Prior to his presidency, Lincoln had his only military experience when he served briefly in the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War of 1832. That year he also began his political career with a failed campaign for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly; he was elected to the Assembly in 1834. After four terms in the state legislature—during which time he also established a successful law practice—he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846. His one term in the House preceded several years of semi-retirement from politics, from which he emerged to make two unsuccessful bids for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1855 and 1858.
Congressman-Elect and Mary Todd Lincoln
These companion daguerreotypes are the first-known photographic images of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. They were reportedly made in 1846 by Nicholas H. Shepherd shortly after Lincoln's election as a delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Shepherd's Daguerreotype Miniature Gallery, which he advertised in the Sangamo Journal, was located in Springfield over the drug store of J. Brookie. Shepherd also studied law at the law office of Lincoln and Herndon.
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Bill to Abolish Slavery in the District of Columbia
Abraham Lincoln gave advance notice of his intention to draft a resolution to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia in the 30th U.S. Congress; however, he abandoned the effort after determining that he could not muster the necessary votes. Lincoln seemed convinced that Congress possessed the power to write such a bill into law, but he felt it should be done only with the consent of the citizens of Washington. The support of District of Columbia officials, although initially given, was withdrawn after leading Southern congressmen expressed strong objections to the legislation. Lincoln, a first-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, had little personal influence.
Slave Code of the District of Columbia
This manuscript slave code for the District of Columbia, commonly referred to as a practice book, was probably produced by a Washington law firm for the use of its attorneys and clerks. By Southern standards, the codes were lenient. Slaves living within the city could hire out their services and live apart from their masters, while free blacks could own and operate private schools. The slave trade (buying and selling slaves) was abolished in the District in 1850. Lincoln's signing of An Act for the release of certain persons held to service, or labor in the District of Columbia on April 16, 1862, abolished slavery (the owning of slaves) in the capital city, rendering the code obsolete.