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50. Abraham Lincoln - The Extraordinary Statesman and Messaiah of Democracy

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Why Abraham Lincoln is One of the Greatest Presidents of America ?

He was a Rural village boy , wood cutter and ferryboat man,.., read by the light of the fireplace and served as Postmaster .... The man who failed in business at the age of 21; was defeated in a legislative race at the age 22; failed again in business at age 24; had his sweetheart die when he was age 26; had a nervous breakdown at age 27; lost a congressional race at age 34; lost senatorial race at age 45; failed in an effort to become vice- president at age 47; lost a senatorial race at age 49; and was elected president of the United States at age 52......


Abraham Lincoln ( February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an

American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States (1861–1865). Lincoln led the nation through its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis in the American Civil War. He preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the U.S. economy.

Lincoln was born in poverty in a log cabin and was raised on the frontier primarily in Indiana. He was self-educated and became a lawyer, Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator, and U.S. Congressman from Illinois. In 1849 he returned to his law practice but became vexed by the opening of additional lands to slavery as a result of the Kansas–Nebraska Act. He reentered politics in 1854, becoming a leader in the new Republican Party, and he reached a national audience in the 1858 debates against Stephen Douglas. Lincoln ran for President in 1860, sweeping the North in victory. Pro-slavery elements in the South equated his success with the North's rejection of their right to practice slavery, and southern states began seceding from the union. To secure its independence, the new Confederate States of America fired on Fort Sumter, a U.S. fort in the South, and Lincoln called up forces to suppress the rebellion and restore the Union.

As the leader of moderate Republicans, Lincoln stood in the center of the factions with friends and opponents on both sides. War Democrats rallied a large faction of former opponents into his moderate camp, but they were countered by Radical Republicans, who demanded harsh treatment of the Southern traitors. Anti-war Democrats (called "Copperheads") despised him. There were irreconcilable pro-Confederate elements who plotted his assassination. Lincoln managed the factions by pitting them against each other, by carefully distributing political patronage, and by appealing to the American people. His Gettysburg Address became a historic clarion call for nationalism, republicanism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy.

Lincoln scrutinized the strategy and tactics in the war effort, including the selection of generals and the naval blockade of the South's trade. He suspended habeas corpus, and he averted British intervention by defusing the Trent Affair. He engineered the end to slavery with his Emancipation Proclamation and his order that the Army protect escaped slaves.

He also encouraged border states to outlaw slavery, and promoted the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which outlawed slavery across the country.

Lincoln managed his own successful re-election campaign. He sought to reconcile the war-torn nation by exonerating the secessionists. On April 14, 1865, just days after the war's end at Appomattox, he was enjoying a night at the theatre with his wife Mary when he was assassinated by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln's marriage had produced four sons, two of whom preceded him in death, with severe emotional impact upon him and Mary. Lincoln is remembered as the United States' martyr hero, and he is consistently ranked both by scholars and the public as the greatest U.S. president.

Gettysburg's Historic Speech

The full text of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is as follows:

Text of the Speech :

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. "Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. "But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

II.Birth and Early Life

The man who preserved the Union and issued the Emancipation Proclamation came into the world on February 12, 1809. Abraham Lincoln was born in humble surroundings, a one-room log cabin with dirt floors in Hardin County, Kentucky. His father, Thomas Lincoln, could not read and could barely sign his name. He was a stern man whom young Abe never liked very much. Himself born to impoverished parents, Thomas Lincoln was a farmer and carpenter who moved the family from rural

Pic : Birth Place of Lincoln

Kentucky to frontier Indiana when young Abe was seven years old. Thomas built a crude 360-square foot log cabin where he lived with his wife, Abe, and elder daughter, Sarah. Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks, died when Lincoln was only nine years old . Although Lincoln later said that he seldom mentioned her in his conversation or writings.

owed everything to her guidance, he Thomas Lincoln married Sarah Bush Johnston shortly after Nancy's death, and young Abe immediately bonded with his stepmother. A bright woman, she encouraged Abe's education, and took his side in the frequent arguments the young boy had with his father.

Rural life was difficult in America's frontier during the early 1800s. Poverty, farm chores, hard work, and reading by the light of the fireplace dominated young Abe's life until he was seventeen, when he found work on a ferryboat. Enjoying the river, he built a flatboat two years later and ran a load of farm produce down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. Selling the boat for its timber, he then returned home. Upon reaching home he dutifully, but resentfully, gave his full earnings to his father.

