Abraham Lincoln Born February 12th, 1809 Term Paper

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Abraham Lincoln

Born February 12th, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most loved presidents of the United States, in American history. He was born to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks. Thomas Lincoln wasn't an educated man, in fact he had only acquired enough literacy to sign his name, according to McPherson. However, he enjoyed modest prosperity as a carpenter and a farmer. Abraham Lincoln's mother too was illiterate. From the son of simple farming folk to the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln would accomplish great things, in his tragically too short life, including bringing a divided nation back together and reuniting the United States. Lincoln was a "fervent idealist" (Striner 2) and the "rarest of all great men (...) who was also an extraordinary natural genius in the Machiavellian orchestration of power" (10).

Abraham Lincoln's Childhood:

As Ewers notes, many school children know, Abraham was born in a log cabin on "Sinking Spring Farm," three miles south of Hodgenville, Kentucky (Stevenson; "Biographies"). He was two when his family moved about ten miles away to another farm on Knob Creek. Although this was a large, 230-acre farm, only thirty acres were tillable. Abraham lived here until he was seven, helping his parents with farm chores and learning his ABCs, when he attended school for a few weeks with his older sister Sarah (McPherson).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Once again, the Lincolns moved, this time to Indiana, the newly admitted state to the United States. It is reported that the unusually frequent moving by the Lincolns was due to their dislike of slavery, and as McPherson notes, there may be some truth to this theory. The Lincolns were members of a Baptist denomination that had broken away from the parent church, due to slavery issues. However, exacerbating the moving situation was Thomas' uncertainty with the security of Kentucky land titles. In Indiana, property owner were offered secure titles that had been surveyed under the Northwest Ordinance. Living in a crude three-sided shelter on Pigeon Creek, a young Lincoln received a few more months of schooling between helping his father build a house and a farm. but, in the fall of 1818, Abraham's mother, along with his great aunt and uncle, would pass away from 'milk sick', likely drinking milk from cows that had grazed on white snakeroot (Stevenson).

A year later, Thomas married Sarah Bush Johnston, bringing her and her three children from Kentucky to Pigeon Creek. In the meantime, Abraham began to devour as many books as he could get his hands on, desiring to learn and improve himself. His father looked unfavorably on this activity believing Abraham's desire to read rather than work was 'lazy', according to McPherson. Exacerbating Abraham's disdain for the life of a backwoods farmer, as was law and custom, Abraham had to turn over wages he earned splitting rails for neighbors, before he came of age. This may also be where his hatred for chattel slavery came from, as slaves were denied the 'fruits of their labor', just as his father expropriated his own wages. The tensions between Abraham and his father continued to grow. and, when his father lay dying and requested to say goodbye to his son, Abraham refused to make the eighty-mile trip saying, "If we could meet now, it is doubtful whether it would not be more painful than pleasant" (qtd. McPherson).

Lincoln expanded his horizons and experiences with trips down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, with flatboat loads of produce. It was the sight of men and women being bought and sold in the slave markets of New Orleans that would shock him and forever change the course of his personal history. In the summer of 1831, Abraham would finally leave his family farm and set out on his own, finally settling in New Salem, a village approximately twenty miles northwest of Springfield, Illinois (McPherson).

Maturing Abraham Lincoln:

Lincoln spent six years in New Salem. In the beginning, he drifted from job-to-hob, working as a store clerk, mill hand, postmaster, surveyor, and as a partner in a general store that eventually failed (Stevenson; "Biographies"). McPherson describes Lincoln as "six feet four inches tall with a lanky, rawboned look, unruly coarse black hair, a gregarious personality, and a penchant for telling humorous stories."

But, he was also reflective and nearly brooding, sometimes sinking into a serious depression.

While in New Salem, Lincoln continued his education in mathematics and literature, under the tutelage of the local schoolmaster, Mentor Graham. Lincoln joined a debating society and developed a love for politics. In 1832, he announced his candidacy for the state legislature, and although his campaign failed, he received 92% of the vote in his New Salem district. During the next election in 1834, Lincoln campaigned through the entire country and won decisively (McPherson).

