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Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States of America.

He was elected to two terms, but served only one and a month of the second due to his assassination.

There are a ton of Lincoln biographies out there, obviously.  I ended up going a non-political route and read “Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer” by Fred Kaplan.

Nicknames: Honest Abe, The Great Emancipator, The Ancient One, The Rail-Splitter, Uncle Abraham

Quotes:  “The people – the people – are the rightful masters of both congresses and courts – not to overthrow the constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert it.”

Some facts about President Lincoln:

  • Was born on February 12, 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky
  • had a nearly photographic/eidetic memory
  • his father, Thomas Lincoln, was a carpenter and farmer
  • he started school in 1816
  • loved Aesop’s fables
  • had one sister named Sarah
  • grew up in Hardin county, Kentucky until December 1816 when his family moved to Indiana after their Kentucky farm was claimed by a wealthy Philadelphia family
  • he hated slavery his entire life
  • he never shot anything larger than a turkey because he hated killing
  • learned to use an axe clearing timber on their Indiana homestead, became very proficient with it
  • in 1817, his aunt, uncle and 2nd cousin came to live with them
  • his aunt and uncle died of milk sickness (drinking the milk from cows who have ingested poisonous plants)
  • his mother, Nancy, died of the same thing in October 1818
  • a year after his mother’s death, his father married his mother’s best friend – Sally Bush Johnston
  • Sally brought 3 children and several books to the homestead with her
  • Lincoln was an avid reader his entire life, he loved Shakespeare the best
  • he was known as a talented mimic and humorist
  • his education was mostly self-taught through reading
  • he disliked manual labor and instead loved reading, writing and doodling
  • socially awkward and nervous around girls
  • he hated debate and quarreling
  • he hated cruelty of any kind, especially to animals
  • would shadow the local Justice of the Peace to learn about elocution, argument, people, and the law
  • idolized Henry Clay and memorized his speeches
  • in 1820, added Benjamin Franklin and George Washington to his list of heroes
  • he learned all of American history from the book “History of the United States From their First Settlement as Colonies to the Cession of Florida in Eighteen Hundred and Twenty-One” by William Grimshaw
  • Lincoln agreed that whites cheated Native Americans and supported dealing with them fairly, despite disliking them overall b/c his grandfather was murdered by a few in Kentucky
  • left Protestantism in his teen years and became a deist
  • declared in 1828 that he wanted to be President someday
  • he wanted to be important and recognized
  • one of the most defining poems in his life was Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard”
  • he began writing his own poetry in 1824
  • his sister married in 1826 and died in childbirth in 1828, Lincoln was devastated
  • he loved off-color jokes, especially about homosexuality, and was known for his dirty sense of humor
  • he only had 3 courtships in 15 years because he was so nervous around women and scorned marriage after his sister died
  • he left home in 1826 to work poling a ferry up and down the Mississippi River
  • traveled to New Orleans in 1828/1829 on a flatboat he helped build, trading goods along the way and accompanied by his friend Allen Gentry
  • his extended family moved to a large new homestead in Decatur, Illinois when he was 21
  • visited New Orleans again in 1831 and saw the slave market and was pained and disgusted by it
  • became a shop clerk in New Salem, Illinois in 1831, where he met his lifelong best friend, William Green
  • ran for state legislature in 1833 and lost
  • was a captain in the Indian War against the Sac and Black Hawk Native Americans but never engaged in battle or killed anyone
  • became the New Salem postmaster in 1833 and also registered as a land surveyor
  • ran for state legislature again as a Whig in 1834 and won
  • he was talented in math so the IL state legislature assigned him to the Committee of Public Accounts and Expenditures
  • he decided to study law in 1834 and became a lawyer in 1836
  • he met Ann Rutledge, age 19 to his 23 and fell in love with her in 1832
  • was preparing to propose to her when she died in 1835,  he fell into a deep depression
  • while courting Ann, he met Mary Owens – she impressed him with her directness
  • she returned to visit some mutual friends in 1836 and began to treat Lincoln as a suitor, despite his never having expressed an interest in her
  • the majority of their courtship happened through letters
  • he finally felt pressured to propose to her and she rejected him, calling him bad mannered, he suggested they end the courtship and he never heard from her again
  • he helped settle the Illinois state capitol as Springfield, where he eagerly resettled in 1837, partly to escape Mary Owens
  • fought against abolitionism in 1837 in Illinois
