central tenet of his party's ideology.
Accordingly, though a Republican by then, President Lincoln made a sharp distinction between executive and legislative powers. In ordinary matters of government, he rarely interfered with the work of Congress; for example, he used the veto sparingly. In matters of patronage, he deferred to the legislators or cabinet officers. On policy matters, too, he gave much leeway to the members of his cabinet, whom he appointed from among the ablest leaders of his party, men like William H. Seward at the State Department, Salmon P. Chase at the Treasury Department, and Edwin M. Stanton in the War Department. Of course, more than theory had guided Lincoln, and he also saw practical short-term benefits to his stance. But over the long run, Lincoln's adherence to the Whig view substantially weakened the powers of the presidency and paved the way for post-war congressional dominance.
Strong president or weak president, despot or Whig—which one was the real Lincoln? It might be said that only the Civil War called forth and justified the despot. The war was the supreme emergency of American history, and, presumably, more ordinary times would have produced a much tamer president. The professions, as well as the record, of the Whig in the White House buttress such a conclusion. The professions and record, however, may mislead. It is tempting and almost inevitable to go beyond them
and postulate that Lincoln thrived on the wise but broad use of power that the war had "compelled."
The Civil War
The war started badly for the Union. In the first major battle, at Bull Run on 21 July 1861, the inexperienced army of Irvin McDowell was routed by the equally inexperienced Confederates of P. G. T. Beauregard and Joseph Johnston. The slogan "On to Richmond" was shelved, and Lincoln put George B. McClellan in command. But while the general in chief settled down to training the Army of the Potomac, on the diplomatic front danger threatened.
In foreign policy the chief task before the Lincoln administration was to minimize aid from abroad to the Confederacy, especially from Britain and France. Lincoln left much of the task to Secretary of State Seward, though early in his administration it was necessary for him to take charge directly in some crucial cases. At the height of the Sumter crisis, Seward presented Lincoln with a memorandum that not only indicated the desirability of Seward's assumption of the presidential duty but also proposed to avert civil war by resorting to foreign war. Seward wanted to "seek" explanations from Great Britain and Russia, "demand" explanations from Spain and France, "categorically, at once"—because of those nations' supposed violations of the Monroe Doctrine. Presumably war with one or more foreign powers would follow and southerners would join northerners to defend their common country. Though Lincoln had little understanding of diplomacy, his common sense told him to play down the document and give Seward time to calm down. Seward's position was thus saved and he would yet become a great secretary of state.
Indeed, later in 1861, Seward played the pivotal role in defusing the Trent affair. By then Britain had granted "belligerent rights" to the South, but not recognition as an independent nation. The American effort to keep Europe out of the war was succeeding at the diplomatic table, but not on the high seas. In early November, a hotheaded captain of the United States Navy, Charles Wilkes, removed from the British steamer Trent the Confederate emissaries to Britain and France, James M. Mason and John Slidell. As the North, much in need of victories, celebrated, London spoke of war. Then, after a decent interval had passed, Lincoln ordered the release of the southerners. There was to be only one war at a time.
In 1862 and again in 1863 the British and the French pushed mediation attempts that in effect would have meant the recognition of Confederate independence. In the end, the South not only failed to obtain European recognition but was unable to get any truly substantial help. Six raiders were built in British and French shipyards, the most famous of which, the Alabama, caused millions of dollars worth of damage to northern shipping before it was sunk in 1864. Yet northern diplomats, most notably Charles Francis Adams, were competent. Northern grain was important to a Europe that suffered crop failures. Southern cotton in turn was increasingly replaced by the cotton of India and Egypt. The Old World was also beset with uprisings, wars, and threats to the balance of power. By 1863, with the Emancipation Proclamation appealing to Europeans with antislavery sentiments, it was Adams, the American minister to the Court of St. James's, who spoke of Anglo-American war unless the British put an end to the aid trickling to the Confederacy. Ultimately, success on the diplomatic front depended on the outcome on the battlefield.
In 1862 a string of Confederate victories in the East dazzled the world. The navy remained the one bright spot for Lincoln. Indeed, on 9 March, after the iron-sheathed wooden Virginia (the rechristened Union Merrimack, salvaged by the Confederates) threatened Washington, putting fear into president, cabinet, and the city, it was stopped by the ironclad Monitor. Naval warfare was being revolutionized, and the Union continued its domination of the seas.
On land the picture was different. The Army of Northern Virginia was led by the finest southern generals, Robert E. Lee (who took command in mid-1862), Thomas ("Stonewall") Jackson, and James E. Longstreet. They faced the generally larger Army of the Potomac, led by a succession of second-rate generals. Under McClellan, this army tried to come back from the Bull Run defeat in an elaborate campaign on the Virginia Peninsula but failed. In the Shenandoah Valley, Jackson seemed to play with his opponents, albeit bloodily. At Bull Run again, in late August, the Union troops, under John Pope, repeated their fiasco of the previous year. When Lee invaded Maryland, McClellan, fully in command once more, stopped him at Antietam (17 September 1862) in the single bloodiest day of the war. This, however, was a far cry from victory, though Lincoln chose to treat it as such and issue the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in its wake (22 September). The year ended with the Army of the Potomac, now under Ambrose Burnside, suffering a disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg (13–15 December).
The year 1863 promised more of the same as "Fighting Joe" Hooker, his army outnumbering Lee's more than two to one, was beaten back at Chancellorsville, Virginia, on 1–4 May. Not until Lee ventured north again to Gettysburg did the tide appear to turn. There, during the first three days of July, in a bitter encounter, the Army of the Potomac under its newest commander, George G. Meade, decisively defeated the Confederates of invincible repute. Thereafter to the end of 1863 and beyond, the Union side in the East seemed to be satisfied to rest on its Gettysburg laurels, Lincoln's passionate efforts to the contrary notwithstanding.
In the West, by contrast, the finest northern generals, the likes of Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and George H. Thomas, faced weak Confederate generals. Though here, too, the war had its shifting tides, on the whole federal arms proved victorious. In February 1862, Grant captured Fort Henry and Fort Donelson with substantial naval support, only to be stopped at Shiloh, Tennessee, in a very bloody draw (6–7 April). On 1 May the Union navy took New Orleans, and five days later the Mississippi River fleet took Memphis. Indeed, throughout the war the Union navy was largely successful. A high point of the western campaigns, as well as of army-navy cooperation, came with the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and its surrender to Grant on 4 July 1863, the day after the battle of Gettysburg. "The signs look better," Lincoln wrote in a public letter in August. "Peace does not appear so distant as it did."
In its broadest terms, the goal of the war had always been clear to the president (though in its many significant details, change was continuous). In his war message in 1861 he had already explained:
This is essentially a People's contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men—to lift artificial weights from all shoulders—to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all—to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.
In the fall of 1863, Lincoln went to the small Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg to help dedicate the Soldiers' National Cemetery. He gave a two-minute address there to America, the world, and to history:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Lincoln understood that one of his chief tasks as president was to keep alive the northern will to fight. The challenge of the task was all the greater because the North had the wherewithal to win the war. Lincoln believed not only that right was on the side of the Union but knew that might was too. Might certainly could be more readily measured.
In his war message in 1861, Lincoln had pointed to the material superiority of the North. More than three years later, in his last annual message, he would emphasize that the North was actually "gaining strength, and may, if need be, maintain the contest indefinitely.. . . The national resources, then, are unexhausted, and, as we believe, inexhaustible." The North had to bring this superiority to bear on the battlefield. Though Lincoln's conduct of the war had many facets—he even considered taking command in the field—his principal military duty was to rally the people.
At the start of the war the North had perhaps 22 million people against the South's 5 million to 6 million whites and 3.5 million blacks. The North's railroad mileage was twice that of the South's; the cash value of its farms two and a half times greater; and the cash value of its manufactured products about ten times greater. More than 25 percent of the population of the free states was urbanized, as against 10 percent of the slave states. Forty percent of the Union population was engaged in agriculture, compared to 84 percent of the Confederate population. The value of northern farmland was two and a half times the value of land in the slave states, and its agriculture was much more mechanized. Twice as many of the free states' school-age children attended school—not counting the slave population of the South, which was not only unschooled but almost wholly illiterate.
Not surprisingly for one who spent the bulk of his public career in Illinois dealing with matters economic, Lincoln's military direction from the White House always carried a large economic ingredient. One of his earliest moves of the war had been the establishment of the blockade of the southern ports, which, by the close of the war, grew to be deadly effective. He insisted that his military make good use of the railroads. He advocated, from late 1862, the use of black troops, in part because the step not only added to northern military strength but also because it weakened southern economic strength. He emphasized the significance of the Mississippi Valley, new weapons, and even the use of reconnaissance balloons.
More subtle links also existed between Lincoln's progressive economic persuasion and his innovative strategic notions, which some historians speak of as his "military genius." Thus, the man who in the 1840s demanded from Congress a centralized and coordinated plan of national improvements in the 1860s made like demands upon his generals for centralization of authority and coordination of plans. And so the Union's unified command system and its central, overall plan of strategy were born. Similarly, Lincoln's decisive championship of cordon offense (advancing on the enemy on every front, thus pitting all the northern resources against all the southern ones) stemmed primarily from his conviction that economic might, more than anything else except morale, would determine the outcome of the war. This oft-attested conviction was fundamental to his recognition that the objective of the Union forces should be not the conquest of territories but the destruction of opposing armies, the destruction of "the most important branch of . . . resources"—men.
Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of Lincoln's military policy was the drastic rate at which federal commanders were replaced. In the East, for example, in a period of two years he removed the general in charge seven times. He was criticized harshly then, and since, for failing to support his commanders in defeat. Yet Lincoln's actions reflected a core aspect of his outlook, which under the pressure of war became extreme: he conducted a ruthless campaign of pushing the successful to the fore. His view that in the Civil War one side stood for the "open field" for all, while the other side was against it, thus received more than symbolic corroboration. In the Confederacy the men who held the chief commands early in the war would, with the exception of those who had been killed, be there at war's end. In contrast, there would not be a single general commanding a main army in the Union service of 1865 who had held high command at the beginning of the struggle. In this respect, Lincoln's American dream had triumphed on the battlefield too.
If the president's outlook ever wavered, the booming prosperity of the wartime North helped strengthen it. Government purchases for military needs stimulated various sectors of industry and much of farming. Expanding industries included transportation, iron and steel, woolen clothing, shoes, munitions, and coal. Farmers increased production greatly. Even though one-third of farm-workers went into the army, exports of wheat, corn, pork, and beef to Europe doubled. Farms and factories made the first widespread use of laborsaving machines such as the reaper and the sewing machine. The war forced the economy into an early form of mass production, and the nation expanded as settlers moved westward.
Though war brought prosperity to the North, financing the war was a most difficult undertaking. Taxes and money borrowed from the people in the form of war bonds became the major sources of northern finance, though paper money and consequent inflation played their part too.
The laboring people's wages did not keep up with inflation through much of the war, and there were strikes. Predictably, Lincoln took the side of the laborers. Almost invariably strikers had "just cause" for their action, he explained, and even as employers were denouncing the supposed illegal nature of unions, Lincoln received union members in the White House. Repeatedly he warned against "the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above labor." When he sent his ideas to Congress, warning that if working people surrendered their political power "it would be used to close the door of advancement" against them, it grew painfully clear that in these matters the president was not in step with much of the leadership of his country. The House of Representatives, laying the groundwork not only for the modern American economy but also for the abuses of the Gilded Age, snubbed the president's message. Radical Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens explained the tabling of Lincoln's message by saying that there was "no appropriate committee on metaphysics in the House." Copperhead Clement Vallandigham agreed: "I presume it will go to the Committee of Unfinished Business." And as one historian added, "Unfinished business it remained for the rest of the century."
Some of the victorious troops fresh from Gettysburg were sent to New York City to put down anti-draft riots. Conscription had been employed first in 1862, and more freely in 1863, to stimulate volunteering for the Union army (the same was the case in the Confederacy), and in New York resistance degenerated into the worst riot of American history up to that time. For Lincoln the "most notable feature" of the riots was "the hanging of some working people by other working people." "It should never be so," he stated. "The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds." The words might have come from one of his European admirers, Karl Marx, indicating the idea's international currency, though Lincoln had something quite American in mind. The workingmen hanged were blacks. The riots of 1863 may have been less a protest against the draft, or class distinctions, than against Lincoln's policy toward black people.
Lincoln had always been egalitarian to the bone and opposed to slavery. As a young politician, he had found the courage to denounce slavery in the Illinois House of Representatives. By the 1850s his sentiments had become the centerpiece of his politics, but as president, his job was to reforge a nation the southern part of which was slave owning. He had to do this by rallying the northern, mostly free part of the nation, which included not only the crucial border states that saw slavery as sacred but also huge numbers of negrophobes in such places as the northwestern heartland of Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois and the city of New York.
Accordingly, the president moved with great caution toward emancipation, starting in late 1861. When, about the same time, his impetuous commander of the western department, John Charles Frémont, declared the slaves of the Missouri rebels summarily freed, Lincoln said no. He requested the repeal of the order, and when he failed to obtain compliance, he fired the general. In April and May of 1862 when General David Hunter issued similar proclamations of emancipation in the southern department the president once again countermanded the orders. Over the years he would often state his determination "not to go forward fast enough to wreck the country's cause."
