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Referat Life of Abraham Lincoln




Universität Koblenz- Landau, Abteilung Landau


Wintersemster 1996/1997



Seminar für Anglistik



Referat   



Thema              : Life of Abraham Lincoln


Veranstaltung : American Studies, The American South












The Life of Abraham Lincoln


As the 16th President of the United States of America Abraham Lincoln is considered to be one of, if not the most famous American President.

He lead the country through a difficult time where the future of the Union was threatened and till today he is remembered as the one who saved the nation.


He was born on the 12th of February 1809 as the son of a poor settlers family, in some American schoolbooks the fact is stressed, that his family did not own a house, so he was actually born in one room log which was open on the front side.


According to the circumstances he had to help on the families farm and only briefly attended school.


For his political career he wrote an autobiography and said some interesting facts about his education : " Abraham Lincoln was born Feb. 12, 1809, then in Hardin, now in the more recently formed county of Larue, Kentucky., ,[E]ven in childhood was a wandering laboring boy, and grew up literally without education.

He never did more in the way of writing than to bunglingly sign his

own name.,,. Before leaving Kentucky he and his sister were sent for short periods, to A. B. C. schools, the first kept by Zachariah Riney, and the second .by Caleb Hazel. , A[braham] now thinks that the aggregate of all his schooling did not amount to one year. He wasnever in a college or academy as a student; and never inside of a college or academy building till since he had a law-license. What he has in the way of education, he has picked up. After he was twenty three, and had separated from his father, he studied English grammar, imperfectly of course, but so as to speak and write as well as he now does. He studied and nearly mastered the six books,of Euclid, since he was a member of Congress. He regrets his want of education, and does what he can to supply the want

Lincoln can be called an self educated person, there are many stories that he used to borrow books from neighbours, this aspect is quite important to form the myth of Abraham Lincoln.


In March 1830 his family moved to Illinois, as he did not want to become a farmer he tried out a variety of occupations, he helped to clear and fence his fathers farm, he worked as a floatman and made a voyage on the Mississippi to New Orleans, after his return he settled in New Salem.


This Village does not exist anymore, but is preserved as an museum and a Lincoln memorial.


In this small village he laid the foundation stone of his political career, he started to work as a clerk in a shop, worked in a mill and in the end became postmaster. (Important, because at that time the postmaster had the right to print newspapers).


During the Black Hawk War (1832) he became elected as Captain of his riffle company: " This was in July 1831. Here he rapidly made acquaintances and friends. In less than a year Offutt's business was failing - had almost failed, - when the Black-Hawk war of 1832 broke out. A joined a volunteer company, and to his own surprise, was elected captain of it. He says he has not since had any success in life which gave him so

much satisfaction. He went the campaign, served near three months, met the ordinary hardships of such an expedition, but was in no battle. He now owns in Iowa, the land upon which his own warrants for this service, were located Returning from the campaign, and encouraged by his great popularity among his immediate neighbors, he, the same year, ran for the Legislature and was beaten - his own precinct, however,

casting it's votes 277 for and 7, against him. . This was the only time Abraham Lincoln was ever beaten on a direct vote of the people. He studied what he should do, thought of learning the black-smith trade - thought of trying to study law-rather thought he could not succeed at that without a better education."














Abraham Lincoln continued his education, ran for the Illinois general assembly in 1834 and was re elected in 1838, 1836, and 1838; he had obtained the certificate in law in 1836 and moved to Springfield where he practised.




As a member of the wig party in the Illinois State Legislature he devoted himself to projects like e.g. a railway network, already at this time Abraham Lincoln was seen to be antislavery, but he never belonged to the radical wing of the abolitionists.


In 1847 he became member of Congress and served there for one term, he became frustrated of politics and thought his career already to be over, for five years he did not take part in politics but was back in 1834 in a very difficult time for his party.


His political rival Douglas had managed it to get a bill through the Congress to reopen Louisiana to slavery and give the settlers in Kansas and Nebraska the freedom of choice; this "Kansas Nebraska Act" gave rise to the Republican Party; partly because of the trouble that this act caused the Whig party disintegrated into several groups, Abraham Lincoln became a member of the new founded Republican Party.






