Abraham Lincoln formed America

On this day, February 12, 210 years ago, the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was born. Lincoln was a self-taught lawyer and legislator, born in Kentucky to parents of no extraordinary achievement or wealth.=

In 1830, his family moved from Indiana, where he had lived since he was eight, to Mason County in Southern Illinois where he got a job on a Riverboat hauling freight down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. He soon settled down in New Salem, Illinois as a Shopkeeper and Postmaster and became an avid member of the Whig Party.

Lincoln was an avid supporter of expanding the United States and was strictly opposed to the spread of slavery into the West, like his heroes Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. In 1834, Lincoln won an election to his state legislator; he was 25 years old.

Lincoln taught himself law, and in 1836 he passed the bar examination and moved to Illinois’ capital, Springfield, where he worked as a Lawyer and gained the nickname Honest Abe. He married a Kentucky belle named Mary Todd in 1842, and in 1846, won an election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

He was unpopular with voters, however, because of his strict stance against the war with Mexico. In the next year, he promised not to run for another election and returned to Springfield.

In 1854 he was thrust back into politics by the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which stated that the population of a new state, rather than the national government, would decide if a state was to be a Slave State or a Free State.

In October, he went before a large crowd to debate the merits of the act with Senator Stephen Douglas, where he denounced slavery, calling it a violation of the most basic tenants of the Declaration of Independence.

Lincoln then joined the new Republican Party, formed in opposition to the expansion of slavery, and in 1858 he ran for the Senate again. In June, Lincoln delivered his “House Divided” speech.

Though he lost the Senate election, his performance in a series of debates with Douglas made him famous across the country and in 1860 he delivered another rousing speech to New York Cities Cooper Union. The Republicans chose him for their presidential candidate that May.

Lincoln won the candidacy against Douglas, and won the Electoral College votes, becoming the 16th President of the United States of America.

Things weren’t great, however. After years of tension, the election of such an anti-slavery president sent the Southern Slave States over the brink. By the time of his inauguration, seven states had seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.

Despite his minimal military experience, Lincoln proved to be a capable wartime leader and quickly learned strategies and tactics.

Shortly after the Battle of Antietam, in the year 1862, Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation warning, saying that in all Confederate states on January 1st of the next year, he would declare all of their slaves “then, thenceforward, and forever free.” On the 1st, Lincoln gave the final proclamation and declared all Confederate slaves free “as an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity.”

Victories in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in July 1863 finally turned the tide of the Civil War.

In November of that year, Lincoln gave a brief speech in Gettysburg to dedicate the area as a new national cemetery. The Gettysburg Address, the most famous speech in Lincoln’s presidency, summed up the reasons for the war eloquently. The speech referenced back to the Founding Fathers, and the Declaration of Independence, and emphasized the pursuit of human equality.

The election of 1864 was a hard-won battle for Lincoln. His Democrat opponent, former Union General George McClellan, was well liked by the people. However, several Union victories swayed the vote in favor of Lincoln. In his second inaugural address, he addressed the need to reconstruct the Union with “malice toward none; with charity for all.”  

On April 9, 1865, the Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant and the Civil War ended. On the 11th, Lincoln gave a speech on the White House lawn urging the Union to welcome the Confederate states back into the fold.

Tragically, Lincoln never got to see his reconstruction. On April 14th, actor and Confederate supporter John Wilkes Booth slipped into the President’s box at Ford’s Theatre and shot the 16th President point-blank in the back of the head. He was carried across the street to a boardinghouse but never regained consciousness. He passed away in the early hours of April 15, 1865.

On December 6, 1865, just 235 days after his death, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was passed, formally abolishing slavery in the United States of America.

Abraham Lincoln is an American Hero and the 16th President. Without him, our country would not be the same.