Abraham Lincoln Biography


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Abraham Lincoln Entering Richmond Abraham Lincoln Biography Abraham Lincoln Pictures Abraham Lincoln Quotes Abraham Lincoln in Harper's Weekly  Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet Abraham Lincoln's Assassination Lincoln Douglas Debate Abraham Lincoln's Cooper Union Speech Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Address Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

President Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln, ABRAHAM, sixteenth President of the United States, was born in Hardin county, Ky., Feb. 12, 1809. His ancestors were Quakers in Berks county, Pa. His parents, born in Virginia, emigrated to Kentucky, and in 1816 went to Indiana. Having had about one year's schooling in the aggregate, he went as a hired hand on a flat-boat to New Orleans when he was nineteen years of age. He made himself so useful to his employer that he gave him charge as clerk of a store and mill at New Salem, Illinois. He commanded a company in the Black Hawk War. Appointed postmaster at Salem, he began to study law, was admitted to practice in 1836, and began his career as a lawyer at Springfield. He rose rapidly in his profession, became a leader of the Whig party in Illinois, and was a popular though homely speaker at political meetings.

He was elected to Congress in 1847, and was there distinguished for his outspoken anti-slavery views. In 1858 he was a candidate for United States Senator. His opponent, Judge Douglas, won the prize from the legislature, though Mr. Lincoln received 4,000 more votes of the people than his opponent. In 1860 and 1864 he was elected President of the United States. Ordinances of secession and the beginning of civil war followed his first election. He conducted the affairs of the nation with great wisdom through the four years of the Civil War, and just as it closed was assassinated at the national capital, dying April 15, 1865.

His Journey to the Capital.

The President-elect left his home in Springfield. Ill., Feb. 11, 1861, for Washington, D. C., accompanied by a few personal and political friends. To the crowd at the railway station, evidently impressed with the solemn responsibility laid on him, he said:

President Elect Abraham Lincoln

President Elect Abraham Lincoln, February 19, 1861

"A duty devolves on me which is, perhaps, greater than that which has devolved upon any man since that of Washington. He never could have succeeded except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same divine aid which sustained him, and on the same Almighty Being I place my reliance for support; and I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that divine assistance without which I cannot succeed, but with which success is certain." The journey then undertaken was performed at about the same time that Jefferson Davis, the elected President of the Southern Confederacy, was on his way from his home to the capital of the Confederacy.

Lincoln made a long journey of hundreds of miles through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, everywhere

was greeted with demonstrations of profound respect, and speaking to the crowds who came out to see him words full of cheerfulness, kindness, forbearance, and tenderness. Common prudence counseled him to say little or nothing on the grave affairs of state, but occasionally words would drop from his lips that clearly indicated his views and intentions. He often alluded to the condition of the country. "It is my intention," he said at Pittsburg, "to give this subject all the consideration I possibly can before specially deciding in regard to it, so that when I do speak I may be as nearly right as possible. I hope I may say nothing in opposition to the spirit of the Constitution, contrary to the integrity of the Union, or which will prove inimical to the liberties of the people or the peace of the whole country." At the Astor House, in New York, he said to a multitude  who greeted him: "When the time does come for me to speak, I shall then take the ground that I think is right—right for the North, for the South, for the East, for the \Vest, and for the whole country" Mr. Lincoln was received by the municipal authorities of New York City at the City Hall, where Mayor Wood, who had recently set forth the advantages that the commercial mart would derive from its secession from all government, admonished the President-elect that it was his duty "to so conduct public affairs as to preserve the Union." Mr. Lincoln arrived in Philadelphia Feb. 21, where he was informed of a plan in Baltimore to assassinate him, on his way through that city to Washington.

Lincoln Raising Flag

Abraham Lincoln at Independence Hall

On the following morning (Washington's birthday) he hoisted the national flag, with his own hands, over the old State-house, in the presence of a vast multitude of citizens. In his speech on that occasion he referred to the Declaration of Independence, adopted and signed in that building, and said that it was the sentiment of perfect freedom to all contained in that document which had kept the Union together so long, and promised the same blessing, in due time, to all men. "If this country," he said, "cannot be saved by this principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it. I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by, and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, die by." His friends believed his life would be in danger if he carried out the prescribed plan of his journey to visit Harrisburg, and thence direct through Baltimore to Washington.

But he persisted in keeping his engagement, and went on to Harrisburg. Meanwhile revelations had been made that convinced his friends that he would be assassinated if the whole plan should be carried out, and he was persuaded to go back to Philadelphia that night, and so on to Washington, instead of waiting until the next day. He passed through Baltimore unobserved, and arrived in Washington early on the morning of Feb. 26.

