This one man was able to fight for, work for, and love his country so much that he single-handedly brought about changes that had previously only been dreamt of. This astonishing individual accomplished more in 30 years than most men do in their entire lifetime. Perhaps one of the most remarkable men in the history of the United States, Abraham Lincoln changed the course of our history forever.
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On February 12, 1809, Nancy Lincoln gave birth to a son, whom she named Abraham. This child, named after his grandfather, was born in Hardin County, Kentucky. Abraham had two siblings, Sarah, who was two years older, and Thomas, who was three years younger. However, Thomas, Abraham’s only brother, unexpectedly died shortly after birth. The Lincoln’s were not a significantly wealthy family; they lived in a log cabin, and Thomas Lincoln worked very hard for every cent he earned. In fact, Thomas had to take on two jobs, farming and carpentry, in order to support his family.
“Partly on the account of slavery, but chiefly on the account of the difficulty of land titles in Kentucky, Thomas Lincoln moved his family to Pigeon Creek, Indiana.” (Lincoln Bicentennial). In 1716, after buying property, Abraham helped his father with much of the work involved in settling into this 160-acre piece of land. Just two years after the move, in 1818, the Lincoln family suffered yet another tragedy when Abraham’s mother died from contaminated milk. Just a year after Nancy’s death, Abraham’s father remarried a widow, with three children of her own, by the name of Sarah Bush Johnston.
Abraham and his stepmother grew very close, and she treated him as if he were her own child. “She encouraged him to grow in his knowledge and understanding of things, and was said
to have started his childhood education.” (Burns). Although Abraham had previously gone to
school for a couple of months, he never had any inspiration to learn until he received this
encouragement from his stepmother. If one put all of Abraham’s schooling together, one would find that he received less than one year of actual school in his entire life. This means that Abraham Lincoln had so little education, that he could be considered a completely self educated man. He showed a special interest in books and reading and knew his Bible very well even though he never attended church.
At the age of 19, Abraham Lincoln had grown into a man of 6’4″ and was stronger than anyone in town, leading to his first job offer. The offer came from a man by the name of James Gentry, and it was to bring a shipload of cargo to New Orleans. After delivering the cargo, with James Gentry’s son, on a boat Abraham had built by hand, James was amazed by Abraham’s incredible skill and reliability. He asked Abraham to work in his local store, and Abraham jumped at the opportunity to make some more money. While working there, he would often hear men speak of politics; this sparked an interest, which slowly grew to a flame, in young Abraham. During this time, however, Abraham’s sister, Sarah, died giving birth to a child, causing much grief in his life. Soon after her death, Abraham’s relatives wrote his father, saying how greatly efficient and productive the soil in Illinois was. This inspired Thomas Lincoln to once again move his family to a different part of the country. (Lincoln Bicentennial). This time however, Abraham did not stay with his family for very long. Instead, he went up to New Salem, Illinois, and life on his own had finally begun.
Between 1831 and 1832, Abraham tried various occupations, and learned very much, including the basics of mathematics. However, when the Black Hawk War began, Lincoln was one of the first to enlist in the American militia. Abraham never saw any action personally, but he was still elected captain of his company. He served his men as best as he possibly could until the war ended, just a couple months later.
Once safely back in New Salem, Abraham took on the job of postmaster, and was placed
in charge of the local post office. As word of this honest, hardworking, and diligent man spread
throughout Salem and the surrounding towns, Abraham acquired the nickname “Honest Abe.” During this time, Abraham learned more grammar and began to develop a formal and proper way of speaking. He decided to run for state legislature, ultimately beginning his political career, but lost to one of his rivals. This defeat did discourage Abraham Lincoln, but rather, drove him to persevere, strive for excellence, and be the best he could be. In 1834, Abraham made a second attempt at politics, and once again ran for state legislature, only this time, he won. He was representative of the state of Illinois and gained the approval and trust of many of his fellow countrymen.
“After he won the election, he took up the study of law. With his love of debating, storytelling, and reading, he found his calling in law and politics.” (National Museum of American History). While he was a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln grounded his principles and opinions, especially those on slavery, making this an extremely pivotal point in his life. “Lincoln’s years as a lawyer influenced his character, and that character eventually influenced our nation.” (Kalantari). His ability to ease the witnesses, as well as the entire atmosphere of the courtroom, made him a great lawyer. For the next 25 years, Abraham served as a lawyer aside from his political career.
