Abraham Lincoln: The First Republican President

Introduction

Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States taking the country through the Civil war, which was one of the largest internal calamities in America’s history. During this time, he ensured that he preserved the Union and led the country towards the abolition of slavery. Lincoln introduced procedures that largely led to the eradication of slavery in the United States. Lincoln was a lawyer before going to become president in 1860 on a Republican ticket. He also served as state legislator of Illinois as well as a member of the United States House of Representatives. Lincoln is well known for his personality and great leadership skills. He participated in various debates country wide that are still remembered even today. (Lamb & Susan 353)

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Early Life

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. His father was Thomas Lincoln and his mother Nancy Hanks. Both his parents came from humble background with very little education. His father owned large tracts of land in Kentucky but was forced to migrate with his family to Indiana. This was partly due to the reason that he was against slavery that was largely practiced in Kentucky. The other reason for moving was that in the early 1800s there were problems in acquiring title for their land in Kentucky. In 1831, Lincoln went on his own through Sangamon River to the rural community of New Salem in Sangamon County. Towards the end of that year, a businessperson from New Salem called Denton Offutt employed him. With the help of his friends, Lincoln carried goods from New Orleans using a flatboat, through Illinois and Mississippi rivers. While working in the village store, he was able to use the time he was free to advance his little education. Lincoln met Ann Rutledge in New Salem in 1835 and she became his first love. She however died in the same year from typhoid fever. In 1840, he met Mary Todd who was from a wealthy slaveholding family. They were married in 1842, and they had four children. (Luthin 295)

Political Life

Abraham Lincoln joined politics for the first time in 1832 when he ran for the Illinois General Assembly. The people of New Salem respected him a lot but he did not have enough education, influential friends or money. His focus during the campaigns was the development of the Sangamon River. Prior to the elections, Lincoln was made captain in a company of the Illinois armed force at the time of the Black Hawk War but he did not participate in the battle. Black Hawk and his men were wiped out and forced to retreat to Wisconsin. Lincoln was given land in Iowa as reward for his good work at a young age. He returned from the army and began his campaign all over the county for six months before the elections. In the August election he was however defeated severely and he came eighth from the fourteen aspirants where only the top four were chosen. He however managed to secure 277 votes from the 300 that were cast in New Salem region. His political career was now hindered while at the same time, the general store went down because of bankruptcy and Lincoln became jobless in 1832. He tried to train in blacksmith trade and at the same time considered doing law but his education level was not enough. In the next year, he became postmaster of New Salem and from time to time, he did a job as a surveyor. With time, Lincoln accumulated considerable amount of debt, which he paid later with his earnings. (Vorenberg 300)

In 1834, Lincoln ran for the second time for the Illinois General Assembly and this time he won. He was a representative from Sangamon County and elected under the growing Whig Party. The Whig Party was initially formed to ensure internal advancement, fight against high tariffs and to ensure that the National Bank was sustained. Lincoln managed to dominate the Illinois state politics in the following years by achieving victory three more times in Sangamon County. He also worked in the General Assembly for eight years. In 1838, he had become very popular in the Whig Party and was able to achieve nomination in his quest to become speaker of the House. He however did not win since the Democratic Party was still having a stronghold at the time. He also tried in 1840 where he also lost to the Democratic Party. While he was the representative of Illinois, Lincoln supported the development of the state bank of Illinois. Just as Clay, he also supported the idea of nation wide internal developments and developing high quality form of infrastructures like railroads and canals. These proposals were widely accepted by the assembly. However, the financial problems that arose from the Panic of 1837 messed most of the plans. (Lamb & Susan 348)