Exquisite timing and knowing the limits of the possible were key elements in Lincoln's success as a leader. At first, he hoped to bring the great change to America as gently "as the dews of heaven." His desire for gradualism was supplemented with promises of compensation, for the slave owners stood to lose billions of dollars worth of "property." He hoped thus to induce voluntary action on the part of individual states. And he knew, too, that the slaves would need substantial help to enjoy their newfound freedom. Into his hopes Lincoln put his whole "soul," to borrow the word used independently by two of his confidants, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts and Supreme Court Justice David Davis. Toward the end of 1862, too late, he still gave beautiful and oft-quoted expression to these hopes:
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.. . . As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.. . . Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.. . . In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free —honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth.
He had worked with representatives of border slave states, with congressmen, with the general public, but the fact was that the gentle road to drastic change, ever difficult, in a time of civil war and revolution was quite unrealistic. It was bound to fail.
Congress moved ahead, too, with the two separate Confiscation Acts that authorized seizing the private property of Confederate military personnel and civilians. But it was the White House that led the way to African-American freedom. In the summer of 1862, Lincoln decided in favor of immediate abolition of slavery. From then on, he concentrated formidable political powers on bringing as much of the country behind this revolutionary policy as possible.
In August an attack on him by the influential editor of the New York Tribune helped his cause. In "The Prayer of Twenty Million," Horace Greeley accused the president of moving too slowly, deferring too much "to Rebel Slavery." Lincoln replied with a thunderous no and an oath of allegiance to the Union:
If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or 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.
Lincoln had thus seemingly rebuffed the abolitionist left, though in fact he was about to take their side. His intended audience was that large conservative segment of the electorate that opposed the freeing of the slaves—some at any cost, except the cost of the Union. The Union was the common cause on which nearly all northerners could agree, and there Lincoln took his stand. When he would make his decision for emancipation public, he would thus do so on conservative grounds.
A second way to make emancipation acceptable to a reluctant northern public was through the advocacy of black colonization outside the United States, most probably in Central America or Africa. Many northerners feared that the end of slavery in the South would inundate the North with blacks. They would accept emancipation only if it were accompanied by the removal of blacks from America. It was therefore good politics for the president to advocate colonization. He managed to follow this political road in part because he himself still had fears about how successfully the two races could break out of their old relationship. Though at some level of consciousness Lincoln understood the impossibility of the colonization idea, for a time in late 1862, he made much of the policy.
Thus, on the surface it was an uncomplicated Unionist and colonizationist who issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on 22 September 1862—after Lee's armies were repelled in the battle of Antietam. But in a deeper sense Lincoln was more of an emancipator than a Unionist. And even as he issued the Final Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January 1863, freeing the slaves in the areas still in rebellion, he forgot, almost with indecent haste, about colonization. He had spent none of the paltry sum Congress had appropriated for the purpose. Instead, he focused increasing attention on reconstructing a nation of blacks and whites.
Emancipation itself was a central step in reconstructing the United States. The war had begun with the announced goal of restoring the Union as it was in 1860. In 1861, surely by 1862, the goal had shifted toward Reconstruction, the reshaping of the Union without slavery. As the war continued and then veered toward a close, a further shift occurred, expanding the goal of the struggle to include union, emancipation, and movement toward civil rights for the freedman. The interplays between the North and the South, between factions in both, and between Congress and the executive in Washington were complex, but the central issue remained the role of African Americans in American society. Lincoln moved behind a radical vanguard but ahead of northern opinion, not to mention white American opinion in general and at times ahead of the consensus of his Republican party as well. The question to him was not " 'Can any of us imagine better?' but 'Can we all do better?' " With this clear, pragmatic motto before him, he led Americans toward acceptance of ever greater black freedom.
The president consistently refused to recognize the validity of secession ordinances and, in legal terms, looked upon the Union as an unbroken and unbreakable unit. The war constituted a set of problems that he, as commander in chief, had to deal with, and Reconstruction measures fell into this category of problems. At the same time, he was ready to allow Congress a substantial and constitutionally legitimate role in the Reconstruction process.
In the middle of 1863, as parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Virginia, and all of Tennessee came under the control of federal arms, Lincoln brought into being local military governments. Their chief task was to rally southern Unionists, subdue and keep away rebels and their sympathizers, and bring about a new day for blacks.
At the end of 1863 the president proposed his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction. It included the "10 Percent Plan"—well received in Congress—which called for the formation of civilian governments when one-tenth of the voting population of 1860 took the oath of allegiance to the United States. Emancipation was not to be open for discussion in these states. Many citizens were proscribed from participation in the political process either as voters or officeholders: individuals who had held diplomatic or civil posts in the Confederacy, Confederate officers above the rank of colonel, those who had resigned from the armed forces of the United States or from any branches of the government, and those who had mistreated federal prisoners of war. His proposal notwithstanding, Lincoln insisted that flexibility should be the key to Reconstruction and that different plans might be needed in different times and places.
Louisiana became Lincoln's test case. Initially he had overestimated southern unionism there, as elsewhere in the South. When satisfactory Reconstruction failed to materialize, he increasingly involved himself in personally directing the Louisiana experiment. His style combined daring, strength, and coercion with caution, conciliation, and ambiguity. It demanded movement, but only step by step, and entailed the use of patronage, the military, and other tools of presidential power. It included a precise, lawyerly command of the language, a unique eloquence, and a genius for ambiguity. This last quality, though needed, helped confuse many Radicals in Congress (and later historians as well).
The president created a government, under General Nathaniel P. Banks, that struck down slavery, provided for public schools for blacks and whites, and empowered the state legislature to enfranchise blacks. As white Louisiana Unionists faced the hostile pro-Confederate majority, Lincoln labored with finesse to keep the former united—hence, much of his ambiguity. Yet, as early as August 1863, Lincoln was ready to have the color line on the franchise breached. In March 1864 he wrote his famous letter to Governor Michael Hahn calling for voting rights for "very intelligent" blacks and black veterans because "they could probably help, in some trying time to come, to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom." Rather than being a mere suggestion for "private consideration," this was a "directive," as historian LaWanda Cox has shown, and was understood as such by Louisiana leaders. In short, Lincoln led the Unionists toward black suffrage while pretending to stay in the background.
Ironically, the Radicals in Washington tried to strike down the Louisiana free-state movement in the name of black suffrage and Lincoln's abuse of military power. The conflict that then developed between the executive and the legislature sometimes overshadowed the cooperation between the two, not merely in various areas of governmental work but specifically on Reconstruction. Lincoln had, after all, worked well with Congress to abolish slavery in the territories and the District of Columbia; to admit West Virginia, split off from Virginia, as a new free state; and to smooth out disagreements over the 1862 Confiscation Act. And they would later work together in establishing the Freedmen's Bureau to help care for the freed slaves and, most momentously, in pushing through Congress the Thirteenth Amendment, thereby abolishing slavery under the Constitution.
Nonetheless, early in 1864, Lincoln provoked a split with the Radicals. Congressman Henry Winter Davis of Maryland and Senator Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio produced a somewhat muddled bill in favor of congressional Reconstruction. Though the bill did not call for black suffrage, it had the aura of Radicalism about it. Lincoln pocket vetoed the bill—the only important veto of his presidency—much less because of the larger issues of Reconstruction than because of the upcoming presidential election. While the Wade-Davis bill had wound its way through Congress, the president had remained silent. Then, to the surprise of many, including his friends in Congress, he declined to sign the measure. Probably many of his friends would have refused to support the Wade-Davis bill if they had known his position. As correspondent Noah Brooks summed it up in Washington in Lincoln's Time (1895), it was only when the executive acted that "for the first time men who had not seriously opposed the passage of the . . . bill began to wish that it had never gone to the President."
It seems that Lincoln wanted the opportunity to veto the bill and draw a sharp line between himself and the Radicals. A few days earlier, equally surprisingly but to the same effect, he accepted the resignation of Chase, the resident Radical of the cabinet. But then, elections are usually won at the center, and Lincoln did win. Soon after he was quite ready to accept more than the Wade-Davis policy for Reconstruction and appoint Chase chief justice of the United States.
Although the Wade-Davis veto soured Lincoln's relations with an important element of his party, its wider political benefits were much needed. After the military successes of 1863, above all at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the year 1864 brought reversals, with the end of the war appearing no closer than before. In the western theater Nathaniel Banks led an expedition into the Red River region of Texas and into dismal failure. Sherman, who had succeeded Grant in the western command that spring, commenced to move from Chattanooga against Atlanta, but the able General Joseph Johnston managed to slow his progress significantly. In the East, progress seemed even slower and was extremely costly. Grant, recently appointed general in chief by Lincoln, promptly took up headquarters with the Army of the Potomac to lead it in person. In the Wilderness region of Virginia (5–7 May), around Spotsylvania Courthouse (8–21 May), and at Cold Harbor (3 June), the new general in chief suffered such heavy casualties that some in the North called him "Butcher Grant."
The North could celebrate the death of J. E. B. Stuart, if the death of a gallant foe is a suitable occasion for celebration. But that the Confederates remained very much alive was quickly demonstrated when Jubal Early moved up the Shenandoah Valley toward Washington. At the very time the North had expected the fall of Richmond, Washington was being threatened instead (11 July). Lincoln, as well as assorted cooks and clerks quickly pressed into defensive service, came under fire. To top it all, the Union soldiers, bogged down to a siege at Petersburg, tunneled under the Confederate lines and exploded a section thereof with a mine only to fail in exploiting the advantage. The fiasco was made spectacular by its very novelty.
The president at times despaired of reelection. His own party put up challengers from its Radical wing, first Chase and then Frémont, but Lincoln parried them with relative ease. His aim was to attract the center of the electorate, which would decide the election. The Democrats—themselves divided into various factions, notably for and against war—moved in the same direction and nominated a war Democrat, General George McClellan, as Lincoln's opponent. However, to the Republicans' advantage, the Democrats did so on a peace platform.
The president and his party used their power and considerable political skills to great advantage. They changed the party name from Republican to Union to enlarge its appeal. The vice presidential nomination was taken from the colorless incumbent, Hannibal Hamlin, and given to a loud southern Unionist, Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, a "self-made man" like Lincoln. Nevada was rushed into the Union to gain additional Republican votes. Also, large efforts were made to garner the military vote.
All the same, the president knew that ultimately it was upon the fortunes of war that all else depended and the northern forces began to prevail late in 1864. In August, Tennessee-born Admiral David Farragut, famous for his victory at New Orleans and his pithy "Damn the torpedoes—full speed ahead," won the battle of Mobile Bay; in September, Sherman took Atlanta, and Sheridan purged the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
In November, Lincoln won reelection with 2.2 million votes, giving him a convincing majority of 400,000. (The electoral vote was 212–21.) McClellan carried only Kentucky, Delaware, and New Jersey. The war was going to be finished. There were minor irregularities in the election but they were overshadowed, as Lincoln understood, by the stupendous fact that in the midst of a great civil war, elections were held at all. "It shows," he told a group of serenaders, "how sound, and how strong we still are." Lincoln's understanding of history was as fine as was his leadership.
Yet the war was taking its toll on him. The vigorous middle-aged man who had taken office in 1861 had become the almost old man who appears in his last photograph. Mary Todd, his lovely bride, had grown old too, and after the loss of their twelve-year-old son, Willie, in 1862, she began to lose her grip on reality. Lincoln's heart grew heavy. He said there was a tired spot inside him that nothing could touch. Around him there were death and devastation. The casualties of the war—both North and South—continued to mount, by the end reaching 1.5 million men, including about 620,000 dead—this in a nation of 31.5 million.
Reelected to the presidency, Lincoln said, "I do not impugn the motives of any one opposed to me. It is no pleasure to me to triumph over any one." He added soon after, "So long as I have been here I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man's bosom."
On 15 November, Sherman left Atlanta, beginning the march to the sea. From Atlanta east, the troops lived off the country and destroyed what they could not take. Sherman believed that the Confederacy should not be allowed to live from the southern harvest or have a happy, secure backcountry. Savannah fell before Christmas. Lincoln frankly admitted that he had doubts about Sherman's march and gave all the credit for success to the general. In the new year, Sherman started his march northward through the Carolinas. The war fought there was a newer and uglier kind of war. Columbia, South Carolina, went up in flames—at whose hands, historians still debate.
Sheridan had followed like tactics in the Shenandoah Valley. He seemed ready to use any means to prevent the valley from provisioning Lee's armies or any other army that might try to attack Washington via that route. Bushwhacking southern guerrillas ensured the campaign's deterioration into scorched-earth tactics. The rich, beautiful Shenandoah Valley fell victim to total war. It was a blessing when, at last, Grant broke the grip of Lee, who on 2 April abandoned Richmond. Seven days later Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
Plans for Reconstruction
Lincoln was intent on seeing his Louisiana experiment through but also hoped to work with the Radicals. He had played a crucial role in the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment by a somewhat reluctant House of Representatives. In his last public address, on 11 April, before the White House, he pleaded for saving the Louisiana government that congressional Radicals opposed: "Concede that the new government of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it."
