Abraham Lincoln is one of the most famous Presidents of all time, and perhaps the most important of all. Lincoln’s efforts saved the Union from collapsing during the pressure of the American Civil War, and this sample research paper explores the man behind the beard.
Abraham Lincoln: His presidency and the Civil War
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States. His career is often marked by the troubles of the Civil War and of slavery. His face is on the American penny and there is a famous monument in Washington depicting his strength and calm demeanor. Abraham Lincoln was one of the United States’ most memorable Presidents and he served during a tumultuous time in American history.
Abraham Lincoln was born on 12 February 1809, in Hodgenville, Kentucky (“Lincoln”). His parents were living in poverty in Kentucky, so Lincoln and his family uprooted to move to a small farm in Illinois. After Lincoln became an adult, he decided to leave and try his hand at business. He settled in New Salem, Illinois, in 1831. Lincoln did his best to keep shop and to obtain knowledge about business and politics. “His law partner said of him, ‘His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest’” (“Abraham”).
According to Allen C. Guelzo’s “Lincoln, Abraham,” in 1832, Black Hawk attempted to re-settle in Illinois and Governor John Reynolds called out the militia in Illinois, and as a part of New Salem’s militia, Lincoln was elected as captain for 30 days of service. “He re-enlisted two more times in other units, and was finally mustered out on July 10, 1832, near Black River, Wisconsin, without having seen action” (Guelzo). “He studied and practiced law and moved up in state politics in the 1830s and 1840s” (Cull). From being a young boy on a farm to a captain in Illinois state militia, Abraham Lincoln proved himself to be hard-working, dedicated, and a man fit to be President of the United States.
Abraham Lincoln began campaigning for the Whig Party, and although hard-working, was not about the use of tricks. As stated in Nicholas J. Cull’s entry in “Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia,” he helped to circulate letters that accused his opponents of fraud. In the 1850s he became a founding member of the Republican Party, which was antislavery. Lincoln ran for the Illinois Senate in 1858, against Stephen A. Douglas.
Lincoln challenged Douglas’ view on slavery and noted that it could not be settled through ‘popular sovereignty’ at state level. He famously argued: “‘a house divided against itself cannot stand’ in a speech in Springfield, Illinois on 16 June 1858” (Cull). And, although Lincoln lost to Douglas, he was then assured the Republican nomination in the Presidential election of 1860.
“His reputation as an uncompromising antislaver was such that even before he took office the slave-holding states of the South had seceded from the Union” (Cull).
Abraham Lincoln’s ability to win over a crowd and make informed decisions allowed him to win the election that year, and he was re-elected in 1864 “despite a range of political difficulties and mounting public way weariness,” according to Adam Smith in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association.
With 55 percent of the popular vote from the Electoral College, Lincoln was chosen over the Democratic candidate, General George B. McClellan. It is regarded by some as the finale to the Civil War, because it signified that the North was coming to a victory over the South.
“The events leading up to Lincoln’s triumph make a wonderful story that reveals much about the nature of the American political process in the midst of its greatest crisis” (Smith).
Abraham Lincoln may have very well been a key component for the success of the Union during the American Civil War. But, as it stands, his Presidency was dynamic and a big part of the Civil War itself.
Lincoln and The Civil War
Despite all that Abraham Lincoln accomplished in his life prior to being elected the 16th President of the United States, his life “was lived under the shadow of war” (Guelzo). He had considerable gifts as a speaker that led him to speak on the problem of slavery as a businessman running for the Senate, and then as the President leading a country through a war (Cull). One of the great issues during the Civil War was the dynamic opinion of both the North and the South on slavery and the like, and the War itself brought about many changes for the United States. Abraham Lincoln had a hand in those changes.
During the Civil War, Lincoln gained enemies of the South because of his antislavery views and because he thought that succession was not the right solution to their problems. According to the article “Abraham Lincoln,” from The White House website, the Civil War started with a bang:
“Lincoln warned the South in his Inaugural Address:
‘In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you…. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.’ Lincoln thought secession illegal, and was willing to use force to defend Federal law and the Union. When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter and forced its surrender, he called on the states for 75,000 volunteers. Four more slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained within the Union. The Civil War had begun” (“Abraham”).
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Lincoln had a formal plan for the reconstruction of the United States before the War had a foreseeable end, and this involved the reinstatement of state government in the South and “the amnesty of Confederate officials who vowed loyalty to the Union” (“Abraham”). Lincoln seemed willing to give the Confederates and those who opposed him in the South a chance to change themselves, but the other Republicans called for harsher punishments for them.
The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, less than a week before the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He was shot in the head by an actor and a man from the South, John Wilkes Booth during a performance at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. He died the next day, and his final resting place was Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln fought to preserve the Union, and not to end slavery – although he was opposed to its practices;
“he had been elected on a platform that pledged to allow slavery to remain where it already existed” (“Lincoln”).
It was the pressure of the war that drove the abolishment of slavery. However, despite how Lincoln felt about slavery, he was a key player in the abolishment of slavery, and this gain (or loss, as the South could see) made him enemies. The Southern states were pro-slavery, so naturally, they were not working in Lincoln’s favor during his Presidency and throughout the Civil War.
According to the article “The Civil War,” via the African-American Years: Chronologies of American History and Experience:
“As the Southern states seceded in an effort to protect the way of life they had built over a century, President Lincoln understood that by forcing the issue and declaring the slaves who joined the Union’s cause to be free, he would drive a political wedge between the powerful men in the South and the very manpower they had used to build up their plantations and homes, their armies, and their sense of self.”
The Southern states saw Lincoln as the greatest enemy to their culture and lifestyle, and that is the reason given for their secession. The Civil War, however, divided a country and President Lincoln simply wanted to bridge the political gap, despite his own views and beliefs on slavery and the Southern ‘lifestyle.’
Abraham Lincoln ruled over the United States at a crucial time in its development. The Civil War remains to be one of America’s bloodiest wars, and it forced the end of a cruel practice that had taken over the country for almost 300 years. Abraham Lincoln made enemies with the South despite the fact that he did not have as much compassion as many thought, though he led his country well through a prominent war.