“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves” – Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln is one of the most celebrated figures in American history and is revered today as a man of rare ability and character who shaped the United States in his image. Abraham Lincoln had a strong belief in the preservation of the Union, this belief influenced the development of the United States of America. Lincoln was inaugurated as president in 1860 and in his inaugural speech, Lincoln announced his supreme goal of maintaining and perfecting a perpetual union. His agreement to allow slavery where it already existed and to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act demonstrated his ability, as a leader, to make compromises that would benefit the nation (Current). To avoid war, Lincoln invited the southern states to rethink their decisions and stay in the union. His unyielding position on the preservation of the Union can be seen today as the United States of America that we see today which includes the Southern regions that attempted to secede in the 1800s.
Abraham was born to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Abraham’s father was a strong and determined pioneer who had good prosperity and respect from the community where they lived. When Abraham was 9 years old, he lost his mother to tremetol (milk sickness) she was the young age of 34 (Networks). The loss of his mom was devastating to him, and he became more alienated from his father he also resented the hard work that was placed on him. A year after his mother’s death Thomas Lincoln married Sarah Bush Johnston, a Kentucky widow with three children of her own. She was a strong and affectionate woman with whom Abraham quickly bonded. Sarah was a bright woman who always encouraged Abrahams's education, she also often took Abrahams's side in the frequent arguments that he would have with his father (Burlingame). As a young man Abraham stood out, he was tall and lanky at six feet four inches and made a name for himself after moving to New Salem by successfully wrestling the town bully. Abraham amazed his neighbors with his strength and ability to split rails and fell trees, these were survival skills he learned by being the child of an American Frontier.
In 1834 Abraham Lincoln ran for the state legislature and kept his seat up until 1840. During this time even the democrats supported him and he offered no platform statement, made no promises, and gave few speeches (Burlingame). Lincoln devoted himself to a grandiose project for constructing with state funds a network of railroads, highways, and canals. Although Whigs and the Democrats joined him in the passing of the bill for these undertakings, the panic of 1837 and the ensuing business depression brought about the abandonment of most of them (Current). While in legislature Lincoln demonstrated that, though opposed to slavery, he was no abolitionist. In 1837, in response to the mob murder of Elijah Lovejoy, an antislavery newspaperman of Alton, introduced resolutions condemning abolitionist societies and defending slavery in the Southern states as sacred because of the federal constitution. Lincoln refused to vote for these resolutions stating that on one hand slavery was 'founded on both injustice and bad policy and, on the other, that 'the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than to abate its evils' (Current)
In 1856, Abraham joined the new republican party and in 1860 he was asked to as their presidential candidate. In his presidential campaign, Abraham made his opposition to slavery very clear, because of this many southerners feared that he would attempt to abolish slavery in the South. Seven southern states left the union because of this fear, and to stall similar actions by other southern states, various compromises were proposed in Congress (BBC). One of the most important was the Crittenden Compromise which included constitutional amendments guaranteeing slavery forever in the states where it already existed and dividing the territories between slavery and freedom. One year after Abraham was elected president, the Civil War broke out. Abraham always defined the Civil War as a struggle to save the union. Abraham’s decision to fight rather than to let the Southern states secede was not based on his feelings toward slavery. Rather, he felt it was his sacred duty as President of the United States to preserve the union at all costs. Throughout the war, Abraham struggled to find capable commanders for his armies because of this many men withered under Abraham’s watchful eye as they failed to bring him success on the battlefield. Abraham forced the confederate hand with his decision to resupply the fort, which had suddenly become an outpost in a hostile nation. The Southern navy turned away the supply convoy and then fired the first shot of the war at Fort Sumter, forcing the Federal defenders to surrender after a 34-hour battle.
Abraham would never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated in dedicating Abraham's leadership and courage in times of crisis has had a lasting impact on American society. Abraham was able to quickly take control of any situation and he often made attempts to reconcile with the Southern states and tried to please both Northerners and Southerners. Undertaking this difficult task with coolness and collection, Abraham led the country to unity following the civil war. As a war leader, Abraham employed the same style that had served him as a politician, he preferred to react to problems and to the circumstances that others had created rather than to originate policies and layout long-range designs (Current). It was not that Abraham was unprincipled; rather, he was a practical man, mentally nimble and flexible, and, if one action or decision proved unsatisfactory in practice, he was willing to experiment with other plans.
On January 1st, 1863 Abraham issued his famous Emancipation Proclamation after the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam. The Emancipation Proclamation, which was legally based on the President’s right to seize the property of those in rebellion against the State, only freed slaves in Southern states where Lincoln’s forces had no control. Nevertheless, it changed the tenor of the war, making it, from the Northern point of view, a fight both to preserve the Union and to end slavery (BIOGRAPHY). With the Emancipation Proclamation, all slaves in the Confederacy were freed, and later those in the Border States and Union states were also freed with the institution of the 13th Amendment. These advancements toward more equality for African Americans greatly impacted the civil rights movement. During the 1900s, many African American and white leaders fought for racial equality and rights for African Americans. In their struggle for equality, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed on July 9, 1868, and it stated that all native-born people would be considered citizens in the United States, and they would have equal benefits and rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Today, the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln's work to free slaves are still felt as there is no more slavery in the United States of America and African Americans have worked their way up the ladder and today are seen as equals in American society. Directly or indirectly the proclamation brought freedom during the war to fewer than 200,000 slaves. Yet it had great significance as a symbol. It indicated that the Lincoln government had added freedom to the reunion as a war aim, and it attracted liberal opinion in England and Europe to increase support for the Union cause (Current).
Abraham was one of the greatest abolitionists for many reasons. He was a relatively inexperienced politician, face with the secession crisis of the south and the mounting sectional tensions. Abraham was able to quickly take control of the crisis at hand by appointing an able cabinet and giving an inaugural speech laced with compromises with the south. His numerous speeches, such as the Gettysburg Address and his first inaugural speech, allowed him to voice his opinions and air his ideas to the American citizens. Lincoln persevered in his defense of the Union and abolition of slavery, and during the war, he never gave up hope of winning the war. In his Gettysburg address, Abraham addressed the soldiers who were still alive, persuading them to keep fighting for the unity of the nation and the dedication of the dead soldiers. Abrahams's incredible efforts to preserve the union, his undoing of slavery, and his natural leadership still have a lasting impact on the nation today. Because of his strong stance against slavery and formally declaring the confederate states free, Abraham succeeded in stopping the expansion of slavery and took one step forward in the advancement of freedom and rights for African Americans (R.J.Nortion). His great achievement, historians tell us, was his ability to energize and mobilize the nation by appealing to its best ideals while acting 'with malice towards none' in the pursuit of a more perfect, more just, and more enduring Union. No President in American history ever faced a greater crisis and no President ever accomplished as much.
- BBC. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). 2014.
- BIOGRAPHY. Abraham Lincoln. 2015.
- Burlingame, Michael. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: IMPACT AND LEGACY. 2019. —. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: LIFE BEFORE THE PRESIDENCY. 2019.
- Current, Richard N. Abraham Lincoln: President of the United States. 14 03 2014.
- Networks, A&E Television. The Biography.com website. 28 August 2019.
- R.J.Nortion. https://rogerjnorton.com/Lincoln87.html. 12 2012.