Abraham Lincoln Biography

Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth President of the United States. Read this brief biography and timeline to find more on his life and childhood.

Abraham Lincoln
Quick Facts

Birthday: February 12, 1809

Nationality: American

Famous: Quotes By Abraham Lincoln Poorly Educated

Died At Age: 56

Sun Sign: Aquarius

Born Country: United States

Born in: Hodgenville, Kentucky, United States

Famous as: American President.

Height: 6'4" (193 cm), 6'4" Males

political ideology: Republican (1854–1865), National Union (1864–1865)

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Mary Todd

father: Thomas Lincoln

mother: Nancy Lincoln

siblings: Sarah Lincoln Grigsby, Thomas

children: Edward Baker, Robert Todd Lincoln

Died on: April 15, 1865

place of death: Petersen House, Washington, D.C., U.S.

Personality: INTP

Diseases & Disabilities: Asperger's Syndrome, Depression

Cause of Death: Assassination

U.S. State: Kentucky

Ideology: Republicans

Continue Reading Below

Turn the pages of America’s political history and you are sure to find one man who outshines others and attracts the attention of all – Abraham Lincoln! Nicknamed ‘Honest Abe’ or ‘Father Abraham,’ Lincoln was, by far, one of the most powerful and greatest presidents that America has ever witnessed. Rising from a modest and humble beginning, it was his sheer determination and honest effort that led him to the nation’s highest office. An astute politician and proficient lawyer, he played a vital role in the unification of the states. Leading from the front, he played a prominent role in abolishing slavery from the country, eventually giving people equal rights, irrespective of caste, color, or creed. He not only envisioned but actually brought to the forefront a truly democratic government which was led by the concept ‘by the people, of the people and for the people.’ What’s more, Lincoln led the country when it faced its greatest constitutional, military, and moral crises. He not only emerged victorious but was also effective in strengthening the national government and modernizing the economy. He was a savior of the Union and an emancipator of the slaves. Just like his astonishing rise to the top-notch position and his eventual governance, his death was equally astounding as he became the first US president ever to be assassinated. Since awards and honors did not exist at the time, Abraham Lincoln was never felicitated with awards and honors. However, he is considered one of the top three presidents of the United States. As per the presidential ranking polls conducted since 1948, Lincoln has been rated at the top in the majority of polls.

Recommended Lists:

Recommended Lists:

