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Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865)

Lincoln, Abraham

Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky, on February 12th, 1809. The son of Thomas Lincoln, a frontiersman whose own father had been killed by Native Americans, the years leading up to Abraham's adulthood were marred by poverty. His mother, Nancy, died of "milk sickness" when Abraham was ten, and the family moved to Indiana. The year after, Thomas Lincoln married Sarah Bush Johnston, who encouraged Abraham's education. Though he had little formal schooling, he could read and write. In 1830, when Abraham was twenty-one years old, his family moved again, this time to Illinois, and Abraham decided to go his own way.

Abraham joined the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War. In 1832, he ran and was defeated for Illinois State Legislature, but in 1834, at age twenty-four, he ran again and was elected as a Whig and served for four terms. After receiving his law license in 1836, Lincoln married Mary Todd on November 4th, 1842. In 1847, Lincoln was elected to and served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1856, Lincoln changed his political alliance to the Republican Party, but lost a Senate election to Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas. By 1860, Lincoln was a well-known presidential candidate. He was inaugurated in March of 1861 as the sixteenth President of the United States.

During 1861, southern states were trying to secede from the Union of the United States and form their own country. Lincoln, though against the separation, made clear in his inaugural address that he held no malice toward the South: "There need be no blood-shed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere." On April 12th, 1861, the Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, and the Civil War began. Two years later, on January 1st, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a declaration that stated that "all slaves in States or parts of States then in rebellion" were free. On April 9th, 1865, General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox, ending the war.

"I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal." (Abraham Lincoln)

On April 14th, 1865 at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes-Booth. He died on April 15th from the wound. Though he never authored any books, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, given on November 19th, 1863, is one of the best-known speeches of any decade. "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this."

Famous quotations by Abraham Lincoln:

  • Ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors to bullets.

  • Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.

  • All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind.

  • America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.

  • Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

  • Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.

  • Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

  • To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.

  • I'm a slow walker, but I never walk back.

  • If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four sharpening the axe.

  • Suggested sites for Abraham Lincoln:

    Encyclopedia article about Abraham Lincoln
    Texts by Lincoln
    Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Address
    The first Inaugural Address given by Abraham Lincoln to the public upon his first term as President of the United States.
    Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address
    The second Inaugural Address given by Abraham Lincoln to the public upon his second term as President of the United States.
    The Gettysburg Address
    A speech that Lincoln gave in 1863. Begins, "Four score and seven years ago…"

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