Abraham Lincoln

(redirected from Abraham Lincon)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.

Lincoln, Abraham

Lincoln, Abraham (lĭngˈkən), 1809–65, 16th President of the United States (1861–65).

Early Life

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, and succeeded in describing the abhorrent moral nature of slavery that Douglas failed to comprehend. 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.

Presidency

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.

Bibliography

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), R. C. White, Jr. (2009), S. Blumenthal (3 vol., 2016–2019), and D. S. Reynolds (2020). 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); H. W. Brands, The Zealot and the Emancipator (2020).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
Enlarge picture
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), President of the United States during the Civil War. Alexander Gardner/Getty Images.

Lincoln, Abraham (1809–1865)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Abraham Lincoln attended many séances, even having some at his own home. He was as much a Spiritualist as anything else. He was not of any particular Christian faith, although he certainly did seem to believe in an Infinite Intelligence. In the days before the Civil War, only 25 to 35 percent of the population actually belonged to a Christian denomination. The vast majority did not belong to any church, though most seemed to have believed in an afterlife. Spiritualism competed with Christianity and, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, became the fastest growing religion in America.

The Lincolns had lost three of their four sons to childhood diseases so it was natural that Mary Todd Lincoln, the President’s wife, wanted to attend séances. Colonel Simon F. Kase told of a notable one in the home of Mrs. Laurie, which both he and the President attended. The Laurie’s daughter, Mrs. Miller, was the medium and she played the piano while in trance. As she played, two legs of the instrument levitated several inches off the floor then repeatedly banged back to the floor to beat time to the music. As it kept rising up, Kase and two soldiers who were present climbed on the piano together but were unable to make it settle down again until the medium stopped playing. It was reported that the legs rose as high as four inches off the floor.

Abraham Lincoln had many prophetic dreams, including one of his own death. In early April 1865, he dreamed he was lying in bed when he heard the sound of sobbing. Getting up and leaving his bedroom, he went into the East Room of the White House where he saw a line of people filing past a catafalque. They were all paying their respects to the figure lying in state, guarded by four soldiers. The face of the figure was covered so, in the dream, Lincoln asked one of the soldiers who had died. The soldier replied, “The President. He was killed by an assassin.” Lincoln later told his wife, Mary, and several friends about the dream. It was later that same month that he was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth. Another of Lincoln’s prophetic dreams was of a damaged ship sailing away with a Union ship in hot pursuit. Lincoln had this dream on a number of occasions, each time just before an important Union victory.

At one séance which the Lincolns attended, a teenage girl approached the President. It was Nettie Colburn Maynard, a young medium. In trance, she began to lecture Lincoln on the necessity for emancipation. She spoke to him for almost an hour, stating that the Civil War could not come to an end until all men were free. When Nettie came out of her trance and saw to whom she had been speaking, she ran from the room in fright and embarrassment. But two days later, when Lincoln and his wife were at another séance, Nettie appeared again and did the same thing, lecturing the President about freeing the slaves. Kase reported, “President Lincoln was convinced as to the course he should pursue; the command coming from that all-seeing spirit through the instrumentality of the angel world was not to be overlooked … thus the prediction of the medium was verified.”

In 1854, ten years before the end of the Civil War, 15,000 Americans had petitioned Congress for a scientific study of Spiritualism, but the request was denied. The tremendous death toll of the war led to even more of an interest in Spiritualism.

Sources:

Headon, Deirdre (ed.): Quest for the Unknown—Charting the Future. Pleasantville: Reader’s Digest, 1992
Shepard, Leslie A: Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. New York: Avon Books, 1978
Stemman, Roy: The Supernatural: Spirits and Spirit Worlds. London: Aldus, 1975
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lincoln, Abraham

 

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.

WORKS

Complete Works, vols. 1–12. Edited by J. Nicolay and J. Hay. New York, 1905.

REFERENCES

Ivanov, 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

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Lincoln, Abraham

(1809–1865) sixteenth U.S. president; issued Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 286–287]

Lincoln, Abraham

(1809–1865) 16th U.S. president; the Great Emancipator. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 286–287]

Lincoln, Abraham

(1809–1865) 16th U.S. president; nicknamed “Honest Abe.” [Am. Hist.: Kane, 525]
See: Honesty
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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."
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
Full browser ?