Continue Reading Below
Abraham Lincoln
Childhood & Early Life
  • Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky, to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Lincoln. He had a younger brother named Thomas, who died in infancy, and an elder sister named Sarah.
  • Lincoln’s father was a hardworking man. Through his relentless efforts, he became one of the richest men in the country. He was respected and honored by one and all. However, the riches did not last long as Thomas Lincoln lost everything, which led to the family shifting base to the present Spencer County in Indiana.
  • The Lincolns went to the ‘Separate Baptists’ church and had opposing views on alcohol, dancing, and slavery. They believed in restrictive moral standards.
  • On October 5, 1818, tragedy struck the family as Nancy Lincoln left for the heavenly abode after suffering from milk sickness. Her mortal remains were buried in a grave which was located just behind the family cabin. The death of his mother had a devastating effect on young Lincoln, who grew alienated from his father. However, the gap was bridged by his stepmother Sarah Bush Johnston whom he grew close to.
  • Considered lazy by many, due to his dislike for the hard labor associated with frontier life, Lincoln proved his doubters wrong as he grew up to be responsible and dedicated. He completed all the chores expected of a boy from a household at the time and became adept at using an axe, a skill which he used to build rail fences. He also dutifully gave all his earnings to his father.
  • As far as his education is concerned, it is estimated that Lincoln did not have more than 18 months of formal education throughout his life. However, he made extraordinary efforts to attain knowledge. Though both his parents were illiterate and unschooled, they encouraged Lincoln to read and write, especially his stepmother Sarah.
  • He was an avid reader and had read all the popular books, including the Bible, several times. Thus, the knowledge and wisdom that Lincoln possessed were mostly self-taught.
  • The family shifted base to Coles County, Illinois in 1831, after fearing milk sickness. At the age of 22, Lincoln left his home and set off on his own. His first stop was in the village of New Salem in Sangamon County, where he took up a job of transferring goods by flatboat from New Salem to New Orleans via Sangamon, Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
    Continue Reading Below
Top
Formative Years
  • In 1832, Lincoln moved to New Orleans where he bought a small general store along with a friend. Since the venture did not turn out to be profitable, he sold his shares and tried his hand at politics. He started campaigning for a seat at the ‘Illinois General Assembly.’
  • Though Lincoln had gained popularity through his storytelling skills, his lack of formal education, money, and powerful friends led to his loss. While taking part in the assembly, Lincoln also served in the ‘Black Hawk War’ as a captain in the ‘Illinois Militia.’
  • After working as a postmaster and county surveyor, Lincoln started pursuing his dream of becoming a lawyer. He started reading law books to gain the knowledge required to sustain in the field. Lincoln’s social and story-telling skills were honed during this phase of his life.
  • In 1834, his second campaign turned out to be successful as he won the election to the state legislature, representing the ‘Whig Party.’
  • In 1836, Lincoln moved to Springfield, Illinois where he enrolled himself to the bar and started practicing law under John T. Stuart.
  • Lincoln’s reputation as an able and efficient lawyer grew leaps and bounds. He became known for his tough and challenging cross-examinations and closing arguments. Over the years, Lincoln worked with a number of professional lawyers, including Stephen T. Logan and William Herndon.
  • Lincoln’s political career was progressing steadily as well. In his four years of successive term as a ‘Whig’ representative at the ‘Illinois House of Representatives,’ he was known for voicing against the perils of slavery. He regularly spoke for economic modernization in various sectors, including banking.
    Continue Reading Below
  • Rising popularity and great work earned Lincoln a seat in the ‘U.S. House of Representative’ in 1846, where he served a two-year term. A true ‘Whig’ supporter, he stood by his party’s policies and participated in all events. He even made speeches that emphasized on the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.
  • As far as foreign and military policies are concerned, Lincoln was against ‘Mexican-American War’ and opposed the views of President Polk. However, he supported the ‘Wilmot Proviso’ which was a proposal to ban slavery in territories acquired from Mexico. His stand against the president earned him negative publicity and Lincoln lost political support within his district. Subsequently, he even earned the nickname ‘spotty Lincoln.’
  • During the 1848 presidential elections, Lincoln supported General Zachary Taylor for the ‘Whig’ nomination. Though Taylor won the elections, Lincoln lost to Justin Butterfield, losing out on an opportunity to be appointed commissioner of the ‘General Land Office.’ Instead, he was offered the position of a secretary or governor of the Oregon Territory. He refused the offer to resume his law practice.
  • Lincoln’s career as a lawyer was steadily growing as was his reputation and status. He even appeared before the ‘Supreme Court’ of the United States. Out of his 175 appearances at the ‘Illinois Supreme Court,’ he stood as a sole counsellor on 51 occasions, out of which he won 31 times. His client list included big names from across the country.
Top
Work on Anti-Slavery
  • While the northern states of US had banned slavery and were against the suppression of people belonging to the lower class or caste, the southern states and the newer territories in the West were yet to ban slavery. In order to bring about a change in these territories, Lincoln made a comeback to his political career around the 1850s and strongly opposed the ‘Kansas-Nebraska Act.’
  • According to the ‘Act,’ Douglas had permitted the settlers to determine the fate of slavery in the new territory. Condemning the ‘Act,’ Lincoln argued that the national Congress had no role to play in the matter.
    Continue Reading Below
  • Lincoln’s stand against slavery was apparent in his ‘Peoria speech’ which he gave on October 16, 1854. In his speech, he condemned slavery due to the injustice that it represented and its deprival of equality of rights among men.
  • Lincoln ran for the seat at the US Senate from Illinois in 1854. Though he was comfortably leading ahead of others in the first six rounds, it was his strong opposition to the ‘Kansas–Nebraska Act’ that led to his downfall as there was a split amongst the Whigs.
  • It was his take on anti-slavery along with an appeal for ‘Free Soil’ and ‘Liberty’ that shaped the new ‘Republican Party.’ At the 1856 ‘Republican National Convention,’ Lincoln was second in the contest to become the party's candidate for vice president.
  • In 1858, Lincoln won the state Republic party’s vote which nominated him for the US Senate. This gave rise to a series of Lincoln-Douglas debates, which have earned the reputation of being the most popular debates in American history.
  • Lincoln and Douglas were different from each other in terms of their political outlook and physical appearance. While Lincoln advocated the abolition of slavery, Douglas promoted his ‘Freeport Doctrine,’ according to which local people of a particular state were free to decide whether or not slavery should be practiced in their state.
  • Lincoln’s ‘Republican Party’ won many votes, but the ‘Democratic Party’ won many seats, thus re-electing Douglas to the Senate. Despite the loss, Lincoln was committed towards eradicating slavery from the nation.
Recommended Lists:

