Abraham Lincoln and his presidency
Abraham Lincoln is the 16th president of United States of America. Abraham Lincoln, a self-taught lawyer, legislator and vocal opponent of slavery, was elected 16th president of the United States in November 1860, shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War. Lincoln proved to be a shrewd military strategist and a savvy leader.
His Emancipation Proclamation paved the way for slavery’s abolition, while his Gettysburg Address stands as one of the most famous pieces of oratory in American history. In April 1865, with the Union on the brink of victory. his untimely death made him a martyr to the cause of liberty, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history. The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, reveals the future president’s genius during the most decisive period of his political life when he seizes the moment, finds his voice, and helps create a new political party. In 1849, Abraham Lincoln seems condemned to political isolation and defeat. His Whig Party is broken in the 1852 election and disintegrates. His perennial rival, Stephen Douglas, forges an alliance with the Southern senators and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. Violent struggle breaks out on the plains of Kansas, a prelude to the Civil War. Lincoln rises to the occasion. Only he can take on Douglas in Illinois, and he finally delivers the dramatic speech that leaves observers stunned.
In 1855, he makes a race for the Senate, which he loses when he throws his support to a rival to prevent the election of a proslavery candidate. Now, in Wrestling with His Angel, Sidney Blumenthal explains how Lincoln and his friends operate behind the scenes to destroy the anti-immigrant party in Illinois to clear the way for a new Republican Party. Lincoln takes command and writes its first platform and vaults onto the national stage as the leader of a party that will launch him to the presidency”. Lincoln thought secession illegal and was willing to use force to defend Federal law and the Union. When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter and forced its surrender, he called on the states for 75,000 volunteers. Four more slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained within the Union. The Civil War had begun. Lincoln made extraordinary efforts to attain knowledge while working on a farm, splitting rails for fences, and keeping store at New Salem, Illinois. He was a captain in the Black Hawk War, spent eight years in the Illinois legislature, and rode the circuit of courts for many years. His law partner said of him, His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest. He married Mary Todd, and they had four boys, only one of whom lived to maturity. In 1858 Lincoln ran against Stephen A. Douglas for Senator. He lost the election, but in debating with Douglas he gained a national reputation that won him the Republican nomination for President in 1860. He was assassinated by stage actor John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, while attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.
Lincoln’s six years in New Salem were a formative period. For a time, he drifted from one job to another: store clerk, mill hand, partner in a general store that failed, postmaster, surveyor. Six feet four inches tall with a lanky, rawboned look, unruly course black hair, a gregarious personality, and a penchant for telling humorous stories, Lincoln made many friends. Among them were Jack Armstrong and his gang of young toughs, the Clary Grove boys. As the new boy in town with a reputation for great physical strength, Lincoln had to prove his mettle in a wrestling match with Armstrong. Winning the match, Lincoln also won the loyalty of the Clary Grove boys despite his refusal to participate in their drinking and hell-raising.
In 1832 the Sac and Fox Indians under Chief Black Hawk returned to their ancestral homeland in Illinois, precipitating the short-lived Black Hawk War. Lincoln volunteered for the militia and was elected captain of his company, which included the Clary Grove boys. They saw no action, but Lincoln later recalled his election as captain as the most gratifying honor of his life. Another side of Lincoln’s complex personality was a deeply reflective, almost brooding, quality that sometimes descended into serious depression. Lincoln described this condition as the hypo, for hypochondria, as medical science then termed it. This recurring ailment, coupled with Lincoln’s almost morbid fondness for William Knox’s lugubrious poem Mortality (1824) and his later self-reported dreams in which death figured prominently, may have resulted from the deaths of loved ones: his mother, his sister Sarah in childbirth in 1828; and Ann Rutledge in 1835. Lincoln met Rutledge at her father’s tavern in New Salem, where he boarded in 1833. Their story has taken on so many layers of myth and antimyth that the truth is impossible to determine. For half a century, until the 1990s, professional historians discounted the notion of their love and engagement, but new scholarship revived the credibility of a Lincoln-Rutledge romance (Walsh, The Shadows Rise). In any event, Rutledge died in August 1835, probably of typhoid fever, and Lincoln apparently suffered a prolonged spell of hypo after her death.
