Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
First Pub. Date
New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
Pub. Date
Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
663 of 1105



LINCOLN, Abraham, president of the United States 1861-5, was born in Hardin county, Kentucky, Feb. 12, 1809, and died at Washington, April 15, 1863, the victim of an assassination. He was taken by his parents to Spencer county, Indiana, in 1816, and in 1830 removed to Decatur, Macon county, Illinois. Here, in 1835-6, he studied law, and was admitted to the bar, and in 1834 was elected to the state legislature, where he remained until 1841. In 1837 he removed to Springfield. He was a whig representative in congress 1847-9, the only member of that party from his state. Declining a renomination, and defeated as the whig candidate for United States senator in 1849, he continued the practice of law until 1858. During this interval he was so frequently engaged in public political arguments with Douglas, that when the latter returned to Illinois in 1858 to "stump" the state for a legislature favorable to his re-election as United States senator, the republican state convention, June 17, 1858, nominated Lincoln against him. The two engaged in a joint debate in seven towns in different parts of the state, from August until October, which attracted attention in every state. Douglas had long been before the country; this debate brought Lincoln fairly abreast with him. On the popular vote the result was as follows, republicans 126.084, Douglas democrats 121,940. Lecompton democrats 5,091; but Douglas had a majority in the legislature and was re-elected. In 1859, when Douglas was called into Ohio to canvass that state in the gubernatorial election, the republicans at once summoned Lincoln to meet him. Early in 1860 he made many addresses in the eastern states, becoming still more widely recognized as one of the ablest leaders of his party; and in May he was nominated by the republican national convention for the presidency. In November he was elected, and in 1865 he was re-elected. (See REBELLION; HABEAS CORPUS; EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION; DRAFTS; AMNESTY; FREEDMEN'S BUREAU; RECONSTRUCTION. I.; REPUBLICAN PARTY; ELECTORAL VOTES; UNITED STATES.)


—President Lincoln's fame will undoubtedly rest mainly upon his connection with the overthrow of slavery; and yet he was never an abolitionist. In 1837, in a written protest against certain resolutions in the legislature, he declared his belief "that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy; but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than to abate its evils." In December, 1860, in a private letter to Alex. H. Stephens, he said, "Do the people of the south really entertain fears that a republican administration would, directly or indirectly, interfere with the slaves, or with them about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears." (Italics as in original.) Aug. 22, 1862, just a month before the promulgation of the preliminary emancipation proclamation, he wrote thus to Horace Greeley: "My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it: if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it: and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." His record in intervening years is equally consistent, and is, in truth, a representative northern record. Hating slavery per se, believing that "if slavery was not wrong, nothing was wrong," hating the dictatorial recklessness born of slavery, he aimed to combat both within the letter of the law, to yield to slavery the territory, and no more, which had been yielded to it at the formation of the constitution, and to maintain the character of the just man, who "sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not." Lincoln did not destroy slavery: slavery destroyed itself. Its whole life, after 1793, was a journey toward destruction until it stung itself to death in the midst of the circle of fire which had surrounded it. (See SLAVERY)


—For the reason, mainly, that President Lincoln aimed to be the exponent only of the popular will, to confine his functions as guide and leader to efforts to influence the popular will, but to go no faster or farther than the people were ready to support him, his policy was severely criticised during his administration, and a series of intrigues against his renomination, whose inside history has not yet been fully written, marked the years 1863-4. But the honesty of intention, and the final full success of his policy can not be questioned; and these two elements are surely sufficient to justify it.


—The natural greatness and kindliness of his mind and heart have taken an unchallenged place in our history. His second inaugural address, shortly before his death, is one of the finest and most magnanimous of American state papers, and its closing sentence might well serve as his epitaph: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphans, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."


—The best early life of Lincoln is that by W. A. Lamon; the best for general readers is that by J. G. Holland; the most useful for political students is that by H. J. Raymond. Besides, there is a multitude of other lives of Lincoln, memorial proceedings, sermons and eulogies, for which see Bartlett's Literature of the Rebellion, 234. See also authorities under articles referred to above; Carpenter's Six Months at the White House; Poore's Lincoln Conspiracy Trial; Lowell's My Study Windows, 150; 15 Atlantic Monthly and 12 National Quarterly Review (George Bancroft's articles); McMillan's Magazine, February, 1865 (Goldwin Smith's article).


663 of 1105

Return to top