Abraham Lincoln( February 12, 1809-- April 15, 1865] was an American statesman, politician, and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War, its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. He preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the U.S. economy.
Born in Kentucky, Lincoln grew up on the frontier in a poor family. Self-educated, he became a lawyer, Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator and Congressman. In 1849, he left government to resume his law practice, but angered by the success of Democrats in opening the prairie lands to slavery, reentered politics in 1854. He became a leader in the new Republican Party and gained national attention in 1858 for debating national Democratic leader Stephen A. Douglas in the 1858 Illinois Senate campaign. He then ran for President in 1860, sweeping the North and winning. Southern pro-slavery elements took his win as proof that the North was rejecting the constitutional rights of Southern states to practice slavery. They began the process of seceding from the union. To secure its independence, the new Confederate States of America fired on Fort Sumter, one of the few U.S. forts in the South. Lincoln called up volunteers and militia to suppress the rebellion and restore the Union.
As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican Party, Lincoln confronted Radical Republicans, who demanded harsher treatment of the South; War Democrats, who rallied a large faction of former opponents into his camp; anti-war Democrats( called Copperheads], who despised him; and irreconcilable secessionists, who plotted his assassination. Lincoln fought the factions by pitting them against each other, by carefully distributing political patronage, and by appealing to the American people. His Gettysburg Address became an iconic call for nationalism, republicanism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy. He suspended habeas corpus, and he averted British intervention by defusing the Trent Affair. Lincoln closely supervised the war effort, including the selection of generals and the naval blockade that shut down the South 's trade. As the war progressed, he maneuvered to end slavery, issuing the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863; ordering the Army to protect escaped slaves, encouraging Border States to outlaw slavery, and pushing through Congress the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlawed slavery across the country.
Lincoln managed his own re-election campaign. He sought to reconcile his damaged nation by avoiding retribution against the secessionists. A few days after the Battle of Appomattox Court House, he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer, on April 14, 1865, and died the following day. Abraham Lincoln is remembered as the United States ' martyr hero. He is consistently ranked both by scholars and the public as among the greatest U.S. presidents.
Family and childhood
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, as the second child of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, in a one-room log cabin on Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky. He was a descendant of Samuel Lincoln, an Englishman who migrated from Hingham, Norfolk, to its namesake Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1638. Samuel 's grandson and great-grandson began the family 's westward migration, passing through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Lincoln 's paternal grandfather and namesake, Captain Abraham Lincoln, moved the family from Virginia to Jefferson County, Kentucky, in the 1780s. Captain Lincoln was killed in an Indian raid in 1786. His children, including eight-year-old Thomas, Abraham 's father, witnessed the attack. Thomas then worked at odd jobs in Kentucky and in Tennessee, before settling with members of his family in Hardin County, Kentucky, in the early 1800s.
Lincoln 's mother, Nancy, is widely assumed to have been the daughter of Lucy Hanks, although no record documents this. Thomas and Nancy married on June 12, 1806, in Washington County, and moved to Elizabethtown, Kentucky. They produced three children: Sarah, born on February 10, 1807; Abraham, on February 12, 1809; and Thomas, who died in infancy.
Thomas Lincoln bought or leased farms in Kentucky. Thomas became embroiled in legal disputes, and lost all but 200 acres( 81 ha] of his land in court disputes over property titles. In 1816, the family moved to Indiana, where the survey process was more reliable and land titles were more secure. Indiana was a" free''( non-slaveholding] territory, and they settled in an" unbroken forest'' in Hurricane Township, Perry County.( Their land became part of Spencer County, Indiana, when the county was established in 1818.] In 1860, Lincoln noted that the family 's move to Indiana was" partly on account of slavery'', but mainly due to land title difficulties.
In Kentucky and Indiana, Thomas worked as a farmer, cabinetmaker, and carpenter. He owned farms, town lots and livestock, paid taxes, sat on juries, appraised estates, served on country slave patrols, and guarded prisoners. Thomas and Nancy were members of a Separate Baptists church, which forbade alcohol, dancing, and slavery.