Recommended Lists:

Top
Campaign for Presidency
  • In 1860, a campaign was organized by the political operatives in Illinois which ran in support of Lincoln for the presidency. Interestingly, he surpassed well-known candidates, such as William Seward of New York and Salmon P. Chase of Ohio at the ‘Republican National Convention’ in Chicago.
    Continue Reading Below
  • It was Lincoln’s take on slavery and his support for national infrastructure and the protective tariff that won him the nomination and the subsequent popularity. He beat Southern Democrat Douglas, John C. Breckinridge of the Northern Democrat, and John Bell of the ‘Constitution Party’ to make his way to the most coveted political position, garnering a total of 180 electoral votes out of 303.
  • Eventually, on November 6, 1860, Lincoln was elected as the 16th president of the United States.
  • On March 4, 1861, he assumed the office and became the first-ever president from the ‘Republican Party.’ He selected a strong cabinet, which consisted of many of his political rivals, such as William Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Edwin Stanton.
Top
Tenure as a President - Succession & Civil War
  • Lincoln entered the ‘White House’ after attaining maximum support from North and West. However, the South was enraged about the result and decided to withdraw itself from the Union and form a separate nation by the name ‘Confederate States of America.’
  • The states included in the ‘Confederate States of America’ were South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Led by Jefferson Davis, these states were considered independent and sovereign.
  • Lincoln, however, in his inaugural address in March the following year, refused to recognize the Confederacy, declaring the South’s secession illegal. Though there were attempts made to strike a compromise, Lincoln refused all such offers and stood by his stand for free-soil and slave-free states.
    Continue Reading Below
  • As much as Lincoln hated war, he had to live with it as secessionists were enraged by Lincoln’s orders and declared war. To make things worse, other southern states like North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas also joined the Confederate. They took hold of Fort Sumter, which eventually led to what is now termed as America’s costliest and most deadly conflict.
  • Lincoln appointed troops to head towards Washington, D.C. to protect the capital. He withdrew $2 million from the treasury for war material, called for 75,000 volunteers to join military service, and suspended the writ of habeas corpus, eventually arresting and imprisoning suspected Confederate sympathizers without a warrant. He also developed strong ties with the states around the border and worked towards keeping the war from becoming an international conflict.
  • Crushing the opponent seemed difficult as Lincoln met dead end at all sides. While the Copperheads (Peace Democrats) felt that Lincoln was too stubborn on his stand for anti-slavery, Radical Republicans criticized him for moving slowly in abolishing slavery. To add to the woes, Lincoln faced defiance and vilification from generals, cabinet members, party members, and a majority of the American people.
  • Lincoln kept a close eye on the progress of the war and was aware of every minute detail. He regularly consulted with the governors and kept close tabs on the military. His main priorities concerning the war were based on two things – Washington should be well defended and an aggressive war should be conducted for a prompt and decisive victory which would, in turn, satisfy the demand placed in the North.
  • General McClellan was appointed as the general-in-chief for all the Union armies. Though the first year and a half proved to be difficult due to the losses and support for the reunification of the nation, the victory at Antietam gave Lincoln some relief.
  • Meanwhile, midterm elections in 1862 brought bad news for the Lincoln-led government as the public had questioned the ability of the administration and its failure to bring a quick end to the war. Other factors that acted against the government were inflation, new high taxes, rumors of corruption, suspension of habeas corpus, the military draft law, and the fear that freed slaves would undermine the labor market.
  • As for the war, Lincoln realized that the war could be ended if a string of victories was put together. Subsequently, Lincoln’s administration was able to register success at the Charleston harbor and the ‘Battle of Gettsyburg.’
    Continue Reading Below
Top
Emancipation Proclamation
  • Lincoln’s idea of a slave-free nation was not just undermined by the South but by the Constitution as well. As such, efforts made by the Federal government alone could not resolve the issue.
  • To put an end to slavery, Lincoln offered the states compensated emancipation in return for their prohibition of slavery. He believed that this method would help curtail slavery from within the roots.
