Abraham Lincoln


                               ABRAHAM LINCOLN

                                            Examined: Akhmedova Z.G.

                              Makhachkala 2001


   1. Introduction
                               page 3
   2. Early Life
                                 page 3
   3. Ancestry
                                 page 4
   4. Childhood
                               page 6
   5. Young Manhood
                         page 6
   6. Politics and Law
                            page 6
   7. Illinois Legislator
   8. Marriage                                                        page6
   9. Congressman                                                page 7
  10. Disillusionment with Politics
  11. Return to Politics
      page 8
  12. Campaigns of 1856 and 1858                                      page 8
  13. Election of 1860                                                page 9
  14. Presidency                                                      page 9
  15. Sumter Crisis                                                   page10
  16. Military Policy                                                page11
  17. Emancipation                                                    page
  18. Foreign Relations                                               page
  19. Wartime Politics                                           page13
  20. Life in the White House                                         page
  21. Reconstruction                                                  page
  22. Death                                                           page
  23. Source                                                          page

  Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Lincoln
 entered office at a critical period in U. S. history, just before the Civil
  War, and died from an assassin's bullet at the war's end, but before the
  greater implications of the conflict could be resolved. He brought to the
  office personal integrity, intelligence, and humanity, plus the wholesome
 characteristics of his frontier upbringing. He also had the liabilities of
    his upbringing--he was self-educated, culturally unsophisticated, and
  lacking in administrative and diplomatic skills. Sharp-witted, he was not
  especially sharp-tongued, but was noted for his warm good humor. Although
 relatively unknown and inexperienced politically when elected president, he
     proved to be a consummate politician. He was above all firm in his
         convictions and dedicated to the preservation of the Union.
     Lincoln was perhaps the most esteemed and maligned of the American
 presidents. Generally admired and loved by the public, he was attacked on a
 partisan basis as the man responsible for and in the middle of every major
 issue facing the nation during his administration. Although his reputation
 has fluctuated with changing times, he was clearly a great man and a great
 president. He firmly and fairly guided the nation through its most perilous
       period and made a lasting impact in shaping the office of chief
 executive.Once regarded as the "Great Emancipator" for his forward strides
  in freeing the slaves, he was criticized a century later, when the Civil
   Rights Movement gained momentum, for his caution in moving toward equal
 rights. If he is judged in the historical context, however, it can be seen
 that he was far in advance of most liberal opinion. His claim to greatness

                                 Early Life

      The future president was born in the most modest of circumstances in a
log cabin near Hodgenville, Ky., on Feb. 12, 1809. His entire childhood and
young manhood were spent on the brink of poverty as his pioneering family
made repeated fresh starts in the West. Opportunities for education,
cultural activities, and even socializing were meager.


      Lincoln's paternal ancestry has been traced, in an unbroken line, to
Samuel Lincoln, a weaver's apprentice from Hingham, England, who settled in
Hingham, Mass., in 1637. From him the line of descent came down through
Mordecai Lincoln of Hingham and of Scituate, Mass.; Mordecai of Berks
county, Pa.; John of Berks county and of Rockingham county, Va.; and
Abraham, the grandfather of the president, who moved from Virginia to
Kentucky about 1782, settled near Hughes Station, east of Louisville, and
was killed in an Indian ambush in 1786.
Abraham's youngest son, Thomas, who became the father of the president, was
born in Rockingham county, Va., on Jan. 6, 1778. After the death of his
father, he roamed about, settling eventually in Hardin county, Ky., where
he worked at carpentry, farming, and odd jobs. He was not the shiftless
ne'er-do-well sometimes depicted, but an honest, conscientious man of
modest means, well regarded by his neighbors. He had practically no
education, however, and could barely scrawl his name.
Nancy Hanks, whom Thomas Lincoln married on June 12, 1806, and who became
the mother of the president, remains a shadowy figure. Her birth date is
uncertain, and descriptions of her are contradictory. Scholars despair of
penetrating the tangled Hanks genealogy, and the legitimacy of Nancy's
birth is a subject of argument. Lincoln, himself, apparently believed that
his mother was born out of wedlock. In either case, Nancy came of lowly
people. Reared by her aunt, Betsy Hanks, who married Thomas Sparrow, she
was utterly uneducated.


      Thomas and Nancy Lincoln set up housekeeping in Elizabethtown, Ky.,
where their first child, Sarah, was born on Feb. 10, 1807. In December
1808, Thomas bought a hard-scrabble farm on the South Fork of Nolin Creek,
where Abraham was born. Soon after Abe's second birthday the family moved
to a more productive farm along Knob Creek, a branch of the Rolling Fork,
in a region of fertile bottomland surrounded by crags and bluffs. The old
Cumberland Trail from Louisville to Nashville passed close by, and the boy
could see a vigorous civilization on the march--settlers, peddlers, circuit-
riding preachers, now and then a coffle of slaves. This was probably his
first view of human bondage, for the small landholdings of the region were
not suited to slaveowning, and local sentiment, especially among the
Baptists, with whom the Lincolns had affiliated, was hostile to slavery.