Overcoming financial challenges, Thomas eventually obtained clear title to 80 acres( 32 ha] of land in what became known as the .
Mother 's death
On October 5, 1818, Nancy Lincoln died of milk sickness, leaving 11-year-old Sarah in charge of a household that included her father, 9-year-old Abraham, and Dennis Hanks, Nancy 's 19-year-old orphaned cousin. Those who knew Lincoln later recalled that he was distraught over his sister 's death; she died on January 20, 1828, while giving birth to a stillborn son.
On December 2, 1819, Thomas married Sarah" Sally'' Bush Johnston, a widow from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, with three children of her own. Abraham became close to his stepmother, whom he referred to as" Mother''. Lincoln disliked the hard labor associated with farm life. He was called lazy for all his" reading, scribbling, writing, ciphering, writing Poetry, etc.'' His stepmother acknowledged he did not enjoy" physical labor'', but loved to read.
Lincoln was largely self-educated. His formal schooling( from travelling teachers] was intermittent, totaling less than 12 months; however, he was an avid reader and retained a lifelong interest in learning. Family, neighbors, and schoolmates recalled that he read and reread the King James Bible, Aesop 's Fables, John Bunyan 's The Pilgrim 's Progress, Daniel Defoe 's Robinson Crusoe, Mason Locke Weems 's The Life of Washington, and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, among others.
Teenaged Lincoln took responsibility for chores. He accepted the customary practice that a son give his father all earnings from work outside the home until age 21. Lincoln became adept at using an axe. Tall for his age, Lincoln was strong and athletic. He became known for his strength and audacity after winning a wrestling match with the renowned leader of a group of ruffians known as" the Clary 's Grove boys''. Illinois
In early March 1830, partly out of fear of a milk sickness outbreak, several members of the extended Lincoln family moved west to Illinois, a free state, and settled in Macon County, 10 miles( 16 km] west of Decatur. Historians disagree on who initiated the move; Thomas Lincoln had no obvious reason to do so. One possibility is that other members of the family, including Dennis Hanks, might not have matched Thomas 's stability and steady income.
After the family relocated to Illinois, Abraham became increasingly distant from Thomas, in part because of his father 's lack of education, although occasionally lending him money. In 1831, as Thomas and other family prepared to move to a new homestead in Coles County, Illinois, Abraham left home. He lived in New Salem for six years. Lincoln and some friends took goods by flatboat to New Orleans, where he witnessed slavery firsthand.
Marriage and children
A seated Lincoln holding a book as his young son looks at it
1864 photo of President Lincoln with youngest son, Tad
Black and white photo of Mary Todd Lincoln 's shoulders and head
Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln, age 28
According to some sources, Lincoln 's first romantic interest was Ann Rutledge, whom he met when he first moved to New Salem; these sources indicate that by 1835, they were in a relationship but not formally engaged. She died on August 25, 1835, most likely of typhoid fever. In the early 1830s, he met Mary Owens from Kentucky.
Late in 1836, Lincoln agreed to a match with Mary if she returned to New Salem. Mary arrived in November 1836, and Lincoln courted her for a time; however, they both had second thoughts. On August 16, 1837, Lincoln wrote Mary a letter suggesting he would not blame her if she ended the relationship. She never replied.
In 1840, Lincoln became engaged to Mary Todd, a daughter of Robert Smith Todd, a wealthy slave-owner in Lexington, Kentucky. They met in Springfield, Illinois in December 1839 and were engaged a year later. A wedding set for January 1, 1841, was canceled at Lincoln 's initiative. They reconciled and married on November 4, 1842, in the Springfield mansion of Mary 's married sister. While anxiously preparing for the nuptials, Lincoln was asked where he was going and replied," To hell, I suppose.'' In 1844, the couple bought a house in Springfield near Lincoln 's law office. Mary kept house, often with the help of a relative or hired servant.