What the fowl was to look like he indicated by expressing his personal preference for giving the franchise to blacks who were educated, or propertied, or were Union veterans. How far he was to go beyond that, or with what speed, we do not know, but his course would have depended in no small part on what he judged to be attainable. The direction he took was clear, and though he knew each state to be unique, in his last address he also explained that "what has been said of Louisiana will apply to other states."
Lincoln knew and prized the achievement of black soldiers against heavy odds, which he could not always readily lighten. As early as 1863, he had spoken glowingly of the black man who "with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, . . . helped mankind" to the great consummation of freedom. Blacks had fought in more than 190 battles, and about 68,000 black soldiers and sailors had been killed or wounded. Twenty-one blacks won the Congressional Medal of Honor. A black regiment was the first to march into Richmond when the Confederate capital fell, and Lincoln toured the city escorted by black cavalry. No one could misunderstand the significance of his escort. For the postwar era Lincoln was determined to bring both political and economic advancement to blacks. His commitment to black freedom fit into a larger commitment to a democratic, capitalist America. And so his postwar response to black needs would have also depended in no small part on his response to the coming Gilded Age.
Reconstruction for Lincoln meant more than providing a place for blacks in "a new birth of freedom," central though that issue was. He was also concerned with southern whites, even the former slaveholder, and as late as 1865, he gave serious attention to compensating slaveholders. During the war years his numerous peace feelers and reconstruction schemes included strong appeals to the economic interests of the Confederates. He assumed, somewhat naively for a time of bitter war, that materialist enticements could seduce the South into peace. This assumption largely explains the absurdly vast amount of time he devoted to the problems of trading with the Confederacy (the corruption it bred notwithstanding), especially in cotton. The same was true of his secret feelers about the federal takeover of the Confederate war debt (obliquely attacked in the Wade-Davis Manifesto), his persistent offers for large-scale compensation for slaves, his lack of enthusiasm for congressional laws of confiscation, and perhaps even the unrealistic presidential request that the Pacific Railroad be built on the five-foot gauge used primarily in the South.
After the war ended, such economic incentives were likely to have more substantial effects. The blueprint that Congress created during the war for a modern nation was also a blueprint for the new, reconstructed America. Lincoln not only tried to help set the tone for it—though unsuccessfully in the field of labor relations—but in crucial instances he made vital contributions to the revolution that changed the government's role in the American economy. He Whiggishly stayed in the background as a rule, letting Congress shape legislation, but when he was needed, as in the case of the establishment of the national banking system and of the Department of Agriculture, he brought the full weight of the presidency to bear. He also encouraged movement toward graduated income taxes (though such taxes were later declared unconstitutional); uniform paper currency (the greenbacks); higher tariff protection for American industry; internal improvements, notably the Pacific Railroad; immigration; the Land Grant College (or Morrill) Act (1862); and the Homestead Act (1862), which provided free homesteads of 160 acres for those who would work the land in the West for five years. The net result, as the president reported while calling for the support of immigration, was that the nation "was beginning a new life."
Nowhere would this new life be more beneficial than in the war-ravaged South. There, Lincoln knew, more than in the rest of the country, the interests of blacks and whites were intertwined, and he had come to nurture a faith that the two races would learn to cooperate. Emancipation, Lincoln believed, did not merely liberate the blacks but also the whites. It made the American dream also a southern dream, with a resultant prosperity for all. In the midst of the hatreds of war, he took pleasure, in private, in creating a "word painting of what the South would be when the war was over, slavery destroyed, and she had an opportunity to develop her resources." Long after one of Lincoln's treasury officials had heard him dream thus, the official found himself listening to a new breed of southerner advocating economic development and a "New South." The official experienced a flash of memory that came with "the vividness of an electric light," as he "recognized the word-picture of Mr. Lincoln.. . ."
The war had been won, the Union saved. But the Union to Lincoln had not been an end but a means. It had to be upheld, as he had explained in 1861, as it held "that thing for which the Union itself was made." The Union was a ship, and its cargo "the prosperity and the liberties of the people. . . . So long as the ship can be saved, with the cargo, it should never be abandoned."
The idea of a Union is essentially national; that of democracy, the American Dream, the right to rise in the world, is universal. One historical view prizes the Civil War as a "war for nationality" and makes Lincoln into the "Great Nationalist" of the modern historians, a man who had a religious faith in the Union. Another view cherishes him as an American Moses or Christ, one who spoke to mankind.
The first view denies the uniqueness of the United States and sees Lincoln as a New World counterpart of those Europeans whose highest goal was the building of a nation—almost as an end in itself. In contrast, Lincoln's dream helped lead America to the nationalism of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In March 1865, at his second inaugural, Lincoln delivered another speech that might be described as one of the finest in the English language. He again looked ahead:
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.. . .
With malice toward none, with charity for all, . . . let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, . . . to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Six weeks later, on the night of 14 April 1865, Good Friday, the president was shot while attending a performance at Ford's Theater in Washington. He died nine hours later. He thus did not live to see how difficult it would be to create a "new life," a "new birth of freedom," in a new America.
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York, 1995), is by far the finest biography. However, with the book's focus on the pragmatic politician that Lincoln was, his ideas and moral convictions fade. Some of the glory that was Lincoln is missing. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years, 6 vols. (New York, 1926–1939), is the long-beloved popular biography by a poet of note. William H. Herndon, Herndon's Life of Lincoln, ed. by Paul M. Angle (Greenwich, Conn., 1961), is the indispensable life, based on the research of Lincoln's law partner, Herndon, and ghostwritten by Jesse W. Weik. Earl Schenck Miers et al., eds., Lincoln Day by Day: A Chronology, 1809–1865 (Washington, D.C., 1960; rev. ed., Dayton, Ohio, 1991), an important reference work and the product of a generation of research by a group of scholars, traces Lincoln's daily activities through his entire life. Mark E. Neely, Jr., The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America (Cambridge, Mass., 1993), is the best brief portrait. Roy P. Basler, Marion Dolores Pratt, and Lloyd A. Dunlap, eds., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 9 vols. (New Brunswick, N.J., 1953–1955); Roy P. Basler, ed., Supplement, 1832–1865 (Westport, Conn., 1974); and Roy P. Basler and Christian O. Basler, eds., Second Supplement, 1848–1865 (New Brunswick, N.J., 1990), are standard editions of Lincoln's written and spoken words. See also Don E. Fehrenbacher and Virginia Fehrenbacher, eds. and comps., Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln (Stanford, Calif., 1996).
Richard N. Current, The Lincoln Nobody Knows (New York, 1958), consists of judicious essays on some of the controversial subjects of Lincoln's life and career. Charles B. Strozier, Lincoln's Quest for Union: Public and Private Meanings (New York, 1982), is a useful psychobiography. Michael Burlingame, The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln (Urbana, Ill., 1994), focuses on valuable and rarely used sources. Mark E. Neely, Jr., The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia (New York, 1982), is the best all-around reference work on Lincoln and associated subjects.
Don E. Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850s (Stanford, Calif., 1962), is a perceptive analysis of Lincoln's public career in the 1850s. Philip Shaw Paludan, The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Lawrence, Kans., 1994), is an impressive synthesis. Gabor S. Boritt, Lincoln and the Economics of the American Dream (Urbana, Ill., 1994), is an interpretation of Lincoln through the examination of his economic persuasion. Mark E. Neely, Jr., The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties (New York, 1991), provides a fine summary of the president's approach to constitutional issues. La-Wanda Cox, Lincoln and Black Freedom: A Study in Presidential Leadership (Columbia, S.C., 1981), is the best analysis of the subject.
Gabor S. Boritt, ed., Lincoln, the War President: The Gettysburg Lectures (New York, 1992), is a collection of essays by leading historians on Lincoln's approach to the war. Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (New York, 1992), is a provocative discussion of Lincoln's most famous speech. William B. Hanchett, The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies (Urbana, Ill., 1983), is the best historiographical study of the Lincoln assassination.
Harold Holzer, Gabor S. Boritt, and Mark E. Neely, Jr., The Lincoln Image: Abraham Lincoln and the Popular Print (New York, 1984), is the only account of the shaping of Lincoln's image through etchings and lithographs, 1860–1865. Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Philip B. Kunhardt III, and Peter W. Kunhardt, Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography (New York, 1992), is the best pictorial history. James Mellon, ed., The Face of Lincoln (New York, 1979), is the finest work on Lincoln photographs. Merrill D. Peterson, Lincoln in American Memory (New York, 1994), goes beyond historiography to provide a readable appraisal of Lincoln's role in American culture over the past century and more.
The two finest collections of Lincoln manuscripts are available on microfilm from the Library of Congress: Abraham Lincoln Papers, 97 reels; Herndon-Weik Papers, 15 reels. In addition, a major documentary project promises much new insight into Lincoln's career. The Lincoln Legal Papers, directed by Cullom B. Davis in Springfield, Illinois, will be published in upcoming years on CD-ROM.
Recent works include Lerone Bennett, Jr., Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream (Chicago, 2000); Gabor Boritt, ed., The Lincoln Enigma: The Changing Faces of an American Icon (New York, 2001); George P. Fletcher, Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy (New York, 2001); William Lee Miller, Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography (New York, 2002); Ronald C. White, Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural (New York, 2002); and Jay Winik, April 1865: The Month That Saved America (New York, 2001).
"Lincoln, Abraham." Presidents: A Reference History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham
"Lincoln, Abraham." Presidents: A Reference History. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham
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Sixteenth president of the United States and president during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was immortalized by his Emancipation Proclamation, his Gettysburg Address, and two outstanding inaugural addresses.
Abraham Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, 1809, in a log cabin on a farm in Hardin County, Ky. His father had come with his parents from Virginia and had grown to manhood on the Kentucky frontier. He had evidently become moderately successful as a farmer and carpenter, for in 1803 he was able to pay £118 cash for a farm near Elizabethtown. Three years later he married Nancy Hanks, described as "intelligent, deeply religious, kindly, and affectionate," but as "illiterate" as himself. Of her family and background little authentic is known.
The young couple soon moved to the one-room cabin on Nolin Creek where their second child, Abraham, was born. Two years later the family moved to the farm on Knob Creek that Abraham later remembered. There, when there was no pressing work to be done, Abraham walked 2 miles to the schoolhouse, where he learned the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Five years later the elder Lincoln sold his lands and carried his family into the untracked wilderness of Indiana across the Ohio River. It was late fall, and there was time only to pull together a crude three-sided shelter of logs, brush, and leaves. The open side was protected by a blazing fire which had to be replenished at all times. The only water was nearly a mile away. For food the family depended almost entirely on game.
They began building a better home and clearing the land for planting. They were making progress when, in the summer of 1818, a dread disease known as milk sickness struck the region. First it carried off Mrs. Lincoln's uncle and aunt and then Nancy Hanks Lincoln herself. On the shoulders of Abraham's 12-year-old sister, Sarah, fell the burden of caring for the household; the home was soon reduced to near squalor.
The next winter Abraham's father returned to Kentucky and brought back a second wife, Sarah Bush Johnson, a widow with three children. Abraham learned to love her and in later years referred to her as "my angel mother."
As time passed, the region where the Lincolns lived grew in population, and James Gentry's little store became a trading center around which the village of Gentryville grew. There Abraham spent much of his spare time, early showing a marked talent for storytelling and mimicry. He grew tall and strong, and his father often hired him out to work for neighbors. Through this came the chance, with Gentry's son Allen, to take a flatboat of produce down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans—Lincoln's first sight of anything other than frontier simplicity.
Meanwhile Lincoln's father had again moved his family to a new home in Illinois, where he built a cabin on the Sangamon River. This was open prairie country, but the abundant trees along the streams supplied the rails to fence their fields. Young Lincoln, already skilled with his ax, was soon splitting rails, not only for the Lincoln farm but for others as well.
At the end of the first summer in Illinois an attack of fever and ague put the Lincolns again on the move. This time it was to Coles County. Abraham, however, did not go along. He was now of independent age and had agreed with two friends to take a cargo of produce, belonging to one Denton Offutt, downriver to New Orleans. Offutt was so impressed with Lincoln's abilities that he placed him in charge of the mill and store which he had established at New Salem.
Entering Public Life
This was the turning point; the Lincoln of history began to emerge. To the store came people of all kinds to talk and trade and to enjoy the stories and rich human qualities stored up in this unique man. The young roisterers from Clary's Grove found him to be more than a match for their champion wrestlers and became his devoted followers. The members of the New Salem Debating Society welcomed him; and when the Black Hawk War broke out, the volunteers of the region elected Lincoln to be their captain. On his return he announced himself as a candida te for the Illinois Legislature on a "Henry Clay-Whig" platform of internal improvements, better educational facilities, and lower interest rates. He was not elected, but he did receive 277 of the 300 votes cast in the New Salem precinct.
Lincoln next formed a partnership with William Berry and purchased one of the other stores in New Salem. However, on the death of his partner Lincoln found himself responsible for a $1,100 debt. His appointment as New Salem postmaster and the chance to work as deputy surveyor of the country improved his finances. He also was enabled to widen his acquaintances and to win election to the state legislature in 1834. The skill with which Lincoln conducted his campaign so impressed John Todd Stuart, the Whig leader of the county and an outstanding lawyer in Springfield, that he took Lincoln under his care and inspired him to begin the study of law.