In 1858 he held his famous speech about slavery : "


If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. '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 alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new -- North as well as South."


Finally in 1860 Abraham Lincoln was running for President, only 40% of the people voted for him, nevertheless he received the majority of votes in the electoral college and became the 16th President of the United States of America. .


Abraham Lincoln became President in a time where the Union went through a dangerous crisis as South Carolina proclaimed its withdrawal from the Union and other States where in place to follow.



Altogether six states seceded and formed, together with South Carolina, the Confederate States of America.

In this disunion that existed before Lincoln took Office, the Crisis around Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbour developed into the centre of the upcoming problems.

This Fort was garrisoned by US troops, but the Confederate States claimed it, in his inaugural address (4.3.1861) Lincoln said, that " the power confided to me, will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property, and places belonging to the government."


On April, 12 1861 the Confederate States opened fire on Fort Sumter, and this was the point where the conflict of arms started.


As another student will read a seminar paper about the Civil War later, I am not going to say anything about it.








After the war had ended, the question of reconstruction of the south was his mayor political plan, in the 1864 Campaign he promised to be liberal with pardons if the South would end the war and meet with Confederate Politicians. Some radical politicians demanded a military occupation of the South, the confiscation of the planter estates and the transfer of political power from the planters to their former slaves and Lincoln narrowed his position to these radical views. What his reconstruction policy would have been only can be guessed.


Abraham Lincoln was shot on the 14th of April 1865 in Fords Theatre in Washington and died the next morning.

































Lifeline[5] :


Feb. 12, 1809 - Abraham Lincoln is born in a one room log cabin on Nolin Creek in Kentucky.


- In Spring, the Lincoln family moves to a 230 acre farm on Knob Creek ten miles from Sinking Spring.


- A brother, Thomas, is born but dies in infancy.


- Young Abraham attends a log school house.


- Briefly attends school. In December, the Lincoln family crosses the Ohio River and settles in the backwoods of Indiana.


- In February, Abraham, age 7, shoots a wild turkey but suffers great remorse and never hunts game again.


- Young Abraham is kicked in the head by a horse and for a brief time is thought to be dead. Oct. 5, Nancy Hanks Lincoln (his mother) dies of 'milk sickness.'


- On Dec. 2, Abraham's father, Thomas, marries a widow, Sarah Bush Johnston, and becomes stepfather to her three children. Abraham develops much affection for his stepmother.


- Briefly attends school.


- Attends school for a few months.


- Does ploughing and planting and work for hire for neighbours. Attends school in the fall and winter. Borrows books and reads whenever possible.


- On Jan. 20, his married sister Sarah dies while giving birth. In April, Abraham, now 19, and Allen Gentry take a flatboat of cargo of farm produce to New Orleans. During the trip they fight off an robbery attack by seven black men. At New Orleans Abe observes a slave auction.


- In March, Abe and his family begin a 200 mile journey to move to Illinois where they settle on uncleared land along the Sangamon River, near Decatur. Abe makes his first political speech in favour of improving navigation on the Sangamon River.


- Abe makes a second flatboat trip to New Orleans. His father moves again, but Abe doesn't go and instead settles in New Salem, Illinois, where he works as a clerk in the village store and sleeps in the back. Wrestles a man named Jack Armstrong to a draw. Learns basic math, reads Shakespeare and Robert Burns and participates in a local debating society.


- In March, becomes a candidate for Illinois General Assembly. The Black Hawk War breaks out. In April, Abe enlists and is elected Captain of his rifle company. Re-enlists as a private after company is disbanded. He serves a total of three months but does not fight in a battle. August 6, loses the election. The village store he worked in goes out of business. Lincoln and partner, William Berry, purchase another village store in New Salem.


- The store fails, leaving him badly in debt. Lincoln is appointed Postmaster of New Salem. In Autumn, Lincoln is appointed Deputy County Surveyor.


- On August 4, Lincoln, age 24, is elected to the Illinois General Assembly as a member of the Whig party. Begins to study law. In December, meets Stephen A. Douglas, 21, a Democrat.


- In January, former store partner William Berry dies, increasing Lincoln's debt to $1000. On August 25, Ann Rutledge, Lincoln's love interest, dies from fever at age 22.