He was an affectionate, though often absent, husband and father of four children. Robert Todd Lincoln was born in 1843 and Edward Baker Lincoln( Eddie] in 1846. Edward died on February 1, 1850, in Springfield, probably of tuberculosis." Willie'' Lincoln was born on December 21, 1850, and died of a fever on February 20, 1862. The Lincolns ' fourth son, Thomas" Tad'' Lincoln, was born on April 4, 1853, and died of heart failure at the age of 18 on July 16, 1871. Robert reached adulthood and produced children. The Lincolns ' last descendant, great-grandson Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, died in 1985. Lincoln" was remarkably fond of children'', and the Lincolns were not considered to be strict with their own. In fact, Lincoln 's law partner William H. Herndon would grow irritated when Lincoln would bring his children to the law office. Their father, it seemed, was often too absorbed in his own work to notice his children 's behavior. Herndon recounted," I have felt many and many a time that I wanted to wring their little necks, and yet out of respect for Lincoln I kept my mouth shut. Lincoln did not note what his children were doing or had done.''
The deaths of their sons had profound effects on both parents. Abraham suffered from" melancholy'', a condition later referred to as clinical depression. Later in life, Mary struggled with the stresses of losing her husband and sons, and Robert committed her temporarily to a mental health asylum in 1875.
Lincoln 's father-in-law and others of the Todd family were either slave owners or slave traders. Lincoln was close to the Todds, and he and his family occasionally visited them.
Mary cooked for Lincoln often during his presidency. Raised by a wealthy family, her cooking was simple, but satisfied Lincoln 's tastes, which included imported oysters.
Early career and militia service
In 1832 Lincoln and partner Denton Offutt bought a general store on credit in New Salem, Illinois. Although the economy was booming, the business struggled and Lincoln eventually sold his . That March he entered politics, running for the Illinois General Assembly, advocating navigational improvements on the Sangamon River. He could draw crowds as a raconteur, but he lacked an education, powerful friends, and money and lost the election.
Lincoln interrupted his campaign to briefly serve as a captain in the Illinois Militia( during the Black Hawk War]. He then returned to his campaign. At his first speech, he observed a supporter in the crowd under attack, grabbed the assailant by his" neck and the seat of his trousers'' and tossed him. Lincoln finished eighth out of 13 candidates( the top four were elected], though he received 277 of the 300 votes cast in the New Salem precinct.
Lincoln served as New Salem 's postmaster and later as county surveyor, all the while reading voraciously. He decided to become a lawyer and began teaching himself law by reading Blackstone 's Commentaries on the Laws of England and other law books. Of his learning method, Lincoln stated:" I studied with nobody''.
Illinois state legislature
His second state legislature campaign in 1834 was successful. Although he ran as a Whig, many Democrats favored him over a more powerful Whig opponent. Lincoln served four successive terms in the Illinois House of Representatives as a Whig from Sangamon County. He supported the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, later serving as a Canal Commissioner. In the 1835-- 36 legislative session, he voted to expand suffrage beyond white landowners to all white males. He was known for his" free soil'' stance of opposing both slavery and abolitionism. He first articulated this in 1837, saying,''[ The] Institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils.'' He followed Henry Clay in supporting the American Colonization Society program of advocating abolition and helping freed slaves to settle in Liberia.
Admitted to the Illinois bar in 1836, he moved to Springfield, Illinois, and began to practice law under John T. Stuart, Mary Todd 's cousin. Lincoln developed a reputation as a formidable adversary during cross-examinations and closing arguments. He partnered with Stephen T. Logan from 1841 until 1844. Then Lincoln began his practice with William Herndon, whom Lincoln thought" a studious young man''.
U.S. House of Representatives, 1847-- 1849
Lincoln in his late 30s as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Photo taken by one of Lincoln 's law students around 1846.
From the early 1830s, Lincoln was a steadfast Whig and professed to friends in 1861 to be" an old line Whig, a disciple of Henry Clay''. The party, including Lincoln, favored economic modernization in banking, tariffs to fund internal improvements including railroads, and urbanization.