During the New Salem years Lincoln developed new purpose and direction. The local schoolmaster, Mentor Graham, guided his study of mathematics and literature. Lincoln joined a debating society, and he acquired a lifelong love of William Shakespeare and Robert Burns. He also acquired a passion for politics and in 1832 announced his candidacy for the legislature. Although he failed of election, he received 92 percent of the vote in the New Salem district, where he was known. When he ran again in 1834, he campaigned throughout the county and won decisively.
After retiring from the legislature in 1841, Lincoln devoted most of his time to his law practice. In 1841 he formed a partnership with Stephen T. Logan, who helped him become more thorough and meticulous in preparing his cases. The Springfield courts sat only a few weeks a year, requiring Lincoln to ride the circuit of county courts throughout central Illinois for several months each spring and fall. Most of his cases involved damage to crops by foraging livestock, property disputes, debts, and assault and battery, with an occasional murder trial to liven interest. By the time of his marriage Lincoln was earning $1,200 a year, income equal to the governor’s salary. In 1844 he bought a house in Springfield”the only home he ever owned. In 1844 he also dissolved his partnership with Logan and formed a new one with 26-year-old William H. Herndon, to whom Lincoln became a mentor.
Lincoln’s ambitions were not fulfilled by a successful law practice. He wanted to run for Congress from this safe Whig district, but the concentration of Whig hopefuls in Springfield meant that he had to wait his turn under an informal one-term rotation system. When his turn came in 1846, Lincoln won handily over Democratic candidate Peter Cartwright, a well-known Methodist clergyman who tried to make an issue of Lincoln’s nonmember ship in a church.
Lincoln’s congressional term was dominated by controversies over the Mexican War. He took the standard Whig position that the war had been provoked by President James K. Polk. On 22 December 1847 Lincoln introduced spot resolutions calling for information on the exact spot of soil on which Mexicans shed American blood to start the war, implying that this spot was Mexican soil. Lincoln also voted several times for the Wilmot Proviso, declaring that slavery should be prohibited in any territory acquired from Mexico. On these issues Lincoln sided with the majority in the Whig House of Representatives. In addition, Lincoln introduced a bill for compensated abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia if approved by most of the District’s voters. Lincoln’s opposition to the Mexican War was not popular in Illinois. Spotty Lincoln, jibed Democratic newspapers, had committed political suicide. When Lincoln campaigned in 1848 for the Whig presidential nominee Zachary Taylor, the Spotty Lincoln label came back to haunt him. The Whig candidate for Congress who succeeded Lincoln under the rotation system, his former partner Stephen T. Logan, went down to defeat”perhaps because of voter backlash against the party’s antiwar stance. Taylor nevertheless won the presidency, but Lincoln did not get the patronage appointment he expected as commissioner of the General Land Office.
Lincoln returned to Springfield disheartened with politics and gave full time to his law practice. During the 1850s he became one of the leading lawyers in the state. The burst of railroad construction during the decade generated a large caseload. Lincoln at various times represented railroads. In two of his most important cases he won exemption of the Illinois Central from county taxation and successfully defended the Rock Island from a suit by a shipping company whose steamboat had hit the Rock Island’s bridge over the Mississippi. Yet it would be misleading to describe Lincoln as a corporation lawyer in the modern sense of that term, since he opposed corporations with equal frequency. In one important case he represented a small firm in a patent infringement suit brought against it by the McCormick Reaper Company. Lincoln continued to ride the circuit each spring and fall; the great majority of cases handled by Lincoln and Herndon concerned local matters of debt, ejectment, slander and libel, trespass, foreclosure, divorce, and the like. In 1854 a seismic political upheaval occurred that propelled Lincoln back into politics. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, rammed through Congress under the leadership of Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas, revoked the ban on slavery in the Louisiana Purchase territory north of 36?°‰30?. This repeal of a crucial part of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 opened Kansas Territory to slavery.