  • Thus, the ‘Second Confiscation Act’ was passed on July 1862, according to which the slaves were guaranteed freedom. The main purpose of this act was to weaken the rebellious war that the opponents had brought about. Though Congress was not successful in permanently dissolving slavery, it did show support to liberate slaves owned by slave owners.
  • Around the same time, Lincoln came up with the first draft of the ‘Emancipation Proclamation,’ according to which he stated that all persons held as slaves in the Confederate states would be free and liberated.
  • ‘The Emancipation Proclamation’ was officially issued on September 22, 1862, and came into practice on January 1, 1863. According to the proclamation, slaves belonging to the 10 states, which were not present in the Union, were declared free.
  • The next few months were spent preparing the army and the country for emancipation.
  • Abolition of slavery became a military objective and to fulfill the same, the Union armies took some tough decisions. The more they advanced towards the South, the more slaves were being freed and liberated. In a short time, as many as three million slaves were freed from Confederate territory.
    Continue Reading Below
  • Once free, the slaves were taken in by the military, leading to an increase in the number of black recruitment. This was the original policy that the government had promised to act upon after the issuance of the ‘Emancipation Proclamation.’
  • In 1863, Lincoln, his supporters, and the Republicans attained partial victory. Emancipation of slaves had become a national war effort and a democratic government which was of the people, by the people and for the people had evolved. Lincoln commented that the war was an effort to bring in liberty and equality for all.
Top
Re-Election & Re-Construction
  • With America’s most deadly conflict, the ‘Civil War,’ and the unstable economic conditions, Lincoln’s re-election as the president seemed to be uncertain. Nevertheless, a master politician that he was, he worked hard to strengthen the party, fetched support for his policies, and worked towards ruining the Radicals’ efforts to replace him in the 1864 elections.
  • As a result of his efforts, Lincoln emerged victorious as he gained support from all but three states. He also received almost 78% of the Union soldiers’ vote and had managed to win 212 out of the 233 electoral votes. On March 4, 1865, Lincoln was officially sworn in as the president and gave his second inaugural address.
  • Post re-election, Lincoln made reintegration of the Southern states and reunification of the nation as the number one agenda on his to-do list. The administration of the Southern states was re-formed.
  • While Tennessee was under the guidance of General Andrew Johnson, General Frederick Steele was the military governor for Arkansas. General Nathaniel P. Banks upheld the plans of restoring the statehood in Louisiana.
  • Radical Republican Salmon P. Chase was named Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was chosen because Lincoln believed that he would uphold his emancipation and paper money policies.
    Continue Reading Below
  • Since slavery was abolished only in certain states, Lincoln pressurized the Congress to abolish slavery throughout the nation with the help of a constitutional amendment.
  • The proposed constitutional amendment, that would abolish slavery completely, was brought before Congress, but failed to pass in its first attempt. Later, it became part of the Republican/Unionist platform and was eventually passed in the second meeting. The passed bill was next sent to the state legislatures for ratification. Subsequently, it became the ‘Thirteenth Amendment’ of the ‘United States Constitution’ on December 6, 1865.
  • The surrender of Lee at the ‘Appomattox Court House’ in Virginia, in April 1865, officially brought an end to the ‘Civil War.’ His surrender brought forth the surrender of several other rebel armies and leaders.
  • The unification of the states eventually gave rise to the term ‘United States.’ Though the ‘Civil War’ was the most hideous of conflicts in America, it did give rise to a singular name called ‘The United States’ for the entire country.
  • Lincoln was largely responsible for steering the American political system towards republicanism. He denounced secession as anarchy and strived towards exploring the true nature of democracy. Lincoln believed that majority rule had to be balanced by constitutional checks and limitations.
  • Other than this, Lincoln during his term of presidency vetoed four bills, the most important being the ‘Wade-Davis Bill’ which the Radicals had passed. Also, he was behind the creation of the first U.S. income tax, which was levied on incomes higher than $800. He was also responsible for the creation of a system of national banks through the ‘National Banking Act.’
Top
His Assassination
  • Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, had contact with the Confederate secret service. It is believed that Booth initially planned to abduct Lincoln in exchange for the release of Confederate prisoners. However, enraged by Lincoln’s speech of giving black people the right to vote and thus equal status in the society, Booth resolved to assassinate him.