Like most frontier children, Abraham performed chores at an early age, but
occasionally he and his sister Sarah attended classes in a log schoolhouse
some two miles (3 km) from home. Nancy bore a third child, Thomas, but he
died in infancy.
Faulty land titles, which were a constant problem to Kentucky settlers,
were especially troublesome to Thomas Lincoln. Because of a flaw in title,
he lost part of a farm he had bought before his marriage, and both his
other Kentucky farms became involved in litigation. For this reason, and
because of his roving disposition, he resolved to move to Indiana, where
land could be bought directly from the government.
Abraham was seven years old when, in December 1816, the Lincolns struck out
northwestward. They crossed the Ohio River on a ferry near the village of
Troy, made their way 16 miles (26 km) farther north through thick woods and
tangled underbrush, and settled near Pigeon Creek, in present Spencer
county, Ind. Thomas hastily threw up a half-faced camp, a rude shelter of
logs and boughs, closed on three sides and warmed only by a fire at the
open front. Here the family lived while Thomas built a cabin. The region
was gloomy, with few settlers, and wild animals prowled in the forest.
By spring Thomas had cleared a few acres for a crop. In an autobiography
that Abraham Lincoln composed in 1860, he said of himself: "Abraham, though
very young, was large of his age, and had an axe put into his hands at
once; and from that till within his twenty-third year, he was almost
constantly handling that most useful instrument--less, of course, in
plowing and harvesting seasons." So, year by year the clearing grew, and
the family's diet became more varied as farm products supplemented game and
fowl. At first, Thomas was a mere squatter on the land, but on Oct. 15,
1817, he applied for 160 acres (65 hectares) at the government land office
in Vincennes. Unable to complete payment on so large a tract, he later gave
up half, but paid for the rest.
The Lincolns had not been long in Indiana when they were joined by Thomas
and Elizabeth Sparrow, the relatives by whom Nancy had been reared. They
arrived from Kentucky with Dennis Hanks, the illegitimate son of another of
Nancy's aunts. An energetic youth of 19, he became Abraham's companion.
Within a year, however, the Sparrows became victims of the "milk-sick"
(milk sickness), a disease dreaded by Indiana settlers, and soon afterward,
on Oct. 5, 1818, Nancy Lincoln, too, died of this malady. Without a woman
to keep the household functioning, the Lincolns lived almost in squalor.
To remedy this intolerable condition, Thomas Lincoln returned to
Elizabethtown, where, on Dec. 2, 1819, he married Sarah Bush Johnston, a
widow with three children. A kindly, hard-working woman, she brought order
to the Lincolns' Indiana homestead. She also saw to it that at intervals
over the next two years Abraham received enough additional schooling to be
able, as he said later, "to read, write and cipher to the Rule of Three."
All told, however, he attended school less than a year.

                                Young Manhood

      During the 14 years the Lincolns lived in Indiana, the region became
more thickly settled, mostly by people from the South. But conditions
remained primitive, and farming was backbreaking work. Superstitions were
prevalent; social functions consisted of such utilitarian amusements as
corn shuckings, house raisings, and hog killings; and religion was dogmatic
and emotional. Abe, growing tall and strong, won a reputation as the best
local athlete and a rollicking storyteller. But his father kept him busy at
hard labor, hiring him out to neighbors when work at home slackened.
Abe's meager education had aroused his desire to learn, and he traveled
over the countryside to borrow books. Among those he read were Robinson
Crusoe, Pilgrim's Progress, Aesop's Fables, William Grimshaw's History of
the United States, and Mason Weems' Life of Washington. The Bible was
probably the only book his family owned, and his abundant use of scriptural
quotations in his later writings shows how earnestly he must have studied
Young Lincoln worked for a while as a ferryman on the Ohio River, and at 19
helped take a flatboat cargo to New Orleans. There he encountered a manner
of living wholly unknown to him. Soon after he returned, his father decided
to move to Illinois, where a relative, John Hanks, had preceded him. On
March 1, 1830, the family set out with all their possessions loaded on
three wagons. Their new home was located on the north bank of the Sangamon
River, west of Decatur. When a cabin had been built and a crop had been
planted and fenced, young Lincoln hired out to split fence rails for
In the autumn all the Lincoln family came down with fever and ague. That
winter the pioneers experienced the deepest snow they had ever known,
accompanied by subzero temperatures. In the spring the family backtracked
eastward to Coles county, Ill. But this time Abraham did not accompany
them, for during the winter he, his stepbrother John D. Johnston, and his
cousin John Hanks had agreed to take another cargo to New Orleans for a
trader, Denton Offutt. A new life was opening for young Lincoln. Henceforth
he could make his own way.Supposedly it was on this second trip to New
Orleans that young Lincoln, watching a slave auction, declared: "If I ever
get a chance to hit that thing, I'll hit it hard." But the story is almost
certainly untrue. Lincoln at this period of his life could scarcely have
believed himself to be a man of destiny, and John Hanks, who originated the
story, was not with Lincoln, having left his fellow crewmen at St. Louis.
Near the outset of this voyage, at the little village of New Salem on the
Sangamon River, Lincoln had impressed Offutt by his ingenuity in moving the
flatboat over a milldam. Offutt, impressed likewise by the prospects of the
village, arranged to open a store and rent the mill. On Lincoln's return
from New Orleans, Offutt engaged him as clerk and handyman.
By late July 1831, when Lincoln came back, New Salem was enjoying what
proved to be a short-lived boom based on a local conviction that the
Sangamon River would be made navigable for steamboats. For a time the
village served as a trading center for the surrounding area and numbered
among its enterprises three stores, a tavern, a carding machine for wool, a
saloon, and a ferry. Among its residents were two physicians, a blacksmith,
a cooper, a shoemaker, and other craftsmen common to a pioneer settlement.
The people were mostly from the South, though a number of Yankees had also
drifted in. Community pastimes were similar to those Lincoln had previously
known, and life in general differed only in being somewhat more advanced.
Lincoln gained the admiration of the rougher element of the community, who
were known as the Clary's Grove boys, when he threw their champion in a
wrestling match. But his kindness, honesty, and efforts at self-betterment
so impressed the more reputable people of the community that they, too,
soon came to respect him. He became a member of the debating society,
studied grammar with the aid of a local schoolmaster, and acquired a
lasting fondness for the writings of Shakespeare and Robert Burns from the
village philosopher and fisherman.
Offutt paid little attention to business, and his store was about to fail,
when an Indian disturbance, known as the Black Hawk War, broke out in April
1832, in Illinois. Lincoln enlisted and was elected captain of his
volunteer company. When his term expired, he reenlisted, serving about 80
days in all. He experienced some hardships, but no fighting.

