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Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, was very impor
tant to the past history of our country. He helped to abolish slavery in this c
ountry and kept the American Union from splitting apart during the Civil War.
At 22, he moved to New Salem, Illinois. With his gift for swapping stor
ies and making friends, he became quite popular and was elected to the Illinois
legislature in 1834. In his spare time, he taught himself law and became a lawy
er. In 1847, he was elected to the U.S. Congress, but returned to his law pract
ice until 1858, when his concern about the spread of slavery prompted him to ret
urn to national politics and run for the U.S. Senate.
Lincoln rose to greatness from a humble beginning. Born in 1809 in a lo
g cabin in Kentucky, Lincoln spent most of his childhood working on the family f
arm. He had less than a year of school but managed to educate himself by studyi
ng and reading books on his own.
He believed that slavery and democracy were fundamentally incompatible.
In an 1858 speech, he said:
What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independance? It is not our
frowning battlements, our bristling sea coats, our army and our navy . . . Our
defense is in the spirit which prized liberty as the heritage of all men, in all
lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despot
ism at your own doors. Familiarize yourself with the chains of bondage and you
prepare your own limbs to wear them (World Book Encyclopedia).
He lost his campaign for the Senate, but during the debates with his opp
onent Stephen Douglas, he became well known for his opposotion to slavery. The
southern states, which believed they depended upon slavery to remain prosperous
in the cotton, tobacco, and rice industries, threatened to secede from the natio
n if Lincoln won the election. Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, and by
April 12, the southern states had formed the Confedrate States of America and t
he Civil War began.
It was during the Civil War that Lincoln proclaimed the slaves free in t
he Confederate states. This was his famous Emancipation Proclamation, issued in
1863.
But Lincoln knew that something else had to be done to insure liberty fo
r the slaves after the war. So he worked hard to pass an antislavery amendment
to the Constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment, passed by Congress in 1865, proh
ibited slavery in all states. It was this important act, and the Emancipation P
roclamation, that won Lincoln his reputation as the Great Emancipator.