Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln : biography

February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865

In the wake of Grant’s casualties in his campaign against Lee, Lincoln had considered yet another executive call for a military draft, but it was never issued. In response to rumors of one, however, the editors of the New York World and the Journal of Commerce published a false draft proclamation which created an opportunity for the editors and others employed at the publications to corner the gold market. Lincoln’s reaction was to send the strongest of messages to the media about such behavior; he ordered the military to seize the two papers. The seizure lasted for two days.Donald (1996), pp. 501–502.

Lincoln is largely responsible for the institution of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.Donald (1996), p. 471. Before Lincoln’s presidency, Thanksgiving, while a regional holiday in New England since the 17th century, had been proclaimed by the federal government only sporadically and on irregular dates. The last such proclamation had been during James Madison’s presidency 50 years before. In 1863, Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November of that year to be a day of Thanksgiving. In June 1864, Lincoln approved the Yosemite Grant enacted by Congress, which provided unprecedented federal protection for the area now known as Yosemite National Park.

Judicial appointments

Supreme Court appointments

  • Noah Haynes Swayne – 1862
  • Samuel Freeman Miller – 1862
  • David Davis – 1862
  • Stephen Johnson Field – 1863
  • Salmon Portland Chase – 1864 (Chief Justice)

Lincoln’s declared philosophy on court nominations was that "we cannot ask a man what he will do, and if we should, and he should answer us, we should despise him for it. Therefore we must take a man whose opinions are known." Lincoln made five appointments to the United States Supreme Court. Noah Haynes Swayne, nominated January 21, 1862 and appointed January 24, 1862, was chosen as an anti-slavery lawyer who was committed to the Union. Samuel Freeman Miller, nominated and appointed on July 16, 1862, supported Lincoln in the 1860 election and was an avowed abolitionist. David Davis, Lincoln’s campaign manager in 1860, nominated December 1, 1862 and appointed December 8, 1862, had also served as a judge in Lincoln’s Illinois court circuit. Stephen Johnson Field, a previous California Supreme Court justice, was nominated March 6, 1863 and appointed March 10, 1863, and provided geographic balance, as well as political balance to the court as a Democrat. Finally, Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary, Salmon P. Chase, was nominated as Chief Justice, and appointed the same day, on December 6, 1864. Lincoln believed Chase was an able jurist, would support Reconstruction legislation, and that his appointment united the Republican Party.Blue, p. 245.

Other judicial appointments

Lincoln appointed 32 federal judges, including four Associate Justices and one Chief Justice to the Supreme Court of the United States, and 27 judges to the United States district courts. Lincoln appointed no judges to the United States circuit courts during his time in office.

States admitted to the Union

West Virginia, admitted to the Union June 20, 1863, contained the former north-westernmost counties of Virginia that seceded from Virginia after that commonwealth declared its secession from the Union. As a condition for its admission, West Virginia’s constitution was required to provide for the gradual abolition of slavery. Nevada, which became the third State in the far-west of the continent, was admitted as a free state on October 31, 1864.Donald (1996), pp. 300, 539.

Religious and philosophical beliefs

As a young man, Lincoln was clearly a religious skeptic, or, in the words of a biographer, even an iconoclast.Carwardine (2003), p. 4. Later in life, Lincoln’s frequent use of religious imagery and language might have reflected his own personal beliefs or might have been a device to appeal to his audiences, who were mostly evangelical Protestants.Carwardine (1997), pp. 27–55. He never joined a church, although he frequently attended with his wife,On claims that Lincoln was baptized by an associate of Alexander Campbell, see but he was deeply familiar with the Bible, quoted it and praised it.Donald (1996), pp. 48–49, 514–515.