It polarized the free and slave states more sharply than anything else had done. It incited several years of civil war between proslavery and antislavery forces in Kansas, which became a prelude to the national Civil War that erupted seven years later, and it gave birth to the Republican party, whose principal plank was exclusion of slavery from the territories. Before 1854 Lincoln had said little in public about slavery, but during the next six years he delivered an estimated 175 speeches whose central message was the necessity to exclude slavery from the territories as a step toward its ultimate extinction everywhere . That had been the purpose of the Founding Fathers, Lincoln believed, when they adopted the Declaration of Independence and enacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, barring slavery from most of the existing territories; that was why they did not mention the words slave or slavery in the Constitution. Thus, the thing is hiding away, in the constitution, said Lincoln in 1854, just as an afflicted man hides away a wen or cancer (Basler, vol. 2, p. 274). By opening all the Louisiana Purchase territory to slavery, the Kansas-Nebraska Act had reversed the course of the Founding Fathers. That was why Lincoln was aroused, he later recalled, as he had never been before (Basler, vol. 4, p. 67).
On 15 April Lincoln called out 75,000 militia to quell the rebellion, prompting four more states to secede. On 19 April Lincoln proclaimed a naval blockade of the Confederate coastline. From there the war escalated step by step on a scale of violence and destruction never dreamed of by those who fired the guns at Sumter. On the Union side Lincoln was the principal architect of this escalation. He insisted on a policy of unconditional surrender. Sovereignty, the central issue of the war, was not negotiable. As Lincoln put it late in the war, Davis cannot voluntarily reaccept the Union; we cannot voluntarily yield it. Between him and us the issue is distinct, simple, and inflexible. It is an issue which can only be tried by war, and decided by victory (Basler, vol. 8, p. 151). Because all else chiefly depends on the progress of our arms, as Lincoln said in 1865, he devoted more attention to his duties as commander in chief than to any other function of the presidency and spent vast amounts of time in the War Department telegraph office. He borrowed books on military history and strategy from the Library of Congress and burned the midnight oil mastering them.
Eleven times he visited troops at the front in Virginia or Maryland. The greatest frustrations he experienced were the failures of Union generals to act with the vigor and aggressiveness he expected of them. Perhaps one of the greatest satisfactions he experienced was the ultimate victory of commanders who had risen to the top in large part because Lincoln appreciated their vigor and aggressiveness. In 1861 Union armies achieved limited but important successes by gaining control of Maryland, Missouri, part of Kentucky, and much of western Virginia, which paved the way for the later admission of West Virginia as a new state. Union naval forces gained lodgments along the South Atlantic coast. But in the year’s biggest battle, at Bull Run (Manassas), 21 July 1861, the Union suffered a dispiriting defeat. Lincoln then appointed 34-year-old George B. McClellan comma Scorned and ridiculed by many critics during his presidency, Lincoln became a martyr and almost a saint after his death. His words and deeds lived after him and will be revered if there is a United States.
Indeed, it seems quite likely that without his determined leadership the United States would have ceased to exist. Union victory in the Civil War resolved two fundamental, festering problems that had been left unresolved by the Revolution of 1776 and the Constitution of 1789: whether this republic, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, would long endure or perish from the earth; and whether the monstrous injustice of slavery would continue to mock those ideals of liberty. The republic endured, and slavery perished. That is Lincoln’s legacy. Under of the Army of the Potomac and, from 1 November, general in chief of all Union armies. McClellan’s minor victories in western Virginia had given him a newspaper reputation as the Young Napoleon. He proved to be a superb organizer and trainer of soldiers but a defensive-minded and cautious perfectionist in action. He repeatedly exaggerated enemy strength as an excuse for postponing offensive operations.
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