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U.S. History AP 1
David Herbert Donald's Lincoln is a biography of our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln. At the age of twenty one, he was sure he did not want to be like his father Thomas Lincoln, an uneducated farmer, so he left his fathers house permanently. He had many jobs, learned many lessons, and made both friends and enemies, all which helped him to become one of the greatest presidents of the United States of America during the time the country had split, the Civil War. Thoroughly researched and excellently written, this biography comes alive and shows us what really happened during the early to mid-nineteenth century and it still puts us in the point of view of our former president, using the information and ideas available to him.
In Lincoln, I believe the thesis would be: Abraham Lincoln was a man who was controlled by circumstances rather than determining his own destiny. Lincoln grew up at a farm and if nature intended he would have died in a farm too, but during the times that Lincoln grew up, extraordinary things were happening to the nation in politics and the society. He always despised of farm work and loved to read. "Once he got the hang of it, he could never get enough. (p. 30)" The first books he read were brought from Kentucky when his father re-married to Sarah Bush Johnston. There weren't many books available to Lincoln so he "...read carefully rather than extensively. (p.30)" At a young age, Lincoln was exposed to anti-slavery sentiment His parents moved away from a church because of slavery, even thought Lincoln was never interested in religion. He said once said "When I do good, I feel good, and when I do bad, I feel bad, and that's my religion. (Quote DB)" In 1816 Lincoln's father went to Little Pigeon Creek in Perry County in Indiana to look for a good spot to construct a house. He constructed a "half-faced camp, a rough shelter, with no floor, about fourteen feet square, enclosed on three sides, but open on the fourth. (p. 25)" Years later Lincoln said that they left Kentucky "partly on account of slavery, but chiefly on account of the difficulty in land tiles in Kentucky. (p. 23)" Rapidly growing railroads and canals helped populate the rest of the continent. Lincoln was also affected by family issues.
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Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in Hardin County, Illinois. During the 19th century, slavery and racism were great problems in the United States. Slaves were treated very badly; they had very long work hours and weren't given the nutrition they needed. Lincoln once saw slaves being sold in New Orleans which probably added to his hatred of slavery. As Lincoln grew up, so did the amount of slaves in the United States. In 1810 there were well over one million slaves, and by 1860, the amount more than tripled. Most of these slaves were African American and some owner of the slaves treated the African American slaves worse than the other slaves that were of a different race. Many slaves started to run away from their owners using the Underground Railroad or on their own to safer places like Canada or the Union. The word about it spread and the slaves increased hope that they can escape so more and more tried. Even if Blacks were free, they were not treated like other human beings. If something happened, it would most likely be blamed on a Black. This racism would not be fixed until after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. Before Lincoln took office, seven states declared their secession. The Civil War started in the United States in 1961 because of the disagreement of slavery. The Northern section of the United States, The Union States, did not favor slavery, but the southern section, The Confederates States of America, did. The President of the Confederacy was Jefferson Davis. One of the Generals during the war was Ulysses S. Grant, and he would soon be the President of the United States. The war didn't focus on slavery until critics and the people started complaining about it. Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation on September 1862 which stated that all slaves in the rebellious states were free. It didn't free a slave immediately, but it admitted Blacks into the Union Army, which drastically increased the number of soldiers available, therefore the Union had a greater chance of winning. It was put into effect on January 1, 1963. On June 23, 1865, a cease-fire agreement was signed ending the war.
I think that the main idea of Lincoln is that being honest is the best way to be. Abraham Lincoln never lied, he was called "Honest Abe" and honesty obtained him the highest level a person can go. He didn't charge poor people a lot when he worked in the rivers. He was also known to help people settle their issues out of the court to save them money. An old widow of a soldier was charged $200 for getting her $400 retirement fund. Lincoln sued the retirement fund agent and won the case for the old widow. He didn't charge her for his services and paid her bill and gave her money to buy a ticket home. His wife loved to spend money since she came from a wealthy family, she was used to it. The Congress provided $20,000 to renovate the old Executive Mansion, which is more than $350,000 today. She " greatly overspent the congressional allowance not just for the year, but for Lincoln's full term. (p. 312)" She kept this a secret from Lincoln, and when somebody asked about it, " she exploded in rage at anyone (p. 312)" She tried to sell the old furniture but they only brought a small amount of money, not more than " the sale of manure from the White House Stables (p. 312)" When Lincoln found out, he was, of course, furious and he promised that he would pay for her additional expenses, but he was not successful, so Congress paid for them. Lincoln did not conceal things from the public and was sometimes too open. One of his commanding generals, George McClellan, did not trust Lincoln since he knew that he couldn't keep a secret. He said "If I tell him my plans, they will be in the New York Herald tomorrow morning (pg 330)" He lived most of his life as an unsuccessful Illinois lawyer in financial terms, but in terms of honesty, he was very rich. Honesty makes you feel good about yourself, but it is not of fashion to talk about the payback of honesty these days. That is why I think honesty is the main idea of this book.
From reading this book, I have learned many things and I do not look at the line of presidents the same way. Before reading this book, I thought that Lincoln was a very powerful man before becoming president. After reading this book, it gives me hope that anybody could be successful. This book also gave me a great view of life in the past and how difficult it is to have a small snack. Since book were expensive and there weren't many of them, it was very hard for Lincoln to get his hand on one of them when he was small, but today, we have books given to us or we could get one for free, but many people don't take advantage of how lucky they are.
In the end, this book is a brilliantly written biography, and it could also count as a history book explaining the early-to-mid nineteenth century. It goes it great detail about his childhood and family life, and shows Lincoln as an honest and caring person. At times, the author seems to concentrate on Lincoln's family, and then on his jobs, showing that Lincoln cared about both. During the war, the author put us in the place of Lincoln as the general and showed us the pressure he was under. This book is my first and probably the only Lincoln biography I will ever need to read.
Chris Bowyer (2005) Quote DB
George H. Hoemann (2006) The American Civil War Homepage