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When people sit back and reminisce about the United States being one of the most prominent nations, they generally do not think that without one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States, there could be chaos and uncivilized conditions. Without this president, our great nation could have been divided into two, the United States of America, and the Confederate States of America. Slavery, one of the most terrible forms of treatment imposed on a person, might still be in existence if it was not for our 16th president. Without Abraham Lincoln, no one would know, or even imagine where the country would be now.
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky. He was the son of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. Thomas Lincoln was a carpenter and farmer. Both of Abraham's parents were members of a Baptist church which had separated from another church due to the opposition of slavery.
Lincoln had several jobs, including surveying, operating a store, and serving as a postmaster. He impressed the residents with his character, and earned the nickname "Honest Abe". Lincoln had many political successes in his life such as several terms in the Illinois House of Representatives, US House of Representatives, and the Presidency of the United States. Although there were many triumphs, Lincoln is remembered for his perseverance through many personal and political setbacks. He experienced several personal tragedies, failed in business two times, suffered a nervous breakdown, defeated twice for the Senate, and defeated as a Vice President. His persevering personality prepared him for the greatest challenge of his life preserving the United States of America. The perseverance, determination, resolve, and the ability to face adversity demonstrated by Lincoln helped to shape the character of the United States of America then and still today.
In 1860, the year of Lincoln's first run for the presidency, many Southern states made it clear that if Lincoln was elected, they would secede. The South was against Lincoln because he opposed slavery. South Carolina was the first to secede in December 1860. Six other Southern states followed: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. After Lincoln's inauguration, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina also left the Union. These states became known as the Confederacy. The secession of the Southern states led to the first shots of the Civil War when the Confederates seized Fort Sumter in South Carolina in April 1861.
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"In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you... You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it."
. Lincoln wanted to save the Union at all costs. In the letter response to Horace Greeley, Lincoln stated that he did not agree with those who would not save the Union unless they could save slavery at the same time. He wanted to save the Union, not to save or destroy slavery. Lincoln wrote, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." Whether Lincoln hurt or helped the slaves, it was all for the sake and well-being of the Union. "The sooner the national authority could be restored, the nearer the Union would be 'the Union as it was.'", he said.
President Lincoln was unbiased and open-minded to ideas involving the saving of the Union. "I shall try to correct errors when they are shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views as fast as they shall appear to be true views," he said. Basically, he would do anything he could to help the cause. Even though Lincoln tried to hear and respond to the nation's wishes, he had to favor the rejection of the doctrine of popular sovereignty. A possible explanation for this decision may have been that he felt the government was better equipped to decide on the fate of the country at war within itself over the issue of slavery.
Lincoln saw his duty as helping his people and restoring the Union. His country was his main priority. He took this responsibility seriously, stating, "I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men, everywhere, could be free." Written in the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, Lincoln deemed, " all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of the State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion of the United States...forever free." In his power as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, Lincoln had to suppress fighting. He was required to call for the freedom of the slaves during a time of actual armed rebellion against the authority of the Government.
As the nation neared the third year of the bloody Civil War, President Lincoln issued the historic Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The proclamation declared that all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states are, and henceforward shall be free.
This proclamation actually freed few people. It did not apply to slaves in the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware. Also, it did not affect slaves in southern areas already under Union control. Naturally, the states that had seceded did not act on Lincoln's orders. But the proclamation showed Americans, and the world, that the war was being fought to end slavery.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately free a single slave, it changed the way black men were accepted during the war. Black men could join the Union Army and Navy. The liberated could become the liberators. By the end of the war, nearly 200,000 black soldiers and sailors fought for the Union and freedom.
On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The speech dedicated the battlefield to the soldiers who had died there. The battle site became a military cemetery. Lincoln stated in his moving speech, "...we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
On the evening of April 14, 1865 Lincoln was assassinated as he watched a play at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. He was the first American President to be assassinated. Thousands of mourners lined the tracks as his funeral train moved him from Washington to his final resting place in Springfield, Illinois.