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Lincoln, Abraham (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 Rutledge, Ann, 1813?–1835, American historical figure, alleged fiancée of Abraham Lincoln. Her father kept the inn at New Salem, Ill., where Lincoln lived from 1831 to 1837. Ann's sudden death from brain fever on Aug.
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 Herndon, William Henry, 1818–91, friend, law partner, and biographer of Abraham Lincoln, b. Greensburg, Ky. In 1844 he became the junior member of the Springfield, Ill., law firm of Lincoln and Herndon, a partnership that was never dissolved.
In 1842 he married Mary Todd (see Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, Mary Todd, 1818–82, wife of Abraham Lincoln, b. Lexington, Ky. Of a good Kentucky family, she was living with her sister, daughter-in-law of Gov. Ninian Edwards of Illinois, in Springfield, Ill., when she met and married (1842) Lincoln.
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 Douglas, Stephen Arnold, 1813–61, American statesman, b. Brandon, Vt.
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 Seward, William Henry, 1801–72, American statesman, b. Florida, Orange co., N.Y.
To the South, Lincoln's election was the signal for secession. All compromise plans, such as that proposed by John J. Crittenden Crittenden, John Jordan, 1787–1863, U.S. public official, b. Woodford co., Ky. A Kentucky legislator (1811–17), Crittenden entered the U.S. Senate (1817–19) but resigned to resume state offices.
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 Merryman, ex parte, case decided in 1861 by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney sitting as a federal circuit judge in Baltimore. John Merryman, a citizen of Maryland, was imprisoned by the U.S. army on suspicion of favoring the Confederacy.
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 Bull Run, small stream, NE Va., c.30 mi (50 km) SW of Washington, D.C. Two important battles of the Civil War were fought there: the first on July 21, 1861, and the second Aug. 29–30, 1862.
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 Gettysburg Address, speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln on Nov. 19, 1863, at the dedication of the national cemetery on the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg, Pa. It is one of the most famous and most quoted of modern speeches.
Lincoln was reelected over George B. McClellan McClellan, George Brinton, 1826–85, Union general in the American Civil War, b. Philadelphia. After graduating (1846) from West Point, he served with distinction in the Mexican War and later worked on various engineering projects, notably on the survey
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 Springfield.
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). 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 Randall, James Garfield, 1881–1953, American historian, b. Indianapolis, Ind. He taught history and political science at various colleges before joining (1920) the faculty of the Univ. of Illinois.
Lincoln, Abraham (1809–65) sixteenth U.S. president; born near Hodgenville, Ky. Born in a log cabin to a modest farm family, he moved early with his family to Indiana. His mother died in 1818 and his stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston, provided a fine model who inspired the ambitious but unschooled boy to discipline and educate himself. The Lincolns moved to Illinois in 1830, and, after twice sailing a flatboat to New Orleans, he settled in New Salem, Ill., where he pursued workaday jobs while studying law on his own. In the 1832 Black Hawk War he served as a volunteer but saw no action. In 1835 he entered the Illinois state legislature as a Whig; after unremarkable service, Lincoln left the legislature in 1841. In 1837 he had begun what would become a successful law practice in Springfield, the capital of Illinois; in 1842 he married Mary Todd, of a prominent Springfield family. His position as a prominent Whig in Illinois took him to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1847–49, where he again had a lackluster record despite his opposition to the war in Mexico. Back in Springfield he gradually began to prosper as a lawyer, often representing business interests, but his eloquently-stated if moderate antislavery views gained him increasing attention. This came to a head during his unsuccessful race (1858) for the U.S. Senate against Stephen A. Douglas, who led the Democratic accommodation to slave interests; the historic debates between the two men secured Lincoln a national following, which led to his becoming the presidential nominee of the new antislavery Republican Party in 1860. Although he received only 40% of the popular vote, due to a split in the Democratic party Lincoln won a majority of the Electoral College votes. Although he had stated his willingness to tolerate slavery where it currently existed, his election precipitated the secession of Southern states and the formation of the Confederacy. In the years of civil war that followed, the inexperienced Lincoln proved to be one of the most extraordinary leaders, both political and moral, the U.S.A. has ever seen. First defining the war as being fought over secession rather than slavery, he oversaw the creation of the Union army. When the political time was right, Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, thereby interpreting the war as a crusade against slavery; he later oversaw the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment (1865), which legally ended slavery. With his immortal Gettysburg Address (November 1863), Lincoln further defined the war as the struggle for preservation of the democratic idea, which he called "government of the people, by the people, for the people." Meanwhile, he took a direct interest in the conduct of the war, hiring and firing generals, getting daily reports from the battlefields, and visiting the troops in the front lines. All this time, too, he had to mediate between the pressures of radical and conservative elements of the North, using an astute combination of suppression and conciliation, and barely surviving the election in 1864. Having seen the victory of the Union forces in April 1865, Lincoln was beginning to plan a generous reconstruction policy when he was assassinated by Southern fanatic John Wilkes Booth. His body was taken by train from Washington to be buried in Springfield, Ill., as the nation he had refounded mourned their "Father Abraham." Master of both a Biblical eloquence and a homespun vernacular, a natural at combining practical politics with moral principles, in only four years as president he had established why he is one of the few Americans who truly "belong to the ages."