Although Lincoln had made a great job being Illinois representative, he did not go for a re-election. In 1843, Lincoln was seeking to be the Whig nominee for candidacy to the Congress. He had only his law practice, which kept him going, but still he had political aspirations. In a hotly contested election he lost and he went ahead to loose even in his home town thus he had to stay away from politics and hope to enter in the next elections to achieve his objectives. In that same year, Lincoln was proposed as a candidate for the governor of Illinois but he declined. He instead threw his weight behind the Whig presidential candidate Henry Clay whom he considered as his hero. The Democratic candidate Martin Van Buren, however, defeated Clay. Being the main follower of the seizure of Texas, President Polk managed to take expansionist Illinois, which annoyed Lincoln very much. In 1846, Lincoln was nominated by the Whig Party to be their candidate in Congress. It was during this time that the Mexican War started and it turned out to be the main issue during campaigns. Lincoln did not give much information on his opinion about the conflict, while at the same time persuading the youth to volunteer instead of breaking up to achieve their aims. In this way, his conservative method of campaigning was rewarding and although Illinois was well known as a democratic stronghold, Lincoln was able to be elected. (Goodwin 779)

The situation of the war did not make it possible for Congress to assemble up to December 1847, which was more than a year since Lincoln was elected. In this case, he had a short period in Washington and thus did not manage to make a fundamental mark. The only main issue he brought forth was a plan to create the steady and rewarding liberation of slaves in the District of Columbia. This temperate part of the law was in due course done away with because in many ways it annoyed the abolitionists and slave masters. The abolitionists felt that it was spiritless form of conservatism while the slave masters saw it as a fundamental danger to their interests. When he was unable to weaken the institution of slavery, he decided to help in stopping the expansion of slavery. In this way, he supported the Wilmot Proviso, which stated that every region that was taken from the Mexican War would have to be free soil. Despite the fact that Lincoln covered up his earlier opposition to the Mexican War, and he had also supported the unwarranted funding of the war, in the long run he was in favor of the Whig Party disapproval of President Polk in what they referred to as pointless and undemocratic form of violent behavior. Being among the outspoken who criticized Polk, he spoke in the house floor arguing what the government had done was wrong. He said that the Mexicans did not pose any danger to the United States and that they were attacked in their own territory for no cause. He said that Polk had exceeded his mandate since the authority of imposing war was in the Congress but not on the president. He went ahead to state that nobody was supposed to be given such powers. (Donald 148)

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These views of Lincoln did not please many people mostly from his own state since they argued that he was just a young man who did not know any better. In 1848, Lincoln did not go for a re-election, and Democrats defeated the Whigs for the seat in Congress even though their candidate Zachary Taylor had won the presidency. Lincoln’s position in the Whig Party was pushing for internal developments and assisting the Whigs achieve considerable amount of state financial support for this project. While making an effort to increase his authority, Lincoln tried to be selected Commissioner of the General Land Office but he was not successful. He was then appointed as a secretary and later on elected as the governor of Oregon. He did not accept the positions but instead he returned to his profession as lawyer in Springfield. (Diggings 403)

In 1949, Lincoln went back to Springfield and there he made a name for himself in legal matters. His reputation increased in the region and with time he went on to handle much more complex and fundamental cases. During this period, he moved throughout the state and was even allowed to appear in the Supreme Court occasionally. He even took state cases once in a while having customers from cities such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia. His profession was also enhanced by the development of the railroad, which he had assisted to promote while as a lawyer and statesman. Lincoln did vouch for the Illinois Central Railroad and made it possible for them to acquire their charter. They had him as their attorney soon after, helping them in their quest for exemption from county tax. Consequently, he had to sue the company for them to give him his legal bill of five thousand dollars duty, which they later on paid him as deserved. He made other significant cases during the 1850s before rejoining politics. By mid 18th century, Lincoln had a very dynamic legal career that saw him representing railroads, banks, insurance companies, business people and manufacturers. His work also involved government cases title deeds, land registers, taxes as well as small legal advice encounters. Despite the fact that he sat in as a judge on a number of times, he did not have any ambition to apply as a judge. Lincoln was against slavery but during his legal practice, he had to set aside personal views. In this way, he defended slaves and slave masters in the court of law. (Carroll 406)

