Abraham Lincoln

A Brief Biography

Gabriel García Márquez

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States and with his two terms, may be credited with serving upon the throne during one of its most difficult purposed times in American history, that of guiding the country through the Civil War and seeing to it that slavery was abolished. He was born on February 12, 1809, in a one-room log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky, and led his life with struggle and little formal education in his early years. Despite all the marvels of hardship and deprivation, he carried within him an ardent love for reading and self-education, the very path to the system of law and politics. Robert Browning's well-known words: "Man's reach should exceed his grasp, else what's a heaven for?" and Lincoln's great life - from a log cabin to the highest position in the nation, proved to be a remarkable and striking example of his willpower and hard work.

Lincoln served a single term in the Illinois State Legislature and then turned his back on politics to become a lawyer. He affiliated with the new Republican Party, dedicated to keeping slavery out of the territories, thereby making it ultimately unfeasible to survive in the Union. He became the center stage of eloquence and debating skills in 1858 again, at the Lincoln-Douglas debates. There he matched his abilities against Senator Stephen A. Douglas on the moral and legal issues concerning slavery. When Lincoln was defeated in this Senate race, the debates made his national reputation. More important to him, they also helped bring him to the attention of Republican leaders across the nation.

He was the President who bore the tremendous responsibility of keeping the Union together in the Civil War. He was the President whose commitment to the ideal of a nation undivided and indivisible led him to take critical military decisions that would determine the course of the war, decisions such as appointing Ulysses S. Grant as the commander of Union armies. His conception of America as the land of the free and the home of the brave is immortalized in his Gettysburg Address of 1863. This, one of the shortest speeches ever made, is one of the most revered in American history, since it placed much symbolism in the War and the need for national reunion.

As President, Lincoln changed his position on the issue quite a lot. Though he had initially wished to save the Union, it soon came to his realization that doing so involved abolition. In 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a decree that all slaves in territories controlled by the Confederates be set free. This executive order of his brought a change not only to the war but also set new grounds for future abolition of slavery in the country. In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment banned the issue of slavery in the United States, much credited to the leadership of Lincoln. Tragically, it was on that fateful day, April 14, 1865, that Lincoln had been shot dead by John Wilkes Booth, who fired at point-blank range. His death touched the whole nation, mourning the loss of a leader who had seen the country through its darkest days. His contribution to American society is huge, especially through his fight against slavery, in the contributions of works toward equality. His life and presidency provide the most inspiring lesson in endurance, justice, and humanity.