- August 1, re-elected to the Illinois Gen. Assembly and by now is a leader of the Whig party. September 9, Lincoln receives his law license. Begins courtship of Mary Owens, 28. Has an episode of severe depression in December.


- Helps to get the Illinois state capital moved from Vandalia to Springfield. April 15, leaves New Salem and settles in Springfield. Becomes a law partner of John T. Stuart. In Summer, proposes marriage to Mary Owens, is turned down and the courtship ends.


- Helps to successfully defend Henry Truett in a famous murder case. August 6, re-elected to the Illinois Gen. Assembly, becoming Whig floor leader.


- Travels through nine counties in central and eastern Illinois as a lawyer on the 8th Judicial Circuit. December 3, admitted to practice in United States Circuit Court. Meets Mary Todd, 21, at a dance.


- In June, Lincoln argues his first case before the Illinois Supreme Court. August 3, re-elected to the Illinois Gen. Assembly. In Fall, becomes engaged to Mary Todd.


- January 1, breaks off engagement with Mary Todd. Has episode of depression. March 1, forms new law partnership with Stephen T. Logan. In August, makes a trip by steamboat to Kentucky and sees twelve slaves chained together.

- Does not seek re-election to the legislature. In Summer, resumes courtship with Mary Todd. In September, accepts a challenge to a duel by Democratic state auditor James Shields over published letters making fun of Shields. September 22, duel with swords is averted by an explanation of letters. November 4, marries Mary Todd in Springfield.


- Lincoln is unsuccessful in try for the Whig nomination for U.S. Congress. August 1, first child, Robert Todd Lincoln, is born.


- May, the Lincoln family moves into a house in Springfield, bought for $1500. Campaigns for Henry Clay in the presidential election. In December, dissolves law partnership with Logan, then sets up his own practice.




- March 10, a son, Edward Baker Lincoln is born. May 1, nominated to be the Whig candidate for U.S. Congress. August 3, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.


- Moves into a boarding house in Washington, D.C. with his wife and sons. December 6, takes his seat when Thirtieth Congress convenes. December 22, presents resolutions questioning President Polk about U.S. hostilities with Mexico.


- January 22, gives a speech on floor of the House against President Polk's war policy regarding Mexico. In June, attends the national Whig convention supporting General Zachary Taylor as the nominee for president. Campaigns for Taylor in Maryland and in Boston, Mass., then in Illinois.


- March 7 and 8, makes an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the Illinois statute of limitations, but is unsuccessful. March 31, returns to Springfield and leaves politics to practice law.


- February 1, his son Edward dies after a two month illness. Lincoln resumes his travels in the 8th Judicial Circuit covering over 400 miles in 14 counties in Illinois. 'Honest Abe' gains a reputation as an outstanding lawyer. December 21, his third son, William Wallace Lincoln (Willie) is born.


- January 17, Lincoln's father dies.


- April 4, his fourth son, Thomas (Tad) is born.


- Re-enters politics opposing the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Elected to Illinois legislature but declines the seat in order to try to become U.S. Senator.


- Does not get chosen by the Illinois legislature to be U.S. Senator.


- May 29, helps organise the new Republican party of Illinois. At the first Republican convention Lincoln gets 110 votes for the vice-presidential nomination, bringing him national attention. Campaigns in Illinois for Republican presidential candidate, John C. Frémont.


- June 26, in Springfield, Lincoln speaks against the Dred Scott decision.


- In May, wins acquittal in a murder trial by using an almanac regarding the height of the moon to discredit a witness. June 16, nominated to be the Republican senator from Illinois, opposing Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. Gives 'House Divided' speech at the state convention in Springfield. Also engages Douglas in a series of seven debates with big audiences.


- Illinois legislature chooses Douglas for the U.S. Senate over Lincoln by a vote of 54 to 46. In the Fall, Lincoln makes his last trip through the 8th Judicial Circuit. December 20, writes a short autobiography.


1860 - March 6, delivers an impassioned political speech on slavery in New Haven, Connecticut. Also in March, the 'Lincoln-Douglas Debates' published.