Lincoln ran for the Whig nomination for Illinois 's 7th district of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1843, but was defeated by John J. Hardin. However, Lincoln won support for the principle of rotation, whereby Hardin would retire after only one term. Lincoln hoped that this arrangement would lead to his nomination in 1846. Lincoln was indeed elected to the House of Representatives in 1846, where he served one two-year term. He was the only Whig in the Illinois delegation, showing party loyalty by participating in almost all votes and making speeches that echoed the party line. Lincoln, in collaboration with abolitionist Congressman Joshua R. Giddings, wrote a bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia with compensation for the owners, enforcement to capture fugitive slaves, and a popular vote on the matter. He abandoned the bill when it failed to garner sufficient Whig supporters.
Committee Post Office and Post Roads
Committee on Expenditures in the War Department
On foreign and military policy, Lincoln spoke out against the Mexican-- American War, which he attributed to President James K. Polk 's desire for" military glory-- that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood''. Lincoln supported the Wilmot Proviso, which if passed would have banned slavery in any U.S. territory won from Mexico.
Lincoln emphasized his opposition to Polk by drafting and introducing his Spot Resolutions. The war had begun with a Mexican slaughter of American soldiers in territory disputed by Mexico, and Polk insisted that Mexican soldiers had" invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil'' .202 Lincoln demanded that Polk show Congress the exact spot on which blood had been shed and prove that the spot was on American soil.
Congress neither debated nor enacted the resolution, the national papers ignored it, and it cost Lincoln political support in his district. One Illinois newspaper derisively nicknamed him" spotty Lincoln''. Lincoln later regretted some of his statements, especially his attack on presidential war-making powers.
Realizing Clay was unlikely to win the presidency, Lincoln, who had pledged in 1846 to serve only one term in the House, supported General Zachary Taylor for the Whig nomination in the 1848 presidential election. Taylor won and Lincoln hoped to be appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office, but lost out. The administration offered him the consolation prize of secretary or governor of the Oregon Territory. This distant territory was a Democratic stronghold, and acceptance of the post would have effectively ended his legal and political career in Illinois, so he declined and resumed his law practice.
Lincoln in 1857
Lincoln practiced law in Springfield, handling" every kind of business that could come before a prairie lawyer''. Twice a year for 16 years, 10 weeks at a time, he appeared in county seats in the midstate region when the county courts were in session. Lincoln handled transportation cases in the midst of the nation 's western expansion, particularly river barge conflicts under the many new railroad bridges. As a riverboat man, Lincoln initially favored those interests, but ultimately represented whoever hired him. He later represented a bridge company against a riverboat company in a landmark case involving a canal boat that sank after hitting a bridge. In 1849, he received a patent for a flotation device for the movement of boats in shallow water. The idea was never commercialized, but Lincoln is the only president to hold a patent.
In 1851, he represented the Alton & Sangamon Railroad in a dispute with James A. Barret, who had refused to pay the balance on his pledge to buy on the grounds that the company had changed its original train route. Lincoln successfully argued that the railroad company was not bound by its original charter; the charter was amended in the public interest to provide a newer, superior, and less expensive route, and the corporation retained the right to demand Barret 's payment. The decision by the Illinois Supreme Court was cited by many other courts. Lincoln appeared before the Illinois Supreme Court in 175 cases, in 51 as sole counsel, of which 31 were decided in his favor. From 1853 to 1860, another of Lincoln 's largest clients was the Illinois Central Railroad. Lincoln 's legal reputation gave rise to his nickname" Honest Abe''.
Lincoln 's most notable criminal trial occurred in 1858 when he defended William" Duff'' Armstrong, who was on trial for the murder of James Preston Metzker. The case is famous for Lincoln 's use of a fact established by judicial notice in order to challenge the credibility of an eyewitness. After an opposing witness testified to seeing the crime in the moonlight, Lincoln produced a Farmers ' Almanac showing the moon was at a low angle, drastically reducing visibility. Armstrong was acquitted.
