Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the USA

When did he live?

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th 1809 in Kentucky. He was assassinated on April 15th 1865.

Why is he famous?

Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States (1860-1865).

He is most famous for being the President during the American Civil War, and for introducing the Emancipation Act that would lead to the abolition of slavery.

His assassination, by John Wilkes Booth at the Ford Theater in Washington, is a famous moment in US history.

Lincoln (young)
A Young Abraham Lincoln

What was his mark on history?

Abraham Lincoln is often named as one of the top 3 American Presidents. He is one of the four Presidents on Mount Rushmore and appears on the one penny coin.

Victory in the Civil War, which was started because many southern states wanted to make their own laws, meant Lincoln and the northern federal government remained in power. The power of America’s central government over state government remains in place today.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Act lead to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution¬† which, on December 18th 1865, outlawed slavery in the USA.

His 1863 Gettysburg Address is one of the most famous speeches in history.

The Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC

Notes

Abraham Lincoln was a self-educated lawyer from a relatively poor family. He became linked to Chicago after his family moved there in the 1830s. In 1842 he married Mary Todd after breaking off a previous engagement to her.

At the age of 22 Lincoln decided to canoe down the Sangamon River and take a boat to New Orleans. He then walked home.

Lincoln’s nickname was ‘Honest Abe’. In his political career he pushed for more open land ownership laws, and an end to the demonizing of Mexicans. He lost numerous elections in his early career, but as American politics changed – and after a major speech in 1860 – he was suddenly spoken of as a potential President (many people have seen similarities between Lincoln’s rise and that of Barack Obama).

Lincoln’s decisions did lead to the end of slavery, but they were as much based on politics as on sentiment: emancipating the slaves in the southern states ensured a wave of support for the north amongst African-Americans (about 200 000 of which then joined the Federalist army). Indeed, whilst Lincoln didn’t like the idea of slavery and spoke of all men being equal, he did not believe blacks should have the same rights as whites in terms of land and voting, and supported the idea of moving African Americans to new colonies.

His unusual appearance has made people believe he suffered from a disease, possibly Marfan’s Syndrome or MEN2b.

Victory in the Civil War cost Lincoln his life: only 6 days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered John Wilkes Booth (a Confederate sympathiser) shot Lincoln.

The question ‘What would Lincoln do?’ became famous when Franklin D. Roosevelt used it concerning America’s decision to join World War II.