Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, the second child of Thomas and Nancy (née Hanks) Lincoln, in a one-room log cabin on the Sinking Spring Farm in Hardin County (now LaRue County). Kentucky .
Abe's paternal grandfather and namesake, Abraham, had moved his family from Virginia to Kentucky, where he was ambushed and killed in an Indian raid in 1786, with his children, including Abe's father Thomas, looking on.
Thomas Lincoln bought and sold several farms, including Knob Creek Farm. The family attended a Separate Baptists church, which had restrictive moral standards and opposed alcohol, dancing, and slavery. Thomas Lincoln enjoyed considerable status in Kentucky, were he sat on juries, appraised estates, served on country slave patrols, and guarded prisoners. By the time his son Abraham was born, Thomas owned two 600-acre farms, several town lots, livestock, and horses. He was among the richest men in the county. However, in 1816, Thomas lost all of his land in court cases because of faulty property lines.
The family moved across the Ohio River to free (i.e., non-slave) territory in Indiana. When Abe was nine, his mother Nancy died of milk sickness in 1818. His older sister, Sarah, took charge of caring for him until their father remarried in 1819.
Lincoln was 53 years old when the Civil War began; he was assassinated six days after the Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered.
He married Mary Todd, and they had four boys, only one of whom lived to maturity. In 1858 Lincoln ran against Stephen A. Douglas for Senator. He lost the election, but in debating with Douglas he gained a national reputation that won him the Republican nomination for President in 1860.
In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. . . You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter and forced its surrender, he called on the states for 75,000 volunteers. Four more slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained within the Union. The Civil War had begun.
On January 1, 1863,President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared slaves "forever free."
Fellow-Countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper.
Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation.
Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest.
All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war.
To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.
Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh."
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nationsThe next day, Lincoln gave insights about the speech in a letter to politician Thurlow Weed:
Every one likes a compliment. Thank you for yours on my little notification speech, and on the recent Inaugeral Address. I expect the latter to wear as well as--perhaps better than--any thing I have produced; but I believe it is not immediately popular. Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case, is to deny that there is a God governing the world. It is a truth which I thought needed to be told.Charles Francis Adams, Jr., the colonel of a black regiment, wrote in a letter to his father,
|Charles Francis Adams, Jr. (on left)|
That rail-splitting lawyer is one of the wonders of the day. Once at Gettysburg and now on a greater occasion he has shown a capacity for rising to the demands of the hour . . . This inaugural strikes me in its grand simplicity and directness as being for all time the historical keynote of this war.
Adams and his father had initially considered Lincoln to be incompetent. The great-grandson of President John Adams and the grandson of President John Quincy Adams, Charles Adams, Jr. had been commissioned as a first lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry on December 28, 1861. He fought with distinction during the Battle of Gettysburg; on September 8, 1864 he was commissioned as the lieutenant colonel of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry (officially designated "5th Massachusetts Colored Volunteer Cavalry"). He led his regiment into Richmond shortly after it was captured in April 1865.
In March, the Confederate Congress authorized President Jefferson Davis to recruit slave men as soldiers, with the permission of their owners. The idea of enlisting blacks had been debated for some time. General Patrick Cleburne had suggested enlisting slaves a year before, but few in the Confederate leadership would even consider his proposal, since slavery was the foundation of Southern society. Howell Cobb protested, "If slaves will make
At the end of March, at the invitation of General Grant, Lincoln and his family left Washington to travel to the Union headquarters in Virginia. On April 3, Union forces led by the black 5th Massachusetts cavalry entered Richmond, Virginia. On April 4, Lincoln and his son Tad visited the still smoldering ruins of the South's former Capital. As they stepped ashore, Lincoln was recognized by former slaves, who greeted them ecstatically. Admiral David D. Porter, who landed with Lincoln, said,
No electric wire could have carried the news of the President's arrival soonerThe crowd around Lincoln grew as he attempted to make his way to the former Confederate White House, now the U. S. military headquarters. Military authorities guided him to the house occupied only two days earlier by Jefferson Davis. A carriage was brought out, and Lincoln and Tad rode through Richmond, touring the sites made famous during the previous four years of war, including Libby Prison. The next morning he departed Richmond. General Robert E. Lee surrendered four days later at Appomattox Court House.