Lincoln rarely raised objections; but in an 1859 case, where he defended a cousin, Peachy Harrison, who was accused of killing a man, Lincoln angrily protested the judge 's decision to exclude evidence favorable to his client. Instead of holding Lincoln in contempt of court as was expected, the judge, a Democrat, reversed his ruling, allowing the evidence and acquitting Harrison.
Republican politics 1854-- 1860
Emergence as Republican leader
The debate over the status of slavery in the territories exacerbated sectional tensions between the slave-holding South and the free North. The Compromise of 1850 failed to defuse the issue. In the early 1850s, Lincoln supported sectional mediation, and his 1852 eulogy for Clay focused on the latter 's support for gradual emancipation and opposition to" both extremes'' on the slavery issue. As the 1850s progressed, the debate over slavery in the Nebraska Territory and Kansas Territory became particularly acrimonious, and Senator Douglas proposed popular sovereignty as a compromise measure; the proposal would allow the electorate of each territory to decide the status of slavery. The proposal alarmed many Northerners, who hoped to prevent the spread of slavery into the territories. Despite this Northern opposition, Douglas 's Kansas-- Nebraska Act narrowly passed Congress in May 1854.
For months after its passage, Lincoln did not publicly , but he came to strongly oppose it. 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 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 can not 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...'' Lincoln 's attacks on the Kansas-- Nebraska Act marked his return to political life.
Nationally, the Whigs were irreparably split by the Kansas-- Nebraska Act and other efforts to compromise on the slavery issue. Reflecting the demise of his party, Lincoln wrote in 1855," I think I am a Whig, but others say there are no Whigs, and that I am an abolitionist[...] I do no more than oppose the extension of slavery.'' Drawing on the antislavery portion of the Whig Party, and combining Free Soil, Liberty, and antislavery Democratic Party members, the new Republican Party formed as a northern party dedicated to antislavery. Lincoln resisted early recruiting attempts, fearing that it would serve as a platform for extreme abolitionists. Lincoln hoped to rejuvenate the Whigs, though he lamented his party 's growing closeness with the nativist Know Nothing movement.
In the 1854 elections, Lincoln was elected to the Illinois legislature but declined to take his seat. 205 In the elections ' aftermath, which showed the power and popularity of the movement opposed to the Kansas-- Nebraska Act, Lincoln instead sought election to the United States Senate. At that time, senators were elected by the state legislature. After leading in the first six rounds of voting, he was unable to obtain a majority. Lincoln instructed his backers to vote for Lyman Trumbull. Trumbull was an antislavery Democrat, and had received few votes in the earlier ballots; his supporters, also antislavery Democrats, had vowed not to support any Whig. Lincoln 's decision to withdraw enabled his Whig supporters and Trumbull 's antislavery Democrats to combine and defeat the mainstream Democratic candidate, Joel Aldrich Matteson.
In part due to the ongoing violent political confrontations in Kansas, opposition to the Kansas-- Nebraska Act remained strong throughout the North. As the 1856 elections approached, Lincoln joined the Republicans. He attended the May 1856 Bloomington Convention, which formally established the Illinois Republican Party. The convention platform asserted that Congress had the right to regulate slavery in the territories and called for the immediate admission of Kansas as a free state. Lincoln gave the final speech of the convention, in which he endorsed the party platform and called for the preservation of the Union. At the June 1856 Republican National Convention, Lincoln received significant support to run for vice president, though the party nominated William Dayton to run with John C. Frémont. Lincoln supported the Republican ticket, campaigning throughout Illinois. The Democrats nominated former Ambassador James Buchanan, who had been out of the country since 1853 and thus had avoided the slavery debate, while the Know Nothings nominated former Whig President Millard Fillmore. Buchanan defeated both his challengers. Republican William Henry Bissell won election as Governor of Illinois. Lincoln 's vigorous campaigning had made him the leading Republican in Illinois.
Lincoln denounced the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford as part of a conspiracy to extend slavery.