When Abe was twenty-one,

the family again moved, this time to Illinois just west of Decatur. The father and son built another log cabin not much bigger than the one they had lived in before. Following this move, Abe built a second flatboat and made another run down river, but this time as an independent operator. After that haul, he lived on his own, moving to the town of New Salem, Illinois in 1831.

III.Political Ambitions

As a young man, Lincoln stood out from the crowd, tall and lanky at six-feet four-inches. He arrived in New Salem and landed a job as a clerk in a general store. Soon thereafter, Lincoln started to make a name for himself, successfully wrestling the town bully and amazing most of his neighbors with his strength and ability to split rails and fell trees—a survival skill that he developed as a child of the American frontier. In small towns during that era, the general store was a meeting place, and thus Lincoln grew to know the community well. He delighted people with his wit, intelligence, and integrity. For the less literate citizens of New Salem, Abe's ability to read and write was invaluable. He quickly became a popular member of the town, endearing himself to the locals as a good-natured and "bookish" young man.

Back home in New Salem, Lincoln resumed his campaign for the legislature, but there was too little time left before the election for him to make himself known throughout the large district. Although he won 277 of the 300 votes in New Salem, he lost in the county, coming in eighth in a field of thirteen. Thereafter, he refocused his energies on studying law on his own, arguing cases before the local justice of the peace even before passing the state bar exam in 1836, and getting his license in 1837. Lincoln also participated in Whig political functions, serving as secretary in the party's meetings.

Despite his political leanings, Abe attracted attention from leaders of the time.

Democratic President Andrew Jackson appointed Lincoln postmaster of New Salem, even though Lincoln had supported National Republican candidate Henry Clay in the 1832 presidential election that reelected Jackson. Democrats allowed Lincoln's appointment probably because no local Democrat wanted the job, and, additionally, his determination to avoid partisan posturing made him acceptable

to almost everyone in New Salem.

To supplement his meager pay of $55 per year, Abe chopped wood, split rails, worked as a county deputy surveyor, and handled routine legal work for small fees.

Pic : Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

IV. Political Success and Strategies

In 1834, Lincoln ran again for the state legislature, and this time he won. Even the Democrats supported him. His strategy had worked: he issued no platform statement, made no promises, and gave few speeches. Instead, he shook hands, told jokes, and visited nearly every family in the county. He ran and won again in 1836, 1838, and 1840. Once in office, his Whig leanings came early to the front as he supported internal improvements and the chartering of a state bank.

In 1840, with a keen political eye, Lincoln campaigned for the populist war hero and Whig candidate William Henry Harrison. Abe denounced Democratic candidate Martin Van Buren for having once voted to give free blacks the vote in New York. In taking this position, Lincoln clearly appealed to the racism of the overwhelming majority of Illinois voters. Like many other opponents of slavery, Lincoln, at this point, did not favor citizenship rights for blacks.

V.United States presidential election of 1860,

American presidential election held on November 6, 1860, in which Republican Abraham Lincoln defeated Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, and Constitutional Union candidate John Bell. The electoral split between Northern and Southern Democrats was emblematic of the severe sectional split, particularly over slavery, and in the months following Lincoln’s election (and before his inauguration in March 1861) seven Southern states, led by South Carolina on December 20, 1860, seceded, setting the stage for the American Civil War (1861–65).


Lincoln's remarks in Springfield depict the danger of slavery-based disunion, and it rallied Republicans across the North. Along with the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address, the speech became one of the best-known of his career. It begins with the following words, which became the best-known passage of the speech:[8]

"A house divided against itself, cannot stand." I believe this government cannot 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. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.


VI. The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln is a 2005 book by Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, published by Simon & Schuster. The book is a biographical portrait of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and some of the men who served with him in his cabinet from 1861 to 1865. Three of his Cabinet members had previously run against Lincoln in the 1860 election: Attorney General Edward Bates, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and Secretary of State William H. Seward. The book focuses on Lincoln's mostly successful attempts to reconcile conflicting personalities and political factions on the path to abolition and victory in the American Civil War.

Goodwin's sixth book, Team of Rivals was well received by critics and won the 2006 Lincoln Prize and the inaugural Book Prize for American History of the New-York Historical Society. US President Barack Obama cited it as one of his favorite books and was said to have used it as a model for constructing his own cabinet. In 2012, a Steven Spielberg film based on the book was released to critical acclaim.

