Lincoln, Abraham (President)

Born: 1809-02-12 Hardin County, Kentucky

Died: 1865-04-15 Washington, DC

Flourished: Washington, DC

Born in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky, Lincoln's family moved to southern Indiana in 1816 and remained there until 1830, when the family relocated to Macon County, Illinois. Lincoln himself settled in New Salem, Illinois, in Sangamon County, later that year. He served in the Black Hawk War in 1832 and as New Salem's postmaster from May 7, 1833 to May 30, 1836. Some of Lincoln's New Salem friends relied on him to draft legal documents, ranging from petitions to wills, and this work represented the very beginnings of his legal career. His political career also began in New Salem, where voters elected him to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1834. He remained in the Illinois House until 1842. During his first term in 1834, John T. Stuart, a friend of Lincoln’s and a fellow legislator, advised him to study law and earned admittance to the bar on September 9, 1836.

Lincoln moved to Springfield, Illinois, in 1837. From April 12, 1837 to April 14, 1841, he was Stuart’s law partner. On April 14, 1841, he joined in a partnership with Stephen T. Logan, which lasted until December 1844. Lincoln formed his third and final partnership with William H. Herndon soon after Herndon’s admittance to the bar on December 9, 1844. Lincoln married Mary Todd on November 4, 1842, in Springfield, Illinois. Between 1843 and 1853, they had four sons, Robert, Edward, William, and Thomas. Of their four sons, only Robert lived to adulthood.

In 1843, Lincoln failed to win the Whig Party nomination the United States House of Representatives for the newly created Seventh Congressional District; John J. Hardin received it instead. In 1846, Lincoln won election to the U.S. House and served from December 6, 1847 until March 3, 1849. He unsuccessfully ran for the United States Senate in 1854. Although previously a firm proponent of the Whig Party, Lincoln joined the newly-created Republican Party in 1856 and ran for the United States Senate under the new banner in 1858. His opponent was the Democratic incumbent, Stephen A. Douglas, and between August 21 and October 15, 1858, they engaged in a series of seven debates throughout Illinois. Although Lincoln lost the 1858 election to Douglas, their debates brought him national recognition and set the stage for his 1860 Republican presidential nomination. In the 1860 presidential election, Lincoln defeated the two Democratic nominees, Douglas and John C. Breckinridge, along with National Union nominee John Bell, triggering the secession movement in the southern states. By the time Lincoln left Springfield for Washington, DC, on February 11, 1861, seven states had declared independence from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.

Following the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Lincoln declared the southern states to be in a state of rebellion and called for volunteers, causing four more states to secede. The ensuing Civil War lasted into the spring of 1865, when Union forces finally subdued the Confederate military. During the war, Lincoln and other northerners increasingly viewed the destruction of slavery as critical for the Union's preservation. The primary result of this was Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, and his heavy involvement in the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, which permanently abolished slavery. Lincoln ran for reelection in 1864 as a candidate for the Union Party (primarily the Republicans under a different name) against the Democratic candidate, George B. McClellan, and once again won. With the collapse of the Confederacy and the end of the war evident in April 1865, Confederate patriot and popular actor John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at Ford's Theater on the 14th. Lincoln died the next day.

Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 2 vols. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008); David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995); Phillip Shaw Paludan, The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1994); William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, Herndon's Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life, 3 vols. (Chicago: Belford, Clarke, and Company, 1889; One-volume reprint edited by Paul Angle, Cleveland, OH: World, 1965; Reprint, New York: Da Capo, 1983); Stephen B. Oates, With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Harper and Row, 1977); Benjamin P. Thomas, Abraham Lincoln (New York: Knopf, 1952); "Lincoln the Lawyer Outside the Courtroom," in Daniel W. Stowell et al., eds., The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), 4:193-94.