                              Politics and Law

      Returning to New Salem, Lincoln sought election to the state
legislature. He won almost all the votes in his own community, but lost the
election because he was not known throughout the county. In partnership
with William F. Berry, he bought a store on credit, but it soon failed,
leaving him deeply in debt. He then got a job as deputy surveyor, was
appointed postmaster, and pieced out his income with odd jobs. The story of
his romance with Ann Rutledge is rejected as a legend by most authorities,
but he did have a short-lived love affair with Mary Owens.

                             Illinois Legislator

      In 1834, Lincoln was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives,
and he was reelected in 1836, 1838, and 1840. Political alignments were in
a state of flux during his first two candidacies, but as the WHIG and
DEMOCRATIC parties began to take form, he followed his political idol,
Henry Clay, and John T. Stuart, a Springfield lawyer and friend, into the
Whig ranks. Twice Lincoln was his party's candidate for speaker, and when
defeated, he served as its floor leader.
His greatest achievement in the legislature, where he was a consistent
supporter of conservative business interests, was to bring about the
removal of the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield, by means of
adroit logrolling. When certain resolutions denouncing antislavery
agitation were passed by the house, Lincoln and a colleague, Dan Stone,
defined their position by a written declaration that slavery was "founded
on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of abolition
doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils." An internal
improvement project that Lincoln promoted in the legislature turned out to
be impractical and almost bankrupted the state. On national issues Lincoln
favored the United States Bank and opposed the presidential policies of
Andrew JACKSON and Martin VAN BUREN.

                                Law Practice

      His friend Stuart had encouraged him to study law, and he obtained a
license on Sept. 9, 1836. By this time New Salem was in decline and would
soon be a ghost town. It has since been restored as a state park. On April
15, 1837, Lincoln moved to Springfield to become Stuart's partner. His
conscientious efforts to pay off his debts had earned him the nickname
"Honest Abe," but he was so poor that he arrived in Springfield on a
borrowed horse with all his personal property in his saddlebags.
With the courts in Springfield in session only a few weeks during the year,
lawyers were obliged to travel the circuit in order to make a living. Every
year, in spring and autumn, Lincoln followed the judge from county to
county over the 12,000 square miles (31,000 sq km) of the Eighth Circuit.
In 1841 he and Stuart disolved their firm, and Lincoln formed a new
partnership with Stephen T. Logan, who taught him the value of careful
preparation and clear, succinct reasoning as opposed to mere cleverness and
oratory. This partnership was in turn dissolved in 1844, when Lincoln took
young William H. Herndon, later to be his biographer, as a partner.


      Meanwhile, on Nov. 4, 1842, after a somewhat tumultuous courtship,
Lincoln had married Mary Todd. Brought up in Lexington, Ky., she was a high-
spirited, quick-tempered girl of excellent education and cultural
background. Notwithstanding her vanity, ambition, and unstable temperament
and Lincoln's careless ways and alternating moods of hilarity and
dejection, the marriage turned out to be generally happy. Of their four
children, only Robert Todd Lincoln, born on Aug. 1, 1843, lived to
maturity. Edward Baker, who was born on March 10, 1846, died on Feb. 1,
1850; William Wallace, born Dec. 21, 1850, died on Feb. 20, 1862; and
Thomas ("Tad"), born April 4, 1853, died on July 15, 1871.

Though Mrs. Lincoln was by no means such a shrew as has been asserted, she
was difficult to live with. Lincoln responded to her impulsive and
imprudent behavior with tireless patience, forbearance, and forgiveness.
Borne down by grief and illness after her husband's death, Mrs. Lincoln
became so unbalanced at one time that her son Robert had her committed to
an institution.


