Saturday, February 12, 2011
Happy Birthday President Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865)
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a one-room log cabin in southeast Hardin County, Kentucky (now LaRue County).
Lincoln's formal education consisted of approximately 18 months of classes from several itinerant teachers; he was mostly self-educated and was an avid reader. He attained a reputation of brawn and audacity after a very competitive wrestling match. His family and neighbors considered him to be lazy. Lincoln avoided hunting and fishing out of an aversion to killing animals.
Lincoln was married to Mary Todd from November 4, 1842 until his death on April 15, 1865. They had four children. of which, Robert was the only child of the Lincolns to live past the age of 18.
Lincoln's father-in-law was based in Lexington, Kentucky; he and most of the Todd family were slave owners and some members were slave traders. Lincoln was close to the Todds and he and his family occasionally visited the Todd estate in Lexington. Lincoln's connections in Lexington could have accelerated his ambitions, but he remained in Illinois, where, to his liking, slavery was almost nonexistent.
At 6 feet 4 inches , he was tall and "strong enough to intimidate any rival." At his first speech, he grabbed an antagonist by his "neck and the seat of his trousers" and threw him.
In 1834, he won election to the state legislature after a bipartisan campaign, though he ran as a Whig. He then decided to become a lawyer, and began teaching himself law by reading Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England and others. Lincoln's description of his learning method was: "I studied with nobody." Admitted to the bar in 1837, he moved to Springfield, Illinois, and began to practice law under John T. Stuart, Mary Todd's cousin. Lincoln became an able and successful lawyer with a reputation as a formidable adversary during cross-examinations and closing arguments. In 1841, he partnered with Stephen Logan until 1844, when he began his practice with William Herndon, whom Lincoln thought "a studious young man." He served four successive terms in the Illinois House of Representatives as a Whig representative from Sangamon County.
In the 1835–1836 legislative session, he voted to continue the restriction on suffrage to white males only while removing the condition of land ownership. He was known for his "free soil" stance of opposing both slavery and abolitionism. He closely followed Henry Clay in supporting the American Colonization Society program of making the abolition of slavery practical by helping the freed slaves return to Liberia in Africa.
From the early 1830s, Lincoln was a steadfast Whig and professed to friends in 1861, "I have always been an old-line Henry Clay Whig." The party favored economic modernization in banking, railroads, and internal improvements, and supported urbanization as well as protective tariffs, and Lincoln supported these positions.
In 1846, Lincoln was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served one two-year term. He was the only Whig in the Illinois delegation, but showed his party loyalty by participating in almost all votes and making speeches that echoed the party line. Lincoln developed a plan to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, with compensation for the owners and a popular vote on the matter, but dropped it when he could not get enough Whig supporters. He used his office as an opportunity to speak out against the Mexican–American War, which he attributed to President Polk's desire for "military glory—that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood."
Lincoln returned to politics, in opposition to the pro-slavery Kansas-Nebraska Act. On October 16, 1854, in his "Peoria Speech," Lincoln declared his opposition to slavery which he repeated en route to the presidency. Speaking in his Kentucky accent, with a very powerful voice, he said the Kansas Act had a "'declared' indifference, but as I must think, a covert 'real' zeal for the spread of slavery. I cannot but hate it. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world..."
The 1858 campaign featured the seven Lincoln–Douglas debates of 1858, generally considered the most famous political debates in American history. The principals stood in stark contrast both physically and politically. Lincoln warned that "The Slave Power" was threatening the values of republicanism, and accused Douglas of distorting the values of the Founding Fathers that all men are created equal, while Douglas emphasized his Freeport Doctrine, that local settlers were free to choose whether to allow slavery or not, and accused Lincoln of having joined the abolitionists.
This brings us to his presidency, which is a story for a differant day.
Quotes from President Lincoln:
"The people are the masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who would pervert it!"
"It is better to remain silent an be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt."
"In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
Dan Emplit WBFD