For Kids & Teachers
Lincoln was a very interesting man. He was born in Illinois. He was tall and thin, and spoke with a Midwestern twang. He looked rather bumbling and was extremely smart. He was poor as a child. But he was stubborn. He studied and studied until he became a lawyer. Then he went into politics. Some people told him he had to change the way he spoke or he would never be elected to office. But Lincoln never changed the way he spoke, and he was elected president of the United States in 1860.
When Lincoln took over the presidency, America was in turmoil. Congress had divided America into "free states" in the North where slavery WAS NOT legal, and "slave states" in the South where slavery WAS legal. As well, Congress divided the territories out west into free territories and slave territories. Their plan was to keep the balance of power even between proslavery representatives and antislavery representatives in Congress.
Lincoln didn't think much of this plan. But he was lawyer. He believed in the law. He believed in the U.S. Constitution, which at the time, sanctioned slavery. Lincoln was opposed to slavery on moral grounds, but he made it very clear during his campaign for the presidency that if he was elected, he would not deny states rights. If Congress wanted to end slavery in America, they would have to change the Constitution by writing an Amendment. That was not his job. To Lincoln, his job if elected president was to keep the country strong and united. Only a united country could discourage other countries from trying conquer America.
Other politicians soon learned that to disagree with president Lincoln was going to cause them all kinds of time and trouble, because Lincoln would not give up until he got Congress to pass what he thought was the best action to take for the country. But Lincoln was very likeable. He had a great sense of humor. He loved sports, especially a new game called baseball. He loved baseball so much that while he was president, he had a baseball diamond built on the White House grounds. Kids were welcome to play there. Once in a while, he even joined them! He loved his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. Theirs was a true romance. And he loved his sons. But if you were looking for a word, just one word, to describe Abraham Lincoln, I suggest that word would be stubborn. Thank goodness he was. He was a very busy president. During his first term in office, not only did he have affairs of state to handle, the South seceded from the Union, and the Civil War began. The war raged for four years. Lincoln was so busy during his presidency that he wrote the Gettysburg address on the way to Gettysburg.
Lincoln was elected for a second term. But he was not able to serve much of it. Lincoln was assassinated April 14, 1865. His killers believed if Lincoln died, the South might win the war. But the Civil War had effectively ended six days earlier with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Over the next few weeks, other Confederate generals surrender, and the war was over by May 1865.
Earlier that year, before his death, Lincoln did see Congress pass the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in Jan 1865, ending slavery forever. The Amendment was not ratified by all the states until December 1865, but Lincoln knew it would be ratified. Lincoln's presidency included many accomplishments. Suffice it to say that Lincoln was a very effective president. We, the people, were lucky to have him.