Lincoln served four successive terms in the legislature and became floor leader of his party in the lower house. Meanwhile, he mastered the law books he could buy or borrow and in September 1836 passed the bar examinations and was admitted to practice. He played an important part in having the state capital moved from Vandalia to Springfield, and in 1837 he moved there to become Stuart's law partner. Coming into a firm already well established, Lincoln had a secure legal future. He not only practiced in Springfield but rode the Eighth Circuit of some 160 miles through the Sangamon Valley. He did not, however, neglect politics, and in 1846 he was elected to the U.S. Congress.
In these years Lincoln had become engaged to Mary Todd, a cultured and well-educated Kentucky woman who was visiting relatives in Springfield. After a rather stormy courtship, they were married on November 2, 1842. The part which Mary played in Lincoln's life is still a matter of controversy.
Lincoln's election to Congress came just as the war with Mexico began. Like many Whigs, he doubted the justice of the war, but since it was popular in Illinois he kept quiet.
When Congress convened in December 1847, Lincoln, the only Whig from Illinois, voted for the Wilmot Proviso whenever it came up. When William A. Richardson, Illinois Democrat, presented resolutions declaring the war just and necessary and Mexico the aggressor, Lincoln countered with resolutions declaring that Mexico, not the United States, had jurisdiction over "the spot" where blood was first shed. These resolutions, together with one to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, brought sharp criticism from the people back in Illinois. Lincoln was "not a patriot." He had not correctly represented his state. Although the Whigs won the presidency in 1848, Lincoln could not even control the patronage in his own district. His political career seemed to be ended. His only reward for party service was an offer of the governorship of far-off Oregon, which he refused. He could only return to the practice of law.
War on the Horizon
During the next 12 years, while Lincoln rebuilt his legal practice, the nation was drifting steadily toward sectional confrontation. Victory in the Mexican war, having added vast western territory to the United States, had raised anew the issue of slavery in the territories. To southerners it involved the security and rights of slavery everywhere; to Northerners it was a matter of morals and democratic obligations. Tempers flared and the crisis developed. Only the frantic efforts of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster brought about the Compromise of 1850 as a temporary truce. The basic issues, however, were not eliminated. Four years later Stephen A. Douglas, by his bill to organize the Kansas-Nebraska Territory according to "squatter sovereignty" and "with all questions pertaining to slavery … left to the decision of the people," reopened the whole bitter struggle.
Douglas's bill, plus the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, brought Lincoln back into politics. He had always viewed slavery as a "moral, social and political wrong" and looked forward to its eventual abolition. Although willing to let it alone for the present in the states where it existed, he would not see it extended one inch. Douglas's popular sovereignty doctrine, he thought, revealed an indifference to the moral issue and ignored the growing Northern determination to rid the nation of slavery. So when Douglas returned to Illinois to defend his position, Lincoln seized every opportunity to point out the weakness in it.
Lincoln's failure to receive the nomination as senator in 1855 convinced him that the Whig party was dead, and by summer 1856 he became openly identified with the new Republicans. At their state convention that year he delivered what many have considered his greatest speech. It was an appeal aimed at welding all anti-Nebraska men into a vigorous and successful party. Thus, Lincoln had made himself the outstanding leader of the new party. At the party's first national convention in Philadelphia, he received 110 votes for vice president on the first ballot. Though he was not chosen, he had been recognized as an important national figure.
Violence in Kansas and the Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott case soon centered national attention on Illinois. There Douglas, who had broken sharply with the new administration over acceptance of the proslavery Lecompton Constitution, had returned to wage his fight for reelection to the Senate. It would be an uphill struggle, with the fate of the national Democratic party in the balance. It would not be like earlier elections, for Illinois had grown rapidly and the population majority had shifted from the southern part of the state to the central and northern areas. In these growing areas the new Republican party had gained a large majority and offered, in Abraham Lincoln, a rival candida te of proven ability. Some Republicans in the East thought that Douglas should not be opposed, because of his stand on Kansas; but Lincoln thought differently. He had delivered his now famous "house divided" speech, and he pressed Douglas for a joint discussion of issues. Out of this came the Lincoln-Douglas debates, in which Lincoln proved his ability to hold his own against the "Little Giant." In the end Douglas was reelected, but Lincoln had gained national attention. Invitations for speeches pored in from all over the country. His speech at Cooper Institute in New York attracted wide attention and gave him a new standing in the East.
When the Republican National Convention met to choose its presidential candida te for 1860, Lincoln was the first or second choice of most delegations. As a result, when serious objections were raised against other first choices, many turned to Lincoln. That he stood well in the states which the Republicans had lost in 1856 also helped; the bargains and promises which Lincoln's managers made did the rest. He was nominated on the third ballot. The split in the Democratic party and the formation of the Constitutional Union party made Lincoln's election certain. He would be a minority, sectional president. Seven Southern states reacted by seceding from the Union and forming the Confederate States of America.
In the critical months before taking office, Lincoln selected his Cabinet. It was a strange group, chosen with the aim of representing all elements in the party. The skill with which Lincoln taught each of his men that he was their master and secured maximum service from them is one of the marks of his greatness.
In his inaugural address he clarified his position on the national situation. Secession, he said, was anarchy. The Union could not legally be broken apart. He would not interfere with slavery in the states, but he would "hold, occupy, and possess" all Federal property and places. Firmness and conciliation would go together.
The first test came when Secretary of State William H. Seward secretly conferred with Southerners regarding the evacuation of Ft. Sumter in Charleston harbor. Lincoln firmly but kindly put Seward in his place and refused to yield even though it meant the outbreak of the Civil War.
A second test came when Col. John C. Frémont, in command at St. Louis, invoked martial law and announced the confiscation of the property of all persons who had taken up arms against the government and the freeing of their slaves. Lincoln quickly rescinded the orders and, when Frémont resisted, removed him from command.
From this time on, Lincoln's life was shaped by the problems and fortunes of civil war. As president, he was the head of all administration agencies and commander in chief of the armies. On him the criticisms for inefficiency in administration and failure in battle fell first. Radicals in Congress were soon demanding a reorganization of his Cabinet and a new set of generals to lead his armies. He let the dissatisfied congressmen air their views and in the end withdraw in confusion. To the critics of Gen. George McClellan, he pointed to the army this general had created, relieved him when he failed, but brought him back to serve until better men had been developed. Meanwhile Lincoln himself studied military books. He correctly evaluated Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. William T. Sherman and the importance of the western campaign.
As to slavery, Lincoln waited until after the victory at Antietam, when it would have real meaning as a war measure, to issue his Emancipation Proclamation. Later, at Gettysburg, he gave the war its universal meaning as a struggle to preserve a nation "conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
As the war dragged on, Lincoln's critics began to question his chances for reelection. Salmon P. Chase in the Cabinet and Radicals in Congress plotted to crowd him aside, and only the loyalty of the people and final military success secured his reelection. His second inaugural address was brief. It lacked bitterness toward the South and urged his people "to bind up the nation's wounds." "With malice toward none; with charity for all," Americans could achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace.
Lincoln had already taken steps in that direction. As the Federal Army had conquered Southern territory, he had set up military governments and soon had governments in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Virginia. When Congress opposed this, he applied the "pocket veto" to its bill. He had never learned to hate. He was interested only in a restored Union. He did insist on ending slavery in the reconstructed states, and there are some indications that he favored votes for capable Negroes. What the final outcome might have been, history does not know, for on the night of April 14, 1865, an assassin's bullet ended his life. Then, as Edwin Stanton said, he belonged to the ages.
Lincoln's writings are gathered in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (8 vols., 1953), edited by Roy P. Basler and others. The Lincoln Reader (1947), edited by Paul M. Angle, is one of many anthologies of selected writings. Lincoln and His America, 1809-1865: The Words of Abraham Lincoln (1970), arranged by David Flowden and the editors of Viking Press, is a handsome book that gives a portrait of Lincoln's entire life through his own words and includes hundreds of photographs.
The literature on Lincoln is enormous and still growing. A useful bibliography is Paul M. Angle, A Shelf of Lincoln Books: A Critical, Selective Bibliography of Lincolniana (1946). One of the most popular biographies is Carl Sandburg's sprawling study, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (2 vols., 1926) and Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (4 vols., 1939), all condensed into one volume in 1954. Among the many good biographies are older works: W. H. Herndon and J. W. Weik, Herndon's Lincoln (3 vols., 1889); the classic work of John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History (10 vols., 1890), condensed into an excellent one-volume edition in 1966; Lord Charnwood, Abraham Lincoln (2 vols., 1925); and Albert J. Beveridge, Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1858 (2 vols., 1928). Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln the Man (1931), portrays Lincoln unfavorably. More recent biographies are Benjamin P. Thomas, Abraham Lincoln (1952); Stefan Lorant, The Life of Abraham Lincoln (1954); Reinhard Henry Luthin, The Real Abraham Lincoln (1960); and Edward J. Kempf, Abraham Lincoln's Philosophy of Common Sense: An Analytical Biography of a Great Mind (3 vols., 1965).
Interpretative studies of Lincoln's life include Roy P. Basler, The Lincoln Legend: A Study in Changing Conceptions (1935), which analyzes the creation of a national legend about Lincoln; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln Reconsidered: Essays on the Civil War Era (1956); Richard N. Current, The Lincoln Nobody Knows (1958); and David D. Anderson, Abraham Lincoln (1970), which examines Lincoln's personal and political life through the development of his thought and prose.
There are numerous studies of specific aspects of Lincoln's career and influence. Among them are T. Harry Williams, Lincoln and the Radicals (1941) and Lincoln and the Generals (1952); David M. Potter, Lincoln and His Party in the Secession Crisis (1942; with a new preface, 1962); Reinhard Henry Luthin and Harry J. Carman, Lincoln and Patronage (1943); Jay Monaghan, Diplomat in Carpet Slippers (1945); Burton J. Hendrick, Lincoln's War Cabinet (1946); James G. Randall, Lincoln and the South (1946), Lincoln the President (4 vols., 1946-1955), Lincoln the Liberal Statesman (1947), and Mr. Lincoln (1957); William Best HesseHine, Lincoln and the War Governors (1948); Donald W. Riddle, Lincoln Runs for Congress (1948); Don E. Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850s (1962); Benjamin Quarles, Lincoln and the Negro (1962); Paul Simon, Lincoln's Preparation for Greatness: The Illinois Legislative Years (1965); Dean Sprague, Freedom under Lincoln (1965); and Richard Allen Heckman, Lincoln vs. Douglas: The Great Debates (1967), which attempts to diminish the exaggerated importance of the debates and place them in a better perspective. A critique of special interest is Benjamin P. Thomas, Portrait for Posterity: Lincoln and His Biographers (1947). The 1860 and 1864 presidential elections are detailed in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., History of American Presidential Elections (4 vols., 1971). □
"Abraham Lincoln." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/abraham-lincoln
"Abraham Lincoln." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/abraham-lincoln
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
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Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States, serving from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln and his supporters preserved the Union by defeating the South in the Civil War.
Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, in Hodgenville, Kentucky. In 1816 his family moved to a farm in Indiana, where he spent the rest of his childhood. He attended school for less than a year and gained most of his education by reading books. In 1828 and 1831, he made flat-boat trips down the Mississippi River to take produce to New Orleans. On these trips he was first exposed to the institution of slavery.
In 1830 his family moved to Decatur, Illinois. He left his family in 1831 and moved to New Salem, Illinois, where he worked at various jobs and continued his self-education. He began to study law, then was sidetracked by political ambitions.
In 1832 he ran for the state legislature as a member of the whig party. He aligned himself with the views of Whig party leader henry clay, who served as a U.S. senator from Kentucky. Like Clay, Lincoln promised to use the power of the government to improve the life of the people he represented. During the 1832 campaign, the Black Hawk War erupted in southern Illinois. Lincoln enlisted in the local militia and was elected captain. Though he served for eighty days, he never saw battle. His service in the military distracted him from his campaign for the legislature, and he lost his first election.
In 1834 he was elected to the state legislature. He was reelected in 1836, 1838, and 1840. John T. Stuart, a fellow legislator and also a lawyer, was impressed with Lincoln's intellectual and oratorical abilities and encouraged him to practice law. In the fall of 1836, Lincoln was admitted to the Illinois bar, and in 1837 he became Stuart's law partner in Springfield, Illinois. In 1841 the pair dissolved their partnership and Lincoln began a new partnership with Stephen T. Logan. By 1844 that arrangement had dissolved and Lincoln took William H. Herndon as a partner. Lincoln was a hardworking attorney who over the years represented railroad companies and other business entities. By the 1850s he had argued many times before the Illinois Supreme Court and various federal courts.
However, his interest in politics continued. In 1847 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a member of the Whig party. His one brief term in this office was detrimental to his career, for his opposition to the Mexican War and his stand on several other issues were received unfavorably by his constituents.
He did not seek reelection in 1848, choosing instead to work on the presidential campaign of zachary taylor. After Taylor's victory Lincoln was severely disappointed when he failed to receive a prominent presidential appointment. He abandoned politics and devoted his energies to his law practice in Springfield.
