Nov. 6, 1860
Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States.
The son of a Kentucky frontiersman, Lincoln struggled as a child. “Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher,” he recalled, “but that was all.”
His physical labor eventually led to law and eight years in the Illinois Legislature.
“His ambition,” his law partner wrote, “was a little engine that knew no rest.”
He lost his 1858 race for the Senate against Stephen A. Douglas, but he gained a national reputation that led to the Republican nomination. After his election, he said in his inaugural address to the South, “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you…. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.”
When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter and forced its surrender, Lincoln called on the states for 75,000 volunteers, and the Civil War began.
In dedicating the military cemetery at Gettysburg, he wished that “these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
In 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and a year later, he won reelection. He served until 1865 when he was assassinated.
Today both historians and citizens consistently rate him as one of the best presidents of all time, admiring his rise from humble roots, his emancipation of slaves and his dedication to preserve the Union. The Lincoln Memorial, built in his honor, bears these words of his: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds.”