Eric Foner( 2010] contrasts the abolitionists and anti-slavery Radical Republicans of the Northeast, who saw slavery as a sin, with the conservative Republicans, who thought it was bad because it hurt white people and blocked progress. Foner argues that Lincoln was a moderate in the middle, opposing slavery primarily because it violated the republicanism principles of the Founding Fathers, especially the equality of all men and democratic self-government as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Dred Scott
In March 1857, in Dred Scott v. Sandford, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote that blacks were not citizens and derived no rights from the Constitution. While many Democrats hoped that Dred Scott would end the dispute over slavery in the territories, the decision sparked further outrage in the North. Lincoln denounced it, alleging it was the product of a conspiracy of Democrats to support the Slave Power. Lincoln argued," The of the Declaration of Independence never intended` to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity', but they` did consider all men created equal-- equal in certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'.''
Lincoln-- Douglas debates and Cooper Union speech
Douglas was up for re-election in 1858, and Lincoln hoped to defeat him. With the former Democrat Trumbull now serving as a Republican senator, many in the party felt that a former Whig should be nominated in 1858, and Lincoln 's 1856 campaigning and willingness to support Trumbull in 1854 had earned him favor. Some eastern Republicans favored Douglas 's re-election in 1858, since he had led the opposition to the Lecompton Constitution, which would have admitted Kansas as a slave state. Many Illinois Republicans resented this eastern interference. For the first time, Illinois Republicans held a convention to agree upon a Senate candidate, and Lincoln won the nomination with little opposition.
Accepting the nomination, Lincoln delivered his House Divided Speech, drawing on Mark 3:25," A house divided against itself can not stand. I believe this government can not endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved-- I do not expect the house to fall-- but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.'' The speech created an evocative image of the danger of disunion. The stage was then set for the campaign for statewide election of the Illinois legislature which would, in turn, select Lincoln or Douglas. When informed of Lincoln 's nomination, Douglas stated,''[ Lincoln] is the strong man of the party... and if I beat him, my victory will be hardly won.''
The Senate campaign featured seven debates, 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, and accused Lincoln of having joined the abolitionists. The debates had an atmosphere of a prize fight and drew crowds in the thousands. Lincoln 's argument was rooted in morality. He claimed that Douglas represented a conspiracy to extend slavery to free states. Douglas 's argument was legal, claiming that Lincoln was defying the of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Dred Scott decision.
Though the Republican legislative candidates won more popular votes, the Democrats won more seats, and the legislature re-elected Douglas. Lincoln 's articulation of the issues gave him a national political presence. In May 1859, Lincoln purchased the Illinois Staats-Anzeiger, a German-language newspaper that was consistently supportive; most of the state 's 130,000 German Americans voted Democratic but the German-language paper mobilized Republican support. In the aftermath of the 1858 election, newspapers frequently mentioned Lincoln as a potential Republican presidential candidate, rivaled by William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Simon Cameron. While Lincoln was popular in the Midwest, he lacked support in the Northeast, and was unsure whether to seek the office. In January 1860, Lincoln told a group of political allies that he would accept the nomination if offered, and in the following months several local papers endorsed his candidacy.
On February 27, 1860, New York party leaders invited Lincoln to give a speech at Cooper Union to a group of powerful Republicans. Lincoln argued that the Founding Fathers had little use for popular sovereignty and had repeatedly sought to restrict slavery. Lincoln insisted that morality required opposition to slavery, and rejected any" groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong''. Despite his inelegant appearance-- many in the audience thought him awkward and even ugly-- Lincoln demonstrated intellectual leadership that brought him into contention. Journalist Noah Brooks reported," No man ever before made such an impression on his first appeal to a New York audience.''
Historian David Herbert Donald described the speech as a" superb political move for an unannounced candidate, to appear in one rival 's( Seward] own state at an event by the second rival 's( Chase] loyalists, while not mentioning either by name during its delivery''. In response to an inquiry about his ambitions, Lincoln said," The taste is in my mouth a little.''
