Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Gettysburg, Adams County
Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address in November 1863.
Abraham Lincoln was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, on February 12, 1809. Growing up in a poor family, he found ways to learn by borrowing neighbor's books and working on the farm. He went on to study law and politics. After running unsuccessfully for several offices and serving in the House, he gained recognition and was the Republican presidential nominee for the 1860 election. Lincoln became the country's 16th president. Known for his public speeches, he led the country through the civil war and ended slavery. He is one of the most famous presidents of the United States. On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln in Ford's Theatre, leading to Lincoln's death on the following day.
In a log cabin on February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln was born to his parents Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. The poor family owned a farm and was unable to provide any type of suitable education for the Lincoln children. The family only owned one book, the Bible. Lincoln had a hunger for reading and often borrowed books from neighbors. His total schooling amounted to only one year. He taught himself grammar, mathematics and learned much about life by working on the farm.
After considering becoming a shopkeeper or a blacksmith, Lincoln decided to pursue a career in law and began his study of politics. Lincoln was elected on the Whig ballot in 1834 to serve four years in the Illinois State Legislature. Two years later, at the age of 27, he passed the bar examination. In November of 1842, Lincoln met and married Mary Todd, and over the course of their marriage they had four sons. Lincoln then served one term in Congress from 1847 to 1849. While a Congressman, Lincoln vehemently opposed slavery and the Mexican War. During this time, he came under attack both by his Illinois constituents and his fellow Congress members. He was denounced because of declarations made in his speech before Congress on January 12, 1848 in which he questioned the President's involvement in the Mexican War and the potential for southern secession. After his party, the Whigs, lost the election in his district, he turned away from politics and returned to Springfield to practice law. He was a very successful lawyer and was associated with Illinois' best lawyers. As a lawyer, he discovered his natural gift of public speaking and often delivered political speeches. His fame rose because of his skill at oration and storytelling. Lincoln then became identified with a new party, the Republicans, after the collapse of the Whig Party. At the 1858 Republican convention in Bloomington, Illinois, Lincoln delivered a speech to inspire crusading abolitionists, but still was able to maintain the support of the moderates. Lincoln continued to attract support of both government leaders and fellow Americans. He successfully sought the Republican senatorial nomination and delivered another meticulously prepared oration at the Illinois state Republican convention in Springfield. During the senatorial contest against incumbent Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln propelled himself to national prominence for the new party in a series of debates in every congressional district in Illinois. The format of the debates, in which the politicians engaged each other at length on the substantive issues of the day, is used in high school and collegiate debating contests to this day.
In the 1860 election, Lincoln had garnered enough support to win the Electoral College majority as the Republicans' nominee, but he did not win the popular vote. Lincoln won a plurality over his three opponents and was elected as the nation's 16th President. Southern states, rejecting Lincoln's anti-slavery positions, began to secede without Federal opposition from the Union during the last months of the Buchanan Administration, as President-elect Lincoln was forced to maintain a low profile until his inauguration on March 4, 1861. In his inaugural speech, he denounced the secession as anarchy and asked people to bond together rather than separate. A few weeks later, despite the effects of Lincoln's speech, the Civil War began. His preservation of the Union and other actions during the Civil War made this minority president one of the country's greatest presidents during the bloodiest war in the country's history.
After a Union victory at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, in Maryland, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, giving slaves in rebel territory freedom. Besides being an important historical document, it is regarded as one of the most dazzling examples of the mastery of the English language. Later in 1863 Lincoln was called upon to consecrate a civil war cemetery, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to commemorate the tremendous loss of life in the war. On November 19, 1863, Lincoln delivered his brief, but brilliant Gettysburg Address. Though it was not the featured oration at the dedication ceremonies (that position was given to Edward Everett, former Massachusetts Congressman and Senator, and the most popular public speaker of the time), the Gettysburg Address became the object of study and reverence for generations of Americans. Though Lincoln spoke for only two minutes, he delivered a piece of prose so powerful that it would be honored as one of the greatest orations in the nation's history.
Abraham Lincoln is remembered as being one of most influential figures in the history of the United States. His nickname, Honest Abe, derived from his tendency to speak the truth, characterized his business and political practices. He is credited as the leader whose crucial actions during the Civil War helped abolish slavery in America. Lincoln rose from humble roots and little education to become one of the country's most memorable and influential presidents. He carried the country through the most heated period of civil unrest in the United States. Throughout his many public addresses, Lincoln was able to calm a warring country with his motivational words.
Lincoln was shot by actor John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC, on the evening of Good Friday, April 14, 1865. President Abraham Lincoln never regained consciousness and died at the Petersen Boarding House across the street from the theatre the next day.
House Divided Speech. Springfield, IL. 16 June 1858.
Farewell to Springfield. Springfield, IL. 11 February 1861.
Address at Independence Hall. Philadelphia, PA. 22 Feb. 1861.
First Inaugural Address. Washington, DC. 4 Mar. 1861.
Gettysburg Address. Gettysburg, PA. 19 Nov. 1863.
Second Inaugural Address. Washington, DC. 4 Mar. 1865.
Last Public Address. Washington DC. 11 Apr. 1865.
Emancipation Proclamation. 1 Jan. 1863.
Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day. 30 Mar. 1863.
Thanksgiving Proclamation. 3 Oct. 1863.
Abraham Lincoln. Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1996.
Abraham Lincoln. Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1968.