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Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States of America was born in Hardin County, Kentucky. After his mother passed away at a young age, his father and stepmother raised Lincoln. He received very little formal education and his family moved to Illinois where he worked as a boatman, store clerk, surveyor, militia soldier and ultimately a lawyer. Lincoln served as a volunteer in the Illinois Militia during the Black Hawk War. Although he never saw combat during his tour, he was elected captain of his first company through a vote. He was in and out of service during the war and moved up in the ranks frequently. Lincoln was characterized as an able and competent leader. Lincoln became extremely interested in politics from a young age and led many campaigns even when he lacked money, education and powerful friends but attained local popularity. After losing Lincoln became a postmaster and eventually became extremely interested in law and began studying in Springfield, Illinois. His second campaign in 1834 was successful; he won the state legislature. He served four terms in the Illinois House of Representatives as a Whig representative. Lincoln was eventually elected into the U.S House of Representatives. From the very start, Lincoln expressed his passion for the abolition of slavery. His strong opposition to it had been clear since the beginning of his route towards presidency. Lincoln was elected as President of the United States as a member of the Republican Party in 1860 into a country that was divided. On the side of The Union in The Civil War, Lincoln worked hard at compromises, acts and different amendments to work towards a freer nation for all. [1]

Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy. He honored those that at fallen in the Civil War at his Gettysburg address, which is one of the most famous speeches to this day. Lincoln was re-elected in 1864 and his main goal was to gain peace, encouraging Southerners to lay down their arms and join speedily in reunion. [2]

“The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address, now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds.... " [2]

Challenge Discussion:

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other." [10]

Lincoln’s greatest strength was his voice and the speeches he gave throughout his life, especially during his run in politics. As a politician, Lincoln stayed true to himself and true to what he believed in. Coming into a presidency in a country that was completely divided Lincoln was able to learn quickly, be aware of his weaknesses, and communicate clearly his goals and visions. As the leader of the nation, Lincoln had to balance and work through the differing opinions, feelings, and beliefs of millions. Lincoln strongly believed in the abolition of slavery and worked towards achieving this goal. He believed in a government that was “of the people, by the people, for the people…” [2].

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies ... The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." [11]

Living in an age where the conflicting views was at the forefront of the war and of the country, Lincoln faced the challenge of reunited the split United States. Lincoln believed strongly in not losing a nation by preserving the Constitution. He showed the nation that the President had a special duty that went beyond Congress and the courts, and this was required in times of crisis. During times of war, Lincoln believed the president’s main responsibility was the well-being and survival of the nation. Lincoln’s greatest achievement was the “ability to energize and mobilize the nation by appealing to its best ideals while acting with “malice towards none” in the pursuit of a more perfect, more just and more enduring Union”. [9]

Lincoln preached the idea of a man having his own opinion, but knowing that opinion and being knowledgeable about it and willing to defend it. Although Lincoln had authority and was able to implement change in a government with extremely differing views throughout, he always listened to others opinions constantly before making final decisions. [9]

It is said that Lincoln suffered and endured his fair share of mental suffering during his presidency. The pressure of leading evoked fear and self-doubt, however Lincoln was able to control his emotions and was resilient and composed. He was able to navigate these emotions without compromising their larger purpose of vision. He had this clear vision from the very beginning and this clarity enabled him to see beyond difficult circumstances and continue on. With this vision he paired a belief in everything he spoke of and this undeniable passion never left him. [4]

Lincoln’s focused on causes that were so deeply routed in the foundation of the country. His strong belief in “free labor ideology” was at the core of the Republican value system; all work in a free society was honorable. He strongly believed that free men who practiced the virtues of industry, thrift, self-discipline and sobriety could climb the ladder of success and was never afraid to admit that he himself had done so, mauling rails and working on flatboats. Lincoln wanted to prove that if a man is free he could better his condition and this idea that in slave states most laborers were “fatally fixed” was what made the country so divided. “I want every man to have the chance-and I believe a black man is entitled to it-in which he can better his condition” [8].

Lincoln had extreme constitutional restraint including issuing the Emancipation Proclamation which was something that was deeply radical and he was vulnerable from those who were prepared to wage war to defend their sides. “Lincoln wrote on Sept. 2, 1863 that ‘if I take the step must I not do so, without the argument of military necessity, and so, without any argument, except the one that I think the measure politically expedient and morally right? Would I not thus give up all footing upon constitution or law? Would I not thus be in the boundless field of absolutism?’” Lincoln was well aware of the many opposing views during his presidential career and always acted through his morality and belief in the greater majority. “For constitutional leadership, the ends do not justify the means. Constitutional leadership is necessarily limited or bounded leadership. It is in this possibility of a leader operating within the limits of constitutional restraint that the hope of our republic rests” [3]

"I have been driven many times to my knees," Lincoln said, "by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day." Lincoln had many personal struggles, especially within in his family. He lost many members of his family and his wife and sons suffered from extreme mental illnesses. Lincoln was at the forefront of his family and of his country. Within these losses, Lincoln gained the strength and courage needed to lead a nation and his family.

Virtue Discussion:

Abraham Lincoln’s greatest virtue was his patience. Lincoln was a master listener. As president, Lincoln heard opinions from all parties and took all of these into consideration and to heart. Final decisions were made after hearing every side and every opinion. What also lead to Lincoln being a master communicator as well; he wove a vision for a free United States through showing what the priorities were of his countrymen. He thought of the long-term happiness of the entire nation; not himself or the two halves in which it was split. Although he had a vision for a free and united country, he took slow steps in achieving it. [4].

Choice-Worthy Good:

As a young man Lincoln exemplified a leader early on in his life. Never receiving a formal education, Lincoln took it upon himself to gain the knowledge that he could have access to. Lincoln learned through a physical upbringing how to take responsibility for one’s work. Lincoln was mostly self-educated and took it upon himself to read as much as possible. He often sought access independently to books outside of the village in which he lived. He borrowed as many books as he could and looked for new ones to master individually. People often believed that he read to avoid doing manual labor, however was extremely laborious in his studies. Lincoln eventually went on to study law after impressing many with his knowledge when running for state legislature. It was his Wife’s brother who encouraged Lincoln to study law and Lincoln became familiar with courtrooms from a young age. Lincoln took it upon himself to attend court hearings and sessions as a spectator. He continued to practice studying and reading about law and continued to borrow any book he could. Because Lincoln did not have an easy access to education he used his surroundings, resources, and self-motivation to gain the knowledge he needed. Not only did Lincoln gain knowledge of law but also was able to practice oral presentation throughout his trainings. Lincoln’s knowledge and talent using oral presentation would go on to be one of the best aspects about him as a leader. Lincoln was able to not only deliver messages thoughtfully but also he was able to deliver them with such a strong sense of knowledge as a foundation. [7]

Cultural Ill:

Lincoln went on to make an estimated 175 speeches which central message was the necessity to exclude slavery from the territories as a step toward its ultimate extinction everywhere. Lincoln heavily believed in turning to the Constitution as proof that the words “slave” and “slavery” did not exist in the document. [8] During his time of presidency, especially closer to the time of his, Lincoln was looked at as a self-made man, the liberator of slaves and the savior of the Union who had give his life so that others could be free. He was completely committed to vindicating democracy, no matter the consequences it could have had on him. [9]











11 Lincoln, David Herbert Donald