“Four score and seven years ago…”
This speech is almost as easily recognizable as the man who wrote it. Abraham Lincoln, born in Illinois on February 12, 1809, is one of the most beloved presidents (if you aren’t a Confederate sympathizer, that is).
He came into office at a time when the United States was in a heated battle over the morality and legality of slavery. The South saw it as their livelihood, and the North saw it as exploitation. The debates were common around dinner tables and tensions between neighboring states were high. The South had had almost enough of the rest of the United States sitting back and making decisions for them, as though they were a child. They gave the people of the U.S. an ultimatum. Either they disregard Abraham Lincoln (a Republican) as the Presidential candidate and vote for the pro-slave Democrat Stephen Douglass or they would kindly remove themselves from the United States. The rest, as they say, is history.
Lincoln was an interesting choice by the people. He wasn’t anti-slavery and he even held some prejudices of his own. He was a moderate Republican and wanted nothing more than to preserve the Union. However, he was ready to show the South who was boss. Lincoln wasn’t prepared to shoot first, but he wouldn’t back down from a war. He poked and prodded the Confederacy until they couldn’t stand it anymore. Finally, they fired on Ft. Sumter and the Civil War began.
He was later referred to as “The Great Emancipator,” freeing slaves left and right. However, his Emancipation Proclamation didn’t come until halfway through the Civil War. He believed that the South would eventually surrender peacefully and on its own if the matter of slavery was not brought up. His Emancipation Proclamation and the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment (abolishing slavery) were his last resort.
Lincoln is a very complex figure. He stretched the powers of the Presidency to the extreme. He sent people to jail for speaking out against the government’s handling of the war. If he had pulled that in this day and age, people would be in an uproar. There would be a lot of angry Facebook statuses.
But what people don’t realize is that presidency is a massive undertaking. You’re in charge of the welfare of the entire country and you have people constantly trying to get in your way. Now take the stress of a modern-day president and multiply it by one hundred. An entire half of the country is forcefully leaving and then you have to command your troops to kill people from their own country. It was an extremely difficult job, but I think that the way he handled it was why our country loves Abe Lincoln so much. He took on this massive responsibility and did it with a lot of dignity.
Abraham Lincoln is my favorite historical figure of all time. He was politically savvy and a magnificent speaker. But my favorite part about Abraham Lincoln is that he did all of this while overcoming an almost-crippling depression. He held himself so well in the public eye. During his time, everyone he met would tell you that he was the life of the party. He was highly regarded as the funniest man to occupy the White House and the best person to have a conversation with. He was witty, clever, and knew exactly how to make others happy.
Throughout all of his life he had overcome adversity. He was not formally schooled and taught himself how to read. He left his childhood home and became a lawyer. After that he ran for public office. Against all odds, he won the presidency while a whole third of the country hated him so much that they left the United States. On top of all this, he lost three children: Eddie (4), Willie (12), and Tad (18). After the deaths of his children, his wife Mary’s mental health spiraled downward. Even through all this, he brought his country out of one of the worst events in its history. Unfortunately, that work would be cut short. It’s a very tragic story, but one that inspires me greatly. I want to be as resilient as Lincoln. And I think his resiliency in a very dark period of our history is why our country loves him so much.
“The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” –A. Lincoln
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