Abraham Lincoln: The Journey
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” This famous quote by Abraham Lincoln is truly apt for the man himself who rose as a phoenix from the dust to become the President of the United States. From being born in a humble log cabin to becoming the President of The United States of America – this amazing journey of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of United States, should serve as an inspiration to all of us. Having no formal education in his early years, and having done several menial jobs, he led the United States during the American Civil War and was responsible for bringing an end to slavery in the United States. Lincoln was the first Republican to enter the White House as the President and he was also the first President to be assassinated.
The Journey from 1809 – 1865
1809: (Feb 12) Born near present day Hodgenville, Kentucky
1834: Elected to Illinois General Assembly
1836: Embarked on a career as Lawyer.
1842: (Nov 4th) Married Mary Todd
1846: Elected to the US House of Representatives.
1858: Debated Slavery with Stephen A Douglas.
1860: (Nov 6th) Elected President of United States.
1864: (Nov 8th) Reelected President.
1865: (April 14th) Shot by John Wilkes Booth.
1865: (April 15th) Died in Washington DC.
His early years
Abraham Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, 1809, in a log cabin in Hardin County which is near present day Hodgenville, Kentucky. His father, Thomas Lincoln and mother, Nancy Hanks were uneducated farmers who tilled the land surrounding their single room log cabin. He had an older sister Sarah and a younger brother Thomas who died in infancy.
In 1816 the Lincolns moved to Indiana where Abraham spent his time doing manual labor, including farm work and felling of trees. Even though he did not receive any formal education in his early years and hardly attended school, he was an avid reader and was mostly self educated. In 1830 the Lincolns once again moved from Indiana to Illinois and in 1831, at the age of 22, Abraham Lincoln left home to seek his own fortune and took up odd jobs in New Salem, Sangamon County. In 1832 he began his political career by campaigning for the Whig party and was elected to the lower house for the first of four successive terms as a Whig. During the year 1836 he took up educating himself to become a lawyer, drawing motivation from his friend and lawyer, John Todd Stewart. In 1837 he moved to Springfield and joined Todd’s Law firm. Here he met and courted Mary Todd whom he later married on Nov 4, 1842. They had four sons; Robert Todd, Edward Baker, William Wallace and Thomas Tad. However, except for Robert, the other sons did not survive beyond their teens. He was not a member of any church, although he was well versed and familiar with the Bible and used the verses from it extensively in his speeches.
Abraham Lincoln – The Man
Allen C Guelzo, in his compilation of essays ‘Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas’ avers that “Abraham Lincoln was a skilled politician, an inspirational leader, and a man of humor and pathos”. His tremendous intellectual curiosity propelled him towards a higher political ideology and a more philosophical outlook in life. It was this belief that directed him to end slavery in America and also helped him to end the Civil War. He was a multifaceted personality. From lawyer, to Politician, to President, he molded himself to situations as the need arose, driven by the force of his convictions, values and beliefs. He was also a doting father as is evidenced by the letter he wrote to his son’s Headmaster, advising him on how to teach the correct values which is relevant even today to all teachers, students, workers and parents. In his biography of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald C. White Jr. sums up “Lincoln as a man who would leave a trail of thoughts in his wake, jotting ideas on scraps of paper and filing them in his top hat or the bottom drawer of his desk; a hands-on commander in chief, a man who struggled with the immorality of slavery and finally, a president involved in a religious odyssey who wrote, for his own eyes only, a profound meditation on “the will of God” in the Civil War that would become the basis of his finest address.”
Lincoln as President
In November 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States of America, becoming the first republican to win the presidency. As a president he is most famously known for his effort to begin the end of slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation. Although it did not have any immediate result, it paved the way for the Thirteenth Amendment in Dec 1865, which legally brought about the end of slavery.
Lincoln’s name is also synonymous with the Civil war during which he endured enormous pressure. Disgruntled Generals who were reluctant to fight, assassination threats, bickering among his cabinet members and the huge loss of life on the battlefield were no deterrent to this man who played a vital role as a leader in preserving the union. In fact, this decision of his ensured that USA remained as one single nation. The Gettysburg speech which was given at this time went on to become his most famous speech.
He was reelected President for the second term in 1864 in a landslide victory with the support of 78% of the Union soldiers vote.
The extraordinary career of this extraordinary man came to an abrupt end on April 14 1865, when he was fired upon at by well known actor and confederate sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth at Ford Theatre in Washington. He was rushed to a house opposite the theatre where he succumbed to his injury the next day, on April 15th 1865. After keeping his body in the state capitol, he was shifted to his final resting place in Springfield, Illinois.
- The name Abraham Lincoln brings to mind the image of a tall gaunt, man with a unique stove pipe top hat. It served a dual purpose. Apart from being a unique and fashionable head gear, it was also a pocket of sorts to store his important papers and speeches!
- There are quite a few coincidences between Abraham Lincoln and John F Kennedy. Lincoln was elected to the Congress in 1846, whereas Kennedy was elected exactly a century later in 1946. Both were assassinated by being shot in the head by a single bullet on a Friday. Johnson was the successor of Abraham Lincoln and was born in 1808, and the successor of Kennedy, also named Johnson, was born in 1908!
- Lincoln was aware that he was going to die. This is proved by a couple of incidences that occurred in the weeks prior to his death. He saw a double image of himself in the mirror, one paler than the other. A week before his death he dreamt that someone was crying in a distant room. Upon reaching that room he found a coffin there. The weeping person informed him that the President was dead and upon looking into the coffin, he found himself lying there.
Abraham Lincoln’s legacy is alive even today and leaders the world over try to emulate his strength of character, his perseverance and his amazing oratorical skills. Historians are of the opinion that he was able to mobilize an entire nation with his honesty and integrity. His image is alive throughout on world stamps and he is the only President to appear on a U.S Airmail Stamp. His profile also appears on the five dollar note and the Lincoln cent.