Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest Presidents globally, Abraham Lincoln was a catalyst of change, justice and emancipation in America. An avid reader of John Stuart Mill and his philosophy of Individualism, democracy and economic development, he was a leader and change-maker who sought to abolish the system of slavery and introduce a more egalitarian, just society. Throughout his political career, he firmly believed that America was the land of equality and opportunity. His achievements, speeches and ideals are so profound that they continue to influence the global culture, leaders and politicians even after his untimely death. This blog will explore the life and journey of Abraham Lincoln.
This Blog Includes:
Early Life And Education
The journey of Abraham Lincoln begins in the city of Hodgenville, Kentucky, where he was born to Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln in 1809. The Lincoln family moved around frequently in order to sustain themselves which meant that Abraham Lincoln did not receive much formal education. His family’s financial situation and hardship led him to take up meagre jobs to support them, despite these obstacles, Lincoln was an avid reader, he read biographies, the Bible, Charles Darwin, British political thinkers and also the speeches and works of the politician Henry Clay. These literary works had a profound impact on him.
Knowing that his life and growth did not belong in a farming career, Lincoln moved to Illinois. He peddled in various occupations ranging from shopkeeper to legislator to a small stint in the military during the Black Hawk War. A push came to the journey of Abraham Lincoln when finally, in 1836, he decided to pursue law and soon passed the bar exam as well. As a successful lawyer and supporter of the Whig Party, Lincoln continued to actively participate in Illinois’ local politics. Lincoln’s personality and astute stand on political, foreign and economic issues made him extremely popular: his compelling critique of the Mexican- American War, slavery and lack of state reforms in economic development helped him establish himself as a man of integrity, intelligence and honesty.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
Mentioned below are some of the most important career highlights of the journey of Abraham Lincoln.
1861: Lincoln was the first Republican president to be sworn in.
1862: Amidst the bloody civil war, Lincoln had the foresight to establish the ‘People’s Department’, that is, the Department of Agriculture.
1863: Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that set millions of slaves free.
1864: As a military strategist, he worked tirelessly to ensure the safety, sanitary and welfare needs of the soldiers. Lincoln spoke at several sanitary commissions held in Maryland and Philadelphia whose objective was to help the soldiers and their families by raising money.
1865: Lincoln was the first incumbent American president to be assassinated.
“Whatever you are, be a good one.”
Political Career And Presidency
While his political career had seen several ups and downs, it was the failure of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the coming of the Kansas – Nebraska Act and the disintegration of the Whig Party that gave a fair chance to the journey of Abraham Lincoln, when he decided to begin a full-fledged political career. Lincoln joined the Republican Party which comprised of ‘free soilers’, those who wished to abolish slavery and stop the expansion of the slavery institution to spread to the western territories. In 1858, Lincoln rallied against the famous Stephen A. Douglas for the senator seat and gave his famous House speech. Lincoln’s plan for ending slavery was complex; though at heart, he rallied for civil liberties and equal rights for all, he never positioned himself as an abolitionist. He wanted the new territories to be the freedom grounds for the poor to establish a better and liberal life for themselves.
In 1860, having lost the senate vote against Douglas, a dejected Lincoln decided to run for the Presidency as a nominee of the Republican Party. His competition consisted of well-established political stalwarts yet Lincoln did not give up. He orchestrated a well-developed campaign, made several speeches across the Northern states and garnered their support which resulted in a huge victory in the election of November 1860.
The journeys of Abraham Lincoln took a sharp turn with his Presidency, which came in a time of extreme political turmoil; soon after he took the presidential office, the several southern states headed by South Carolina angry over the political results decided to secede from the Union. Soon after the infamous American Civil War broke out which covered most of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency tenure.
The American Civil War changed the course of American and World history; the war was not just about secession or slavery, it was about the preservation and upliftment of democracy and freedom. His magnanimous, calm and shrewd nature during the bloody civil war led to some foundation executive orders: Lincoln introduced the Emancipation Proclamation which set millions of black slaves free and able to serve in the army. In line with his ideals of democracy and freedom, Lincoln knew his executive order for free slaves had to continue into peacetime, thus, he introduced the legendary Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 which marked the end of slavery and civil war in America.
When he disagreed with Democratic President James Buchanan and Southern Democrats over Kansas statehood, Douglas—a leader of the Democratic Party—made himself politically vulnerable. Douglas disagreed with the controversial, pro-slavery Lecompton constitution’s provisions that would have allowed Kansas to become a slave state. That constitution would have made slavery legal in the new state and was widely believed to be the result of voter fraud by Missouri “border ruffians.” Douglas adopted a popular sovereignty stance and opposed the constitution as being unrepresentative of the majority opinion in Kansas in an effort to win over antislavery Northern Democrats and Republicans. Furious Southern Democrats charged Douglas with betraying the party.
Lincoln recognised that in order to counteract the temptation of some Republicans to support Douglas in an effort to split the Democratic Party at the national level, he would have to adopt a high moral position. As a result, Lincoln’s campaign got underway with his well-known “House Divided Speech,” which he gave on June 16, 1858, in Springfield, Illinois. His stirring message forewarned that the crisis over slavery would not be resolved until the country stood completely either under slavery or under freedom. It is regarded as one of the most significant speeches in American history. He made the prophetic statement, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” which supported the idea of “irrepressible conflict.” He then turned the tables on Douglas by asserting that his view of popular sovereignty posed the greatest threat to the country’s unity. Twelve “Bleeding Kansas” episodes featuring settlers fighting over the issue of slavery to gain the upper hand in the frontiers were what Lincoln had in mind.
In his continued and earnest efforts to unite and preserve the integrity of the Union, Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most powerful and popular speeches: the Gettysburg Address in 1863. The address was in honour of those who died serving the great nation and was delivered at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Though it was one of the shortest speeches ever given by the then incumbent President, its sentiment and words were so profound that it changed how the American public viewed the American civil war. Lincoln was such a powerful orator that in a short address, he captured the essence of the Declaration of Independence, its significance during the Civil War and the consequent actions that would ensure the continuity of a great nation built on the ideals of liberty, equality and mark the end of the cruel system of oppression.
“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”
Leadership And Legacy
There is no doubt that the journey of Abraham Lincoln is nothing short of inspiration. He was the greatest leader and President of America. The greatness of Abraham Lincoln lies in his humble beginnings, his love for reading and his uncanny belief in the philosophy and legacy of the founding fathers of America. His ability to forgive and prevail despite the debilitating circumstances made him a powerful leader and man. There is much to learn from the legacy of Abraham Lincoln: his affable personality, honesty and intelligence helped him not just build a successful career in law but also establish a political career, abolish slavery and reunite the Northern-Southern states of America.
In the vicinity of Hodgenville, Kentucky, on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born. He was raised in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. Lincoln was largely self-educated and came from humble pioneer parents. He received his legal education in 1836 and began practising law in Springfield, Illinois.
Lincoln’s legacy is based on his historic accomplishments: he successfully led a political uprising and civil war that preserved the Union, abolished slavery, and made it possible for African-Americans to enjoy civil and social freedom.
Lincoln was elected president in 1860, defeating four other candidates to win the majority of the popular vote. Lincoln received almost all of his votes from the North because Republicans had little appeal to voters in the South.
While Abraham Lincoln may not be with us anymore, his legacy and ideals continue to impact the present and the future. The value he placed on education, civil liberties and the rights of all individuals, is commendable. Hopefully, this blog helped you gain a little insight into the life and journey of a legend and a true leader. If you are someone who finds inspiration in the words of political leaders and historical educators then check out other blogs available on Leverage Edu! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Quora for more such interesting reads and inspiring content.