Abraham Lincoln

From Encyc
Abraham Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States. He successfully led the country through its greatest internal crisis, the Civil War, preserving the Union and ending slavery.

Lincoln grew up in a log cabin. He read by candlelight, used a charcoal pencil, became a lawyer, an Illinois state legislator, a member of the United States House of Representatives, and twice an unsuccessful candidate for election to the U.S. Senate. He was born in Kentucky, then moved to Illinois when he was young.

As an outspoken opponent of the expansion of slavery, Lincoln ran as the Republican Party candidate in 1860 and was elected president. His tenure in office was occupied primarily with the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War. He introduced measures that resulted in the abolition of slavery, issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoting the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which passed Congress before Lincoln's death and was ratified by the states later in 1865.

Lincoln closely supervised the victorious war effort, especially the selection of top generals, including Ulysses S. Grant. Historians have concluded that he handled the factions of the Republican Party well, bringing leaders of each faction into his cabinet and forcing them to cooperate. Lincoln successfully defused the Trent Affair, a war scare with Great Britain in 1861. Under his leadership, the Union took control of the border states at the start of the war. Additionally, he managed his own reelection in the 1864 presidential election.

Opponents of the war (also known as Copperheads) criticized Lincoln for refusing to compromise on the slavery issue. Conversely, the Radical Republicans, an abolitionist faction of the Republican Party, criticized him for moving too slowly in abolishing slavery. Even with these roadblocks, Lincoln successfully rallied public opinion through his rhetoric and speeches; his Gettysburg Address is but one example of this. At the close of the war, Lincoln held a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to speedily reunite the nation through a policy of generous reconciliation. His successor in the White House, Andrew Johnson, also wanted reconciliation but failed to protect the rights of newly freed slaves. As the war was drawing to a close, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Boothe, a Confederate sympathizer. He has since consistently been ranked as one of the greatest presidents.