The men and women of Illinois held such affection for Abraham Lincoln that they re-elected him three times over the next six years. In 1840, just after his third re-election, Abraham proposed to a woman by the name of Mary Ann Todd, whom he had met the year before. After breaking up and getting back together, they finally got married in November of 1842. Less than a year after their marriage, Abraham and Mary welcomed their first baby boy into the world, and named him Robert Todd Lincoln. For the next two years, Abraham not only continued to serve as state representative, but he also showed devotion to his family, proving himself to be a great father. In 1846, Abraham and Mary conceived yet another child who they named Edward Baker Lincoln.
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Abraham Lincoln enjoyed his time as the representative of Illinois, but it was not long before he realized that he was capable of much more. Impelled by this realization, Abraham ran for U.S. representative in 1847, at the age of 38. He won the election, but served in this position for only one term. Once this term ended, Abraham fell back on his career as a lawyer, and continued to study law books. “For the next five years, Lincoln devoted much of his time to studying the issue of slavery as well.” (Lincoln Bicentennial).
During this time, however, Abraham’s son, Edward, died at the young age of four. The Lincoln family took his death very hard and later learned it had most likely been due to a bad case of tuberculosis. In that same year, Mary gave birth to a third son, named William Wallace Lincoln. His birth guided the family through the struggle, and helped them to move on. Just three years later, in 1853, the Lincoln’s had yet another son, who they named Thomas “Tad” Lincoln. Their sons brought Abraham and Mary great joy, and Abraham was said to be a very loyal and committed father.
In 1854, Abraham was again elected as state representative; however, he resigned in order to run for the U.S. senate. “During his campaign, he gave a speech declaring the United States would either become all free or all slave because ‘a house divided against itself cannot stand.’ It was after this debate that Lincoln received his first considerable national fame.”
(Abe Lincoln). Despite his national fame, Abraham lost this election. Undeterred, he made yet another attempt at the U.S. senate, in 1858, however, he was once again out-voted.
Two short years later, Abraham Lincoln took the biggest step of his political career. That year, 1860, Abraham jumped at the opportunity to run for president of the United States. Not sure if he would make it or not, Abraham was campaigning against some of the top competitors in the country. After a long, hard, and stressful run, Abraham was finally elected the sixteenth president of the United States of America.
Almost immediately after his election, southern states began to drop out of the union, angered by the new anti-slavery president. Eleven states ended up dropping out, and their anger eventually turned to violence in 1861, marking the beginning of the Civil War. The North fought for the abolition of slavery, and the South fought for keeping slavery. As the war raged on, Abraham Lincoln continued to fight for the right of all men as equals. Not only was Abraham fighting to free the slaves, but he was also fighting to reunite the North and the South. He believed that in order to stand, the United States had to join together as one country, instead of being a split nation.
As the war neared it´s third year, Abraham Lincoln issued one of the most important documents in history: the Emancipation Proclamation. “The Proclamation declared that ´all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states are, and henceforth shall be free´” (National Archives and Records Administration). This document aided the northern states in the war by: allowing blacks to fight for the union army, redefining the civil war as a war of freedom, and strengthening the union soldiers mentally. “The Emancipation Proclamation is quite possibly the greatest document of human freedom.” (National Archives and Records Administration).
As the war continued to be fought, Abraham´s fourth year as president came near, and the
time for elections came around. In 1864, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected as president of the United States. He continued doing his presidential duties just as well, if not better than before. A year after his re-election, Abraham and his wife went to see a show in Ford´s Theatre, Washington, D.C. Around 10:00 p.m., an actor by the name of John Wilkes Booth entered the presidential booth, and shot Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head with a pistol. Abraham survived through the night, but died around 7:30 the next morning. Booth, motivated to kill President Lincoln due to disagreements on slavery, escaped, but was found and shot a few weeks later.
Abraham´s death only motivated more people to fight for the freedom and equality of all men and women alike. The very same year he died, the Civil War came to an end with the South surrendering. Due to Abraham Lincoln´s perseverance and willpower, slavery was abolished, and America was made a free country. America´s future had been set on a new path. The old life was thrown away, and a new chapter had begun for all Americans, black and white. Abraham accomplished more in his last few years than one could even dream to accomplish in an entire lifetime. Abraham Lincoln, one of the most extraordinary men to ever live, changed the future, lives, and hearts of Americans forever.
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