1860 presidential election
On May 9-- 10, 1860, the Illinois Republican State Convention was held in Decatur. Lincoln 's followers organized a campaign team led by David Davis, Norman Judd, Leonard Swett, and Jesse DuBois, and Lincoln received his first endorsement. Exploiting his embellished frontier legend( clearing land and splitting fence rails], Lincoln 's supporters adopted the label of" The Rail Candidate''. In 1860, Lincoln described himself:" I am in height, six , four inches, nearly; lean in flesh, weighing, on an average, one hundred and eighty pounds; dark complexion, with coarse black hair, and gray eyes.''
On May 18, at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Lincoln won the nomination on the third ballot, beating candidates such as Seward and Chase. A former Democrat, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, was nominated for Vice President to balance the ticket. Lincoln 's success depended on his campaign team, his reputation as a moderate on the slavery issue, and his strong support for Whiggish programs of internal improvements and the tariff.
Pennsylvania put him over the top, led by Pennsylvania iron interests who were reassured by his tariff support. Lincoln 's managers had focused on this delegation, while following Lincoln 's dictate to" Make no contracts that bind me''.
Most Republicans agreed with Lincoln that the North was the aggrieved party, as the Slave Power tightened its grasp on the national government. Throughout the 1850s, Lincoln doubted the prospects of civil war, and his supporters rejected claims that his election would incite secession. Douglas was selected as the candidate of the Northern Democrats. Delegates from eleven slave states walked out of the Democratic convention, disagreeing with Douglas 's position on popular sovereignty, and ultimately selected incumbent Vice President John C. Breckinridge as their candidate. A group of former Whigs and Know Nothings formed the Constitutional Union Party and nominated John Bell of Tennessee. Lincoln and Douglas competed for votes in the North, while Bell and Breckinridge primarily found support in the South.
Lincoln 's campaign team carefully projected his image as an ideal candidate. Michael Martinez wrote:
Lincoln and his political advisers manipulated his image and background... Sometimes he appeared as a straight-shooting, plain-talking, common-sense-wielding man of the people. His image as the" Rail Splitter'' dates from this era. His supporters also portrayed him as" Honest Abe,'' the country fellow who was simply dressed and not especially polished or formal in his manner but who was as honest and trustworthy as his legs were long. Even Lincoln 's tall, gangly frame was used to good advantage during the campaign as many drawings and posters show the candidates sprinting past his vertically challenged rivals. At other times, Lincoln appeared as a sophisticated, thoughtful, articulate," presidential'' candidate.
Prior to the Republican convention, the Lincoln campaign began cultivating a nationwide youth organization, the Wide Awakes, which it used to generate popular support throughout the country to spearhead voter registration drives, thinking that new voters and young voters tended to embrace new parties. Lincoln 's ideas of abolishing slavery grew, drawing more supporters. People of the Northern states knew the Southern states would vote against Lincoln and rallied supporters for Lincoln.
As Douglas and the other candidates campaigned, Lincoln was the only one to give no speeches. Instead, he relied on the enthusiasm of the Republican Party. The party did the leg work that produced majorities across the North, and produced an abundance of campaign posters, leaflets, and newspaper editorials. Thousands of Republican speakers focused first on the party platform, and second on Lincoln 's life story, emphasizing his childhood poverty. The goal was to demonstrate the superior power of" free labor'', whereby a common farm boy could work his way to the top by his own efforts. The Republican Party 's production of campaign literature dwarfed the combined opposition; a Chicago Tribune writer produced a pamphlet that detailed Lincoln 's life, and sold 100,000-- 200,000 copies.
In 1860, northern and western electoral votes put Lincoln into the White House.
On November 6, Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States. He was the first Republican president and his victory was entirely due to his support in the North and West; no ballots were cast for him in 10 of the 15 Southern slave states, and he won only two of 996 counties in all the Southern states. Lincoln received 1,866,452 votes, or 39.8 % of the total in a four-way race. He won the free Northern states, as well as California and Oregon.
Lincoln 's victory in the Electoral College was decisive: Lincoln had 180 and his opponents added together had only 123.