Abraham Lincoln : President Lincoln

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President Abraham Lincoln Homepage
The Life and Death of Abe Lincoln... A History

President Abraham Lincoln in death
Abraham Lincoln in death.jpg
This is the only photo in existence of Abraham Lincoln in death.

President Abraham Lincoln History
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President Abraham Lincoln Homepage

16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln History
Abraham Lincoln Homepage

Abraham Lincoln has had more biographers than any other American president, and, with practically every single volume idolizing and worshipping Lincoln, it is no doubt the number one reason why he is ranked the greatest (or number one) U.S. president in history.

 

Just days after the nation honored the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, 65 historians ranked Abraham Lincoln as our nation's best president, while George Washington—yes, one of our Founding Fathers, that great hero of the American Revolution and our first president—settled for a distant second. Now how is that, I asked? It led me to many questions.

 
To most Americans, President Abraham Lincoln is known as Father Abraham, Honest Abe, Lincoln the Great Emancipator, and even Saint Abe. Make no doubt about it, through the ages Abraham Lincoln has been idolized, mythologized and even immortalized. We have been taught in our public school system that Lincoln really was larger than life, that he was a Moses or Jesus figure. Even paintings with angels hovering about the president's head adorn the walls of many Americans. Has anyone ever seen a painting with George Washington surrounded by a multitude of angels?
 

When I lived in England I was schooled on the English view of the American Revolution, or American Rebellion, and those Colonial rebels, and it was a real eye-opener to say the least. But from America’s perspective, it was a revolution for freedom and a rebellion against tyranny, right? Is it possible that both sides were correct? During the American Civil War, the North also referred to the South as rebels and to the war as the War of the Rebellion, but, on the other hand, the South believed it was a second war for independence, a war against tyranny, a war against the tyrant Abraham Lincoln. Could it also be that both sides were correct?

Abraham Lincoln Homepage
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16th President Abraham Lincoln Homepage

(About) Unretouched photo of Lincoln.

Signature of Abraham Lincoln
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Abraham Lincoln signature in 1862

A district attorney can lead a grand jury in any direction and to any conclusion, and that is why there is a subsequent trial with both the prosecution and defense present. In a marriage, just like in any given divorce, there are two parties involved. In debate, we witness both the affirmative and negative positions. And so there are two sides to the President Abraham Lincoln story.

 
Do we ever read the history that was written by the defeated foe? How many classroom textbooks were written by the defeated and conquered Native Americans? Did you know that most Native Americans rank President Andrew Jackson as the worst president? Do we read Vietnam’s version of the war? They rank President Lyndon Johnson as the worst American president. How many of us have read Mexico’s view regarding the Mexican-American War? Many Mexicans believe that President James Polk was by far the worst president, while many Americans rank Andrew Johnson in the dubious last position.
 
But didn't Johnson inherit Lincoln's mess and the 620,000 that had died and the additional hundreds-of-thousands that had been maimed, crippled and disabled under Lincoln's watch? It was 3% of the total U.S. population, which today would equate to nearly 9,000,000 souls. (That's not including the hundreds-of-thousands of widows and orphans and homeless Americans.) To put it into perspective, 3% of the U.S. population equates to the combined population of the present-day states of New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.

President Abraham Lincoln and 1860 Election Map
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Abraham Lincoln and the 1860 Electoral College Map

(Above) In the 1860 election, without a single Southern electoral vote and with only 39.8% of the popular vote, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States.
 
It is the epitome of hypocrisy? The United States recently demanded that the USSR allow its states (or republics) to secede—Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, etc. But, on the other hand, the U.S. had refused to allow its very own Southern states—or any state—the right of secession. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania didn't want to overthrow or conquer Moscow—they only wanted independence. Nor did the Southern states have any desire to overthrow Washington—they also wanted independence. Interesting fact: "After" the secession of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, the United States' official reply: "[We] had never recognized the legal inclusion of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in the USSR." Ironically, since, or "after," Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia "officially" seceded, each has joined NATO—an organization that is commandeered by the United States. And the letter "U" in USSR, well, it stands for "Union," which is a synonym to the word "United." (See also President Abraham Lincoln in his own words from Civil Rights to States' Rights to Secession and President Lincoln on Constitution, States' Rights, and Secession.)
 