Events involving slavery soon drew Lincoln back into the political arena. The passage in 1854 of the kansas-nebraska act infuriated Lincoln. Senator stephen a. douglas, of Illinois, a Democrat and rival of Lincoln's, had drafted this legislation, which revoked the missouri compromise of 1820. The repeal meant that the settlers of Kansas and Nebraska could allow slavery to exist if they so wished. This was intolerable to Lincoln and many antislavery Whigs and Democrats. Lincoln took to the political stump again, railing against slavery and the congressional actions that had placed the issue at the forefront of national policy.
The Whig party fell apart over the slavery question. In 1856 Lincoln joined others opposed to slavery from both the Whig and Democrat
"Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."
parties, in the newly formed republican party. He quickly rose to prominence. The Republicans chose him as their candidate in the 1858 senatorial race against Douglas. The campaign was marked by a series of seven brilliant debates between the two contenders. Lincoln advocated loyalty to the Union, regarded slavery as unjust, and was opposed to any further expansion of slavery. He opened his campaign by declaring, "'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free." Lincoln lost the election owing to an unfavorable apportionment of legislative seats in Illinois. (At that time U.S. senators were elected by a vote of the state legislature.) Though Republicans garnered larger numbers of votes, Douglas was reelected.
Despite the Senate loss, Lincoln's national reputation was enhanced by his firm antislavery position. He was urged to run for president in 1860. At the Republican National Convention in Chicago in May 1860, Lincoln defeated William H. Seward for the nomination. A split in the democratic party led to the fielding of two Democratic candidates, John C. Breckenridge and Douglas. This split enabled Lincoln easily to defeat his rivals, including john bell, head of the Constitutional Union party. He would be easily reelected in 1864.
By the time Lincoln took his oath of office in March 1861, seven Southern states had seceded from the Union and had established the Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis was elected president of the new government. Lincoln wished to find a solution short of war that would preserve the Union, but there were few options. When Lincoln allowed supplies to be sent to Fort Sumter, a Union base on an island outside Charleston, South Carolina, the new Confederate government seized the opportunity to interpret this as an act of war. On April 12, 1861, Fort Sumter was attacked by Confederate forces, and the Civil War began.
Lincoln's initial actions against this act of aggression included drafting men for military service, approving a blockade of the Southern states, and suspending the writ of habeas corpus. His troop request led to the secession of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Suspending habeas corpus effectively curtailed civil liberties, as persons who were suspected of being Southern sympathizers could be held in custody indefinitely. All these actions were taken by executive order, in Lincoln's capacity as commander in chief, because Congress was not in session at the time.
The Lincoln Assassination: Conspiracy or a Lone Man's Act?
On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. Five days earlier, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered to Union troops. John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor, Confederate sympathizer, and spy, has gone down in history as the lone assailant of Lincoln. However, Booth was killed by federal soldiers before he could be brought to trial. Eyewitnesses at Ford's Theater identified Booth as the man who shot the president at point-blank range with a single bullet to the back of the head. But Booth's exact motive in the killing was never established. In the wake of the first assassination of a U.S. president, eight of Booth's associates were charged as conspirators. All eight were convicted. However, since then, some modern theories have downplayed the roles of Southern radicals in the conspiracy. Some historians have even pointed fingers at the Republicans, Lincoln's own party.
Shortly before his death, Lincoln announced his Reconstruction policy for restoring the United States. He advocated "malice toward none, charity for all." However, more than a handful of Confederates distrusted Yankee politics. Confederate plots to kill the president or kidnap him had certainly existed long before April 1865. Lincoln appeared unconcerned about the threats, however, and refused to heed the advice of his advisers to take fewer risks in his public appearances. "What does anybody want to assassinate me for?" Lincoln once asked. "If anyone wants to do so, he can do it any day or night, if he is ready to give his life for mine. It is nonsense."
Booth fled Ford's Theater immediately after killing Lincoln and headed for refuge in the South. The Union cavalry, after a massive manhunt (announced throughout the nation), cornered Booth at the Garrett farm, his hiding spot in Virginia. Soldiers shot him through the neck leaving him partially paralyzed. Booth somehow managed to exit the barn when it was set on fire. He died at the feet of federal officers on the morning of April 26.
In somewhat mysterious fashion, Booth's "diary" (actually an 1864 date-book), was recovered from the site of his death. Booth wrote a running commentary, in scattered detail, on his plans before he shot Lincoln, and the developments of his final days. He wrote: "For six months we had worked to capture. But our cause, being almost lost, something decisive & great must be done. But it's failure was owing to others, who did not strike for their country with a heat. I struck boldly and not as the papers say."
Booth even described himself as a savior, claiming, "Our country owed all her trouble to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment." Booth's diary would not be used directly as evidence in the trial of others with whom he had allegedly conspired. Instead, it is a primary piece of evidence to support the argument that Booth acted alone.
Booth's quick death with no trial left many in the nation questioning the circumstances surrounding the murder of the North's beloved leader. Federal investigators subsequently singled out eight Southern civilians who had, by varying accounts, associated with Booth at a boarding house in Maryland. The eight were held as prisoners, accused of assisting in the crime of the century. David Herold, Lewis Payne, George Atzerodt, Michael O'Laughlin, Samuel Arnold, Dr. Samuel Mudd, Edward Spangler, and Mary E. Surratt were charged as traitors and conspirators in a plot to kill Lincoln, Vice President andrew johnson, secretary of state William H. Seward and General ulysses s. grant.
Lincoln's secretary of war, edwin m. stanton, had conducted most of the criminal investigation. Based on the charges he developed, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis was directly implicated, but not tried, in the assassination plot. Stanton and Attorney General james speed subsequently put together a nine man military commission of seven generals and two colonels from the Union Army to sit in judgment. All nine of the appointed officers were staunch Republicans.
In the trial of the suspects, the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of one individual in particular, Louis Weichmann. Weichmann had been closely acquainted with most of the conspirators and had first learned of their plot, according to his testimony, at a Maryland boarding house run by Mary Surratt. The accounts Weichmann gave primarily implicated Surratt and a country doctor, Samuel Mudd. The defense noted that Weichmann had not reported any of the alleged activity at the boarding house until after the assassination. However, the evidence to which Weichmann led investigators, particularly a boot of Booth's with the inscription "J. Wilkes," found at the home of Dr. Mudd, appeared to seal the fate of the eight defendants.
On June 29 the commission met behind closed doors to consider the evidence. They deliberated for two days and then sentenced four prisoners to death and four to imprisonment and hard labor. On July 7 Surratt was the first to be led to the gallows. Atzerodt, Herold, and Payne also received the death penalty.
Though four people were sent to their deaths, and four to prison, for the crime, historians continue to debate the conspiracy to kill Lincoln. One book that stirred much discussion on the subject was Otto Eisenschiml's Why Was Lincoln Murdered?, published in 1937. Eisenschiml postulated that Stanton and a group of Northern industrialists plotted the death of Lincoln to secure the interests of radical Republicans who were bent on the takeover of the newly restored Union. That theory, however, has been largely rebutted by other historians.
Coyle, Marcia. 2002. "History with a Sept. 11 Twist; Heirs Attack Action by Army Tribunal in Lincoln's Killing." The National Law Journal 24 (April 29): A1.
Guttridge, Leonard F., and Ray A. Neff. 2003. Dark Union: The Secret Web of the Profiteers, Politicians, and Booth Conspirators that Led to Lincoln's Death. New York: Wiley.
Johnson, James H. 2001. "The Trial of the 19th Century: Vengeance Trumped the Rule of Law in the Lincoln Conspiracy Case." Legal Times 24 (June 3): 28.
During the early stages of the war, the North suffered great losses, particularly at Bull Run. A succession of Union generals failed to achieve military success. Not until General ulysses s. grant emerged in 1863 as a strong and successful military leader did the Union army begin to achieve substantial victories. In 1864 Lincoln named Grant the commander of the Union army. In April 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate army to Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, signaling the end of the war.
Lincoln fought the Civil War to preserve the Union, not to end slavery. Though he was personally opposed to slavery, he had been elected on a platform that pledged to allow slavery to remain where it already existed. However, wartime pressures drove Lincoln toward emancipation of the slaves. Military leaders argued that an enslaved labor force in the South allowed the Confederate states to place more soldiers on the front lines. By the summer of 1862, Lincoln had prepared an emancipation proclamation, but he did not want to issue it until the Union army had better fortune on the battlefield. Otherwise the proclamation might be seen as a sign of weakness.
The Union army's victory at Antietam encouraged the president to issue on September 22, 1862, a preliminary proclamation that slavery was to be abolished in areas occupied by the Confederacy effective January 1, 1863. The wording of the Emancipation Proclamation on that date made clear that slavery was still to be tolerated in the border states and areas occupied by Union troops, so as not to jeopardize the war effort. Lincoln was uncertain that the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of his action, so he lobbied Congress to adopt the thirteenth amendment, which totally abolished slavery.
Lincoln's writing and speaking skills played a vital part in maintaining the resolve of the Northern states during the war and in preparing the nation for the aftermath of the war. In 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Lincoln delivered his poignant Gettysburg Address at the dedication of a national cemetery for soldiers who had died at the bloody battleground. The speech summarized the tragic and human aspects of Gettysburg and distilled Lincoln's resolve to protect the Union. At his second inauguration, in March 1865, Lincoln reached out to the South as the end of the war approached. He proclaimed, "With malice toward none; with charity for all."
Even before the war ended, Lincoln began to formulate a plan for Reconstruction, which included the restoration of Southern state governments and the amnesty of Confederate officials who vowed loyalty to the Union. These proposals met fierce opposition in Congress, as the Radical Republicans sought harsher treatment for the South and its supporters.
The war ended on April 9, 1865, but Lincoln did not have a chance to fight for his Reconstruction proposals. He was shot in the head on April 14 by John Wilkes Booth during the performance of a play at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, D.C. He died the next day. After lying in state in the Capitol, his body was returned to Springfield for burial.
Amar, Akhil Reed. 2001. "Abraham Lincoln and the American Union." University of Illinois Law Review. (October): 1109–33.
Cottrell, John. 1966. Anatomy of an Assassination. London: Muller.
Eisenschiml, Otto. 1937. Why Was Lincoln Murdered? New York: Crosset and Dunlap.
Good, Timothy S., ed. 1995. We Saw Lincoln Shot. Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi.
Keneally, Thomas. 2003. Abraham Lincoln. New York: Lipper/Viking.
Pinsker, Matthew. 2002. Abraham Lincoln. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.
Pitman, Benn. 1954. The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators. New York: Funk & Wagnall's.
Roscoe, Theodore. 1959. The Web of Conspiracy: The Complete Story of the Men Who Murdered Abraham Lincoln. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
Stephens, Otis H., Jr., and John M. Scheb II. 2003. American Constitutional Law. 3d ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group.
Stone, Geoffrey R. 2003. "Abraham Lincoln's First Amendment." New York University Law Review 78 (April): 1–29.
Tidwell, William A. 1995. Confederate Covert Action in the American Civil War, April '65. Kent, Ohio: Kent State Univ. Press.
Weichmann, Louis J. 1975. A True History of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Conspiracy of 1865. New York: Knopf.
Zane, John Maxcy. 2002. Lincoln, the Constitutional Lawyer. Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange.
"Emancipation Proclamation," "Gettysburg Address," "House Divided Speech," and "Second Inaugural Address" (Appendix, Primary Documents).
"Lincoln, Abraham." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham
"Lincoln, Abraham." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
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Born: February 12, 1809
Died: April 14, 1865
The sixteenth president of the United States and president during the Civil War (1861–1865), Abraham Lincoln will forever be remembered by his inspirational rise to fame, his efforts to rid the country of slavery, and his ability to hold together a divided nation. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg Address, and two outstanding inaugural addresses are widely regarded as some of the greatest speeches ever delivered by an American politician.
Starting life in a log cabin
Abraham Lincoln was born to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln on February 12, 1809, in a log cabin on a farm in Hardin County, Kentucky. Two years later the family moved to a farm on Knob Creek. There, when there was no immediate work to be done, Abraham walked two miles to the schoolhouse, where he learned the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
When Abraham was seven, his father sold his lands and moved the family into the rugged wilderness of Indiana across the Ohio River. After spending a winter in a crude shack, the Lincolns began building a better home and clearing the land for planting. They were making progress when, in the summer of 1818, a terrible disease known as milk sickness struck the region. First it took the lives of Mrs. Lincoln's uncle and aunt, and then Nancy Hanks Lincoln herself died. Without Mrs. Lincoln the household began to fall apart, and much of the workload fell to Abraham and his sister.
The next winter Abraham's father returned to Kentucky and brought back a second wife, Sarah Bush Johnson, a widow with three children. As time passed, the region where the Lincolns lived grew in population. Lincoln himself grew tall and strong, and his father often hired him out to work for neighbors. Meanwhile, Lincoln's father had again moved his family to a new home in Illinois, where he built a cabin on the Sangamon River. At the end of the first summer in Illinois, disease swept through the region and put the Lincolns on the move once again. This time it was to Coles County. Abraham, who was now a grown man, did not go along. Instead he moved to the growing town of New Salem, where he was placed in charge of a mill and store.
