It has been 150 years since President Abraham Lincoln’s untimely death. However, his enormous legacy lives on in the aftermath of his actions. He is remembered for his abolitionist efforts and most importantly, for holding a dissolving Union together in the bloodiest war in American history.
Abraham Lincoln, born to a pioneer family in Kentucky, was not groomed for politics like many of his contemporaries. Working odd jobs and being a man of the people, he understood his constituents and soon became an incredibly popular presidential candidate in the election of 1860. In his abolition-themed Cooper Union Address that same year, he secured the vote of Northern Republicans, who were wary of a Southerner with ties to the Whig Party. This immortal speech detailed Lincoln’s view that the Founding Fathers had wished to abolish slavery, but could not find the means to do so. Such a theme of equality would return in Lincoln’s policy during the Civil War.
On April 12, 1861, the Civil War officially began when Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter. President Lincoln, who had taken office on March 4, would make suppressing the rebellion of the Confederacy the purpose of his term. The war would last four years and would unfortunately take between 600,000 and 750,000 lives (source: The New York Times). Lincoln aggressively named future president Ulysses S. Grant as Commanding General of the United States and mobilized troops to crush the revolt in any way he could. One method Lincoln chose to utilize was his power as Commander-in-Chief. Using his executive power, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, thereby freeing all slaves in all of the ten states in rebellion. This was a massive blow to the Confederate social structure and economy, which aided the Union’s cause.
The Civil War would officially become an American struggle to abolish slavery after President Lincoln’s most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address, which was given on Nov. 19, 1863. It is perhaps one of the most famed speeches in American history and is still studied by students today. Beginning with the legendary “four score and seven years ago,” Lincoln marked the Civil War as our struggle for “a new birth of freedom” in which all men, black and white, would be equal persons before our hallowed Constitution. In the study of American abolition, the Gettysburg Address, though a mere two minutes long, carries great weight.
General Grant would spend the following five months after the Gettysburg Address destroying Confederate troops in the South and finishing off the Civil War. During those same months, Lincoln made his final contribution to the American people. Though he could not directly create a constitutional amendment, he pushed the 13th Amendment through the legislative branch to successfully outlaw slavery on American soil.
Unfortunately, President Lincoln would not live to see the states of his beloved union ratify this amendment. On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth would assassinate the revered president at Ford’s Theater, in Washington, D.C. He is far from forgotten, though. Millions of people visit the Lincoln Memorial in the city of his death every year. Students all around the world study the power of the great orator’s speeches. Americans remember one of our greatest presidents – a man dedicated to the equality of his people and to preserving his nation. We remember President Abraham Lincoln.