John Cabell Breckinridge was a U.S. Vice President, the most senior ranking public official to commit treason, cousin to Mary Todd Lincoln, presidential candidate (ran against Abraham Lincoln), and prominent Confederate general. Breckinridge (often misspelled as Breckenridge), furthermore, has witnessed only one full-length biography written about him. On the other hand, President Abraham Lincoln has been honored with more than 14,000 biographies.

Abraham Lincoln Homepage
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President Lincoln

The point has been learned from innumerable lessons in history: the victor who writes and teaches its own version of history, presents it with outlandish bias and with utter disdain for the vanquished. We must always remember that there are two sides to the story, and to obtain fairness, balance and objectivity we should lend an ear to each side, and anything less is not history in context, period. The South, consequently, had staunch views and beliefs about Lincoln, and it is only proper that its viewpoints be studied. With more than 14,000 Lincoln biographies, perhaps somewhere in the midst is the real Lincoln. But if you could read one Lincoln biography per day, it would factually take you more than 38 years to read them all.
 
Was Lincoln really the Great Emancipator? Did the Emancipation Proclamation free a single slave? Was Lincoln a racist and white supremacist? Did he really have plans to ship African-Americans to some colony abroad? Was Lincoln responsible for the Civil War and its outcome? Were the slaves freed in the middle of the conflict only because Lincoln feared losing the war? Was the emancipation a political decision because England and France would not assist a nation that supported slavery? Did Lincoln trample, trump and trash the U.S. Constitution? Of course it wasn't coined until decades later, but we all know that famous quote: “The buck stops here.” The resources on this page will allow the reader to access the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding our so-called greatest president.

Personal belongings of Abraham Lincoln
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Lincoln realia, 1865. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

April 14, 1865
 
When Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865, he was carrying two pairs of spectacles and a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a watch fob, a linen handkerchief, and a brown leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate note and eight newspaper clippings, including several favorable to the president and his policies. Given to his son Robert Todd Lincoln upon Lincoln’s death, these everyday items, which through association with tragedy had become relics, remained with the Lincoln family for more than seventy years.

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Recommended Reading for President Abraham Lincoln

Recommended Reading: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. Description: It hardly seems possible that there is more to say about someone who has been subjected to such minute scrutiny in thousands of books and articles. Yet, Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln manages to raise fresh and morally probing questions, challenging the image of the martyred 16th president that has been fashioned carefully in marble and bronze, sentimentalism and myth. In doing so, DiLorenzo does not follow the lead of M. E. Bradford or other Southern agrarians. He writes primarily not as a defender of the Old South and its institutions, culture, and traditions, but as a libertarian enemy of the Leviathan state. Continued below...
DiLorenzo holds Lincoln and his war responsible for the triumph of "big government" and the birth of the ubiquitous, suffocating modern U.S. state. He seeks to replace the nation’s memory of Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator” with the record of Lincoln as the “Great Centralizer.”
 

Recommended Reading: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (944 pages) (Simon & Schuster). Description: The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can't help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln's leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln's political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. Continued below...

These men, all accomplished, nationally known, and presidential, originally disdained Lincoln for his backwoods upbringing and lack of experience, and were shocked and humiliated at losing to this relatively obscure Illinois lawyer. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration--Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general--he ultimately gained their admiration and respect as well. How he soothed egos, turned rivals into allies, and dealt with many challenges to his leadership, all for the sake of the greater good, is largely what Goodwin's fine book is about. Had he not possessed the wisdom and confidence to select and work with the best people, she argues, he could not have led the nation through one of its darkest periods. Ten years in the making, this engaging work reveals why "Lincoln's road to success was longer, more tortuous, and far less likely" than the other men, and why, when opportunity beckoned, Lincoln was "the best prepared to answer the call." This multiple biography further provides valuable background and insights into the contributions and talents of Seward, Chase, and Bates. Lincoln may have been "the indispensable ingredient of the Civil War," but these three men were invaluable to Lincoln and they played key roles in keeping the nation intact.
 