The 1861 Lincoln Assassination Plot

—His movements at that time gave currency to many absurd and untruthful stories. Mr. Lincoln gave, orally, to the late Benson J. Lossing, early in December, substantially the following narrative of the affair: "I arrived at Philadelphia on the 21st. I agreed to stop overnight, and on the following morning hoist the flag over Independence Hall. In the evening there was a great crowd where I received my friends, at the Continental Hotel. Mr. Judd, a warm personal friend from Chicago, sent for me to come to his room. I went, and found there Mr. Pinkerton, a skilful police detective, also from Chicago, who had been employed for some days in Baltimore watching or searching for suspicious persons there. Pinkerton informed me that a plan had been laid for my assassination, the exact time when I expected to go through Baltimore being publicly known. He was well informed as to the plan, but did not know that the conspirators would have pluck enough to execute it. He urged me to go right through with him to Washington that night. I didn't like that. I had made engagements to visit Harrisburg and go from there to Baltimore, and I resolved to do so. I could not believe that there was a plot to murder me. I made arrangements, however, with Mr. Judd for my return to Philadelphia the next night, if I should be convinced that there was danger in going through Baltimore. I told him that if I should meet at Harrisburg, as I had at other places, a delegation to go with me to the next place (then Baltimore), I should feel safe and go on. When I was making my way back to my room, through crowds of people, I met Frederick Seward. We went together to my room, when he told me that he had been sent, at the instance of his father and General Scott, to inform me that their detectives in Baltimore had discovered a plot there to assassinate me. They knew nothing of Pinkerton's movements. I now believed such a plot to be in existence. The next morning I raised the flag over Independence Hall, and then went on to Harrisburg with Mr. Sumner, Major (now General) Hunter, Mr. Judd, Mr. Lamon, and others. There I met the legislature and people, dined, and waited until the time appointed for me to leave (six o'clock in the evening). In the mean time Mr. Judd had so secured the telegraph that no communication could pass to Baltimore and give the conspirators knowledge of a change in my plans. In New York some friend had given me a new beaver hat, in a box, and in it had placed a soft wool hat. I had never worn one of the latter in my life. I had this box in my room. Having informed a very few friends of the secret of my new movements, and the cause, I put on an old overcoat that I had with me, and, putting the soft hat in my pocket, I walked out of the house at a back door, bareheaded, without exciting any special curiosity. Then I put on the soft hat and joined my friends without being recognized by strangers, for I was not the same man. Sumner and Hunter wished to accompany me. I said, "No; you are known, and your presence might betray me. I will only take Lamon [afterwards marshal of the District of Columbia, whom nobody knew] and Mr. Judd." Sumner and Hunter felt hurt. We went back to Philadelphia, and found a message there from Pinkerton [who had returned to Baltimore] that the conspirators had held their final meeting that evening, and it was doubtful whether they had nerve enough to attempt the execution of their purpose. I went on, however, as the arrangement had been made, in a special train. We were a long time in the station at Baltimore. I heard people talking around, but no one particularly observed me. At an early hour on Saturday morning [Feb. 23], at about the time I was expected to leave Harrisburg, I arrived in Washington." Mr. Lincoln was received at the railway station by Mr. Washburne, member of Congress from Illinois, and taken to Willard's Hotel.

The Gettysburg Address.

—At the dedication of the National Cemetery on the Gettysburg battlefield, Nov. 19, 1863, Mr. Lincoln delivered his immortal speech, which is presented below:

Abraham Lincoln Presenting the Gettysburg Address

" Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.  But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Lincoln's Re-election

—In the administration party were men who deprecated the cautious policy of Mr. Lincoln and were opposed to his re-election. They held a nominating convention at Cleveland, 0hio, May 31, 1864. It was composed of about 350 persons, very few of whom were regularly chosen delegates. They were called "the radical men of the nation." They adopted a "platform of principles," consisting of thirteen resolutions, among which was one proposing an amendment to the Constitution to prevent the re-establishment of slavery; another declaring the wisdom of the MONROE DOCTRINE; a third asserting the policy of restricting the incumbency of the Presidential office to one term; a fourth recommending the election of President directly by the people; a fifth proposing to commit the business of "re-construction" to the people; and a sixth enjoining the duty of confiscating the property of the Confederates and giving it to the Union soldiers and actual settlers. They nominated General John C. Fremont for President, and General John Cochrane for Vice-President. These nominees afterwards withdrew. The Union National Convention assembled at Baltimore June 7, wherein all the States and Territories were represented by delegates, excepting those in the Confederacy. Their "platform of principles" was equally strong in support of national honor, national freedom, the emancipation of the slaves and the perpetuation of their freedom, the Monroe Doctrine, etc. It was the regular Republican Convention. It endorsed the acts of the administration, and nominated Abraham Lincoln for President and Andrew Johnson for Vice-President.

The Democratic National Convention met at Chicago, Aug. 20. Horatio Seymour of New York, was its chairman, and in his opening address on taking the chair, he expressed sentiments of extreme hostility to the policy of the administration, and condemnatory of the war for the preservation of the union. They adopted a "platform of principles." composed of six resolutions. It declared the fidelity of the Democratic party to the Union; that the war was a failure, and that "humanity, liberty, and the public welfare " demanded its immediate cessation; that the government, through its military power, had interfered with elections in four of the late slave-labor States, and was, consequently, guilty of revolutionary action, which should be resisted; that the government had been guilty of unwarrantable usurpations (which were specified), and also been guilty of a shameful disregard of duty respecting the exchange of prisoners and the relief of its suffering captives. The resolutions closed with an assurance that the Democratic party extended its sympathy to the Union soldiers, and that, in the event of their obtaining power, the soldiers should receive all the care and protection and kindness which they deserved. General George B. McClellan, who had been relieved from military duty about twenty months before, was nominated for President, and George Pendleton, of Ohio, for Vice-President. The opposing parties carried on the canvass with great vigor during the autumn. The real practical issue was expressed in two words —Union and Disunion. Mr. Lincoln was reelected by an unprecedented majority in the electoral college. His opponent—General McClellan—received the votes only of the two late slave-labor States of Delaware and Kentucky and the State of New Jersey. The soldiers in the army gave 121,000 votes for Lincoln and 35,050 for McClellan, or three to one in favor of the former. They did not regard the war in which they were struggling as a "failure." The freedmen rejoiced at the result, for they regarded it as the seal of their sure deliverance, for there was a wonderful power slumbering behind that vote.

In his second term, Lincoln oversaw the successful prosecution of the war, and saw the fruits of his labor . . . preservation of the Union, and the elimination of slavery.

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865.




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