May 18, 1860 - Nominated to be the Republican candidate for President of the United States. Opposes Northern Democrat Stephen A. Douglas and Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge. In June, writes a longer autobiography.


November 6, 1860 - Abraham Lincoln is elected as 16th U.S. president and the first Republican. Receives 180 of 303 possible electoral votes and 40 percent of the popular vote.


Dec 20, 1860 - South Carolina secedes from the Union. Followed within two months by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.


Feb 11, 1861 - Lincoln gives a brief farewell to friends and supporters at Springfield and leaves by train for Washington. Receives a warning during the trip about a possible assassination attempt.


March 4, 1861 - Inauguration ceremonies in Washington. President Lincoln delivers his First Inaugural Address.


April 12, 1861 - At 4:30 a.m. Confederates open fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston. The Civil War begins.


April 15, 1861 - President Lincoln issues a Proclamation Calling Militia and Convening Congress.


April 17, 1861 - Virginia secedes from the Union. Followed within five weeks by North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas, thus forming an eleven state Confederacy.


April 19, 1861 - The president issues a Proclaimation of Blockade against Southern ports.


April 27, 1861 - The president authorises the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus.


June 3, 1861 - Political rival Stephen A. Douglas dies unexpectedly of acute rheumatism.


July 21, 1861 - The Union suffers a defeat at Bull Run in northern Virginia. Union troops fall back to Washington. The president realises the war will be long.


July 27, 1861 - Appoints George B. McClellan as commander of the Department of the Potomac.


Aug 6, 1861 - Signs a law freeing slaves being used by the Confederates in their war effort.


Aug 12, 1861 - The president issues a Proclamation of a National Day of Fasting.


Sept 11, 1861 - Revokes Gen. John C. Frémont's unauthorised military proclamation of emancipation in Missouri.


Oct 24, 1861 - Relieves Gen. Frémont of his command and replaces him with Gen. David Hunter.


Nov 1, 1861 - Appoints McClellan as commander of the Union army after the resignation of Winfield Scott.


Jan 27, 1862 - Issues General War Order No. 1 calling for a Union advance to begin Feb 22.


Feb 3, 1862 - Writes a message to McClellan on a difference of opinion regarding military plans.


Feb 20, 1862 - The president's son Willie dies at age 12. The president's wife is emotionally devastated and never fully recovers.


March 11, 1862 - President Lincoln relieves McClellan as general-in-chief and takes direct command of the Union armies.


April 6, 1862 - Confederate surprise attack on Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's troops at Shiloh on the Tennessee River results in a bitter struggle with 13,000 Union killed and wounded and 10,000 Confederates. The president is then pressured to relieve Grant but resists.


April 9, 1862 - Writes a message to McClellan urging him to attack.


April 16, 1862 - Signs an Act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia.


May 20, 1862 - Approves the Federal Homestead Law giving 160 acres of publicly owned land to anyone who will claim and then work the property for 5 years. Thousands then cross the Mississippi to tame the 'Wild West.'


June 19, 1862 - Approves a Law prohibiting slavery in the territories.


Aug 29/30, 1862 - Union defeat at the second Battle of Bull Run in northern Virginia. The Union Army retreats to Washington. The president then relieves Union commander Gen. John Pope.


Sept 17, 1862 - General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate armies are stopped at Antietam in Maryland by McClellan and numerically superior Union forces. By nightfall, 26,000 men are dead, wounded or missing - the bloodiest day in U.S. military history.


Sept 22, 1862 - The president issues a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves.


Nov 5, 1862 - The president names Ambrose E. Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing McClellan.


Dec 13, 1862 - Army of the Potomac suffers a costly defeat at Fredericksburg in Virginia with a loss of 12,653 men. Confederate losses are 5,309.




Dec 22, 1862 - The president writes a brief message to the Army of the Potomac.


Dec 31, 1862 - The president signs a bill admitting West Virginia to the Union.


Jan 1, 1863 - President Lincoln issues the final Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in territories held by Confederates.


Jan 25, 1863 - The president appoints Joseph (Fighting Joe) Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Burnside.


Jan 26, 1863 - Writes a message to Hooker.


Jan 29, 1863 - Gen. Grant is placed in command of the Army of the West, with orders to capture Vicksburg.

