Abraham Lincoln, two weeks before the final Douglas debate, 1858
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This image was taken in Pittsfield, Illinois, two weeks before the final Lincoln-Douglas debate in Lincoln's unsuccessful bid for the senate.
Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, was born in 1809 in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky. From the earliest, Lincoln loved to read and his quest for knowledge remained one of his attributes all his life.
His initial venture into politics resulted in a loss running for the Illinois legislature. He ran successfully in 1834, 1836, 1838 and 1840. In his spare time, he had studied for the law and became a lawyer in 1836. He married Mary Todd in 1842 and they had a family of four children. In 1846, Lincoln ran for United States House of Representatives and won, returning home after his term to focus on his law practice.
Lincoln was politically ambitious and his pull back into public life was energized by his opposition to the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act. This act would allow individual states and territories to decide for themselves if they wanted to have slavery. Lincoln spoke out about his views to a crowd in Peoria, Illinois, on October 16, 1854 and he set out his moral, political and economic arguments against slavery that he would continue to uphold throughout his career. The Dred-Scott decision of 1856 ruled that slaves were not legal persons and could never be citizens of the United States. He returned to politics as it became clear to him that the country was at risk for dividing over slavery.
The Abraham Lincoln that emerges was a man who grew profoundly during his presidency. Between his election in November 1860 and his inauguration in March 1861, seven Southern states seceded from the Union. He'd been in office a month when Confederate troops fired on Ft. Sumter. The war had begun and Abraham Lincoln was about to put the work of the founding fathers to its biggest test in maintaining the union.
One of the most critical figures in American history, Lincoln was a man with several business and political failures who had only two years of national political experience and eight years of state legislation. He had no successful military experience, no formal education, and suffered from depression and melancholy all his life. With all his deficiencies, he is the man we think of who defined the role of the president as we understand it today, the commander-in-chief.
Lincoln is one of the prime examples of the enormous personal strength and fortitude that is needed to keep this country operating on the principles set out by the founding fathers.
Mastering materials : A gelatin silver print
Created : 1858
Creator : From an ambrotype by Calvin Jackson
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