Entering public life
Life in New Salem was a turning point for Lincoln, and the great man of history began to emerge. To the store came people of all kinds to talk and trade and to enjoy the stories told by this unique and popular man. The members of the New Salem Debating Society welcomed him, and Lincoln began to develop his skills as a passionate and persuasive speaker. When the Black Hawk War (1832) erupted between the United States and hostile Native Americans, the volunteers of the region quickly elected Lincoln to be their captain.
After the war he announced himself as a candidate for the Illinois legislature. He was not elected, but he did receive 277 of the 300 votes cast in the New Salem precinct. In 1834, after another attempt, Lincoln was finally elected to the state legislature. Lincoln's campaign skills greatly impressed John Todd Stuart (1807–1885), a leader of the Whigs, one of two major political parties in the country at the time. Stuart was also an outstanding lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, and soon took Lincoln under his care and inspired him to begin the study of law.
Lincoln served four straight terms in the legislature and soon emerged as a party leader. Meanwhile, he mastered the law books he could buy or borrow. In September 1836 Lincoln began practicing law and played an important part in having the Illinois state capital moved from Vandalia to Springfield. In 1837 Lincoln himself moved to Springfield to become Stuart's law partner. He did not, however, forget politics. In 1846 Lincoln was elected to the U.S. Congress. During these years Lincoln had become engaged to Mary Todd (1818–1882), a cultured and well-educated Kentucky woman. They were married on November 2, 1842.
When Congress met in December 1847, Lincoln expressed his disapproval with the Mexican War (1846–48), in which American and Mexican forces clashed over land in the Southwest. These views, together with his wish to abolish, or end, slavery in the District of Columbia, brought sharp criticism from the people back in Illinois. They believed Lincoln was "not a patriot" and had not correctly represented his state in Congress.
Although the Whigs won the presidency in 1848, Lincoln could not even control the support in his own district. His political career seemed to be coming to a close just as it was beginning. His only reward for party service was an offer of the governorship of far-off Oregon, which he refused. Lincoln then returned to Illinois and resumed practicing law.
War on the horizon
During the next twelve years, while Lincoln rebuilt his legal career, the nation was becoming divided. While victory in the Mexican War added vast western territory to the United States, then came the issue of slavery in those new territories. To Southerners, the issue involved the security and rights of slavery everywhere. To Northerners, it was a matter of morals and justice. A national crisis soon developed. Only the efforts of Senators Henry Clay (1777–1852) and Daniel Webster (1782–1852) brought about the Compromise of 1850. With the compromise, a temporary truce was reached between the states favoring slavery and those opposed to it. The basic issues, however, were not eliminated. Four years later the struggle was reopened.
Lincoln's passionate opposition to slavery was enough to draw him back into the world of politics. He had always viewed slavery as a "moral, social and political wrong" and looked forward to its eventual abolition. Although willing to let it alone for the present in the states where it existed, he would not see it extended one inch.
At the same time, Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas (1813–1861) drafted the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would leave the decision of slavery up to the new territories. Lincoln thought the bill ignored the growing Northern determination to rid the nation of slavery. Soon, in opposition to the expansion of slavery, the Republican party was born. When Douglas returned to Illinois to defend his position, Lincoln seized every opportunity to point out the weakness in it.
Lincoln's failure to receive the nomination as senator in 1855 convinced him that the Whig party was dead. By summer 1856 he became a member of the new Republicans. Lincoln quickly emerged as the outstanding leader of the new party. At the party's first national convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he received 110 votes for vice president on the first ballot. Although he was not chosen, he had been recognized as an important national figure.
National attention began turning toward the violence in Kansas and the Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott case, which debated the issue of slavery in the new territories. Meanwhile, Douglas had returned to Illinois to wage his fight for reelection to the Senate. But unlike in earlier elections, Illinois had grown rapidly and the population majority had shifted from the southern part of the state to the central and northern areas. In these growing areas the Republican party had gained a growing popularity—as had Abraham Lincoln.
As Lincoln challenged Douglas for his seat in the Senate, the two engaged in legendary debates. During the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln delivered his famous "house divided" speech, stating "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe the government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free." Lincoln proved his ability to hold his own against the man known as the "Little Giant." In the end Douglas was reelected as senator, but Lincoln had gained national attention and his name was soon mentioned for the presidency.
The sixteenth president
In 1860 the Republican National Convention met and chose Lincoln as their candidate for president of the United States. With a divided Democratic party and the recent formation of the Constitutional Union party, Lincoln's election was certain. After Lincoln's election victory, parts of the country reacted harshly against the new president's stand on slavery. Seven Southern states then seceded, or withdrew, from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.
In his inaugural address he clarified his position on the national situation. Secession, he said, was wrong, and the Union could not legally be broken apart. He would not interfere with slavery in the states, but he would "hold, occupy, and possess" all property and places owned by the federal government. By now there was no avoiding the outbreak of the Civil War.
The Civil War
From this time on, Lincoln's life was shaped by the problems and fortunes of civil war. As president, he was the head of all agencies in government and also acted as commander in chief, or supreme commander, of the armies. Lincoln was heavily criticized for early failures. Radicals in Congress were soon demanding a reorganization of his cabinet, or official advisors, and a new set of generals to lead his armies. To combat this, Lincoln himself studied military books. He correctly evaluated General Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885) and General William T. Sherman (1820–1891) and the importance of the western campaign. Thanks, in part, to Lincoln's reshuffling of his military leaders, the Union forces would soon capture victory over the Confederates.
Afterward, Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation called for the freeing of all slaves in territories still at war with the Union. Later, during his Gettysburg Address, he gave the war its universal meaning as a struggle to preserve a nation based on freedoms and dedicated to the idea "that all men are created equal."
Lincoln was reelected in 1864. As the end of the Civil War appeared close, Lincoln urged his people "to bind up the nation's wounds" and create a just and lasting peace. But Lincoln would never be able enjoy the nation he had reunited. Five days after the Confederate army surrendered and ended the Civil War, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1965. The president died the next day.
Although the reasons for Lincoln's assassination would be debated, his prominent place in American history has never been in doubt. His work to free the slaves earned him the honorable reputation as the Great Emancipator. His ability to hold together a country torn apart by civil war would forever secure his place as one of America's greatest presidents.
For More Information
Bruns, Roger. Abraham Lincoln. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.
Jacobs, William Jay. Lincoln. New York: Scribner's, 1991.
Judson, Karen. Abraham Lincoln. New York: Enslow, 1998.
Miller, William Lee. Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.
Oates, Stephen B. With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994.
Sandburg, Carl. Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1954. Reprint, San Diego: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1982.
"Lincoln, Abraham." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham-1
"Lincoln, Abraham." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham-1
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Abraham Lincoln (lĬng´kən), 1809–65, 16th President of the United States (1861–65).
Born on Feb. 12, 1809, in a log cabin in backwoods Hardin co., Ky. (now Larue co.), he grew up on newly broken pioneer farms of the frontier. His father, Thomas Lincoln, was a migratory carpenter and farmer, nearly always poverty-stricken. Little is known of his mother, Nancy Hanks, who died in 1818, not long after the family had settled in the wilds of what is now Spencer co., Ind. Thomas Lincoln soon afterward married Sarah Bush Johnston, a widow; she was a kind and affectionate stepmother to the boy. Abraham had almost no formal schooling—the scattered weeks of school attendance in Kentucky and Indiana amounted to less than a year; but he taught himself, reading and rereading a small stock of books. His first glimpse of the wider world came in a voyage downriver to New Orleans on a flatboat in 1828, but little is known of that journey. In 1830 the Lincolns moved once more, this time to Macon co., Ill.
After another visit to New Orleans, the young Lincoln settled in 1831 in the village of New Salem, Ill., not far from Springfield. There he began by working in a store and managing a mill. By this time a tall (6 ft 4 in./190 cm), rawboned young man, he won much popularity among the inhabitants of the frontier town by his great strength and his flair for storytelling, but most of all by his strength of character. His sincerity and capability won respect that was strengthened by his ability to hold his own in the roughest society. He was chosen captain of a volunteer company gathered for the Black Hawk War (1832), but the company did not see battle.
Returning to New Salem, Lincoln was a partner in a grocery store that failed, leaving him with a heavy burden of debt. He became a surveyor for a time, was village postmaster, and did various odd jobs, including rail splitting. All the while he sought to improve his education and studied law. The story of a brief love affair with Ann Rutledge, which supposedly occurred at this time, is now discredited.
Early Political Career
In 1834, Lincoln was elected to the state legislature, in which he served four successive terms (until 1841) and achieved prominence as a Whig. In 1836 he obtained his license as an attorney, and the next year he moved to Springfield, where he became a law partner of John T. Stuart. Lincoln's practice steadily increased. That first partnership was succeeded by others, with Stephen T. Logan and then with William H. Herndon, who was later to be Lincoln's biographer. Lincoln displayed great ability in law, a ready grasp of argument, and sincerity, color, and lucidity of speech.
In 1842 he married Mary Todd (see Lincoln, Mary Todd) after a troubled courtship. He continued his interest in politics and entered on the national scene by serving one term in Congress (1847–49). He remained obscure, however, and his attacks as a Whig on the motives behind the Mexican War (though he voted for war supplies) seemed unpatriotic to his constituents, so he lost popularity at home. Lincoln worked hard for the election of the Whig candidate, Zachary Taylor, in 1848, but when he was not rewarded with the office he desired—Commissioner of the General Land Office—he decided to retire from politics and return to the practice of law.
Slavery and the Lincoln-Douglas Debates
The prairie lawyer emerged again into politics in 1854, when he was caught up in the rising quarrel over slavery. He stoutly opposed the policy of Stephen A. Douglas and particularly the Kansas-Nebraska Act. In a speech at Springfield, repeated at Peoria, he attacked the compromises concerning the question of slavery in the territories and invoked the democratic ideals contained in the Declaration of Independence. In 1855 he sought to become a Senator but failed.
He had already realized that his sentiments were leading him away from the Whigs and toward the new Republican party, and in 1856 he became a Republican. He quickly came to the fore in the party as a moderate opponent of slavery who could win both the abolitionists and the conservative free-staters, and at the Republican national convention of 1856 he was prominent as a possible vice presidential candidate. Two years later he was nominated by the Republican party to oppose Douglas in the Illinois senatorial race.
Accepting the nomination (in a speech delivered at Springfield on June 16), Lincoln gave a ringing declaration in support of the Union: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." The campaign that followed was impressive. Lincoln challenged Douglas to a series of debates (seven were held), in which he delivered masterful addresses for the Union and for the democratic idea. He was not an abolitionist, but he regarded slavery as an injustice and an evil, and uncompromisingly opposed its extension.
Though Douglas won the senatorial election, Lincoln had made his mark by the debates; he was now a potential presidential candidate. His first appearance in the East was in Feb., 1860, when he spoke at Cooper Union in New York City. He gained a large following in the antislavery states, but his nomination for President by the Republican convention in Chicago (May, 1860) was as much due to the opposition to William H. Seward, the leading contender, as to Lincoln's own appeal. He was nominated on the third ballot. In the election the Democratic party split; Lincoln was opposed by Douglas (Northern Democrat), John C. Breckinridge (Southern Democrat), and John Bell (Constitutional Unionist). Lincoln was elected with a minority of the popular vote.
To the South, Lincoln's election was the signal for secession. All compromise plans, such as that proposed by John J. Crittenden, failed, and by the time of Lincoln's inauguration seven states had seceded. The new President, determined to preserve the Union at all costs, condemned secession but promised that he would not initiate the use of force. After a slight delay, however, he did order the provisioning of Fort Sumter, and the South chose to regard this as an act of war. On Apr. 12, 1861, Fort Sumter was fired upon, and the Civil War began.
Although various criticisms have been leveled against him, it is generally agreed that Lincoln attacked the vast problems of the war with vigor and surpassing skill. He immediately issued a summons to the militia (an act that precipitated the secession of four more Southern states), ordered a blockade of Confederate ports, and suspended habeas corpus. The last action provoked much criticism, but Lincoln adhered to it, ignoring a circuit court ruling against him in the Merryman Case (see Merryman, ex parte). In the course of the war, Lincoln further extended his executive powers, but in general he exercised those powers with restraint. He was beset not only by the difficulties of the war, but by opposition from men on his own side. His cabinet was rent by internal jealousies and hatred; radical abolitionists condemned him as too mild; conservatives were gloomy over the prospects of success in the war.
In the midst of all this strife, Lincoln continued his course, sometimes almost alone, with wisdom and patience. The progress of battle went against the North at first. Lincoln himself made some bad military decisions (e.g., in ordering the direct advance into Virginia that resulted in the Union defeat at the first battle of Bull Run), and he ran through a succession of commanders in chief before he found Ulysses S. Grant. In the early stages of the war Lincoln revoked orders by John C. Frémont and David Hunter freeing the slaves in their military departments. However, the Union victory at Antietam gave him a position of strength from which to issue his own Emancipation Proclamation.
