Abraham Lincoln is regarded as one of America’s greatest heroes due to both his incredible impact on the nation and his unique appeal. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War, its deadliest war, its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. In doing so, he preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the economy.
He is a remarkable story of the rise from humble beginnings to achieve the highest office in the land, then, a sudden and tragic death at a time when his country needed him most to complete the great task remaining before the nation. His distinctively humane personality and historical role as savior of the Union and rescuer of the slaves creates a legacy that endures. His articulation of democracy and his persistence that the Union was worth saving, exhibit the ideals of self-government that all nations strive to achieve.
Lincoln struck out on this own, making a living in manual labor. At six feet four inches tall, Lincoln was rawboned and lean, but muscular and physically strong. When the Black Hawk War broke out in 1832 between the United States and Native Americans, the volunteers in the area elected Lincoln to be their captain. After the Black Hawk War, Lincoln began his political career and was elected to the Illinois state legislature, in 1834, as a member of the Whig Party. It was around this time that he decided to become a lawyer, teaching himself the law by reading William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England.
Abraham Lincoln served a single term in the US House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849. He served as a lobbyist for the Illinois Central Railroad as its company attorney. Success in several court cases brought other business clients as well. In 1860, political operatives in Illinois organized a campaign to support Abraham Lincoln for the presidency. Lincoln received not quite 40 percent of the popular vote but carried 180 of 303 Electoral votes.
Abraham Lincoln responded to the crisis exercise powers as no other president before him. He distributed $2 million from the Treasury for war material without an appropriation from Congress, he called for 75,000 volunteers for military service without a declaration of war and he suspended the writ of habeas corpus, arresting and imprisoning suspected Confederate sympathizers without a warrant. Crushing the rebellion would be difficult under any circumstances, but he managed to overcome the situation with his extremely great effort and political sense. From all directions, Lincoln faced degradation and disregard. Gradually, the war effort improved for the North though more by attrition than by brilliant military victories.
On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor and Confederate sympathizer, fatally shot President Abraham Lincoln at a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The attack came only five days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his massive army.
Lincoln often wondered if he would be remembered, if he would make his mark in the world and if he would have an impact. Certainly an absurd notion in modern times, but a real fear for an ambitious man who was also filled with self-doubt. On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, was sworn into office. Obama, the first black president, was sworn in 150 years after the death of Abraham Lincoln.
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