      Having attained a position of leadership in state politics and worked
strenuously for the Whig ticket in the presidential election of 1840,
Lincoln aspired to go to CONGRESS. But two other prominent young Whigs of
his district, Edward D. Baker of Springfield and John J. Hardin of
Jacksonville, also coveted this distinction. So Lincoln stepped aside
temporarily, first for Hardin, then for Baker, under a sort of
understanding that they would "take a turn about." When Lincoln's turn came
in 1846, however, Hardin wished to serve again, and Lincoln was obliged to
maneuver skillfully to obtain the nomination. His district was so
predominantly Whig that this amounted to election, and he won handily over
his Democratic opponent.
Lincoln worked conscientiously as a freshman congressman, but was unable to
gain distinction. Both from conviction and party expediency, he went along
with the Whig leaders in blaming the Polk administration for bringing on
war with Mexico, though he always voted for appropriations to sustain it.
His opposition to the war was unpopular in his district, however. When the
annexations of territory from Mexico brought up the question of the status
of slavery in the new lands, Lincoln voted for the Wilmot Proviso and other
measures designed to confine the institution to the states where it already

                        Disillusionment with Politics

      In the campaign of 1848, Lincoln labored strenuously for the
nomination and election of Gen. Zachary TAYLOR. He served on the Whig
National Committee, attended the national convention at Philadelphia, and
made campaign speeches. With the Whig national ticket victorious, he hoped
to share with Baker the control of federal patronage in his home state. The
juiciest plum that had been promised to Illinois was the position of
commissioner of the General Land Office in Washington. After trying vainly
to reconcile two rival candidates for this office, Lincoln tried to obtain
it for himself. But he had little influence with the new administration.
The most that it would offer him was the governorship or secretaryship of
the Oregon Territory. Neither job appealed to him, and he returned to
Springfield thoroughly disheartened.
Never one to repine, however, Lincoln now devoted himself to becoming a
better lawyer and a more enlightened man. Pitching into his law books with
greater zest, he also resumed his study of Shakespeare and mastered the
first six books of Euclid as a mental discipline. At the same time, he
renewed acquaintances and won new friends around the circuit. Law practice
was changing as the country developed, especially with the advent of
railroads and the growth of corporations. Lincoln, conscientiously keeping
pace, became one of the state's outstanding lawyers, with a steadily
increasing practice, not only on the circuit but also in the state supreme
court and the federal courts. Regular travel to Chicago to attend court
sessions became part of his routine when Illinois was divided into two
federal districts.
Outwardly, however, Lincoln remained unchanged in his simple, somewhat
rustic ways. Six feet four inches (1.9 meters) tall, weighing about 180
pounds (82 kg), ungainly, slightly stooped, with a seamed and rugged
countenance and unruly hair, he wore a shabby old top hat, an ill-fitting
frock coat and pantaloons, and unblacked boots. His genial manner and fund
of stories won him a host of friends. Yet, notwithstanding his friendly
ways, he had a certain natural dignity that discouraged familiarity and
commanded respect.

                             Return to Politics

      Lincoln took only a perfunctory part in the presidential campaign of
1852, and was rapidly losing interest in politics. Two years later,
however, an event occurred that roused him, he declared, as never before.
The status of slavery in the national territories, which had been virtually
settled by the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850, now
came to the fore. In 1854, Stephen A. Douglas, whom Lincoln had known as a
young lawyer and legislator and who was now a Democratic leader in the U.
S. SENATE, brought about the repeal of a crucial section of the Missouri
Compromise that had prohibited slavery in the Louisiana Purchase north of
the line of 36degrees 30&;. Douglas substituted for it a provision that the
people in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska could admit or exclude
slavery as they chose.
The congressional campaign of 1854 found Lincoln back onthe stump in behalf
of the antislavery cause, speaking with a new authority gained from self-
imposed intellectual discipline. Henceforth, he was a different Lincoln--
ambitious, as before, but purged of partisan pettiness and moved instead by
moral earnestness.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act so disrupted old party lines that when the Illinois
legislature met to elect a U.S. senator to succeed Douglas' colleague,
James Shields, it was evident that the Anti-Nebraska group drawn from both
parties had the votes to win, if the antislavery Whigs and antislavery
Democrats could united on a candidate. However, the Whigs backed Lincoln,
and the Democrats supported Lyman Trumbull. though Lincoln commanded far
more strength than Trumbull, the latter's supporters were resolved never to
desert him for a Whig. As their stubbornness threatened to result in the
election of a proslavery Democrat, Lincoln instructed his own backers to
vote for Trumbull, thus assuring the latter's election.

                         Campaigns of 1856 and 1858

      With old party lines sundered, the antislavery factions in the North
gradually coalesced to form a new party, which took the name REPUBLICAN.
Lincoln stayed aloof at the beginning, fearing that it would be dominated
by the radical rather than the moderate antislavery element. Also, he hoped
for a resurgence of the Whig party, in which he had attained a position of
state leadership. But as the presidential campaign of 1856 approached, he
cast his lot with the new party. In the national convention, which
nominated John C. Frmont for president, Lincoln received 110 ballots for
the VICE-PRESIDENTIAL nomination, which went eventually to William L.
Dayton of New Jersey. Though Lincoln had favored Justice John McLean, he
worked faithfully for Frmont, who showed surprising strength,
notwithstanding his defeat by the Democratic candidate, James BUCHANAN.
With Senator Douglas running for reelection in 1858, Lincoln was recognized
in Illinois as the strongest man to oppose him. Endorsed by Republican
meetings all over the state and by the Republican State Convention, he
opened his campaign with the famous declaration: "`A house divided against
itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure permanently
half slave and half free." Lincoln challenged Douglas to a series of seven
joint debates, and these became the most spectacular feature of the
campaign. Douglas refused to take a position on the rightfulness or
wrongfulness of slavery, and offered his "popular sovereignty" doctrine as
the solution of the problem. Lincoln, on the other hand, insisted that
slavery was primarily a moral issue and offered as his solution a return to
the principles of the Founding Fathers, which tolerated slavery where it
existed but looked to its ultimate extinction by preventing its spread. The
Republicans polled the larger number of votes in the election, but an
outdated apportionment of seats in the legislature permitted Douglas to win
the senatorship.

