Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, guided his country through the most devastating experience in its national history, the civil war. He is considered by many historians to have been the greatest American president.
His eloquence of democracy, and his insistence that the Union was worth saving embody the ideals of self-government that allnations strive to achieve. Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Thomas was a strong and determined pioneer who found a moderate level of prosperity and was well respected in the community. The couple had two other children: Abraham’s older sister Sarah and younger brother Thomas, who died in infancy. Due to a land dispute, theLincolns were forced to move from Kentucky to Perry County, Indiana in 1817, where the family “squatted” on public land to scrap out a living in a crude shelter, hunting game and farming a small plot. Thomas was eventually able to buy the land.
When young Abraham was nine years old his mother died of tremetol (milk sickness) at age 34 and the event was devastating on him. Thenine-year-old Abraham grew more alienated from his father and quietly resented the hard work placed on him at an early age. A few months after Nancy’s death, Thomas married Sarah Bush Johnston, a Kentucky widow with three children of her own. She was a strong and affectionate woman with whom Abraham quickly bonded. Though both his parents were most likely illiterate, Sarah encouraged Abraham to read. It waswhile growing into manhood that he received his formal education an estimated total of 18 months a few days or weeks at a time. Reading material was in short supply in the Indiana wilderness. Neighbors recalled how Abraham would walk for miles to borrow a book. He undoubtedly read the family Bible and probably other popular books at that time.
In March, 1830, the family again migrated, thistime to Macon County, Illinois. When his father moved the family again to Coles County, 22-year-old Abraham Lincoln struck out on this own, making a living in manual labor. At six feet four inches tall, Lincoln was rawboned and lanky, but muscular and physically strong. He spoke with a backwoods twang and walked with a long-striding gait. He was known for his skill in wielding an ax and early onmade a living splitting wood for fire and rail fencing. Young Lincoln eventually migrated to the small community of New Salem, Illinois where over a period of years he worked as a shopkeeper, postmaster, and eventually general store owner. It was here that Lincoln, working with the public, acquired social skills and honed story-telling talent that made him popular with the locals. When the Black HawkWar broke out in 1832 between the United States and Native Americans, the volunteers in the area elected Lincoln to be their captain. He saw no combat during this time, save for “a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes,” but was able to make several important political connections.
After the Black Hawk War, Abraham Lincoln began his political career and was elected to theIllinois state legislature in 1834 as a member of the Whig Party. He supported the Whig politics of government-sponsored infrastructure and protective tariffs. This political understanding led him to formulate his early views on slavery, not so much as a moral wrong, but as an impediment to economic development. It was around this time he decided to become a lawyer, teaching himself the law byreading Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. After being admitted to the bar in 1837, he moved to Springfield, Illinois and began to practice in the John T. Stuart law firm.
It was soon after this that he purportedly met and became romantically involved with Anne Rutledge. Before they had a chance to be engaged, a wave of typhoid fever came over New Salem and Anne died at...