than it was circulated through Richmond. As far as the eye could see the streets were alive with negroes and poor whites rushing in our direction, and the crowd increased so fast that I had to surround the President with the sailors with fixed bayonets to keep them off….They all wanted to shake hands with Mr. Lincoln or his coat tail or even to kneel down and kiss his boots!
Illustration of Lincoln in Richmond
|Lydia Maria Child|
W. Julian, "I think we have reason to thank God for Abraham Lincoln, with all his deficiencies, it must be admitted that he has grown continually."
Wayland, April 8th, 1865.
Dear Mr. Julian,
During the first years of the struggle, I felt most painfully the want of moral grandeur in the contest, and the consequent absence of public enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the strongest power that moves the human soul; but it is impossible for men to be impelled by it unless some great idea inspires them; unless they feel that some great principle is at stake.
How sad and cold were the hearts of our poor soldiers, perishing by hecatombs in the swamps, while serpentine Seward was coolly playing his diplomatic game with the King of Spades for his trump card! But even this unprincipled and cruel delay was over-ruled for good. If we had had thorough, conscientious, energetic rulers, in cabinet and field, the war would have been brought to a close so soon, that we, in the pride of quick success, should have shoved aside the black man, as of no account in the settlement of our difficulties.
Had it not been for reiterated calls upon our sons to fill the ranks of the army, popular opinion would never have sanctioned the arming of the negroes; and the present feeling in favor of emancipation is largely owing to the fact that their blood has been shed to spare ours. And even the question of negro suffrage, against which the strongest feelings of pride and prejudice have been arrayed, is continually gaining ground; and that too among men who have been conservative. They are not brought to it by a sense of justice, or by conversion to liberal principles. They are compelled by the fact that rebel voters, and their old allies the democratic party, must be held in check by the introduction of this new element.
But we must not forget that all great revolutions and reformations would look mean and meagre, if examined in details, as they occurred at the time. It is marvellous by how small a force the world is moved, in point of numbers, when God is on their side. Still more wonderful is it to observe what poor, mean cattle God yokes to the car of progress, and makes them draw in a direction they are striving to avoid. It has been most strikingly illustrated in the course of this war. The details are often ludicrous exhibitions of human inconsistency and selfishness; but the result is a sublime manifestation of an over-ruling Providence.
I think we have reason to thank God for Abraham Lincoln. With all his deficiencies, it must be admitted that he has grown continually; and, considering how Slavery had weakened and perverted the moral sense of the whole country, it was great good luck to have the people elect a man who was willing to grow.
It seems as if events have pushed the car of government so far on the radical track, that Satan himself could not now, by any exertion of force or cunning, restore things to their former condition. Yet I am far from feeling secure about a safe and judicious reconstruction. The old Satanic fire will long remain in the ashes of the rebellion. If those tyrannical oligarchs have their land-monopoly restored, they will trample on the blacks and the poor whites, as of old. Those mammoth plantations ought to be divided into small farms, and an allotted number of acres given to the soldiers, white and black. The remainder should be sold by government to the emancipated slaves, and the poor whites, at a moderate price, and with reasonable terms of credit. I do hope the President's good nature will not prevent his confiscating the lands of the leading and influential rebels. I do not desire this from any feeling of resentment, but simply because the safety of the country requires that those haughty, unscrupulous men should have no nucleus of future power left to them. Moreover, the monopoly of large tracts of land is wrong everywhere, and under all circumstances; and, like all wrong things, it is injurious in its consequences.