The restoration and preservation of the Union were still the main tenets of Lincoln's war aims. The sorrows of war and its rigorous necessity afflicted him; he expressed both in one of the noblest public speeches ever made, the Gettysburg Address, made at the dedication of the soldiers' cemetery at Gettysburg in 1863. For a time Lincoln was threatened by the desertion of the Republican leaders as well as by a strong opposition party in the presidential election that loomed ahead in the dark days of 1864; but a turn for the better took place before the election, a turn brought about to some extent by a change of military fortune after Grant became commander and particularly after William T. Sherman took Atlanta.
Lincoln was reelected over George B. McClellan by a great majority. His second inaugural address, delivered when the war was drawing to its close, was a plea for the new country that would arise from the ashes of the South. His own view was one of forgiveness, as shown in his memorable phrase "With malice toward none; with charity for all." He lived to see the end of the war, but he was to have no chance to implement his plans for Reconstruction. On the night of Apr. 14, 1865, when attending a performance at Ford's Theater, he was shot by the actor John Wilkes Booth. The next morning Lincoln died. His death was an occasion for grief even among those who had been his opponents, and many considered him a martyr.
The Lincoln Legend
As time passed Lincoln became more and more the object of adulation; a full-blown "Lincoln legend" appeared. Yet, even if his faults and mistakes are acknowledged, he stands out as a statesman of noble vision, great humanity, and remarkable political skill. It is not surprising that the Illinois "rail-splitter" is regarded as a foremost symbol of American democracy. Paintings, sculptures, and architectural works memorializing Lincoln are legion; the most famous shrines are his home and tomb in Springfield, Ill., and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Innumerable biographies, novels, poems, plays, and essays have been devoted to Lincoln. His collected works were edited by R. P. Basler (9 vol., 1953). See also D. C. Mearns, ed., The Lincoln Papers (1948) and P. M. Angle and E. S. Miers, ed., The Living Lincoln (1955). The standard older bibliography is J. Monaghan, Lincoln Bibliography, 1839–1939 (2 vol., 1943–45); others are P. M. Angle, A Shelf of Lincoln Books (1946); V. Searcher, Lincoln Today (1969); E. W. Matthews, Lincoln as a Lawyer (1991).
One of the most important early biographies was W. H. Herndon and J. W. Weid, Herndon's Life of Lincoln (3 vol., 1889; ed. by P. M. Angle, 1930, repr. 1965). J. G. Nicolay and J. Hay wrote Abraham Lincoln: A History (10 vol., 1890; abbr. ed. 1966). Probably the most popular biographies are C. Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (1926) and Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (4 vol., 1939); a one-volume condensation was first published in 1954. See also The Lincoln Reader (1947, repr. 1964; ed. by P. M. Angle) and biographies by Lord Charnwood (1916, repr. 2012), A. J. Beveridge (2 vol., 1928; repr. 1971), B. P. Thomas (1952, repr. 1968), S. Lorant (1954, repr. 1961), J. G. Randall and R. N. Current (4 vol., 1955, repr. 1997), R. H. Luthin (1960), P. B. Kunhardt, Jr., et al. (1992), S. B. Oates (1984 and 1994); D. H. Donald (1995), A. C. Guelzo (2000), R. Carwardine (2006), M. Burlingame (2 vol., 2008), and R. C. White, Jr. (2009). Almost the only work portraying Lincoln in a completely unfavorable light is E. L. Masters, Lincoln the Man (1931).
Preeminent among the special studies on Lincoln are those of J. G. Randall. See also T. H. Williams, Lincoln and the Radicals (1941, repr. 1965); H. J. Carman and R. H. Luthin, Lincoln and the Patronage (1943, repr. 1964); F. H. Meserve and C. Sandburg, The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln (1944); J. Monaghan, Diplomat in Carpet Slippers (1945, repr. 1962); B. J. Hendrick, Lincoln's War Cabinet (1946, repr. 1965); B. P. Thomas, Portrait for Posterity: Lincoln and His Biographers (1947); W. B. Hesseltine, Lincoln and the War Governors (1948); R. N. Current, The Lincoln Nobody Knows (1958); D. H. Donald, Lincoln Reconsidered (2d ed. 1961, repr. 1989) and We Are Lincoln Men (2003); D. E. Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness (1962, repr. 1970) and The Leadership of Abraham Lincoln (1970); W. H. Townsend, Lincoln and the Bluegrass (1989); G. Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg (1992); J. T. Glatthaar, Partners in Command (1994); M. E. Neely, Jr., The Last Best Hope of Earth (1994) and Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation (2011); P. S. Paludan, The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (1994); M. D. Peterson, Lincoln in American Memory (1994); D. L. Wilson, Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln (1998) and Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words (2006); J. Morris, Lincoln (2000); W. L. Miller, Lincoln's Virtues (2002); R. C. White, Jr., Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural (2002); M. Lind, What Lincoln Believed (2005); D. K. Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005); D. M. Epstein, The Lincolns (2008); A. C. Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas (2008); F. Kaplan, Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer (2008); P. B. Kunhardt 3d et al., Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon (2008); J. M. McPherson, Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief (2008); C. B. Flood, 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History (2009); H. L. Gates, Jr., and D. Yacovone, ed., Lincoln on Race and Slavery (2009); E. Foner, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (2010); C. L. Symonds, Lincoln and His Admirals (2010); J. Burt, Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict (2012); H. Holzer, Emancipating Lincoln (2012) and Lincoln and the Power of the Press (2014); L. P. Masur, Lincoln's Hundred Days (2012); D. Von Drehle, Rise to Greatness (2012); J. Zeitz, Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay and the War for Lincoln's Image (2014).
"Lincoln, Abraham." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham
"Lincoln, Abraham." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham
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Lincoln, Abraham 1809-1865
Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, was born February 12, 1809, in a log cabin in Kentucky. His opinions against slavery seem to have been shaped while he was a boy, partly by his father’s antislavery opinions, partly by the fact that his father took everything Lincoln earned until he was of majority, and partly by a trip to New Orleans where he witnessed the institution in operation.
Lincoln’s political career began in 1832, when he ran as a Whig for the Illinois state legislature from the town of New Salem and lost. He won two years later, though, and began studying law. New Salem was not a promising town, and Lincoln moved to Springfield in 1837. There he honed his legal skills, ultimately becoming one of Illinois’s most prominent attorneys and, in the 1850s, a successful corporate lawyer. It was also in Springfield that he met Mary Todd (1818–1882), whom he married in 1842. They had four sons together, only one of whom lived past eighteen.
After four terms in the legislature, Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846. To the extent that he made a name for himself in Washington, it was by challenging the grounds on which the Mexican War began. Lincoln was not reelected. Discouraged about politics, he focused on his practice instead. The Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), which allowed Kansas to decide whether it would have slavery and sparked a virtual civil war within the territory, reengaged Lincoln. He won his fifth legislative term but resigned to run for the U.S. Senate, a campaign he lost in 1855.
The following year, he joined the Republican Party, which positioned him for his most dramatic campaign to date: his 1858 race for the Senate against one of the country’s best-known Democrats, Stephen A. Douglas (1813–1861). Lincoln’s acceptance of the nomination has come to be known as his “House Divided” speech. Equally famous is the series of debates he had with Douglas in seven different towns across the state. The Lincoln-Douglas debates drew thousands of observers and national press attention as the two men argued about whether or under what circumstances slavery should be allowed to spread into the territories. Douglas tried to undermine Lincoln by painting him as an abolitionist (Lincoln actually did not target slavery in the states where it already existed; his goal was to keep it from moving into the territories), and Lincoln pressed on the moral aspect of slavery and Douglas’s position. Lincoln lost the contest, but gained nationwide recognition, which he leveraged in a prominent 1859 speech at New York’s Cooper Union.
Despite Lincoln’s rising prominence, he remained a man with little political baggage. That made him an appealing compromise candidate for the Republicans at their 1860 convention. In November Lincoln ran against three other candidates, including his old nemesis, Douglas. Lincoln won with just 39.8 percent of the popular vote, but a clear majority of electoral votes.
Despite Lincoln’s repeated assertions that he was interested only in keeping slavery out of the territories, southerners were convinced that he wanted to abolish it completely and immediately. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, on December 20, 1860. Six states followed shortly thereafter, and four more joined after the rebels opened fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.
Lincoln initially believed that a number of Unionists in the South would rise up against the Confederate government, so for the first year of the war he favored a strategy that avoided targeting slavery. As late as the spring of 1862, Lincoln believed in trying to compensate slaveowners in places such as the border state of Kentucky for their property, and he thought freed blacks should be sent to colonies elsewhere, on the grounds that blacks and whites could not live together. By July 1862, Lincoln realized that the Confederacy did not have a critical mass of Union supporters, and he decided to hit at the rebels’ point of vulnerability. In issuing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 (he had issued a preliminary version the previous September), he believed he was striking at the Confederates in two ways: First, the proclamation would deny southerners their slaves, and second, it would also deny them the workforce that kept the Confederate army going. The proclamation was limited, however, affecting only those parts of the South that were in rebellion and out of the Federals’ reach.
Lincoln was fundamentally moderate. He was also a man of his times. Both these points account for his approach to the slavery question as president. Critics have assailed Lincoln’s slowness on emancipation, but he believed the Constitution limited his powers in this regard. Because of these constitutional concerns, he issued the proclamation as a military measure. One thing is clear from the historical record, however, and that is that Lincoln was always personally opposed to slavery. He was also willing to change, and he did. In fact, it is difficult to generalize about most of Lincoln’s policies because he underwent such transformation in office. For instance, Lincoln abandoned his positions on compensation and colonization and, in the summer of 1864, when he was under great pressure to abandon emancipation as a condition for peace, he staked his career on protecting freed-men, saying he would be “damned” if he abandoned them. He also approved of Sherman’s March through Georgia and later into the Carolinas, a maneuver that amounted to hard, if not total, war—a far cry from his gentler approach at the war’s outset.
Even as he moved toward harder war, Lincoln wanted a soft peace. His early efforts at reconstruction called for Louisiana to establish a new state government when just 10 percent of the voters in the 1860 election took a loyalty oath and accepted emancipation. Many in Congress deemed this to be too lenient, but Lincoln at the end of his life appeared to be determined to return the rebel states to the fold with as little rancor as possible, while simultaneously protecting and advancing the rights of blacks. This included extending the vote to at least some African Americans. Lincoln was preparing a new reconstruction plan when he was assassinated April 14, 1865—Good Friday—while watching a play. He died the next morning.
While we will never know Lincoln’s precise plans for Reconstruction or how they would have changed in response to the contingencies of the day, it seems fair to say that Reconstruction would have been markedly different under Lincoln. Instead, his successor, Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), proved to be a white supremacist who easily bent to the wishes of southern elites. This led to such tragic consequences as the Black Codes, laws that all but reinstated slavery in many parts of the South. Johnson’s ready acquiescence to southern demands prompted Congress to wrest control of Reconstruction from the president and impose its own plan on the South, which proved to be to the short-term benefit of black southerners but provoked a bitter and violent response from whites in the region.
SEE ALSO Slavery; U.S. Civil War
Carwardine, Richard. 2006. Lincoln. New York: Knopf.
Donald, David Herbert. 1995. Lincoln. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Gienapp, William E. 2002. Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography. New York: Oxford University Press.
McPherson, James M. 1990. Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press.
Thomas, Benjamin P. 1952. Abraham Lincoln: A Biography. New York: Knopf.
Jennifer L. Weber
"Lincoln, Abraham." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/lincoln-abraham
"Lincoln, Abraham." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/lincoln-abraham
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Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865)
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Lawyer and president of the united states
Rails and the West. Before Abraham Lincoln decided to enter electoral politics, a decision that ultimately led to his election as the sixteenth president of the United States in 1860 and his assassination in Ford’s Theater in 1865, he rose to prominence as a Western lawyer. During that phase of his life he recognized that railroads were the principle engine of internal development and improvement in the West, a notion that was on the mark. Between 1830 and 1860 railroads provided the most dependable, efficient, and least expensive means of transporting agricultural products, commercial goods, information, and people. Their routes determined whether towns flourished or died. Chicago, Illinois, provided the prime example of the former. As late as 1850 the city had practically no rail lines. Within five years the construction of more than two thousand miles of rail transformed the city into a vital center of transportation, industry, agriculture, and commercial development.
Lucrative Practice. Railroad development placed growing demands on legal institutions. Before routes could be constructed, many legal problems demanded solutions: issues of land and resource rights, franchises and charters, taxation, rights of passengers, finance, consolidation, and incorporation. In Illinois, Lincoln’s practice benefited greatly in the mid to late 1850s. All of his political life Lincoln belonged to parties—the Whigs and then the Republicans—that championed national development with federal and state support of internal improvements. Demand for his services, sympathetic political ideology, great legal skill, and personal ambition placed Lincoln among the most important attorneys in the West.
