Background/Early Life

• Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but his family moved to Indiana and then Illinois before he was an adult.

• Lincoln’s first job was working on a ferryboat, and he also worked in a general store, where he got to know many of the people in his town.

• Lincoln joined the military for a few months to fight Native Americans in the Black Hawk War, and afterward he studied law.

• He became an Illinois state legislator for four terms, then won a seat in the United States House of Representatives. In 1849 Lincoln returned to Illinois, where his law career took off, but he kept an eye on political opportunities.

• In 1858 Lincoln ran for a U.S. Senate seat against Stephen Douglas. Although Lincoln lost the election the two engaged in a series of debates that gained them national renown. The debates were mostly centered around the issue of slavery and Lincoln’s view that America could not continue to be split on the issue, that it needed to be completely slave or completely free, and his opinion that the words “all men are created equal” meant it should be free.

• Lincoln did not serve in another political office before winning the presidential election in 1860, but he continued to campaign for many Republicans, maintaining connections and keeping a high profile for himself.

How he defined the office

• President Lincoln’s role in preserving the Union as well as in delivering the Emancipation Proclamation cemented his place in American history as one of the greatest presidents. He also, even when it appeared that he might not win, never considered not having a presidential election in 1864, which was the first time a democratic nation held a national election during a time of war.

Successes and failures

• A month after Lincoln took office, fighting broke out between the North and the South. The Civil War was the defining event of his presidency, lasting four-and-a-half years.

• Halfway through the war Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that as of Jan. 1, 1863, all slaves in rebellious states would be freed. In this way the Civil War became not just a fight to preserve the Union but also a fight for freedom.

• Lincoln won re-election in 1864, but a month after his inauguration he was assassinated.

notable quote

• “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” — from his second inaugural address, March 4, 1865.