In the year 1837, Lincoln declared his position publicly on the issue of slavery stating that slavery was based on unfairness and bad judgment. From 1834, Lincoln had been studying law motivated by John T. Stuart and by 1837, he was able to acquire a license to practice law. He then moved to Springfield which was now a state capital and started as a partner in Stuart’s law firm. The two worked together up to the point Stuart was elected to the House of Representatives. Lincoln then collaborated with Stephen T. Logan and worked with him for the next three years. He was making a considerable amount of money in his career and he did it with full devotion. During this period, Clay was fighting for the amalgamation of the Union by following the dictates of the 1850 Compromise. The compromise dictated that California was supposed to be recognized as a free state. The Compromise also advocated for the restructuring of New Mexico and Utah region, elimination of slavery in the District of Columbia and the major issue was providing for an influential centralized escapee slave law established to reinstate slaves who had escaped from their masters. Lincoln, who had always liked Clay, supported the Compromise of 1850. Two years afterwards when Clay had died, Lincoln praised him for his great political principles. It was for this reason that Lincoln felt frustrated when Douglas abolished Clay’s Missouri Compromise by approving the contentious Kansans Nebraska Act of 1854. In this law, the primary line that kept apart states that were free from the slave states was overlooked because it stated that every region had the right to decide if they wanted slavery or not. Douglas used the Kansans-Nebraska Act to help him get the southern votes in the Chicago election. This worked for him then but the Kansas-Nebraska law came to be his downfall. (Baker 452)

During this period, Lincoln was not an abolitionist as such, even though he seriously dedicated to ensuring that slavery did not extend further in the United States. Despite the fact that he was ethically against slavery, he did not want to bring conflict in the union by condemning slavery severely thus upsetting the southern states. His strategy was to ensure that the law was revoked instead of using force of the centralized law. In most of the 1850s, Lincoln was not opposed to the continuation of slavery in the southern states. This however changed when Douglas’s Kansas-Nebraska law was passed and he felt that African slave trade was going to be revitalized, making United States a huge slave territory. This is what made him go back to politics with an aim to attack Douglas’s Kansas-Nebraska Act. To begin with, he did not intend to oppose directly, although this changed when he made an influential speech at Peoria, which had him elected to the Illinois General Assembly. This also made his chances more defined to have him as the candidate for the Senate. It was during this time that the Whig Party supported him and he decided to quit from the office he had just won in the state legislature to vie for the Senate. This turned out to be a mistake and he lost to the Democrat candidate thus leaving him out of politics again. He went back to his profession as a lawyer once again. (Carroll 408)

Even though Lincoln lost the election to the Senate, the national wave going after Douglas was increasing fast. Many people opposed the act brought forward by Douglas. These people brought strong opinions on the Senate floor and the nation was beginning to feel the effects of their differences. The Free Soil Party was also in opposition to the issue of slavery. It also happened that there were Democrats mainly from the North who were opposed to slavery. From the rising debate over the issue of slavery, a new party was born in 1854 called the Republican Party. It was a combination of various parties that included the Whigs, Free Soilers and liberal Democrats who had come together with an aim to stop the expansion of slavery. In 1856, the Republican Party nominated John C. Fremont as their presidential candidate. Lincoln who had played a great role in uniting the parties in the formation of the Republican Party was proposed for nomination of vice president but came second. Lincoln supported Fremont and campaigned for him and the Republicans managed to garner lots of support mainly from Northeast. The Democratic candidate James Buchanan, however, won the elections. (Diggings 405)

In 1858 Senate election, Lincoln was given the Republican nomination for election to Congress. In July the same year, Lincoln gave a speech in Illinois statehouse in Springfield, which was very powerful. In his speech, he argued that a government that was not united could not endure while at the same time declaring that the nation cannot have a government with half slave and half-free people. He stated that the nation must be united in order to accomplish the goals for its people. In many ways, his speech was not taken well by the moderates but it was what eventually allowed him to be the head of the Union cause. Douglas felt that Lincoln was not strong enough to defeat him. It was at this time that Lincoln dared Douglas to a sequence of debates in a number of places in the state. Douglas took the challenge and they came together seven times delivering lengthy heated speeches to large crowds of people. At the end of every debate, the press would write the development of the campaign and many people followed the proceedings. They both made an outstanding impact in the stage. Their debates mainly emphasized the issues of slavery in the Union. Lincoln stressed the ethical side of slavery while Douglas dealt with the legitimacy of slavery. (Donald 150)