Recommended Viewing: The History Channel Presents The Presidents (DVD: 6 Hours). Description: THE PRESIDENTS is an unprecedented eight-part survey of the personal lives and legacies of the remarkable men who have presided over the Oval Office. From George Washington to George W. Bush, THE PRESIDENTS gathers together vivid snapshots of all 43 Commanders in Chief who have guided America throughout its history--their powerful personalities, weaknesses, and major achievements or historical insignificance. Based on the book To the Best of My Ability, edited by Pulitzer Prize-winner James McPherson, THE PRESIDENTS features rare and unseen photographs and footage, unexpected insight and trivia from journalists, scholars, and politicians such as Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Wesley Clark, Bob Dole, and former President Jimmy Carter. Continued below...

Viewed within the changing contexts of each administration, the Presidency has never seemed more compelling and human. Narrated by Edward Herrmann ("The Aviator"), this three-DVD set is a proud addition to the award-winning documentary tradition of THE HISTORY CHANNELŪ. DVD Features: Feature-length Bonus Program "All The Presidents' Wives"; Timeline of U.S. Presidents; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection, and more!
 
Recommended Reading: Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe. Description: While many view our 16th president as the nation’s greatest president and hero, Tom Dilorenzo, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, through his scholarly research, exposes the many unconstitutional decisions of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln Unmasked, a best-seller, reveals that ‘other side’ – the inglorious character – of the nation’s greatest tyrant and totalitarian. Continued below...
A book that is hailed by many and harshly criticized by others, Lincoln Unmasked, nevertheless, is a thought-provoking study and view of Lincoln that was not taught in our public school system. (Also available in hardcover: Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe.)
 

Recommended Reading: Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (Simon & Schuster Lincoln Library). Description: The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation "a new birth of freedom" in the space of a mere 272 words. His entire life and previous training and his deep political experience went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece. Continued below...

By examining both the address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew, and reveals much about a president so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln desired to change the world and…how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns, and how Lincoln wove a spell that has not yet been broken.

 

Recommended Reading: Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream, by Lerone Bennett. Description: Beginning with the argument that the Emancipation Proclamation did not actually free African American slaves, this dissenting view of Lincoln's greatness surveys the president's policies, speeches, and private utterances and concludes that he had little real interest in abolition. Pointing to Lincoln's support for the fugitive slave laws, his friendship with slave-owning senator Henry Clay, and conversations in which he entertained the idea of deporting slaves in order to create an all-white nation, the book, concludes that the president was a racist at heart—and that the tragedies of Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era were the legacy of his shallow moral vision. Continued below...

About the Author: Lerone Bennett Jr. is the executive editor emeritus of Ebony magazine and the author of 10 books, including Before the Mayflower, Great Moments in Black History, Pioneers in Protest, The Shaping of Black America, and What Manner of Man, a biography of Martin Luther King. He lives in Chicago.

 

Recommended Reading: A. Lincoln: A Biography, by Ronald C. White Jr. (Hardcover). Description: Everyone wants to define the man who signed his name “A. Lincoln.” In his lifetime and ever since, friend and foe have taken it upon themselves to characterize Lincoln according to their own label or libel. In this magnificent book, Ronald C. White, Jr., offers a fresh and compelling definition of Lincoln as a man of integrity–what today’s commentators would call “authenticity”–whose moral compass holds the key to understanding his life. Continued below…

Through meticulous research of the newly completed Lincoln Legal Papers, as well as of recently discovered letters and photographs, White provides a portrait of Lincoln’s personal, political, and moral evolution. White shows us Lincoln as a man who would leave a trail of thoughts in his wake, jotting ideas on scraps of paper and filing them in his top hat or the bottom drawer of his desk; a country lawyer who asked questions in order to figure out his own thinking on an issue, as much as to argue the case; a hands-on commander in chief who, as soldiers and sailors watched in amazement, commandeered a boat and ordered an attack on Confederate shore batteries at the tip of the Virginia peninsula; a man who struggled with the immorality of slavery and as president acted publicly and privately to outlaw it forever; and finally, a president involved in a religious odyssey who wrote, for his own eyes only, a profound meditation on “the will of God” in the Civil War that would become the basis of his finest address. Most enlightening, the Abraham Lincoln who comes into focus in this stellar narrative is a person of intellectual curiosity, comfortable with ambiguity, unafraid to “think anew and act anew.” A transcendent, sweeping, passionately written biography that greatly expands our knowledge and understanding of its subject, A. Lincoln will engage a whole new generation of Americans. It is poised to shed a profound light on our greatest president just as America commemorates the bicentennial of his birth. About the Author: Ronald C. White, Jr., is the author of two bestselling books on Abraham Lincoln: The Eloquent President and Lincoln’s Greatest Speech, a New York Times Notable Book. White earned his Ph.D. at Princeton and has lectured on Lincoln at hundreds of universities and organizations, and at Gettysburg and the White House. He is a Fellow at the Huntington Library and a Visiting Professor of History at UCLA. He lives with his wife, Cynthia, in La Caņada, California.