  • he often debated Stephen Douglas, who became his nemesis, they first tangled over the National Bank issue
  • was a supporter of the Temperance movement, mostly for political reasons – though he didn’t drink because he liked his head clear
  • he hated alcoholism and public drunkenness
  • in 1839, he met Mary Todd – she was witty, sarcastic, and intelligent with an explosive temper and a spoiled personality…but she had her heart set on being a politician’s wife
  • their relationship was volatile, he went back and forth on whether he actually loved her or could marry her
  • he suffered a nervous breakdown on January 1, 1841 and put himself under a doctor’s care – he also broke off his engagement to Mary Todd
  • in November 1842, he married Mary Todd – though he felt he was coerced into marrying her and from then on arranged his work schedule so they would be apart as much as possible
  • they ended up having 4 sons, only 1 of whom would live to have children of his own: Robert (born in 1843), Edward (1846), Willie (1850), and Thomas or Tad (1953)
  • Lincoln once climbed out the window of a statehouse in an attempt to deprive the legislature of a quorum (the minimum # of statesmen required to make proceedings official)
  • his favorite foods were bacon, fricasseed chicken with biscuits, gingerbread, apples, corn cakes, and oysters
  • he was elected to Congress in 1846
  • in 1849, he tried to pass a bill abolishing slavery in DC but failed
  • he worked hard to get Zachary Taylor elected as president
  • he gave the primary eulogy at President Taylor’s funeral in 1850
  • his second son, Edward Baker, died in February 1850 from tuberculosis – he was 3
  • Lincoln became a railroad lobbyist in 1851
  • he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1854 on an anti-Kansas-Nebraska Act Whig ticket
  • helped found the Republican Party in 1854 and came out as a member in 1856
  • he was not a gifted extemporaneous speaker and wrote his speeches beforehand
  • was one of only 2 American Presidents to write all of his own speeches and official letters
  • his eldest son, Robert, attended Exeter and Harvard
  • he ran against Seward for the Presidential nomination in 1860 on a platform of moderation
  • avoided public speaking as much as possible between April 1860 and February 1861 in order to improve his Presidential chances
  • he hated providing information for the Presidential nominee biographies and would often troll reporters
  • he was inaugurated on March 4, 1861
  • his first vice president was Hannibal Hamlin, his second was Andrew Johnson
  • he was the first republican President
  • was once smuggled by the first female Pinkerton Agent (Kate Warne) into Washington DC disguised as an ailing old man to avoid an assassination plot
  • Confederate leaders decided to secede because he was elected President – it was the final straw for them
  • he firmly believed Confederate leaders had persuaded Southerners to rebel with false propaganda
  • he knew better than to engage in inspirational rhetoric b/c of the nature of the Civil War until the Battle of Gettysburg
  • declared the first National Day of Prayer and Humiliation in March 1863, hoping to encourage the Union (it was set out as a day for chastising national pride and materialism)
  • met with a panel of African Americans in 1862 to ask for their help integrating free blacks into society – he asked them to help him set an example
  • was reluctant to officially emancipate the slaves before the Civil War ended, believing the Confederate states where slavery was predominant wouldn’t recognize his authority
  • presented the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet on September 22, 1862 to go into effect on January 1, 1863 in the rebelling states
  • he supported emancipating blacks but did not care to address Native American rights at all during his term
  • he had constant nightmares about the Civil War and thoughts of those being killed in it
  • began his second term on March 4, 1865, after running under the New Union Party
  • made plans for reconstruction while the war was still going
  • signed the Amnesty Proclamation, pardoning Southerners who met certain terms (hadn’t held office, hadn’t mistreated Union soldiers, would swear allegiance to the USA)
  • he also signed the Homestead Act of 1862, opening the west for expansion
  • pardoned 265 Native Americans after the Sioux uprising in 1862
  • his son Willie, died of a fever in 1862
  • established the Department of Agriculture
  • established the official date for the Thanksgiving holiday
  • suffered from clinical depression most of his life
  • was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865 while attending the theater.  Booth was carrying out an old Confederate plan which originally instructed him to kidnap Lincoln.  But after hearing an anti-confederacy speech by Lincoln, Booth was so angry he decided to kill Lincoln instead of kidnap him
  • Lincoln died on April 15, 1865 after being in a coma for nearly 9 hours after an almost point blank shot to the head
  • his youngest son, Tad, died from heart failure at age 18 in 1871

                                            Andrew Johnson —>

*post title taken from Jonathan Coulton’s “The Presidents”

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