Another point on which I feel considerable anxiety is concerning the ratification of the amendment to the Constitution. Our ruling powers, in their zeal against State Sovereignty, have strenuously insisted, from the outset, that the Rebel States are not out of the Union, and cannot be out of the Union; though while maintaining this doctrine they have been compelled by circumstances to treat them practically as belligerent powers. Does not this position bring them into an awkward dilemma on the question of ratification? If all those States are in the Union, how can the Constitution be lawfully amended without the concurrence of their votes? Mr. Child said, from the beginning, that this position was not tenable, and would prove a breaker ahead when the time of reconstruction came. He has always maintained, in legal phraseology, that the Rebel States were out of the Union de facto, though not out of it de jure. He illustrates it by alleging that the War Power annuls all treaties between belligerent nations, de facto, though the treaties are obviously not annulled de jure, since war is often made for the express purpose of compelling the observance of those very treaties. If this view of the subject be correct, it seems to be necessary that government should abandon its theory, or the ratification of the amendment will be-come a vexed question.
George T. Garrison, 55th Massachusetts
. . . These are exciting times, are they not? When Garrison's son enters Charleston at the head of black troops; and Abraham Lincoln sends dispatches from Jeff Davis's house.
Now, when victory seems secure, I trust the U.S. will show itself magnanimous and merciful. I trust our record will not be blotted by anything like revenge. Certainly, the leaders out [sic] to be put out of the way of doing further mischief; but I wish there might be no clamoring for blood. I would deprive them of power, but not of life.
Yours most respectfully,
L. Maria Child.
Two days after the surrender of Lee's army, a jubilant crowd gathered outside the White House. Reporter Noah Brooks wrote,
Outside was a vast sea of faces, illuminated by the lights that burned in the festal array of the White House, and stretching far out into the misty darkness. It was a silent, intent, and perhaps surprised, multitude. Within stood the tall, gaunt figure of the President, deeply thoughtful, intent upon the elucidation of the generous policy which should be pursued toward the South. That this was not the sort of speech which the multitude had expected is tolerably certain.
We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart.
The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace whose joyous expression can not be restrained.
In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated. Nor must those whose harder part gives us the cause of rejoicing, be overlooked. Their honors must not be parcelled out with others. I myself was near the front, and had the high pleasure of transmitting much of the good
news to you; but no part of the honor, for plan or execution, is mine. To Gen. Grant, his skilful officers, and brave men, all belongs. The gallant Navy stood ready, but was not in reach to take active part.
By these recent successes the re-inauguration of the national authority -- reconstruction -- which has had a large share of thought from the first, is pressed much more closely upon our attention. It is fraught with great difficulty. Unlike a case of a war between independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to treat with. No one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin with, and mould from, disorganized and discordant elements. Nor is it a small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and means of reconstruction.
As a general rule, I abstain from reading the reports of attacks upon myself, wishing not to be provoked by that to which I can not properly offer an answer. In spite of this precaution, however, it comes to my knowledge that I am much censured for some supposed agency in setting up, and seeking to sustain, the new State government of Louisiana. . . . In the Annual Message of Dec. 1863 and accompanying Proclamation, I presented a plan of re-construction (as the phrase goes) which, I promised, if adopted by any State, should be acceptable to, and sustained by, the Executive government of the nation. I distinctly stated that this was not the only plan which might possibly be acceptable; and I also distinctly protested that the Executive claimed no right to say when, or whether members should be admitted to seats in Congress from such States.
This plan was, in advance, submitted to the then Cabinet, and distinctly approved by every member of it. One of them suggested that I should then, and in that connection, apply the Emancipation Proclamation to the theretofore excepted parts of Virginia and Louisiana; that I should drop the suggestion about apprenticeship for freed-people, and that I should omit the protest against my own power, in regard to the admission of members to Congress; but even he approved every part and parcel of the plan which has since been employed or touched by the action of Louisiana. The new constitution of Louisiana, declaring emancipation for the whole State, practically applies the Proclamation to the part previously excepted. It does not adopt apprenticeship for freed-people; and it is silent, as it could not well be otherwise, about the admission of members to Congress. So that, as it applies to Louisiana, every member of the Cabinet fully approved the plan.