                              Election of 1860

      Friends began to urge Lincoln to run for president. He held back, but
did extend his range of speechmaking beyond Illinois. on Feb. 27, 1860, at
Cooper Union, in New York City, he delivered an address on the need for
restricting slavery that put him in the forefront of Republican leadership.
The enthusiasm evoked by this speech and others overcame Lincoln's
reluctance. On May 9 and 10, the Illinois Republican convention, meeting in
Decatur, instructed the state's delegates to the national convention to
vote as a unit for him.
When that convention met in Chicago on May 16, Lincoln's chances were
better than was generally supposed. William H. Seward, the acknowledged
party leader, and other aspirants all had political liabilities of some
sort. As Lincoln's managers maneuvered behind the scenes, more and more
delegates lined up behind the "Illinois Rail Splitter." Seward led on the
first ballot, but on the third ballot Lincoln obtained the required
A split in the Democratic party, which resulted in the nomination of
Douglas by one faction and of John C. Breckinridge by the other, made
Lincoln's ELECTION a certainty. Lincoln polled 1,865,593 votes to Douglas'
1,382,713, and Breckinridge's 848,356. John Bell, candidate of the
Constitutional Union party, polled 592,906. The ELECTORAL vote was Lincoln,
180; Breckinridge, 72; Bell, 39; and Douglas, 12.


      On Feb. 11, 1861, Lincoln left Springfield to take up his duties as
president. Before him lay, as he recognized, "a task ... greater than that
which rested upon [George] Washington." The seven states of the lower South
had seceded from the Union, and Southern delegates meeting in Montgomery,
Ala., had formed a new, separate government. Before Lincoln reached the
national capital, Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the
Confederate States of America. The four states of the upper South teetered
on the brink of secession, and disunion sentiment was rampant in the border
states of Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri.
When Lincoln reached Washington on February 23, he found the national
government incapable of meeting the crisis. President James Buchanan
deplored secession but could not check it, and Congress fruitlessly debated
compromise. The national treasury was near bankruptcy; the civil service
was riddled with secessionists; and the miniscule armed forces were being
weakened by defection of officers to the South.
It was not immediately evident that Lincoln could avert the dissolution of
the United States. Few American presidents have assumed office under
greater handicaps. Warned of an attempt on his life being planned in
Baltimore, Lincoln had to enter the national capital surreptitiously,
arriving after a secret midnight journey from Harrisburg, Pa. Widely
publicized, the episode did little to inspire public confidence in the
government or to create an image of Lincoln as a dynamic leader. That so
many citizens could believe their new president a coward was evidence of a
more serious handicap under which Lincoln labored: he was virtually unknown
to the American people. Lincoln's record as an Illinois state legislator,
as a one-term member of the House of Representatives in the 1840's, and as
an unsuccessful senatorial candidate against Douglas was not one to inspire
confidence in his abilities. Even the leaders of the Republican party had
little acquaintance with the new President.
Almost at the outset, Lincoln demonstrated that he was a poor
administrator. Accustomed, as his law partner William H. Herndon said, to
filing legal papers in his top hat, Lincoln conducted the administration of
the national govern ment in the same fashion. Selecting for his cabinet
spokesmen of the diverse elements that constituted the Republican party, he
surrounded himself with men of such conflicting views that he could not
rely on them to work together. Cabinet sessions rarely dealt with serious
issues. Usually, Lincoln permitted cabinet officers free rein in running
their departments.
Nor was Lincoln an effective leader of his party in the Congress, where
after secession the Republicans had overwhelming majorities. Long a Whig,
vigilant against executive "usurpation," he earnestly felt that as
president he ought not to exert even "indirect influence to affect the
action of congress." In consequence there was poor rapport between Capitol
Hill and the WHITE HOUSE. Even those measures that the President earnestly
advocated were weakened or defeated by members of his own party. But on
important issues relating to the conduct of the war and the restoration of
the Union, Lincoln followed his own counsel, ignoring the opinions of
More than counterbalancing these deficiencies, however, were Lincoln's
strengths. Foremost was his unflinching dedication to the preservation of
the Union. Convinced that the United States was more than an ordinary
nation, that it was a proving ground for the idea of democratic government,
Lincoln felt that he was leading a struggle to preserve "the last, best
hope of earth." Despite war-weariness and repeated defeats, he never
wavered in his "paramount object." To restore national unity he would do
what was necessary, without regard to legalistic construction of the
CONSTITUTION, political objections in Congress, or personal popularity.
Partly because of that single-minded dedication, the American people, in
time, gave to Lincoln a loyalty that proved to be another of his great
assets. Making himself accessible to all who went to the White House,
Lincoln learned what ordinary citizens felt about their government. In
turn, his availability helped create in the popular mind the stereotype of
"Honest Abe," the people's president, straightforward, and sympathetic.
Lincoln's mastery of rhetoric further endeared him to the public. In an age
of pretentious orators, he wrote clearly and succinctly. Purists might
object when he said that the Confederates in one engagement "turned tail
and ran," but the man in the street approved. Lincoln's 268-word address at
the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg meant more than the
preceding two-hour oration by Edward Everett.
Another of Lincoln's assets was the fact that he was a genius at the game
of politics. He astutely managed the patronage at his disposal,
distributing favors so as to bind local politicians to his administration
and to undermine potential rivals for the presidency. He understood the
value of silence and secrecy in politics and refrained from creating
divisive issues or causing needless confrontations. He was extraordinarily
flexible and pragmatic in the means he employed to restore the Union. "My
policy," he frequently said, "is to have no policy." That did not mean that
his was a course of drift. Instead, it reflected his understanding that, as
president, he could only handle problems as they arose, confident that
popular support for his solutions would be forthcoming.
Lincoln believed that the ultimate decision in the Civil War was beyond
his, or any other man's, control. "Now, at the end of three years
struggle," he wrote, as the war reached its climax, "the nation's condition
is not what either party, or any man, devised or expected. God alone can
claim it."