 
Recommended Reading: Lincoln on Race and Slavery [ILLUSTRATED] (Hardcover), by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Editor, Introduction), Donald Yacovone (Editor). Description: Generations of Americans have debated the meaning of Abraham Lincoln's views on race and slavery. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation, authorized the use of black troops during the Civil War, supported a constitutional amendment to outlaw slavery, and eventually advocated giving the vote to black veterans and to what he referred to as "very intelligent negroes." Continued below...
But he also harbored grave doubts about the intellectual capacity of African Americans, publicly used the n-word until at least 1862, enjoyed "darky" jokes and black-faced minstrel shows, and long favored permanent racial segregation and the voluntary "colonization" of freed slaves in Africa, the Caribbean, or South America. In this book--the first complete collection of Lincoln's important writings on both race and slavery--readers can explore these contradictions through Lincoln's own words. Acclaimed Harvard scholar and documentary filmmaker Henry Louis Gates, Jr., presents the full range of Lincoln's views, gathered from his private letters, speeches, official documents, and even race jokes, arranged chronologically from the late 1830s to the 1860s. Complete with definitive texts, rich historical notes, and Gates's original introduction, this book charts the progress of a war within Lincoln himself. We witness his struggles with conflicting aims and ideas--a hatred of slavery and a belief in the political equality of all men, but also anti-black prejudices and a determination to preserve the Union even at the cost of preserving slavery. We also watch the evolution of his racial views, especially in reaction to the heroic fighting of black Union troops. At turns inspiring and disturbing, Lincoln on Race and Slavery is indispensable for understanding what Lincoln's views meant for his generation--and what they mean for our own.
 

Recommended Reading: Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (Simon & Schuster) (February 5, 2008) (Hardcover). Description: In 1858, Abraham Lincoln was known as a successful Illinois lawyer who had achieved some prominence in state politics as a leader in the new Republican Party. Two years later, he was elected president and was on his way to becoming the greatest chief executive in American history. What carried this one-term congressman from obscurity to fame was the campaign he mounted for the United States Senate against the country's most formidable politician, Stephen A. Douglas, in the summer and fall of 1858. Lincoln challenged Douglas directly in one of his greatest speeches -- "A house divided against itself cannot stand" -- and confronted Douglas on the questions of slavery and the inviolability of the Union in seven fierce debates. As this brilliant narrative by the prize-winning Lincoln scholar Allen Guelzo dramatizes, Lincoln would emerge a predominant national figure, the leader of his party, the man who would bear the burden of the national confrontation. Continued below... 

Of course, the great issue between Lincoln and Douglas was slavery. Douglas was the champion of "popular sovereignty," of letting states and territories decide for themselves whether to legalize slavery. Lincoln drew a moral line, arguing that slavery was a violation both of natural law and of the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence. No majority could ever make slavery right, he argued. Lincoln lost that Senate race to Douglas, though he came close to toppling the "Little Giant," whom almost everyone thought was unbeatable. Guelzo's Lincoln and Douglas brings alive their debates and this whole year of campaigns and underscores their centrality in the greatest conflict in American history. The encounters between Lincoln and Douglas engage a key question in American political life: What is democracy's purpose? Is it to satisfy the desires of the majority? Or is it to achieve a just and moral public order? These were the real questions in 1858 that led to the Civil War. They remain questions for Americans today.

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