Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He is regarded as one of the great leaders and influencers in American history. The story of his life rose from ‘humble beginnings’ to the greatest position in America.
Brief Life History
Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, at Hodgenville, Hardin County, Kentucky, to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. His mother died when Abraham was just 9 years old. Lincoln’s stepmother encouraged his desire for knowledge. At a tender age, he could read, write, and do simple arithmetic. The biography of George Washington made a lasting impression on Lincoln, and he made the ideals of Washington and the founders of the United States his own. Lincoln’s formal schooling was limited to three brief periods in local schools, as he had to work constantly to support his family.
In 1830, his family moved to Macon County in southern Illinois, and Lincoln got a job working on a river flatboat hauling freight down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. After settling in the town of New Salem, Illinois, where he worked as a shopkeeper and a postmaster, Lincoln became involved in local politics as a supporter of the Whig Party, winning election to the Illinois state legislature in 1834 and re-elected in 1836, 1838, and 1840. He had previously lost out his first attempt in 1832.Lincoln opposed the spread of slavery to the territories, and had a grand vision of the expanding United States, with a focus on commerce and cities than agriculture.
Largely self-educated, he became a lawyer in Illinois, a Whig Party leader, passing the bar examination in 1836. He met Mary Todd, a well-to-do Kentucky woman and they married in 1842. They had four children of whom only the elder reached adulthood.
The Whigs were a minority party in Illinois, and there was competition among the Whig politicians over the nomination for U.S. representative for the Seventh Congressional District, where Whigs were in the majority. Lincoln sought the nomination in 1842 and 1844 and received it in 1846. Because he had originally agreed not to run for a second term in Congress, and his opposition to the Mexican–American War was unpopular among Illinois voters, Lincoln returned to Springfield and resumed his successful law practice.
Re-entering politics in 1854, he became a leader in building the new Republican Party, which had a statewide majority in Illinois. In 1858, while taking part in a series of highly publicized debates with his opponent and rival, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln spoke out against the expansion of slavery, but lost the U.S. Senate race to Douglas.
In 1860, Lincoln secured the Republican Party presidential nomination from a swing state. With very little support in the slaveholding states of the South, he swept the North and was elected president in 1860. His victory prompted seven southern slave states to form the Confederate States of America. Later four other states joined the Confederacy. Subsequently, on April 12, 1861, a Confederate attack on Fort Sumter inspired the North to enthusiastically rally behind the Union in a declaration of war.
The civil war did not prevent Lincoln from been re-elected in 1864. On April 14, 1865, five days after the April 9th surrender of Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee, John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer, assassinated Lincoln. He was at the point of reuniting the state from the aftermath of the war when he met his tragic war.
- I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from The Saviour of the world is communicated to us through this Book.
- Impossibility can only be found in the dictionary of a fool
- A person will be just about as happy as they make up their minds to be
- I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards
- And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
- When I’m getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.
- You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
- You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.
- If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.
- Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
Lincoln was honest, hardworking, and jovial. He also built up a great reputation through his life, both with his friends and with the public. Lincoln was self-educated and became a renowned lawyer by not attending law school, but by reading law books and observing court sessions.
He overcame many obstacles and failures to become president of the United States when the nation was confronted with its gravest crises. Below is a summary of his difficulties before finally climbing to the highest position of his country.
1816: His family was forced out of their home. He had to work to support them
1818: His mother died
1831: Failed in business
1832: Ran for state legislature-lost
1832: Also lost his job-wanted to go to law school but could not get in
1833: Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt.
1834: Ran for state legislation again-won
1835: Was engaged to be married, sweetheart died and his heart was broken.
1836: Had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months
1837: Proposed marriage to another young woman and was turned down
1838: Sought to become speaker of the state legislature-defeated
1842: Finally married a well-to-do woman
1842 & 1844: Ran for Congress-lost
1846: Ran for congress again-won
1849: Sought the job of land officer in his home state-rejected
1854: Ran for Senate of United States-lost
1856: miss out vice-presidential nomination at his party’s national convention
1858: Ran for the U.S Senate-lost
1860: Elected president of the United States.
Born into poverty, and despite business failure, rejection and political defeat, he was faced throughout his life, he did not quit, he endured until he became the American President. I agree with Arch Bishop Duncan Williams when he said ‘‘men of honour are those who survived what could have killed others’’. From one-room log cabin to the white house and from poverty to the presidency. Lincoln overcame his hardship and setbacks by the determination to never give up.
After being elected as President he led the Union in the Civil War (1861-1865) —its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis to prevent the Southern states from seceding from the United States. In doing so, he preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the economy.
Abraham Lincoln may be a long way back in the past, but his life is still one of true interest and inspiration to many people around the world today. He made great sacrifices during his lifetime to bring change to our world, and his life story, even back from the 1800’s still holds some very relevant lessons today. He deserves to be remembered for the value he added to our generation.
1. ‘Abraham Lincoln’, Encarta Encyclopaedia 2009,
2. Abraham Lincoln quotes, Brainy Quotes