On 12 February 1809, Abraham Lincoln – 16th President of the United States of America and first Republican Party (GOP) President – was born in Kentucky to poor parents of a small frontier farm.
Home-schooled and self-taught – but observant, curious and articulate, with a logical and open mind – Lincoln rose to become one of the truly great presidents of the US.
Lincoln was inaugurated as Republican president on 4 March 1861 during the country’s polarising debate on slavery and the resulting, brutal civil war (12 April 1861 – 9 May 1865).
The civil war started a month after Lincoln’s inauguration and officially ended a month after his assassination. The war resulted in at least 600,000 soldier deaths (two-thirds by disease). The war’s deadliest battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on 1-3 July 1863 – in the heart of Union territory claimed around 50,000 causalities (a third of combatants).
The Union North’s victory was a key turning point in the war, to which the “Soldiers’ National Cemetery” was dedicated nearly five months later (19 November 1863). During the cemetery’s commemorative speeches, President Lincoln gave his “Gettysburg Address” – a powerful 270 word speech that became one of the best known in all of history (see further details below).
Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on 15 April 1865, early in his second term as re-elected US president. He is only one of four US Presidents assassinated while in office and one of eight to have died in office.
Two famous and quintessential quotes from Lincoln are:
“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.”
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”
Celebrate the birth and life of Abraham Lincoln by:
- watching a documentary or three on America’s 16th (and civil war-time) President
- checking out more of Lincoln’s famous quotes and key speeches
- reading further on his life, character and presidency
- apprising yourself of the Conservative Party’s principles and policies, in particular, around freedom, liberty, smaller government and national sovereignty
- signing our petition to stand up for our freedoms
- sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, conservatives, classical liberals and those that value liberty – freedom from tyranny and a creeping post-modern puritanism – Western values and our way of life.
Further details on Lincoln, secession and the American civil war
Originally a member of the Whig Party (and US House of Reps, 1847-49), Lincoln switched to the then fledgling Republican Party (GOP, est 1854) with its then platform of classical liberalism, pro-development and economic reform and ideological stand against slavery. The Whig Party (1834-1860) tore itself apart during the 1850s on the question of slavery, with abolitionists, classical liberals and Lincoln joining the Republicans.
Lincoln won the Republican primary and the US presidential election on 6 November 1860 campaigning hard for the abolition of slavery throughout the Union – refusing to leave it in the hands of individual states and with western territories yet to become states. (The American Constitution had hitherto been silent on slavery.)
Within weeks of Lincoln’s election, South Carolina led the first of several pro-slavery plantation states in the south to secede from the US Union. The secession of six further southern states resulted in a Peace Conference in early February 1861. Days after the conference’s failure, the seven secessionist states formed a Confederacy – an unrecognized country in North America deemed illegal by the US government.
Tensions built further over the next two months – encompassing Lincoln’s uncompromisingly abolitionist inauguration address – until civil war erupted at the battle at Fort Sumter (soon after which four more southern states joined the Confederacy).
Lincoln and the Republicans believed the Union could only survive if the slavery abolitionist North (from his electoral heartland) won the debate (and war) on slavery, liberty and the equality of man over the Confederate and Democrat-dominated South. Lincoln skilfully articulated this as the intention of America’s Founding Fathers.
Aside from Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (freeing all slaves in rebellious states, although leaving those in border states (loyal to the Union) in bondage), inauguration addresses, presidency of the nascent Republican Party and Shakespearian command of the English language (despite his lack of formal schooling), he is possibly most renowned for his concise, powerfully-worded Gettysburg Address, which concludes
“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.”
Lincoln was a shrewd politician, networker and leader, cultivating a popular image and choosing the right words and tone for the occasion. A pre-eminent ‘outsider’ with only a brief 2-year Congressional experience and no gubernatorial or public office experience or platform, Lincoln won the 1860 and 1864 presidential races amidst a looming and then gruelling civil war. In that context, the 2016 victory of Republican candidate Donald J Trump is less surprising.
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