Feb 25, 1863 - Signs a Bill creating a national banking system.


March 3, 1863 - Signs an Act introducing military conscription.


May 1-4, 1863 - A Union defeat at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia. Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson is mortally wounded. Hooker retreats. Union losses are 17,000 killed, wounded and missing. The Confederates, 13, 000.


June 28, 1863 - The president appoints George G. Meade as commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Hooker.


July 3, 1863 - Confederate defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg.


July 4, 1863 - Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi, is captured by the Gen. Grant and the Army of the West.


July 13, 1863 - Writes a message to Grant.


July 14, 1863 - Writes an undelivered letter to Meade complaining about his failure to capture Lee.


July 30, 1863 - Issues an Order of Retaliation.


Aug 8, 1863 - Writes a letter to his wife regarding Tad's lost goat.


Aug 10, 1863 - The president meets with abolitionist Frederick Douglass who pushes for full equality for Union 'Negro troops.'


Sept 19/20, 1863 - Union defeat at Chickamauga in Georgia leaves Chattanooga in Tennessee under Confederate siege. The president appoints Gen. Grant to command all operations in the western theater.


Oct 3, 1863 - Issues a Proclamation of Thanksgiving.


Nov 19, 1863 - President Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address at a ceremony dedicating the Battlefield as a national cemetery.


Dec 8, 1863 - The president issues a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction for restoration of the Union.


March 12, 1864 - President Lincoln appoints Grant as general-in-chief of all the Federal armies. William T. Sherman succeeds Grant as commander in the West.


June 3, 1864 - A costly mistake by Grant results in 7,000 Union casualties in twenty minutes during an offensive against entrenched Rebels at Cold Harbour, Virginia.

June 8, 1864 - Abraham Lincoln is nominated for president by a coalition of Republicans and War Democrats.


July 18, 1864 - Issues a call for 500,000 Volunteers for military service.


Aug 31, 1864 - Makes a speech to 148th Ohio Regiment.


Sept 2, 1864 - Atlanta is captured by Sherman's army. Later, the president on advice from Grant approves Sherman's march to the sea.


Oct 19, 1864 - A decisive Union victory by Gen. Philip H. Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley.


Nov 8, 1864 - Abraham Lincoln is re-elected president, defeating Democrat George B. McClellan. Lincoln gets 212 of 233 electoral votes and 55 percent of the popular vote.


Dec 20, 1864 - Sherman reaches Savannah in Georgia leaving behind a path of destruction 60 miles wide all the way from Atlanta.


March 4, 1865 - Inauguration ceremonies in Washington. President Lincoln delivers his second Inaugural Address.


March 17, 1865 - A kidnap plot by John Wilkes Booth fails when Lincoln fails to arrive as expected at the Soldiers' Home.


April 9, 1865 - Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders his Confederate army to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House in Virginia.


April 10, 1865 - Celebrations break out in Washington.


April 11, 1865 - President Lincoln makes his last public speech, which focuses on the problems of reconstruction. The United States flag 'Stars and Stripes' is raised over Fort Sumter.


April 14, 1865 - Lincoln and his wife Mary see the play 'Our American Cousin' at Ford's Theatre. About 10:13 p.m., during the third act of the play, John Wilkes Booth shoots the president in the head. Doctors attend to the president in the theatre then move him to a house across the street. He never regains consciousness.


April 15, 1865 - President Abraham Lincoln dies at 7:22 in the morning.


April 26, 1865 - John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed in a tobacco barn in Virginia.


May 4, 1865 - Abraham Lincoln is laid to rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery, outside Springfield, Illinois.

Dec 6, 1865 - The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, is finally ratified. Slavery is abolished.





Autobiography, written in 1860; http://www.historyplace.com/lincoln/autobi-2.htm

Autobiography 1860, htt://www.historyplace.com/lincoln/autobi-2.htm

Abraham Lincoln's House in Springfield, taken by the author.

"House divided Speech", Springield, 16.6.1858,  http://www.hostoryplace.com/lincoln/divided.htm

This Lifeline was taken from the Internet Page of "The Historyplace" : http://www.historyplace.com/lincoln/index.htm










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