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Lincoln even though he was becoming popular with his debates with Douglas he lost the 1858 election. Douglas by a narrow margin beat him but he went forth with his principle of fighting expansion of slavery. He came out from the debates as a person of national importance his popularity growing fast just like many others in the Republican Party. Due to his tough words towards slavery, he achieved a special liking from the northeastern region. This is because they were mainly for the eradication of slavery but did not make their position so clear in the national debate. With time, Lincoln found out that the Republican nominations for the 1860 elections would be in Chicago, he made up his mind and pronounced his candidacy for president. This was a good decision and when he made a speech at New York City’s Cooper Institute, he came out as a distinct candidate for nomination. The nomination of Lincoln as the candidate for presidency occurred on May 18, 1860. The Republican Party then chose Hannibal Hamlin to be Lincoln’s running mate. The campaign foundations were based on control of slavery from expanding, the eradication of the Kansas-Nebraska law, increased tariffs, railroad extension as well as giving the farmland to the farmers. (Foner 305)

When Lincoln won the Republican nomination, he defeated other candidates including William H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase. His articulated views on slavery were viewed as more reasonable than for the other candidates. Many historians believe that Lincoln won the Republican ticket not because the elections were held in his hometown, but also because of his political skills. The republicans felt that the north was most affected because slavery had increased nationwide because of the passage of the Dred Scott decision as well as the presidency of James Buchanan. On the other side, Douglas was nominated candidate by northern Democrats. Douglas made very strong speeches in public in his campaigns but Lincoln maintained his cool and did not make any speeches. (Goodwin 790)

Lincoln made very little promises but was clear on his goals that he wanted for the country. Lincoln supervised his campaign personally but he depended so much on the passion of the Republican Party. The party did a lot to campaign for Lincoln and this allowed them to acquire the majority in the North. They created campaign posters, flyers, and newspaper editorials in large numbers. Many Republicans campaigners and leaders emphasized on the foundations of the party and most importantly, they talked about the life story of Lincoln, stressing about his childhood and the odds he had to endure to become what he was then. Their main aim was to show the strength of freedom in which a young boy was able to make his way to the top through his own sweat. Pamphlets that were written talking about the life story of Lincoln were selling in millions all over United States. Lincoln promised that once elected president his administration would ensure that they would pass a law to give free farmlands to the inhabitants of western regions. In this way, these people would not be in conflict with the other communities. He promised that every American would have freedom and protection of the government. (Grimsley 198)

In 1860, November 6, Lincoln won for the presidency to become the 16th President of the United States. Lincoln became the first Republican president and won because of support from the entire North with very little votes from the Southern States. He accumulated 1,866,452 votes and he was victorious mostly in the free Northern States. Douglas accumulated 1,376, 957 votes, Breckinridge 849,781 votes while Bell had 588,789 votes. What was used to elect president was the electoral vote with Lincoln having 180 and his rivals combined accumulated only 123 electoral votes. Douglas was victorious in Missouri, and he shared New Jersey with Lincoln. Bell came out victorious in Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky while Breckinridge was able to take the remaining south. This division in the Democratic Party gave Lincoln more chance to win and his victory became clearer with the electoral votes. (Harris 401)

The election of 1864 took place in the midst of the distressing Civil War. The country went to the elections without any issues for an alternative. There was a chance that the election was going to be postponed but nobody placed much thought on that, even in the situation where Lincoln thought he was going to be defeated. However, he won with a large electoral vote and an extensive popular vote of 55 percent. Even to the day of the elections, Lincoln felt he was going to lose and many of his people told him that the chances of winning were slim. One of the major problems was the fact that there were problems in his Republican Party with the Radical Republicans declaring he was not serious with guaranteeing political equality for the freed slaves after the abolition of slavery. They were even against Lincoln’s method of reconstruction that he had used in Louisiana. Lincoln’s approach involved restructuring the state government incase a certain number of white males were faithful to the Union and agreed to the eradication of slavery. Even though Lincoln received the Republican candidacy for the second term, there was disunity in the party at first. (Lamb & Susan 353)

