Presidents of the United States

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Abraham Lincoln

From: Portrait and Biographical record of Rockland and Orange Counties, New York
By: Chapman Publishing Company
Published: 1895


ABRAHAM LINCOLN, the sixteenth President of the United States, was born in Hardin County, Ky., February 12, 1809. About
the year 1780, a man by the name of Abraham Lincoln left Virginia with his family and moved into the then wilds of Kentucky. Only two years after this emigration, and while still a young man, he was working one day in a field, when an Indian stealthily approached and killed him. His widow was left in extreme poverty with five little children, three boys and two girls. Thomas, the yotingest of the boys, and the father of President Abraham Lincoln, was four years of age at his father's death.

When twenty-eight years old, Thomas Lincoln built a log cabin, and married Nancy Hanks, the daughter of another family of poor Kentucky emigrants, who had also come from Virginia. Their second child was Abraham Lincoln, the subject of this sketch. The mother of Abraham was a noble woman, gentle, loving, pensive, created to adorn a palace, but doomed to toil and pine, and die in a hovel. "All that I am or hope to be," exclaimed the grateful son, "I owe to my angelmother." When he was eight years of age, his father sold his cabin and small farm and moved to Indiana, where two years later his mother died.

As the years rolled on, the lot of this lowly family was the usual lot of humanity. There were joys and griefs, weddings and funerals. Abraham's sister Sarah, to whom he was tenderly attached, was married when a child of but fourteen years of age, and soon died. The family was gradually scattered, and Thomas Lincoln sold out his squatter's claim in 1830, and emigrated to Macon County, Ill.

Abraham Lincoln was then twenty-one years of age. With vigorous hands he aided his father in rearing another log cabin, and worked quite diligently at this until he saw the family comfortably settled, and their small lot of enclosed prairie planted with corn, when he announced to his father his intention to leave home, and to go out into the world and seek his fortune. Little did he or his friends imagine how brilliant that fortune was to be. He saw the value of education and was intensely earnest to improve his mind to the utmost of his power. Religion he revered. His morals were pure, and he was uncontaminated by a single vice.

Young Abraham worked for a time as a hired laborer among the farmers. Then he went to Springfield, where he was employed in building a large flat-boat. In this he took a herd of swine, floated them down the Sangamon to Illinois, and thence by the Mississippi to New Orleans. Whatever Abraham Lincoln undertook, he performed so faithfully as to give great satisfaction to his employers. In this adventure the latter were so well pleased, that upon his return they placed a store and mill under his care.

In 1832, at the outbreak of the Black Hawk War, he enlisted and was chosen Captain of a company. He returned to Sangamon County, and, although only twenty-three years of age, was a candidate for the Legislature, but was defeated. He soon after received from Andrew Jackson the appointment of Postmaster of New Salem. His only post-office was his hat. All the letters he received he carried there, ready to deliver to those he chanced to meet. He studied surveying, and soon made this his business. In 1834 he again became a candidate for the Legislature and was elected. Mr. Stuart, of Springfield, advised him to study law. He walked from New Salem to Springfield, borrowed of Mr. Stuart a load oJ books, carried them back, and began his legal studies. When the Legislature assembled, he trudged on foot with his pack on his back one hundred miles to Vandalia, then the capital. In 1836 he was re-elected to the Legislature. Here it was he first met Stephen A. Douglas. In 1839 he removed to Springfield and began the practice of law. His success with the jury was so great that he was soon engaged in almost every noted case in the circuit.

In 1854 the great discussion began between Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas on the slavery question. In the organization of the Republican party in Illinois, in 1856, he took an active part, and at once became one of the leaders in that party. Mr. Lincoln's speeches in opposition to Senator Douglas in the contest in 1858 for a seat in the Senate, form a most notable part of his history. The issue was on the slavery question, and he took the broad ground of the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal. Mr. Lincoln was defeated in this contest, but won a far higher prize.

The great Republican Convention met at Chicago on the 16th of June, 1860. The delegates and strangers who crowded the city amounted to twenty-five thousand. An immense building called "The Wigwam," was reared to accommodate the convention. There were eleven candidates for whom votes were thrown. William H. Seward, a man whose fame as a statesman had long filled the land, was the most prominent. It was generally supposed he would be the nominee. Abraham Lincoln, however, received the nomination on the third ballot.

Election day came, and Mr. Lincoln received one hundred and eighty electoral votes out of two hundred and three cast, and was, therefore, constitutionally elected President of the United States. The tirade of abuse that was poured upon this good and merciful man, especially by the slaveholders, was greater than upon any other man ever elected to this high position. In February, 1861, Mr. Lincoln started for Washington, stopping in all the large cities on his way, making speeches. The whole journey was fraught with much danger. Many of the Southern States had already seceded, and several attempts at assassination were afterward brought to light. A gang in Baltimore had arranged upon his arrival to "get up a row," and in the confusion to make sure of his death with revolvers and hand-grenades. A detective unravelled the plot. A secret and special train was provided to take him from Harrisburg, through Baltimore, at an unexpected hour of the night. The train started at half-past ten, and to prevent any possible communication on the part of the Secessionists with their Confederate gang in Baltimore, as soon as the train had started the telegraph-wires were cut. Mr. Lincoln reached Washington in safety and was inaugurated, although great anxiety was felt by all loyal people.

In the selection of his cabinet Mr. Lincoln gave to Mr. Seward the Department of State, and to other prominent opponents before the convention he gave important positions; but during no other administration had the duties devolving upon the President been so manifold, and the responsibilities so great, as those which fell to his lot. Knowing this, and feeling his own weakness and inability to meet, and in his own strength to cope with, the difficulties, he learned early to seek Divine wisdom and guidance in determining his plans, and Divine comfort in all his trials, both personal and national. Contrary to his own estimate of himself, Mt. Lincoln was one of the most courageous of men. He went directly into the rebel capital just as the retreating foe was leaving, with no guard but a few sailors. From the time he had left Springfield, in 1861, however, plans had been made for his assassination, and he at last fell a victim to one of them. April 14, 1865, he, with Gen. Grant, was urgently invited to attend Ford's Theatre. It was announced that they would be present. Gen. Grant, however, left the city. President Lincoln, feeling, with his characteristic kindliness of heart, that it would be a disappointment if he should fail them, very reluctantly consented to go. While listening to the play, an actor by the name of John Wilkes Booth entered the box where the President and family were seated, and fired a bullet into his brain. He died the next morning at seven o'clock.

Never before in the history of the world was a nation plunged into such deep grief by the death of its ruler Strong men met in the streets and wept in speechless anguish. His was a life which will fitly become a model. His name as the Savior of his country will live with that of Washington's, its Father.

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