Some of the Notable Quotes from this Book,. Which tend summarise the gist of the Book and Political Genius of the Lincoln :

1. “This, then, is a story of Lincoln’s political genius revealed through his extraordinary array of personal qualities that enabled him to form friendships with men who had previously opposed him; to repair injured feelings that, left untended, might have escalated into permanent hostility; to assume responsibility for the failures of subordinates; to share credit with ease; and to learn from mistakes. He possessed an acute understanding of the sources of power inherent in the presidency, an unparalleled ability to keep his governing coalition intact, a tough-minded appreciation of the need to protect his presidential prerogatives, and a masterful sense of timing.”

2. “Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.”

3. “Having hope,” writes Daniel Goleman in his study of emotional intelligence, “means that one will not give in to overwhelming anxiety, a defeatist attitude, or depression in the face of difficult challenges or setbacks.” Hope is “more than the sunny view that everything will turn out all right”; it is “believing you have the will and the way to accomplish your goals.”

4. “Tolstoy went on to observe,"This little incident proves how largely the name of Lincoln is worshipped throughout the world and how legendary his personality has become. Now, why was Lincoln so great that he overshadows all other national heroes? He really was not a great general like Napoleon or Washington; he was not such a skillful statesman as Gladstone or Frederick the Great; but his supremacy expresses itself altogether in his peculiar moral power and in the greatness of his character.

"Washington was a typical American. Naopoleon was a typical Frenchmen, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country--- bigger than all the Presidents together. We are still too near to his greatness, " Tolstoy concluded, "but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do. His genius is still too strong and too powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when it's light beams directly on us.”

5 . “Lincoln's ability to retain his emotional balance in such difficult situations was rooted in actute self-awareness and an enormous capacity to dispel anxiety in constructive ways.”

“A real democracy would be a meritocracy where those born in the lower ranks could rise as far as their natural talents and discipline might take them.”

Video Summary of the Book by the Author

Book TV: Doris Kearns Goodwin "Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln"

VII. Lessons from Abraham Lincoln's Life

1. Be a self-learner.

Lincoln, who spent most of his childhood doing farm work to help out his father, taught himself in his spare time. He built his own homeschool, using books given to him by his stepmother, neighbors, and teachers, who were all aware of his thirst to learn. He later started reading on law, learning enough to be admitted to the Illinois bar so that he could practice. He never learned a lesson in a law school.

2. Never stop reading.

You can study from a book to make sure you score an A on a test. You can read one for entertainment. You can also use books and other reading material to keep learning for a lifetime. To sum it up, you can be like Lincoln, who didn’t quit his quest for knowledge long after he reached many of his goals. As president, he regularly checked out books from the Library of Congress. He also could be found regularly reading newspapers and classics, including Shakespeare works and the Iliad by Homer.

3. Try something new.

Lincoln embraced the technology that was available to him at the time, which led him to become the first president to use the telegraph (the Internet of his day). Historians said he used the telegraph to communicate with generals, much in the way we use email today. Follow in Lincoln’s steps by getting out of your comfort zone to learn a new skill or an unfamiliar course.

4. Don’t lose your sense of humor.

Even under the most challenging and intense circumstances, Lincoln was known to keep his sense of humor. During a debate with Stephen A. Douglas during an Illinois state campaign, Lincoln’s opponent accused him of being two-faced. Mocking his own looks, Lincoln replied, “Honestly, if I were two-faced, would I be showing you this one?” When studying, don’t forget to relax and laugh every once in a while. It will ease the tension.

5. Dare to be different.

Lincoln, who was known for his honesty, stood up to his critics and stuck by his beliefs. That approach didn’t always make him popular. They were even some newspaper columnists who made fun of his inability to “speak good grammar.” Like Lincoln, you may run into your share of critics. Stick to what you know is right — and stay the course.


Its a stunning story of how an ordinary rural boy had became an extraordinary Statesman and President of United States America with Will Power and Determination. He created several chapters for himself in American History in particular and world history in general with two great acts, one being saving the American Union and second being Abolition of slavery.

Lincoln's Gettysburg address has been cast in imperishable bronze and placed in a library at Oxford as an example of what can be done with the English language. It ought to be memorized by every student of public speaking.

His life is a treasure trove of leadership lessons to serve both Private and Public Institutions or Organisations.

This gigantic statemen overshadowed all the Presidents of America with his Outstanding Contributions , Lasting Service to the Nation and particularly with Moral Power.

The Legend of Abraham Lincoln ( Abe ) goes on forever, directing and inspiring the future generations of statesmen to follow his paths and methods of his adminstration...

MM Rao

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