                                Sumter Crisis

      In 1861, Lincoln's weaknesses were more evident than his strengths.
Immediately after his inauguration he faced a crisis over Fort Sumter in
the Charleston (S. C.) harbor, one of the few remaining U.S. forts in the
seceded states still under federal control. Informed that the troops would
have to be supplied or withdrawn, the inexperienced President anxiously
explored solutions. Withdrawal would appear a cowardly backdown, but
reinforcing the fort might precipitate hostilities. Lincoln painfully
concluded that he would send supplies to Sumter and let the Confederates
decide whether to fire on the flag of the Union. Historians differ as to
whether Lincoln anticipated that hostilities would follow his decision, but
they agree that Lincoln was determined that he would not order the first
shot fired. Informed of the approach of the federal supply fleet,
Confederate authorities at Charleston during the early hours of April 12
decided to bombard the fort. Thus, the Civil War began.
Because Congress was not in session, Lincoln moved swiftly to mobilize the
Union by executive order. His requisition to the states for 75,000
volunteers precipitated the secession of Virginia, North Carolina,
Tennessee, and Arkansas. Kentucky tried to adopt an official policy of
"neutrality," while secession sentiment in Maryland was so strong that for
a time Washington, D.C., was cut off from communication with the North. In
order to restore order, Lincoln directed that the privilege of the writ of
habeas corpus be suspended, at first along the line between Washington and
Philadelphia and later throughout most of the North, so that known
secessionists and persons suspected of disloyalty could be held without
trial. At the same time the President, without congressional authorization--
and thus in direct violation of the Constitution--ordered an increase in
the size of the regular Army and Navy. Doubting the loyalty of certain
government officials, he also entrusted public funds to private agents in
New York to purchase arms and supplies.
When the 37th Congress assembled in special session on July 4, 1861, it was
thus confronted with a fait accompli. The President, acting in his capacity
as commander in chief, had put himself at the head of the whole Union war
effort, arrogating to himself greater powers than those claimed by any
previous American president. His enemies termed him a dictator and a
tyrant. In fact, his power was limited, partly by his own instincts, partly
by the knowledge that his actions would be judged in four years at the
polls, and chiefly by the inadequacy of the federal bureaucracy.
Nevertheless, the role of Congress was sharply defined: it could
appropriate money to support the war, it could initiate legislation on
issues not related to the war, it could debate questions relating to the
conflict. But direction of the Union war effort was to remain firmly in
Lincoln's hands.

                               Military Policy

      The first responsibility of the President was the successful
prosecution of the war against the Confederate States. In this duty he was
hampered by the lack of a strong military tradition in America and by the
shortage of trained officers. During the early months of the conflict the
War Department was headed by Simon Cameron, and corruption and inefficiency
were rife. Not until January, 1862, when Lincoln replaced Cameron with the
imperious but efficient Edwin M. Stanton, was some semblance of order
brought to the procurement of supplies for the federal armies. Navy
secretary Gideon Welles was above suspicion, but he was inexperienced in
nautical affairs and cautious in accepting innovations, such as the
ironclad monitors.
Even more difficult was the task of finding capable general officers. At
first the President gave supreme command of the Union forces to the elderly
Gen. Winfield Scott. After the Confederate victory at the first battle of
Bull Run (July 21, 1861), Lincoln increasingly entrusted power to George B.
McClellan, a brilliant organizer and administrator. But McClellan's
caution, his secretiveness, and his willingness to strip the defenses of
Washington the better to attack Richmond led Lincoln to look elsewhere for
military advice. Borrowing "a large number of strategical works" from the
Library of Congress, he attempted to direct the overall conduct of the war
himself by issuing a series of presidential general war orders. Gen. Henry
W. Halleck, whom Lincoln brought to Washington as a strategic planner,
served more as a glorified clerk, and the President repeatedly exercised
personal supervision over the commanders in the field.
Not until the emergence of Ulysses S. GRANT, hero of Vicksburg and
Chattanooga, did Lincoln find a general to whom he could entrust overall
direction of the war. Even then, the President kept a close eye on military
operations, advising and even occasionally overruling the general, but
mostly supporting and encouraging him.