This is because a rebellious gathering of Radical Republicans had earlier come together in Cleveland. They named their party Radical Democracy and chose John C. Fremont to be their presidential aspirant. This did not go well for Fremont and most of them went back to supporting Lincoln. This initial misunderstanding brought doubt on the amount of support for Lincoln by his party. This problem was further fuelled by the Democratic Party campaigns. They declared strongly that the Civil War was a failure calling for an instant end to the fighting. They went ahead to ask for assembly of the national convection to bring back the Union through reconciliation with the Confederate Government. The Democrats also thought that Lincoln had destroyed his chances of being re-elected by having the war to save the Union and further using the war to end slavery. This actually was not the case since Lincoln was still the favorite more than he himself even thought he was. In the end, northern Democrats even supported him since they felt he could save the Union. He came out victorious in the presidential elections and continued with his strong policies seeing the war to the end. This was a good move for him and America remained united for a long time. (Luthin 298)

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In 1865, April 14, the Lincolns’ and General Grant were scheduled to go to Ford’s theater that evening to watch a play called Our American Cousin. Booth had earlier on learnt of this and planned that he would carry out his revenge by killing President Lincoln. He also made plans to kill the Vice –President Andrew Johnson as well as Secretary of state William Seward. He was sure that once they were dead chaos in the government would be salvation for the South. Lincoln and his family went Ford’s Theater as planned but Grant was out of town. He came with only one bodyguard and he was not heavily armed. Booth made his way to the State Box and around 10:15 pm he shot Lincoln at the back of the head. In the confusion that followed, he managed to escape with his horse from the city through the Navy Yard Bridge. A doctor from the army, Charles Leale checked Lincoln condition and said the wound were fatal. Lincoln was then carried from the theater to Petersen House where he stayed in coma for nine hours. He did not gain consciousness and was announced dead at around 7:10 a.m. on April 15, 1865. Lincoln became the first president to be assassinated in United States. He was buried in a majestic funeral at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield and many people mourned his death. His son Robert Todd later exhumed his body to protect it from being stolen. (McPherson (a) 153)

Abraham Lincoln’s Rule

Abraham Lincoln achieved a great deal of accomplishments while in office as the president of United States. Lincoln is well known for his fundamental responsibility as the leader in sustaining the Union in the time of the Civil War. He managed to withstand astonishing events in the period of the long Civil War. He did not give up even though the generals were not prepared to fight and despite receiving numerous assassination threats. There were also wrangles in his cabinet, massive loss of life during the conflict, as well as opposition from associations including Copperheads. This however, did not put him down but rather he did his job as best as he could, continuing to be strong and persevering. Lincoln was pressured from many sides to the end of the war but he did not budge to stop the war prematurely. He oversaw the war until the South was beaten ensuring that the main goal of preserving the Union was achieved. His decision to keep the fighting going produced results by stopping the country from falling apart. (McPherson (b) 324)

Even though Lincoln had no experience concerning the military, he instantly assumed his role in formulating the approach they would take in the war. He made his goals clear by making the decision to protect Washington as well as to make a serious war attempt in order to assure the North of the quick victory they wanted. Lincoln made a quick decision of having the Confederate ambassadors released as they had been captured on a British ship. This prevented a possible clash with Great Britain. Lincoln also appointed Ulysses Grant as the General in the army, who made it possible for him to win various wars in the battle. Even after his re-election and the war ending, Lincoln still went on with his earlier plans of achieving reunion with the South. He also declared during his second inauguration that he would not foster hatred to anyone. The peace agreement he had made in April of 1865, at Appomattox soon after he had been sworn in was without doubt genuine. The Southern men got the permission to go back to their homes with all their belongings. (Miller 499)

He is also the one who started the Emancipation Proclamation, which resulted in the abolition of slavery in the United States. The Emancipation Proclamation was not able to instantly liberate the slaves. This is because the law was only observed in regions that Lincoln controlled. However, Lincoln pushed for it and was doing all the necessary to ensure that slavery was stopped in the United States. Actually, the official liberation of every slave in the United States did not take place up to the ultimate approval of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865. The Emancipation Proclamation also led to the African American men to participate in the fight to save the Union. Lincoln was strongly behind the amendment. However, he was killed before its last endorsement. (Naveh 50)

