Abraham Lincoln Critical Biography - An Icon of Western Civilization

Slavery- n. - The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household; A condition of subjection or submission characterized by lack of freedom of action or of will. (www.dictionary.com)

This is one of the most important issues that Abraham Lincoln has to face and overcome during his strenuous presidency. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), sixteenth president of the United States, entered office at a critical period in U. S. history, just before the Civil War, and showed, through the theme of anti-naturalism, the evolution from the country-bumbkin hero living in the lower class society of the South to the President fighting historical battles on the issues of slavery and secession.

In his early years, we learn of Abe Lincolns childhood, full of poverty, as he was surrounded low-class society. Living in this pioneering family, Abe Lincoln wasnt given a good opportunity at a healthy education, cultural activities, and communicating with the society around him. However, Abe doesnt let these restrictions shield him from the true life he wants to lead. Early in life, Abes cousin stated, "Hell never come to much."(Carl Sandburg, Abe Lincoln Grows Up, page34) Abraham proved this statement very wrong when he "outran" his predestination and became a great figure in American history. Abraham grew up quickly under the guidance of his father, Thomas Lincoln, and his two mothers, Nancy Hanks and Sarah Bush Johnston. These three role models, as well as his surroundings, had a great influence on his life. One aspect of Abe that shows his true determination and drive to make a difference in his lifetime, is his yearning for a good education, which he himself provides.

Abe matured fast, and made his way into manhood. He took on an active and contemplative lifestyle. He soon took the form of a country-bumbkin hero resembling Paul Bunyan. Abe began working as a ferryman for Offut, and during which uncovered one of the biggest obstacles of his life. It was during Abes ferry trip to New Orleans when he saw his first slave-auction. This was a major turning point in Abes life due to the fact that it opened up his eyes to the world around him and put that goal for change into his mind. Abe showed his emotions towards slavery when he said, "If I ever get a chance to hit that thing, I'll hit it hard."(Grolier: Encyclopedia Americana) This line proves to have major significance due to the fact that Abe kept this oath and "hit slavery as hard as he could" later on in life.

As Abe grew up, he became ambitious and desperately wanted to be elected into the State Legislature. In 1834, 1836, 1838, and 1840, Abes dream came true as he was elected and reelected into the Illinois State Legislature. This was a major stepping stone that Abe used to strive for his success in the future Throughout his years in the legislature, Abe modeled his behavior and action on his idol, Henry Clay. During this time, Abraham accomplished many things, such as the removal of the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield. Abe soon began law school and was very determined to strive in everything he did. One of his law colleagues expressed the amount of ambition Abe had when he said, "His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest." ( http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/al16.html) This ambition has not been expected from the beginning, but Abe managed to make the best of his life and succeed in finding a job in politics. During his law practices, Abe began another major part of his life as he took Mary Todd Lincoln as his wife on Nov. 4, 1842. Unlike Abraham, Mary Todd came from a background filled with an excellent education and cultural background. She was known for her extreme behavior and mood swings. This could of been the reason that Abraham found it hard to live with her. During this wedlock, they had four children. Robert Todd Lincoln was the only child who survived to maturity after the death of all his other siblings.

After years in Congress, supporting the Whig party and candidates, Abraham Lincoln was finally in the running to gain a Presidency. Battling against Brekinridge, Bell, and Douglas, Abe was a shoe-in for President. After the results came in, Lincoln had polled 1,865,593 votes to Douglas' 1,382,713, and Breckinridge's 848,356. John Bell, candidate of the Constitutional Union party, polled 592,906. The electoral vote was Lincoln, 180; Breckinridge, 72; Bell, 39; and Douglas, 12. On entering the Presidency on February 11, 1861, Abe realized that there were major issued facing him when he said that there was before him, "a task ... greater than that which rested upon [George] Washington." (Grolier: Encyclopedia Americana) During Abes times, the major happening would be that of southern secession. During this struggle, the seven southern states had seceded from the Union and formed their own government. Abe showed great strength in holding the United States together after entering into the Presidency with such a handicap on his shoulders. Abraham showed his unflinching dedication as he worked for the preservation of the Union. Abe knew he had to restore national unity and would have to whatever he could to accomplish this, disregarding any outside influences. Abe showed the fact that he was one of the greatest Presidents when he became so available to hear what the American public wanted to say, which in turn, led to the trust of the common people and the calling of "Honest Abe" by the people.

Later on, in 1861, Abe saw the beginning of one of the most controversial events during his time period. After the attack on Fort Sumter, Abe had seen what was the start of the Civil War. As Commander in Chief during the Civil War, Abraham struggled to build a powerful army for the Union and on the issue of slavery. From childhood, Abe had strong feelings against it and wanted to rid of it in the southern states. Abe fought long and hard to free the slaves and provide them with the same rights as the white settlers. His greatest attempt at this feat was the Emancipation Proclamation. On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that said that all slaves in land owned by the Union would be free. This is the greatest accomplishment in the life of Abraham Lincoln, and if it were not for him, things might still be the same way they are. This took a lot of courage on the part of Abe due to the pressure of the Civil War and the large amount of slavery in the South. With this proclamation, Lincoln surely "hit slavery hard."

Shortly after issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, Abe recited the famous Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. While at the Gettysburg cemetery, Abraham used his great rhetoric skills when and reminded the people of the larger issue during the Civil War when he said, ""that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."(Gettysburg Address) This statement shows how Abraham has effectively fulfilled his obligations as President and has done so in a manner which would be respected for years to come. Abe saw the end of his days on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, after he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. This was a tragic day in history because we lost one of the most important icons in our history and the chance for peace among the south was depleted.

In the end, Abraham Lincoln proved to be the greatest President that ever served for our country. Tow facts that support this reasoning is that he was able to reason with the South for equal treatment of the black slaves, and that he was able to hold the country together during the Civil War. Coming from such a low-class family who didnt give Abe much chances in life, he sure did prove predestination wrong in the sense that he became an incredibly astounding individual who did some of the greatest things for our country known to man. Throughout the life of Abraham Lincoln, accomplishments such as the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, and surviving the Civil War really show just where Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States, got the name, "HONEST ABE."