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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Abraham Lincoln - 1149 words
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Abraham LincolnLincoln, Abraham (1809-65), 16th president of the United States (1861-65), whosteered the Union to victory in the American Civil War and abolished slavery.Early LifeLincoln was born on February 12, 1809, near Hodgenville, Kentucky, the son ofNancy Hanks and Thomas Lincoln, pioneer farmers. At the age of two he was takenby his parents to nearby Knob Creek and at eight to Spencer County, Indiana. Thefollowing year his mother died. In 1819 his father married Sarah Bush Johnston,a kindly widow, who soon gained the boy's affection. Lincoln grew up a tall,gangling youth, who could hold his own in physical contests and also showedgreat intellectual promise, although he had little formal education.
In 1831,after moving with his family to Macon County, Illinois, he struck out on his own,taking cargo on a flatboat to New Orleans, Louisiana. He then returned toIllinois and settled in New Salem, a short-lived community on the Sangamon River,where he split rails and clerked in a store. He gained the respect of his fellowtownspeople, including the so-called Clary Grove boys, who had challenged him tophysical combat, and was elected captain of his company in the Black Hawk War(1832). Returning from the war, he began an unsuccessful venture in shopkeepingthat ended when his partner died. In 1833 he was appointed postmaster but had tosupplement his income with surveying and various other jobs
At the same time hebegan to study law. That he gradually paid off his and his deceased partner'sdebts firmly established his reputation for honesty. The story of his romancewith Ann Rutledge, a local young woman whom he knew briefly before her untimelydeath, is unsubstantiated.Illinois Politician and LawyerDefeated in 1832 in a race for the state legislature, Lincoln was elected on theWhig ticket two years later and served in the lower house from 1834 to 1841. Hequickly emerged as one of the leaders of the party and was one of the authors ofthe removal of the capital to Springfield, where he settled in 1837. After hisadmission to the bar (1836), he entered into successive partnerships with John T.Stuart, Stephen T. Logan, and William Herndon, and soon won recognition as aneffective and resourceful attorney.
In 1842 Lincoln married Mary Todd, thedaughter of a prominent Kentucky banker, and despite her somewhat difficultdisposition, the marriage seems to have been reasonably successful. The Lincolnshad four children, only one of whom reached adulthood. His birth in a slavestate notwithstanding, Lincoln had long opposed slavery. In the legislature hevoted against resolutions favorable to the 'peculiar institution' and in 1837was one of two members who signed a protest against it. Elected to Congress in1846, he attracted attention because of his outspoken criticism of the war withMexico and formulated a plan for gradual emancipation in the District ofColumbia.
He was not an abolitionist, however. Conceding the right of the statesto manage their own affairs, he merely sought to prevent the spread of humanbondage.National Recognition Disappointed in a quest for federal office at the end ofhis one term in Congress (1847-49), Lincoln returned to Springfield to pursuehis profession. In 1854, however, because of his alarm at Senator Stephen A.Douglas's Kansas-Nebraska Act, he became politically active again. Clearlysetting forth his opposition to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, he arguedthat the measure was wrong because slavery was wrong and that Congress shouldkeep the territories free for actual settlers (as opposed to those who traveledthere mainly to vote for or against slavery). The following year he ran for theU.S. Senate, but seeing that he could not win, he yielded to Lyman Trumbull, aDemocrat who opposed Douglas's bill.
He campaigned for the newly foundedRepublican party in 1856, and in 1858 he became its senatorial candidate againstDouglas. In a speech to the party's state convention that year he warned that 'ahouse divided against itself cannot stand' and predicted the eventual triumph offreedom. Meeting Douglas in a series of debates, he challenged his opponent ineffect to explain how he could reconcile his principles of popular sovereigntywith the Dred Scott decision (see Dred Scott Case). In his reply, Douglasreaffirmed his belief in the practical ability of settlers to keep slavery outof the territories despite the Supreme Court's denial of their right to do so.Although Lincoln lost the election to Douglas, the debates won him nationalrecognition.Election and Secession Crisis In 1860 the Republicans, anxious to attract asmany different factions as possible, nominated Lincoln for the presidency on aplatform of slavery restriction, internal improvements, homesteads, and tariffreform. In a campaign against Douglas and John C.
Breckinridge, two rivalDemocrats, and John Bell, of the Constitutional Union party, Lincoln won amajority of the electoral votes and was elected president. Immediately after theelection, South Carolina, followed by six other Southern states, took steps tosecede from the Union. Declaring that secession was illegal but that he had nopower to oppose it, President James Buchanan preferred to rely on Congress tofind a compromise. The success of this effort, however, depended on Lincoln, thepresident-elect, who was open to concessions but refused to countenance anypossible extension of slavery. Thus, the Crittenden Compromise, the mostpromising scheme of adjustment, failed, and a new Southern government wasinaugurated in February 1861. See Confederate States of America.Lincoln as President When Lincoln took the oath of office on March 4, 1861, hewas confronted with a hostile Confederacy determined to expand and threateningthe remaining federal forts in the South, the most important of which was FortSumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. Anxious not to offend theupper South, which had not yet seceded, Lincoln at first refused to takedecisive action.
After the failure of an expedition to Fort Pickens, Florida,however, he decided to relieve Fort Sumter and informed the governor of SouthCarolina of his intention to send food to the beleaguered garrison. TheConfederates, unwilling to permit continued federal occupation of their soil,opened fire to reduce the fort, thus starting the Civil War. When Lincolncountered with a call for 75,000 volunteers, the North responded with enthusiasm,but the upper South seceded.Military Leadership As commander in chief, Lincoln encountered greatdifficulties in the search for capable generals. After the defeat of IrvinMcDowell at the First Battle of Bull Run, the president appointed George B.McClellan to lead the eastern army but found him excessively cautious. HisPeninsular campaign against Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, failed,and Lincoln, whose own strategy had not succeeded in trapping Stonewall Jacksonin the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, virtually superseded McClellan with JohnPope. When Pope was defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run, the presidentturned once more to McClellan, only to be disappointed again. Despite hisvictory at Antietam, Maryland, the general was so hesitant that Lincoln finallyhad to remove him.
The president's next choice, Ambrose Burnside, was alsounfortunate. Decisively beaten at Fredericksburg, Virginia, Burnside gave way toJoseph Hooker, who in turn was routed at Chancellorsville, Virginia. ThenLincoln appointed George G. Meade, who triumphed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,but failed to follow up his victory. Persisting in his determination to discovera general who could defeat the Confederates, the president in 1864 entrustedove ...
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