What led to Abraham Lincoln’s involvement in politics?

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By Erica Silverstein

The Early Life of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a log cabin on the Sinking Spring Farm in Kentucky. He grew up in poverty and had limited formal education. As a child, he worked on his family’s farm and later as a store clerk and surveyor. Despite his humble beginnings, Lincoln had a strong desire to learn and read whenever he had the chance.

Education and Early Career

Lincoln’s thirst for knowledge led him to teach himself law and become a lawyer in 1836. He moved to Springfield, Illinois, in 1837, where he began his political career. Lincoln served in the Illinois State Legislature for several terms and became known for his eloquent speeches and his opposition to slavery. In 1846, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served a single term.

The Illinois General Assembly

In 1834, Lincoln was elected to the Illinois General Assembly, where he served for eight years. During his time in the General Assembly, Lincoln developed a reputation as a skilled orator and a strong opponent of slavery. He also worked to improve infrastructure in the state, including the construction of roads and bridges.

The Whig Party and Lincoln’s Rise to Prominence

Lincoln was a member of the Whig Party, which advocated for a strong federal government and economic development. He rose to prominence within the party in the 1840s and 1850s, and in 1856, he was a leading candidate for the party’s presidential nomination.

The Mexican-American War

Lincoln opposed the Mexican-American War, arguing that it was an unjust and unnecessary conflict. He criticized President James K. Polk for starting the war and accused him of using it as an excuse to expand slavery into new territories.

Lincoln’s Opposition to Slavery

Lincoln was a staunch opponent of slavery and believed that it was morally wrong. He believed that the federal government had the power to regulate slavery in the territories, but he was initially hesitant to support its abolition. However, as the Civil War progressed, Lincoln became more committed to the abolition of slavery.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

In 1858, Lincoln engaged in a series of debates with Stephen A. Douglas, who was running for re-election to the U.S. Senate from Illinois. The debates were widely covered by the press and helped to raise Lincoln’s national profile. Although Lincoln lost the Senate race, the debates helped to establish him as a leading figure in the Republican Party.

The Election of 1860

In 1860, Lincoln was the Republican candidate for president. He campaigned on a platform of preventing the spread of slavery into new territories and preserving the Union. He won the election with a majority of the electoral votes, but he received less than 40% of the popular vote.

Secession and the Civil War

After Lincoln’s election, several southern states seceded from the Union, and the Civil War began in 1861. Lincoln was determined to preserve the Union, and he took a strong stance against secession. He also declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus, which allowed the government to arrest and detain suspected Confederate sympathizers.

The Emancipation Proclamation

In 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all slaves in Confederate-held territory to be free. Although the proclamation did not immediately end slavery, it was a significant step towards its abolition.

The Gettysburg Address

In November 1863, Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, a speech that is now considered one of the greatest in American history. In the speech, Lincoln reiterated his commitment to preserving the Union and spoke of the sacrifices that had been made in the Civil War.

Legacy and Impact of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is widely regarded as one of the greatest American presidents. His leadership during the Civil War helped to preserve the Union and end slavery. His speeches, including the Gettysburg Address and the Emancipation Proclamation, have become iconic symbols of American democracy. Lincoln’s legacy continues to inspire people around the world, and his commitment to justice and equality remains an enduring legacy.

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Erica Silverstein

Erica, a seasoned travel writer with 20+ years of experience, started her career as a Let's Go guidebook editor in college. As the head of Cruise Critic's features team for a decade, she gained extensive knowledge. Her adventurous nature has taken her to Edinburgh, Australia, the Serengeti, and on luxury cruises in Europe and the Caribbean. During her journeys, she enjoys savoring local chocolates and conquering various summits.

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