First Railroad Case. Lincoln’s first important case for the railroads occurred in 1851, when the Alton and Sangamon Railroad sued James A. Barrett, a landowner and one of the railroad’s original stockholders. The company’s original plan would have carried the rail line close to Barrett’s property, driving up the value of his four thousand acres significantly. A new plan was designed to shorten the route by twelve miles, moving it far away from Barrett’s land. To protest this change Barrett refused to pay money owed on the thirty original shares that he purchased. Alton and Sangamon sued for payment and hired Lincoln to represent the company in court. Lincoln was convinced that this railroad was crucial to development in the West, a vital part “in the great chain of railroad communication” uniting the Atlantic coast “with the Mississippi.” He argued that a decision for the defendant “might encourage others to stop payments” on their stock subscriptions, stunting the growth of economic development. The Illinois Supreme Court decided in the company’s favor. Following the logic of Lincoln’s case, Chief Justice Samuel Treat declared that “a few obstinate stockholders should not be permitted to deprive the public and the company of the advantages that will result from a superior and less expensive route.” This case established a legal precedent cited in twenty-five subsequent cases throughout the United States.
Illinois Central Cases. In 1852, following his success with the Alton and Sangamon case, Lincoln began taking cases for the Illinois Central Railroad, a company that hoped to lay tracks that would give Chicago quick and reliable transportation to the Gulf of Mexico. The state of Illinois granted the railroad an exemption for all state taxes on the condition that it pay an annual “charter tax.” Representatives of McLean County, protested that the state had no right to exempt a company from paying county taxes. The Illinois Central declared that payment of both county taxes and the charter tax would force it into bankruptcy. Lincoln, working for the railroad in the case of Illinois Central Railroad v. the County of McLean, argued that the exemption was constitutional and should be upheld. The court decided in favor of the Illinois Central in January 1856.
Lincoln Sues the Railroad. Lincoln charged the company $2,000 for his services in this case, a substantial fee at the time. The Illinois Central balked at paying this extraordinary sum to a man it considered to be an obscure frontier lawyer. “This is as much as Daniel Webster himself would have charged,” they declared. Lincoln reconsidered his position, then increased his fee to $5,000. When the railroad still refused to fulfill its obligation, he sued. In court Lincoln defended the amount he charged, arguing that the Illinois Central would have paid nearly one hundred times his fees had McLean County won the case. The court decided in Lincoln’s favor. Lincoln continued to represent the Illinois Central Railroad over the years that followed.
Land of Rivers. Although working for the railroad companies was lucrative, Lincoln provided services for steamship companies as well. In 1851 he argued a case in which a riverboat sunk after colliding with a bridge on the Illinois River. The defendant, the company that built the bridge, denied responsibility because construction had been authorized by the state of Illinois. Lincoln turned his argument against the state, denying that it had the right “to authorize a total obstruction of a navigable stream” vital to commerce. While the court agreed with Lincoln that the Illinois River should “remain free, clear and uninterrupted,” the trial ended in a hung jury. The case was finally settled out of court. In an 1857 case in which another riverboat, the Effie Afton, struck a bridge pier and burned, Lincoln tried to reconcile competing interests of the railroad and waterway transportation industries. Working then for the railroad, Lincoln determined that the accident resulted from a malfunction in one of the steamship’s paddle wheels, not because the bridge presented a significant obstruction. While giving the railroads credit for the “astonishing growth of Illinois,” Lincoln maintained the importance of the waterways. The jury deadlocked over the decision, and the case was eventually thrown out of court.
Conclusions. Lincoln’s biographer David Herbert Donald has stated that Lincoln had “no consistent legal philosophy,” nor did he “leave behind him a record of cases that made a major contribution to the development of American legal thought.” Quoting Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, Donald concluded that Lincoln was “purely and entirely a case lawyer.” Lincoln’s willingness to work for whoever requested his services and contemporary opinion lends substance to this observation. However, the significance of Lincoln’s career as a lawyer in service to railroad companies is best understood within the context of national development. In that arena Lincoln’s application of legal principles made him a representative agent of Western expansion.
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995).
"Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865)." American Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/lincoln-abraham-1809-1865
"Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865)." American Eras. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/lincoln-abraham-1809-1865
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In 1860, Lincoln won the Republican presidential nomination because of his reputation for public honesty, his availability, and because his rivals had too many political enemies. Winning popular votes only in the North, Lincoln carried the electoral vote against three opponents (including Douglas) and took office on 4 March 1861. The country was divided by the secession of seven Southern states, whose white population believed that Lincoln's election portended the death of slavery. In his inaugural address, Lincoln tried to reassure his “dissatisfied fellow countrymen” that he would not attack slavery where it existed, but neither would he allow the Union to be destroyed. The Southern capture of Fort Sumter in April 1861 did lead to war, to the secession of additional Southern states, and ultimately to the end of slavery.
Thus, Abraham Lincoln addressed two mortal public issues: war and freedom. He addressed them with a political skill never before demanded of a U.S. president and never matched thereafter. Lincoln understood his limitations and his strengths, at once willing to defer to men of demonstrably greater knowledge or ability yet willing to impose his authority over them. As commander in chief, Lincoln understood that mobilizing an effective military force was similar to forming a political coalition, that political goals were akin to grand strategy. He also promoted professional soldiers, usually West Pointers, to significant commands, but he was chided too for appointing “political generals,” which he believed necessary in order to gain popular support for the war. Some of the most egregious tactical blunders on both sides—from Malvern Hill to Cold Harbor to Franklin—occurred under the command of West Pointers.
During 1862–63, when Lincoln effectively acted as general in chief, he tried to impress upon his generals the need for precise aims and energetic execution of plans. Most notable was his frustration with George B. McClellan, a general of ability who seemed reluctant to engage the enemy even when he held a military advantage, which he always did. When McClellan refused to press Robert E. Lee after the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln removed him from command. He also removed another general given to inertia, Don Carlos Buell, Union commander in Kentucky. Only days later, Lincoln wondered if the problem was “in our case” and not in the generals. Their successors (Ambrose Burnside and William S. Rosecrans) could do no better. Hard facts of terrain, distance, and a determined enemy would dictate military progress or the lack of it.
The Union army did know success, however, notably in the major Battle of Gettysburg (July 1863) and the siege of Vicksburg (which ended with Vicksburg's surrender on 4 July 1863). Yet there was no decisive, or Napoleonic victory, nor could there be, as Lincoln came to understand; there would be only a remorseless and bloody struggle until the Confederate army and the Southern will were broken, as they finally were in 1864–65. Victories in Virginia and Georgia were achieved by veteran armies led by redoubtable soldiers, Grant and Sherman, men of ability and determination, educated by their victories and their defeats. In order to overcome criticism of his wartime policies—the Habeas Corpus Act, the establishment of martial law, censorship of opposition newspapers, and arrests of vocal opponents of the war—and to gain the support of War Democrats, Lincoln led a Union Party in 1864 and named Andrew Johnson of Tennessee as his vice president. The Democrats nominated George B. McClellan, but military success, especially after the Battle of Atlanta in September 1864, assured Lincoln's reelection.
Emancipation is the event most associated with Lincoln next to the preservation of the Union. His enemies, North and South, resisted freedom for the slaves during the Civil War; his public friends thought that he was a reluctant emancipator, too calculating in advancing the great cause. A politician of Lincoln's time and place could not be unaware of the depths of racial animosity in the North, a social bias offset only by an intensity of feeling for the Union; yet this should not obscure the time and thought Lincoln gave to emancipation. He commented favorably on various options: colonization; gradual and compensated emancipation; and in 1862, he proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would abolish slavery. On 22 September 1862, after Antietam, he announced the Emancipation Proclamation, a war measure grounded in his constitutional mandate as commander in chief, to take effect on 1 January 1863. Lincoln's eloquence of advocacy thereafter elevated political rhetoric to levels unequaled before or since. The Union could be saved only through military force, he said, and emancipation was a necessary corollary to military action. Thus were joined the great issues of war and freedom. Lincoln had effected a revolution and said as much in his immortal speech at Gettysburg.
In his second inaugural address, Lincoln suggested that the Civil War was God's punishment for the great sin of slavery, and that even if it continued “until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another 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,’” Five days after the war ended, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth while watching a play at Ford's Theatre. He died on Good Friday, 15 April 1865.
[See also Civil War: Military and Diplomatic Course; Civil War: Domestic Course; Commander in Chief, President as.]
Godfrey R. B. Charnwood , Abraham Lincoln, 1916.
John G. Nicolay and and John Hay , Abraham Lincoln: A History, 1890; rev. ed. 1917.
James G. Randall , Lincoln the President, 4 vols., 1945–55.
Roy P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln: Collected Works, 9 vols., 1953–55.
Mark E. Neely , Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America, 1993.
David Herbert Donald , Lincoln, 1995.
James A. Rawley , Abraham Lincoln and a Nation Worth Fighting For, 1996.
John T. Hubbell
"Lincoln, Abraham." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham-0
"Lincoln, Abraham." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham-0
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Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865)
Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865)
Sixteenth president of the United States, who, it has been claimed, was influenced in his decision to free the slaves by Spiritualist experiences. Immediately after his election to the presidency, an article was published in the Cleveland Plaindealer based on statements of medium J. B. Conklin, who identified Lincoln as a sympathizer with Spiritualism. Conklin said Lincoln was the unknown individual who frequently attended his séances in New York, asked mental questions, and departed as unnoticed as he had arrived. When the article was shown to Lincoln, he reportedly did not contradict it but said: "The only falsehood in the statement is that the half of it has been told. This article does not begin to tell the wonderful things I have witnessed."
In a letter to Horace Greeley in August 1862, Lincoln stated: "My paramount object is to save the union, and not either to save or destroy slavery." The antislavery proclamation was dated a month later, September 1862, and was issued in January 1863. The change in Lincoln's attitude was at least in part brought about by the influences of Senator Thomas Richmond, by his experiences through the mediums J. B. Conklin, Mrs. Cranston Laurie, Mrs. Miller, Nettie Colburn (later known under her married name Henrietta Maynard ), and by Dr. Farnsworth's predictions. Senator Richmond, one of the leading businessmen of Chicago, had a controlling interest in the grain and shipping industries. While chairman of the committee on banks and corporations, he became a personal friend of Lincoln. In his book, God Dealing with Slavery (1870), Richmond reproduced the letters which, under psychic influence, he sent to the president.
Col. S. P. Kase claimed in the Spiritual Scientist that "for four succeeding Sundays Mr. Conklin, the test medium, was a guest at the presidential mansion. The result of these interviews was the President's proposition to his cabinet to issue the proclamation." Col. Kase also narrated President Lincoln's visit, in the company of his wife, in Mrs. Laurie's house. Laurie was a well-known medium. The colonel's daughter, Mrs. Miller, produced strong physical phenomena.
Colburn was another guest. She later became famous as an inspirational speaker, but then she was scarcely out of her teens. She passed into trance, approached the president with closed eyes, and addressed him for a full hour and a half. The sum total of her address was: "This civil war will never cease. The shout of victory will never ring through the North, till you issue a proclamation that shall set free the enslaved millions of your unhappy country."
In the same séance President Lincoln witnessed powerful physical manifestations. The piano on which the medium was playing rose four inches from the floor in spite of the efforts of Col. Kase, Judge Wattles, and the two soldiers who accompanied the president to weigh it down.
In 1891 Colburn (then Mrs. Maynard) published the book Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist? in which she described her very first meeting with President Lincoln. In 1862 in Washington, Mrs. Lincoln had a sitting with her and was so much impressed that she asked her to come and see the president. According to Maynard's account in her book, she delivered a trance address in which the President:
"was charged with the utmost solemnity and force of manner not to abate the terms of its [Emancipation Proclamation] issue and not to delay its enforcement as a law beyond the opening of the year; and he was assured that it was to be the crowning event of his administration and his life; and that while he was being counselled by strong parties to defer the enforcement of it, hoping to supplant it by other measures and to delay action, he must in no wise heed such counsel, but stand firm to his convictions and fearlessly perform the work and fulfill the mission for which he had been raised by an overruling Providence. Those present declared that they lost sight of the timid girl in the majesty of the utterance, the strength and force of the language, and the importance of that which was conveyed, and seemed to realise that some strong masculine spirit force was giving speech to almost divine commands. I shall never forget the scene around me when I regained consciousness. I was standing in front of Mr. Lincoln, and he was sitting back in his chair, with his arms folded upon his breast, looking intently at me. I stepped back, naturally confused at the situation—not remembering at once where I was; and glancing around the group where perfect silence reigned. It took me a moment to remember my whereabouts. A gentleman present then said in a low tone: 'Mr. President, did you notice anything peculiar in the method of address?' Mr. Lincoln raised himself, as if shaking off his spell. He glanced quickly at the full-length portrait of Daniel Webster that hung above the piano, and replied: 'Yes, and it is very singular, very!' with a marked emphasis."
On Mr. Some's inquiry whether there had been any pressure brought to bear upon the president to defer the enforcement of the proclamation, Lincoln admitted, "It is taking all my nerve and strength to withstand such a pressure."
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.
Britten, Emma Hardinge. Nineteenth-Century Miracles. London & Manchester, 1883.
Fleckles, Elliott V. Willie Speaks Out: The Psychic World of Abraham Lincoln. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1974.
Maynard, Nettie Colburn. Was Abraham Lincoln A Spiritualist? Philadelphia: R. C. Hartrampft, 1891. Reprint, London: Psychic Book Club, 1956.
Shirley, Ralph. Short Life of Abraham Lincoln. London: 1919.
"Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham-1809-1865
"Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham-1809-1865
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"Lincoln, Abraham." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham
"Lincoln, Abraham." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lincoln-abraham