    Continue Reading Below
  • The tragic incident occurred during the screening of the play, ‘Our American Cousin’ at ‘Ford’s Theatre,’ where Lincoln was present along with Clara Harris, Henry Rathbone, and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. His main bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon was not present and John Parker was one of four men detailed to act as Lincoln's bodyguard.
  • Joining the driver for drinks at the interval, Parker left Lincoln unguarded, a setting which Booth capitalized on. He shot Lincoln at point-blank range on his head, mortally wounding him. He then stabbed Major Henry Rathbone and escaped.
  • Although Lincoln was provided medical help by an Army surgeon, Doctor Charles Leale, who was sitting nearby in the theatre, lack of breath and dropping pulse rate worsened the condition. Lincoln was taken to ‘Petersen House,’ where he was in a coma for nine hours before succumbing on April 15, 1865.
  • Meanwhile, Booth was tracked down 10 days later on a farm in Virginia, some 70 miles south of Washington, D.C. He put up a brief fight, finally losing out to Sergeant Boston Corbett who killed him.
  • Lincoln’s body was wrapped in the flag and escorted to the ‘White House’ by Union officers. His coffin was first laid in the ‘East Room’ and later in the ‘Capitol Rotunda’ from April 19 to April 21.
  • He made his final journey alongside his son in the executive coach for three weeks from the ‘White House’ to Springfield, Illinois, stopping at various cities across the North. People gathered in huge numbers and paid their homage to the great politician. The people paid homage by playing bands, starting bonfires, singing hymns, etc.
  • Lincoln was interred at the ‘Oak Ridge Cemetery’ in Springfield, Illinois, U.S. His tomb is called the ‘Lincoln's Tomb.’ Posthumously, Lincoln was honored by the United States and a memorial called ‘Lincoln Memorial’ was constructed in Washington D. C. It is by far the most famous and visited memorials.
    Continue Reading Below
Top
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Lincoln’s first love was Ann Rutledge, whom he had met while relocating to New Orleans. The two shared a cordial relationship which ended abruptly following her death from typhoid and fever on August 25, 1835.
  • He was involved in a relationship with Mary Owens from Kentucky. Their relationship was blissful and cordial while it lasted. Lincoln and Owens went their separate ways as they had developed second thoughts about their relationship.
  • Lincoln met Mary Todd in December 1839. Todd came from a wealthy slave-holding family in Lexington, Kentucky. The two shared great chemistry which led to their engagement the following year. However, Lincoln broke off the engagement, only to marry her on November 4, 1842.
  • The couple was blessed with four sons. Barring Robert Todd Lincoln, the eldest child, none of the children survived till adulthood. As parents, the Lincoln couple was noted for their lenient attitude. They were extremely fond of children and the death of their three children had a strong impact on their personal lives.
  • In Lincoln's memory, Lincoln’s sculpture was unveiled at ‘Mount Rushmore.’ ‘Ford Theatre’ and ‘Petersen House’ in Washington, D.C. and the ‘Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library’ and ‘Museum’ located in Springfield, Illinois are other memorials dedicated to this proficient politician.
  • As a mark of respect, Lincoln’s portrait appears on two denominations of the United States currency, penny and the $5 bill. What’s more, there are many postage stamps that bear his images.
Top
Trivia
  • He was the first president to be born out of the thirteen states. Also, he was the first president to be born in Kentucky and the first to sport a beard.
  • He was the first US president to be assassinated.
  • He is the only president to have a patent to his name. The patent was for a device which assisted in freeing the ships that would get aground in shallow waters.
  • Interestingly, unlike other presidents, he would keep all his important papers, mails, bankbook, and so on in his stovepipe hat. Probably, this is the reason why his hat was called his ‘desk and memorandum book’ and sometimes his ‘filing cabinet.’
  • He is responsible for the institution of ‘Thanksgiving Day’ in the United States of America. He declared the final Thursday in the month of November as ‘Thanksgiving Day.’ Until then, the day was celebrated sporadically and on irregular dates.
  • A man with outstanding capability, he earned quite a few nicknames in his life, some of which are ‘Honest Abe,’ ‘The Rail Splitter,’ ‘The Great Emancipator,’ and ‘Father Abraham.’
Top

See the events in life of Abraham Lincoln in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Abraham Lincoln Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/abraham-lincoln-7.php
Last Updated
- July 30, 2019

People Also Viewed

Robert Todd Lincoln
(American)
 
Donald Trump
(American)
 
Barack Obama
(American)
 
Pete Buttigieg
(American)
 

Kamala Harris
(American)
 
Joe Biden
(American)
 
Bernie Sanders
(American)
 
Jimmy Carter
(American)