Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln : biography

February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865

Most Republicans agreed with Lincoln that the North was the aggrieved party, as the Slave Power tightened its grasp on the national government with the Dred Scott decision and the presidency of James Buchanan. Throughout the 1850s, Lincoln doubted the prospects of civil war, and his supporters rejected claims that his election would incite secession.Boritt (1994), pp. 10, 13, 18. Meanwhile, Douglas was selected as the candidate of the Northern Democrats. Delegates from 11 slave states walked out of the Democratic convention, disagreeing with Douglas’ position on popular sovereignty, and ultimately selected John C. Breckinridge as their candidate.Donald (1996), p. 253.

As Douglas and the other candidates went through with their campaigns, Lincoln was the only one of them who gave no speeches. Instead, he monitored the campaign closely and relied on the enthusiasm of the Republican Party. The party did the leg work that produced majorities across the North, and produced an abundance of campaign posters, leaflets, and newspaper editorials. There were thousands of Republican speakers who focused first on the party platform, and second on Lincoln’s life story, emphasizing his childhood poverty. The goal was to demonstrate the superior power of "free labor", whereby a common farm boy could work his way to the top by his own efforts.Donald (1996), pp. 254–256. The Republican Party’s production of campaign literature dwarfed the combined opposition; a Chicago Tribune writer produced a pamphlet that detailed Lincoln’s life, and sold 100,000 to 200,000 copies.Donald (1996), p. 254.

Memorials

Lincoln’s portrait appears on two denominations of United States currency, the penny and the $5 bill. His likeness also appears on many postage stamps and has been memorialized in many town, city, and county names,Dennis, p. 194. including the capital of Nebraska.

The most famous and most visited memorials are the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.; Lincoln’s sculpture on Mount Rushmore; Ford’s Theatre and Petersen House (where he died) in Washington and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, located in Springfield, Illinois, not far from Lincoln’s home and his tomb.

Barry Schwartz, a sociologist who has examined America’s cultural memory, argues that in the 1930s and 1940s, the memory of Abraham Lincoln was practically sacred and provided the nation with "a moral symbol inspiring and guiding American life." During the Great Depression, he argues, Lincoln served "as a means for seeing the world’s disappointments, for making its sufferings not so much explicable as meaningful." Franklin D. Roosevelt, preparing America for war, used the words of the Civil War president to clarify the threat posed by Germany and Japan. Americans asked, "What would Lincoln do?"Barry Schwartz, Abraham Lincoln in the Post-Heroic Era: History and Memory in Late Twentieth-Century America (2009) pp. xi, 9, 24 However, he also finds that since World War II, Lincoln’s symbolic power has lost relevance, and this "fading hero is symptomatic of fading confidence in national greatness."Barry Schwartz, Abraham Lincoln in the Post-Heroic Era: History and Memory in Late Twentieth-Century America (2009) p. xi, 9 He suggested that postmodernism and multiculturalism have diluted greatness as a concept.

Assassination

John Wilkes Booth was a well-known actor and a Confederate spy from Maryland; though he never joined the Confederate army, he had contacts with the Confederate secret service.Donald (1996), pp. 586–587. In 1864, Booth formulated a plan (very similar to one of Thomas N. Conrad previously authorized by the Confederacy)Donald (1996), p. 587. to kidnap Lincoln in exchange for the release of Confederate prisoners. As Lincoln’s election became evident, secessionists made clear their intent to leave the Union before he took office the next March.Edgar, p. 350. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina took the lead by adopting an ordinance of secession; by February 1, 1861, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed.Potter, p. 498. Six of these states then adopted a constitution and declared themselves to be a sovereign nation, the Confederate States of America.Donald (1996), p. 267. The upper South and border states (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas) listened to, but initially rejected, the secessionist appeal.White, p. 362. President Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy, declaring secession illegal.Potter, pp. 520, 569–570. The Confederacy selected Jefferson Davis as its provisional President on February 9, 1861.White, p. 369.