Mini Biography of Abraham Lincoln – Your Invisible Mentor
Name: Abraham Lincoln
Birth Date: February 1809 – April 1865
Job Functions: Lawyer, Politician and America’s 16th President
Fields: Politics and Law
Known For: Leading American through the Civil War, Gettysburg Address
Wisdom for Life: “Four score 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.” Excerpt from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
If you cannot view YouTube video of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address click here.
Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky in the early 19th century during the time when much of America was still wilderness. Lincoln attended school for less than a year where he learned the basics in reading, writing and arithmetic – he received most of his education by reading books. Lincoln got his first look at slavery when he made flatboat trips with James Gentry’s (He owned a store which became a trading centre) son in 1828 and 1831 when they took produce down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans.
In 1831, Lincoln moved to New Salem, Illinois where he continued his self-education, as well as work at odd jobs. He started to study law, but his attention was diverted to politics. In 1832, Lincoln ran for the state legislature as a member of the Whig Party. During the campaign, the Black Hawk War erupted and Lincoln enlisted in the local militia and was elected by the volunteers to become their captain. Because he was distracted by the war, Lincoln lost his first election to the legislature, but had better luck in 1834, and was subsequently re-elected in 1836, 1838, and 1840.
Lincoln was an excellent orator, and used his skill to win the 1834 election. John Todd Stuart, the Whig Party leader of the county, and also a lawyer, was very impressed with Lincoln’s intellectual and oratory skills and decided to mentor him. Stuart suggested to Lincoln that he should study and practice law. Lincoln bought and borrowed law books, which he studied diligently, and in September 1836, he was admitted to the Illinois Bar. In 1837, Lincoln became Stuart’s law partner in Springfield, Illinois, but they dissolved the partnership in 1841, and he entered into a new partnership with Stephen T. Logan.
Once again the partnership was dissolved and Lincoln entered into another partnership with William H. Herndon. From childhood, Lincoln knew what it meant to work very hard, and as an attorney, he did the same, representing railroad companies and other businesses, and argued many cases before federal courts and the Illinois Supreme Court. And during his time practicing law, he was also involved in politics.
In 1847, Lincoln was elected to the US House of Representatives as a member of the Whig Party. While in the US House of Representatives, he opposed the Mexican War, which his constituents did not receive favourably. Lincoln’s opposition against the Mexican War, coupled with his cry to abolish slavery brought him sharp criticisms from people in Illinois. He decided not to seek re-election and worked on Zachary Taylor’s presidential campaign. When Taylor won, he did not award Lincoln with a prominent presidential appointment, so he was disillusioned and returned to build his law practice.
In 1854, Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, a Democrat and rival of Lincoln, drafted legislation which revoked the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which meant that settlers in Kansas and Nebraska could allow slavery to exist. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act incensed Lincoln, and many who were against slavery in the Whig and Democratic parties. Lincoln was once again steeped in politics. He decried slavery, and there was turmoil within the Whig party. In 1856, Lincoln joined others opposed to slavery from the Whig and Democratic parties, in the newly formed Republican Party. In 1858, the Republicans chose him as their candidate in the senatorial race against Douglas.
Once again, Lincoln’s oratory skills shone in what is now known as the Lincoln-Douglas debates, a series of seven brilliant debates between the two contenders. Lincoln believed that slavery was unjust and pledged loyalty to the union. It was during this time that he gave his seminal speech, “‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.” Though the Republicans got a larger number of the popular votes, Lincoln lost the election because of the way the legislative seats in Illinois were apportioned.
Despite losing the Senate seat, Lincoln’s national reputation was bolstered by his antislavery stance. He was urged to run for the president in 1860, and in May of that year, Lincoln defeated William H. Seward for the nomination. During that same time, there was disharmony in the Democratic Party, which resulted in two candidates – John C. Brekenridge and Douglas. This split allowed Lincoln to easily win the election and was re-elected in 1864.
When Lincoln was sworn into office in March 1861, seven states had seceded from the union and formed the Confederate States of America with Jefferson Davis as their elected president. In his inaugural address, Lincoln stated that secession was anarchy, and that the union could not be legally broken apart. This posed a dilemma for Lincoln, and he sought solutions other than war, that would preserve the union. He allowed supplies to go to Fort Sumter, a Union base located in the harbour at Charleston, South Carolina, and the Confederates viewed this as an act of war. On April 12, 1861 the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter and the American Civil War began, which lasted until April 9, 1865.
