Abraham Lincoln, 1809 - 1865

portrait of Abraham Lincoln
Last known photo, taken 6 March 1865 by Henry F. Warren
Abraham Lincoln signature
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Born: 12 February 1809, Hardin County, Kentucky
Died: 15 April 1865, Washington City

Lincoln's parents Thomas and Nancy were uneducated farmers, but they lost their farm in court action related to the deed and moved to Indiana. Lincoln's mother died in 1818, his father remarried. In 1830 the Lincoln's lost their farm, again in a matter related to the deed, and settled on public land in Macon County, Illinois, then to another homestead in Coles County, at which point Abraham, then 22, set out on his own. He had only had about a year and a half of formal education but was an avid reader. Although Thomas Lincoln was illiterate, he was a great story teller and Abe practiced retelling those stories to his friends, perhaps the basis for his oratory prowess. He interrupted his first political campaign in 1832 to join the militia during the Black Hawk War but saw no action and returned to lose the race for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly, but won in 1834. He immediately began reading law and was admitted to the bar in 1837. He was a successful litigator, apparently on the strength of his cross-examinations and closing arguments. He was elected to one term in Congress as a Whig in 1846, then was moved to reenter politics in 1854 over the Kansas-Nebraska Act which would have expanded slavery. He declined the Republican vice-presidential nomination in 1856, then campaigned against Steven Douglas in 1858. He narrowly lost the campaign but came to national prominence in a series of debates. Having been instrumental in creating the Republican Party, he was chosen over more radical candidates to run for president in 1860 and defeated candidates for three other parties. Before he was elected, seven southern states seceded from the Union. In his first inaugural address he supported the Corwin Amendment, which would have allowed slavery to continue in the states that allowed it, in hopes of stopping the secession. When Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter shortly after his inauguration, and four additional states seceded, Lincoln focused primarily on the war effort, personally choosing and supervising generals and their battle plans. In 1864, having formed the National Union Party to include the "War Democrats" because it looked unlikely that he would prevail, Lincoln was reelected by a wide margin when the progress of the war improved. In addition to leading the country through the Civil War, Lincoln signed the Homestead Act of 1862, the Morrill Land-Grand Colleges Act the same year, the Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864 which spurred development of the trans-continental rail lines, and acts which created the national banking system and the Department of Agriculture. Less than six weeks after his second inaugural, and less than a week after Lee surrendered, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth in the first assassination of a US president.

Biography from Wikipedia and the White House

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