Lincoln approved the Confiscation bill that liberated slaves belonging to those who enticed conflict in 1862. In 1863, Emancipation Proclamation discussions were underway in his government. This Proclamation stated that slaves from Confederate states would have to be freed. Lincoln was willing to do anything to save the Union and he felt that if freeing the slaves was going to do the trick then he was for it. The Emancipation Proclamation that was discussed for the first time in 1862 and was put into action in 1863, liberated slaves from regions, which were not under Union authority. Slaves continued to be liberated when the Union army went to the south in Confederate region. In this way, more than three million slaves were freed and the proclamation had eradication of slavery in the rebellious states a legal objective from the war. Soon after this bill, Lincoln focused in the Thirteenth Amendment, which would eternally do away with slavery in the United States. This bill was passed in the beginning of 1865, a short while before he was assassinated. (Neely 239)

However, although the Emancipation Proclamation was a great step against slavery it had some limitations. This was because the Proclamation was only valid in the states that had broken away from the Union. This meant that in the states that were loyal to stay in the Union, slavery was left untouched. To add to this, the liberty the Proclamation promised was based on whether or not the Union military won. All the same, despite the fact that it did not eradicate slavery in the United States, it touched many Americans in a significant way and changed how the war was fought. The Emancipation Proclamation allowed many black slaves to fight for the Union. It also showed how persevering the black slaves were as they declared that fighting for the Union was fighting for their liberation. It also brought a moral strength to the Union purpose and thus made stronger the Union in the military as well as politically. This document became very powerful and is remembered for its role in giving human freedom. (Peterson 305)

Lincoln is also known for his personality, leadership, the speeches he made, the letters he wrote as well as a person of meek background who had great willpower and firmness qualities that had him achieve the presidency of the United States. Lincoln’s most celebrated speech that most historians point was the Gettysburg Address. In this speech, Lincoln stated that the country going through the fighting to judge if the state could be able to endure in the future. He also said that it was right to set aside part of Gettysburg combat zone as commemoration of the men who had lost their lives in that place. He went ahead to say that the citizens who were alive should be ready to complete the job that the dead men had began. This he said was saving the country in order for it not to disappear from the universe. (Schwartz 196)

Lincoln had a compassionate leadership technique, which was not authoritarian or demeaning in any way. In situations where there were misunderstandings between him and the people around him, he would use an illustration in form of a story to bring out his point. In most cases, this style of leadership became a success and many people appreciated what he was doing. In other times, he would win over his enemies with his vastly high-minded, competent leadership strategies. He had attributes of gentleness and sympathy together with good judgment. Actually, he had a nickname, which was “Father Abraham”, and he established a remarkable part of his personality. One of his most remembered leadership qualities was telling stories, which demonstrated his accomplishments thus motivating other people to follow his footsteps. (Vorenberg 305)

In Lincoln’s administration, he had a number of policies that he approved. He supported the passage and enactment of the Homestead Act. This law gave an opportunity to the underprivileged in the society especially from the East to acquire land in the West. Lincoln also approved the Morrill Act, which was established to help in the development of agricultural and mechanical industries in every state. He went ahead to approve the law called the National Banking Act, which developed countrywide currency and allowed for the formation of a series of national banks. Apart from this, he approved the tariff legislation that provided security to American trade as well as passing a bill that contracted the initial transcontinental railroad. His foreign policy was aimed at putting to a stop foreign interference in the Civil War. (Wilson 301)

Conclusion

Abraham Lincoln came from humble beginnings and worked his way to the presidency of the United States. He went through many failures and challenges in his road to glory but he did not give up. He was a gentle person with a lot of compassion for the people. Lincoln created the first steps that led to the eradication of slavery in the United States. He made a strong decision to have the Civil War continue in order to help save the Union and this later allowed the unity of the United States. Lincoln had great leadership skills that are unmatched to that of many people today and he was able to make many sound decisions for the country during his time in office. His elegant speeches amazed many and made a name for him in the public eye. He kept most of the promises he made to the American people and they in turn re-elected him for president. This also earned him admiration and respect of many including great politicians. Many people will remember Lincoln in the United States for a long time and his legacy will live forever.

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