      Strongly opposed to slavery, Lincoln made a sharp distinction between
his personal views and his public responsibilities. He had been elected on
a platform that pledged not to interfere with the "peculiar institution" in
states where it already existed and had sworn to uphold a Constitution that
protected Southern rights. From the first day of the war, however, he was
under pressure from the more extreme antislavery men in his own party to
strike at slavery as the mainspring of the rebellion. Counterbalancing this
pressure was the need to conciliate opinion in the border states, which
still recognized slavery but were loyal to the Union. Any move against
slavery, Lincoln feared, would cause their secession.
Wartime pressure inescapably forced the president toward emancipation.
Foreign powers could not be expected to sympathize with the North, when
both the Union and the Confederate governments were pledged to uphold
slavery. As the war dragged on, more and more northerners saw the absurdity
of continuing to protect the "peculiar institution," which, by keeping a
subservient labor force on the farms, permitted the Confederates to put
proportionately more of their able-bodied white men into their armies. When
Union casualties mounted, even racist northerners began to favor enlisting
blacks in the Union armies.
As sentiment for emancipation mounted, Lincoln was careful to keep complete
control of the problem in his own hands. He sharply overruled premature
efforts by two of his military commanders, Frmont in Missouri and David
Hunter in the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina, to declare
slaves in their military theaters free. At the same time, the President
urged the border states to accept a program of gradual emancipation, with
federal compensation.
By midsummer of 1862, however, it was evident that these efforts would not
be successful. Still troubled by divided Union sentiment and still
uncertain of his constitutional powers to act, Lincoln prepared to issue an
emancipation proclamation. Secretary of State William H. Seward, however,
persuaded him that such an order, issued at the low point of Union military
fortunes, would be taken as evidence of weakness. The President postponed
his move until after the Battle of Antietam. Then, on Sept. 22, 1862, he
issued his preliminary proclamation, announcing that after 100 days all
slaves in states still in rebellion would be forever free. This was
followed, in due course, by the definitive Emancipation Proclamation of
Jan. 1, 1863.
Because the proclamation exempted slavery in the border states and in all
Confederate territory already under the control of Union armies and because
Lincoln was not certain that his action would be sustained by the Supreme
Court, he strongly urged Congress to adopt the 13th Amendment, forever
abolishing slavery throughout the country. Congressional action on this
measure was completed in January 1865. Lincoln considered the amendment
"the complete consummation of his own work, the emancipation proclamation."

                              Foreign Relations

      Never having traveled abroad and having few acquaintances in the
courts of Europe, Lincoln, for the most part, left the conduct of foreign
policy to Seward. Yet, at critical times he made his influence felt. Early
in his administration, when Seward recklessly proposed to divert attention
from domestic difficulties by threatening a war against Spain and perhaps
other powers, the President quietly squelched the project. Again, in 1861,
Lincoln intervened to tone down a dispatch Seward wrote to Charles Francis
Adams, the U.S. minister in London, which probably would have led to a
break in diplomatic relations with Britain. In the Trent affair, that same
year, when Union Capt. Charles Wilkes endangered the peace by removing two
Confederate emissaries from a British ship and taking them into custody,
Lincoln took a courageous but unpopular stand by insisting that the
prisoners be released.

                              Wartime Politics

      Throughout the war Lincoln was the subject of frequent, and often
vitriolic, attacks, both from the Democrats who thought he was proceeding
too drastically against slavery and from the Radicals in his own party--men
like Charles Sumner, Benjamin F. Wade, and Zachariah Chandler--who
considered him slow and ineffective. Partisan newspapers abused the
President as "a slangwhanging stump speaker," a "half-witted usurper," a
"mole-eyed" monster with "soul ... of leather,""the present turtle at the
head of the government." Men of his own party openly charged that he was
"unfit," a "political coward," a "dictator,""timid and
ignorant,""shattered, dazed, utterly foolish."
A minority president in 1861, Lincoln lost further support in the
congressional elections of 1862, when Democrats took control of the crucial
states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. As the 1864
election approached, it was clear that Lincoln would face formidable
opposition for reelection, not merely from a Democratic candidate but from
rivals within his own party. Republican anti-Lincoln sentiment centered on
treasury secretary Salmon P. Chase, who was working with the Radical
critics of Lincoln in Congress. The Chase boom failed, however, chiefly
because Lincoln insisted upon keeping the ambitious secretary in his
cabinet. At the same time, Lincoln's own agents were working quietly to sew
up the state delegations to the Republican national convention. Even
Chase's own state of Ohio pledged to vote for Lincoln. Facing certain
defeat, Chase withdrew from the race, but Lincoln kept him in the cabinet
until after the Republican national convention, which met in Baltimore in
June 1864.
Lacking a prominent standard bearer, some disgruntled Republicans gathered
in Cleveland in May 1864 to nominate Frmont, but the movement never made
much headway. Radical pressure was powerful enough, however, to persuade
Lincoln to drop the most outspokenly conservative member of his cabinet,
Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, and Frmont withdrew from the race.
Lincoln's Republican critics continued to hope they could summon a new
national convention, which would replace the President with a more Radical
candidate, but this scheme died with news of Union military victories.
For a time Democratic opposition in 1864 to Lincoln's reelection also
appeared to be formidable, for people were tired of the endless war and
disinclined to fight for the liberty of black men. But the Democrats found
it impossible to bring together the two major groups of Lincoln's critics--
those who wanted the President to end the war, and those who wanted him to
prosecute it more vigorously. Meeting at Chicago in August, the Democratic
national convention nominated a candidate, Gen. George B. McClellan,
pledged to the successful conclusion of the war on a platform that called
the war a failure. McClellan's repudiation of this peace plank showed how
fundamentally split were the Democrats.
Whatever chance the Democrats had in 1864 was lost when the war at last
began to favor the Union cause. By the late summer of 1864, Grant had
forced Lee back into the defenses of Richmond and Petersburg. In the West,
Sherman's advancing army captured Atlanta on September 2. At the same time,
Admiral Farragut's naval forces closed the key Confederate port of Mobile.
When the ballots were cast in November, the results reflected both these
Union triumphs and the rift among the opposition. Lincoln carried every
state except Kentucky, Delaware, and New Jersey. He polled 2,206,938
popular votes to McClellan's 1,803,787 and won an electoral vote victory of
212 to 21. It must be remembered, however, that voters in the seceded
states, the strongholds of the Democratic party, did not participate in the