Lincoln fought the Civil War to keep the Union together, not to end slavery even though he was against slavery. However, pressures of the war forced him to move toward the emancipation of slave. Lincoln had limited military experience, but as the president, he was expected to organize an army and devise a winning military strategy, so he did what he has always done well, and that was to self educate. In addition, his career as a lawyer, allowed him to analyze difficult situations, and deal with difficult people. And his political experience had schooled him in how to win a fight without creating enemies. In this tough time, Lincoln faced numerous criticisms and had a really hard time maintaining order – he faced insubordination and incompetent army generals. He also had to be flexible and often had to rethink his position on various issues.
During the Summer of 1862, Lincoln prepared an Emancipation Proclamation, following a narrow union victory in the Battle of Antietam in Maryland. He revised and re-issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863. “[Lincoln] believed he was striking at the
Confederates in two ways: First, the proclamation would deny southerners their slaves, and second, it would also deny them the workforce that kept the Confederate army going. The proclamation was limited, however, affecting only those parts of the South that were in rebellion and out of the Federals’ reach.” The Emancipation Proclamation changed the purpose of the American Civil War ensuring there would be no further compromises on slavery. Lincoln lobbied Congress to adopt the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which totally abolished slavery. Congress approved a constitutional amendment banning slavery in January 1865, and its ratification lifted emancipation above court scrutiny.
In 1863, Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania at the dedication of a national cemetery for soldiers who had died in the bloody conflict. “The speech summarized the tragic and human aspects of Gettysburg and distilled Lincoln’s resolve to protect the Union.” The Civil War was long and dragged on, and it was not until 1864 when Lincoln gave Major General Ulysses Simpson Grant the post of general-in-chief that the senior commander brought the war to a successful close. In 1864, the nation faced another presidential election and Lincoln was re-elected as president.
In his inaugural address in March 1865, Lincoln was willing to forgive the Southern states for their rebellion and called for a speedy end to the war and “to bind up the nation’s wounds.” On April 9, 1865, Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses Simpson Grant at Appomattox, Virginia. Lincoln was preparing a new Reconstruction Plan when he was assassinated shortly after the end of the Civil War. On Good Friday, April 14, 1865 while watching a play at the Ford Theatre in Washington, DC, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln, who died the next day.
Abraham Lincoln lived through three major American wars: the War of 1812, the War with Mexico (1846 – 1848) and the Civil War (1861 -1865). There were other events that contributed to the bloody Civil War, in addition to Lincoln allowing supplies to go to Fort Sumter. “The lava was already bubbling at the bottom and the Civil War was the volcano erupting.” For instance, in 1850, the US Congress drafted the Compromise of 1850, which came out of discussions on the issues of slavery. One concession to the southern whites was an enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act was designed to make it easier to recapture slaves who had ran away. The passing of the Fugitive Slave Act angered many Northerners.
Harriet Beecher Stowe (see her Profile in Wisdom), an abolitionist, responded to the Fugitive Slave Act by writing her famous book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which originally came out in serial form from June 5, 1851 to April 1, 1852. The first printing of 5,000 copies of the book sold out in two days. During the first 5 years of its publication, Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold half a million copies in America and two million copies in ten years.
Beecher Stowe and her son Charles Stowe visited President Abraham Lincoln at the White House in November 1862, and according to Charles, Lincoln said to his mother, “So this is the little woman who wrote the book that made this big war.” The book President Lincoln was referring to is Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the big war was the Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln’s Steps to Success
- Self education lasted throughout his life.
- Worked very hard.
- Was flexible and willing to change his point of view.
- Excellent oratory skills and a great debater.
- Stood up for what he believed in.
- Had the unique ability to analyze difficult situations, as well as deal with difficult people.
Why Abraham Lincoln’s Contribution Matters
Abraham Lincoln stood up for what he believed in, and took action.
Pearls of Wisdom from Abraham Lincoln
- Self-education is a lifelong activity.
- Take the time to understand the situation so that you can make an informed decision.
Interesting Tidbit about Abraham Lincoln
“It has been claimed, [that Abraham Lincoln] was influenced in his decision to free the slaves by Spiritualist experiences. Immediately after his election to the presidency, an article was published in the Cleveland Plaindealer based on statements of medium J. B. Conklin, who identified Lincoln as a sympathizer with Spiritualism.”
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Author Bio: Avil Beckford, an expert interviewer, entrepreneur and published author is passionate about books and professional development, and that’s why she founded The Invisible Mentor and the Virtual Literary World Tour to give you your ideal mentors virtually in the palm of your hands by offering book reviews and book summaries, biographies of wise people and interviews of successful people.
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Americans at War 1816 – 1900
Encyclopedia of World Biography
UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography
West’s Encyclopedia of American Law
International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology
Encyclopedia of the American Constitution
American Civil War Reference Library
Video Credit: Uploaded by cparsons2005 on Mar 20, 2008