The message went to Congress, and I received many commendations of the plan, written and verbal; and not a single objection to it, from any professed emancipationist, came to my knowledge, until after the news reached Washington that the people of Louisiana had begun to move in accordance with it. From about July 1862, I had corresponded with different persons, supposed to be interested, seeking a reconstruction of a State government for Louisiana. When the message of 1863, with the plan before mentioned, reached New Orleans, Gen. Banks wrote me that he was confident the people, with his
military co-operation, would reconstruct, substantially on that plan. I wrote him, and some of them to try it; they tried it, and the result is known. Such only has been my agency in getting up the Louisiana government. As to sustaining it, my promise is out, as before stated. But, as bad promises are better broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad promise, and break it, whenever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the public interest. But I have not yet been so convinced.
. . . We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper relation with the Union; and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact, easier to do this, without deciding, or even considering, whether these States have ever been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these States and the Union; and each forever after, innocently indulge his own opinion whether, in doing the acts, he brought the States from without, into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.
The amount of constituency, so to speak, on which the new Louisiana government rests, would be more satisfactory to all, if it contained fifty, thirty, or even twenty thousand, instead of only about twelve thousand, as it does. It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.
. . . Some twelve thousand voters in the heretofore slave-state of Louisiana have sworn allegiance to the Union, assumed to be the rightful political power of the State, held elections, organized a State government, adopted a free-state constitution, giving the benefit of public schools equally to black and white, and empowering the Legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the colored man. Their Legislature has already voted to ratify the constitutional amendment recently passed by Congress, abolishing slavery throughout the nation. These twelve thousand persons are thus fully committed to the Union, and to perpetual freedom in the state--committed to the very things, and nearly all the things the nation wants--and they ask the nations recognition and it's assistance to make good their committal. Now, if we reject, and spurn them, we do our utmost to disorganize and disperse them. We in effect say to the white men "You are worthless, or worse--we will neither help you, nor be helped by you." To the blacks we say "This cup of liberty which these, your old masters, hold to your lips, we will dash from you, and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered contents in some vague and undefined when, where, and how." If this course, discouraging and paralyzing both white and black, has any tendency to bring Louisiana into proper practical relations with the Union, I have, so far, been unable to perceive it. If, on the contrary, we recognize, and sustain the new government of Louisiana the converse of all this is made true.
We encourage the hearts, and nerve the arms of the twelve thousand to adhere to their work, and argue for it, and proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it, and ripen it to a complete success. The colored man too, in seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigilance, and energy, and daring, to the same end. Grant that he desires the elective franchise, will he not attain it sooner by saving the already advanced steps toward it, than by running backward over them? Concede that the new government of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it?
. . . What has been said of Louisiana will apply generally to other States. And yet so great peculiarities pertain to each state, and such important and sudden changes occur in the same state; and withal, so new and unprecedented is the whole case, that no exclusive, and inflexible plan can be safely prescribed as to details and colatterals [sic]. Such exclusive, and inflexible plan, would surely become a new entanglement. Important principles may, and must, be inflexible.
In the present "situation" as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new announcement to the people of the South. I am considering, and shall not fail to act, when satisfied that action will be proper.
At the time of his death and for years thereafter, Lincoln was remembered primarily as the Great Emancipator. Not until the turn of the century, when the process of (white) reconciliation was far advanced, would Americans forget or suppress the centrality of slavery and emancipation to the war experience. Lincoln would then be transformed into a symbol of national unity, and the Gettysburg Address, which did not explicitly mention slavery, would, in popular memory, supplant the Emancipation Proclamation as the greatest embodiment of his ideas.
|"With malice toward none"|
Cincinnati's Memorial Hall
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds.
"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."
~ Abraham Lincoln