(1809–1865) sixteenth U.S. president; issued Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 286–287]
See : Antislavery
(1809–1865) 16th U.S. president; the Great Emancipator. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 286–287]
See : Deliverance
(1809–1865) 16th U.S. president; nicknamed “Honest Abe.” [Am. Hist.: Kane, 525]
See : Honesty
Born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hodgenville, Ky.; died Apr. 15, 1865, in Washington, D.C. American statesman. The son of a farmer.
Lincoln was a descendant of the earliest American settlers. He worked during his youth as a day laborer on surrounding farms; he was also a flatboatman, rail-splitter, surveyor, and postal employee. At the same time he strove to educate himself. In 1836 he passed the bar examination and became a lawyer. Fairness and incorruptibility, a sharp mind, and brilliant oratorical abilities led to his rapid rise. From 1834 to 1841, Lincoln was a member of the legislative assembly of the state of Illinois. From 1847 to 1849 he was a member of the House of Representatives. During the annexationist US war against Mexico in 1846–48, Lincoln introduced into Congress a resolution calling for cessation of the war. In 1854 he was one of the organizers of the Republican Party. Lincoln’s activities reflected the interests of progressive circles of the bourgeoisie of the Northern states and of the petite bourgeoisie throughout the country. He advocated the broadening of the civil and political rights of the people and favored granting suffrage to women.
Lincoln was a resolute foe of slavery and advocated liberation of the slaves. He opposed efforts to spread slavery to the whole USA. However, Lincoln believed that the issue of slavery lay within the competence of the individual states and that the federal government had no right to control it. In 1860, Lincoln was elected president of the USA. Despite his moderate stand on slavery, his election was a signal for the slaveholding Southern states to secede from the Union; it set off the Civil War of 1861–65.
During the first stage of this war, Lincoln considered the goal to be the crushing of the rebel slaveholders and the restoration of a unified country. K. Marx and F. Engels criticized Lincoln for his foot-dragging and inconsistencies on the question of abolishing slavery, which reflected the hesitations of the bourgeoisie. They pointed to the need to conduct a revolutionary kind of war. Under pressure of the masses and of the Radical Republicans, who represented the most revolutionary part of the bourgeoisie, Lincoln changed his position in the course of the war and instituted a series of increasingly revolutionary measures. In May 1862 the Homestead Act was adopted. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became law on Jan. 1, 1863. The proclamation signified the complete evolution of Lincoln’s political views. He had gone from a policy of territorial containment of slavery to the areas where it was already established to a new course involving the abolition of slavery. In 1864, Lincoln was elected to a second term. The shift by Lincoln’s government to revolutionary-style warfare led to the military destruction of the slaveholder forces and the abolition of slavery throughout the USA. On Apr. 14, 1865, Lincoln was mortally wounded by the actor J. Booth, who was an agent of the slaveholders and their allies in the Northern states. The murder of Lincoln was not only an act of vengeance on the part of reactionaries. It was also an attempt to deprive the opponents of slavery of their outstanding leader at a time when, with the war at an end, Reconstruction had become the leading political issue. This was to be a period of new and harsh exacerbation of the struggle for the rights of the Negroes.
Lincoln is a national hero of the American people, the bearer of the revolutionary traditions that are followed by all progressive people in the USA in the struggle against reaction and for the interests of the people.
WORKSComplete Works, vols. 1–12. Edited by J. Nicolay and J. Hay. New York, 1905.
REFERENCESIvanov, R. F. A. Linkol’n i grazhdanskaia voina v SShA. Moscow, 1964.
Petrov, D. B. A. Linkol’n—velikii grazhdanin Ameriki. Moscow, 1960.
Sandburg, C. Linkol’n. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from English.)
Nicolay, J., and J. Hay. A. Lincoln: A History, vols. 1–10. [New York] 1917.
R. F. IVANOV
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