Lincoln's Love Life:

In 1836, Lincoln, who was awkward with women, began a half-hearted courtship of Mary Owens. The following year, she broke off the relationship to which McPherson notes to the probable relief of both Lincoln and Owens. Lincoln then met Mary Todd two years later, in 1839, when she came from Kentucky to live with her sister in Springfield (Stevenson).

Todd was cultured, educated and from the socially prominent family of a Lexington banker. In contrast, Lincoln was rough-hewn and socially awkward, the son of an illiterate backwoods farmer. Yet, the mismatched pair fell in love and were engaged in 1840. Although the reasons are uncertain, Lincoln broke off the engagement. and, in January 1841, Lincoln suffered his greatest bout of depression. However, their courtship was revived and when Lincoln's closest friend, Joshua Speed, married in 1842, Lincoln appeared to be assured that marriage was not so frightening and he and Mary wed on November 4th, 1842 (McPherson; "Biographies").

The Lincolns had four sons. and, Mary shared Abraham's interest in public affairs, encouraging his political ambitions. In fact, he often sought her advice on matters. However, in many ways they were quite opposite. Abraham dressed carelessly and was disorganized and indifferent to social niceties. Mary dressed expensively, was quick-tempered and sometimes shrewish. She lived by the strict decorum of Victorian conventions. McPherson puts forth that Abraham got along with nearly everyone. In contrast, Mary was constantly quarreling with workmen, servants, merchants, and even some of their friends. Sometimes Abraham's moodiness would clash with Mary's temper. In addition, Lincoln often left Mary alone for weeks at a time to pursue his legal and political circuits, leaving her to fend for herself with the trials of household management and child rearing. Mary's mental stability, over time, became more and more fragile.

Lincoln's Political Career:

Lincoln was a Whig and a devotee of Henry Clay, whose American System "with its emphasis on government support for education, internal improvements, banking and economic development to promote growth and opportunity, attracted him" (McPherson). While serving in the legislature, Lincoln was further mentored by John T. Stuart, the Whig minority leader in the house. It was Stuart's encouragement to study law and his assistance with the material needed to pass the bar examination that allowed Lincoln to obtain his law license in 1837 and eventually become Stuart's law partner.

Lincoln was reelected in 1836, 1838 and 1849, and became the floor leader of the Whigs ("Biographies"). He also became a member of the 'Long Nine', Whigh legislators from Sangmon County, as noted by Stevenson. It was the Long Nine that successfully moved the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield in 1837.

During this same legislative session, Lincoln and another colleague, from his county, protested against a resolution that had overwhelmingly passed by the legislature that denounced antislavery societies, implying that the state approved slavery. However, Lincoln also criticized the abolitionists, who he believed tended "rather to increase than abate (slavery) evils" (qtd. McPherson).

Lincoln retired from the state legislature in 1841 and devoted himself to his law career, forming a partnership with Stephen T. Logan. Lincoln was required to ride the circuit of county courts through central Illinois, for several months each spring and fall, as the Springfield courts only sat for a few weeks each year. By the time he married, Lincoln was earning $1,200 a year, equal to the governor's salary. In 1844, in addition to buying the only house he ever owned, he dissolved his partnership with Logan and formed a new one with William H. Herndon, then 26-years old, who Lincoln mentored (McPherson).

Lincoln continued to have political ambitions, and wanted to run for Congress, especially given the secure Whig district he was in. However, due to the high concentration of Whig hopefuls, he had to wait his turn, under an informal one-term rotation system. In 1846, Lincoln's turn came and he won decisively over Democratic candidate, Peter Cartwright, a Methodist clergyman who was well liked according to McPherson.

Controversy dominated Lincoln's congressional term, concerning Mexican War. Lincoln supported the Whig positioned as put forth by President James Polk.

Lincoln then introduced 'spot… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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