                           Life in the White House

      Beset by military, diplomatic, and political problems, the President
tried to keep his family life as normal as possible. The two youngest
Lincoln boys, Thomas (Tad) and William Wallace (Willie), were high spirited
lads. Their older brother, the sober Robert Todd Lincoln, was less
frequently in Washington, because he was first a student at Harvard and
later an aide to General Grant. Despite the snobbishness of Washington
society and criticisms from those who wanted all social affairs suspended
because of the war, the Lincolns continued to hold receptions in the White
House. But the President found these affairs costly and tiring. He would
slip away late at night after a White House party to visit the telegraph
room of the War Department to read the latest dispatches from the front. He
never took a vacation, but in summer he moved his family to the cooler and
more secluded Soldier's Home in Washington.
Lincoln visibly aged during the war years, and by 1865 he appeared almost
haggard. His life was made harder by personal trials. Early in 1862, Willie
died of typhoid. His mother, always high-strung and hysterical, suffered a
nervous breakdown, and Lincoln had to watch over her with careful
solicitude. But Lincoln emerged from his public and private agonies with a
new serenity of soul. Any trace of vanity or egotism was burned out by the
fires of war. In his second inaugural address, his language reached a new
level of eloquence. Urging his countrymen to act "with malice toward none;
with charity for all," he looked beyond the end of the war toward binding
up the nation's wounds, so as to "achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting


      From the start of the Civil War, Lincoln was deeply concerned about
the terms under which the Southern states, once subdued, should be restored
to the Union. He had no fixed plan for reconstruction. At the outset, he
would have welcomed a simple decision on the part of any Southern state
government to rescind its ordinance of secession and return its delegation
to Congress. By 1863, however, to this war aim of union he added that of
liberty, for he now insisted that emancipation of the slaves was a
necessary condition for restoration. By the end of the war he was beginning
to add a third condition, equality, for he realized that minimal guarantees
of civil rights for blacks were essential. Privately, he let it be known
that he favored extending the franchise in the Southern states to some of
the blacks--"as, for instance, the very intelligent, and especially those
who have fought gallantly in our ranks."
As to means by which to achieve these goals, Lincoln was also flexible.
When Union armies advanced into the South, he appointed military governors
for the states that were conquered. Most notable of these was the military
governor of Tennessee, Andrew JOHNSON, who became Lincoln's running mate in
1864. In December 1863, Lincoln enunciated a comprehensive reconstruc tion
program, pledging pardon and amnesty to Confederates who were prepared to
swear loyalty to the Union and promising to turn back control of local
governments to the civil authorities in the South when as few as 10% of the
1860 voting population participated in the elections. Governments operating
under this 10% plan were set up in Louisiana and Arkansas and soon were
petitioning for readmission to Congress.
Inevitably Lincoln's program ran into opposition, both because it
represented a gigantic expansion of presidential powers and because it
appeared not to give adequate guarantees to the freedmen. Defeating an
attempt to seat the senators from the new government in Arkansas, Radical
Republicans in Congress in July 1864 set forth their own terms for
restoration in the far harsher Wade-Davis Bill. When Lincoln pocket-vetoed
this measure, declaring that he was "unprepared to be inflexibly committed
to any single plan of reconstruction," Radicals accused him of "dictatorial
The stage was set for further conflict over reconstruction when Congress
reassembled in December 1864, just after Lincoln's reelection. Assisted by
the Democrats, the Radicals forced Lincoln's supporters to drop the bill to
readmit Louisiana. Lincoln was deeply saddened by the defeat. "Concede that
the new government of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is
to the fowl," he said, "shall we sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg
than by smashing it?" On April 11, 1865, in his last public address, the
President defended his reconstruction policy.


      Three days later, the President was shot by the actor John Wilkes
Booth while attending a performance at Ford's Theater in Washington. He
died at 7:22 the following morning, April 15, 1865. After lying in state in
the Capitol, his body was taken to Springfield, Ill., where he was buried
in Oak Ridge Cemetery.
Benjamin P. Thomas,

Author of "Abraham Lincoln: A Biography" and

David Herbert Donald

Harry C. Black Professor of History and Director of the Institute of
Southern History, The Johns Hopkins University



"Abraham Lincoln"