Throughout his life, Abraham Lincoln wondered if he would leave his mark on history. Today, 200 years after his birth, people around the world still find inspiration in his story.
Like no other American, his life is entwined with the history and culture of the nation. His rise from poverty to the presidency has inspired others to believe in the promise of opportunity; his triumph in preserving a democratic nation is one of our greatest triumphs; and his death is our American tragedy.
This unschooled politician from the western frontier has encouraged generations with his generous spirit and his willingness to give his life so that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
"Some men stand still, amazed, when the tempest darkens around them; others grow and rise to the height of the occasion; but few have ever grown and risen as did this man; his mind maturing and his views expanding under the stirring of his times."
—Robert Dale Owen, reformer and Indiana congressman, 1870
Gift of Theodore Mills, the artist’s son, 1889
Mill’s Mask of Lincoln
On February 11, 1865, about two months before his death, Lincoln permitted sculptor Clark Mills to make this life mask of his face. This was the second and last life mask made of Lincoln.
The strain of the presidency was written on Abraham Lincoln’s face. His secretary, John Hay, remarked on the dramatic difference in Lincoln’s two life masks. He noted that the first (displayed earlier in the exhibition) “is a man of fifty-one, and young for his years. . . . It is a face full of life, of energy, of vivid aspiration. . . . .The other is so sad and peaceful in its infinite repose . . . . a look as of one on whom sorrow and care had done their worst without victory is on all the features.”
Abraham Lincoln – the statesman of the USA, one of the founders of the Republican Party, the 16th US president who freed the slaves, the national American hero – was born in village Hodgenville (Kentucky) on February 12, 1809. Due to the fact that he was born in a family of farmer with meager income, Abraham was unable to get a good education, he went to school for no more than a year and, from an early age, got used to the physical work. At the age of eight with his parents the boy moved to a district in the state of Indiana, where was no closer schools. Nevertheless, little Lincoln learned to read and write and was very fond of reading.For him itbecame a helper in a zealous self-education and favouritepastime forever.
The young Lincoln had a chance to try a variety of occupations – laborer, carpenter, postman, and woodsman. In 1830 their family moved to New Salem (Illinois), and Abraham worked as a surveyor, a clerk in a small commercial shop. During the Indian War of “Black Falcons” Lincoln went to volunteer in the militia, as Indians at one time killed his grandparents (paternal). He was chosen as a captain, but he did not serve for a long time and did not have a chance to take a part in battles.
Working during the years of 1833-1836 as a postmaster, Lincoln simultaneously was studying law. He has passed an exam and in 1836 received permission to practice law, which he was engaged in the further years. In this field he succeeded and became one of the best lawyers in the state, at one time, he even worked for the railroad “Illinois Central” as a consultant. Qualities of wit, integrity, honesty contributed to his confident professional growth and strengthening of the authority.
The political biography of Lincoln began in the early 30s with an unsuccessful attempt to take a seat in the State of the House of Representatives. However, in 1835 young Abraham Lincoln was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the State of Illinois, where he adjacent to the Whig party. Until 1842, he was a Chairman of the Finance Committee and one of the most known persons in their party.
The next step in his political career was the election in 1847 to the US Congress. Lincoln fought for the expansion of political and civil rights of the broad masses of the population, for ensuring that women got the right to vote. Fighting with the slavery, the politician advocated the stop of the spread of slavery throughout the country. In 1854, Lincoln acted as one of the organizers of the Republican Party. In 1858, he became a candidate for the US Senate, but could not win the election.
The end of the 50-th of the 19-th century was a turning point in Lincoln’s life. Actively participating in political disputes, he gained widespread popularity in the country. Giving speeches in different parts of the country, Lincoln showed himself as an intelligent and cautious politician. He did not support the request of the abolition of slavery and sought to prevent civil war by all means. At the meeting of the Republican Party in Chicago, Lincoln was nominated for president. Then, the tough struggle with candidates of Democratic Party, who supported the slaveholders of the South, began.
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In 1860, Lincoln was elected for US President, he was at the head of country from March,1861 untill April,1865. South responded to his appointment by the separation, despite the fact that the new president had a moderate position against slavery ; the Civil War (1861-1865) has started in the country. Adopted in May 1862 the so-called homestead acts, granting US citizens land plots, has become a powerful blow to the slave system and helped to solve the agrarian question. December 30, 1862 the president signed the “Emancipation Proclamation”, thanks to which from the yoke of slavery 4 million man was released. In 1863, government troops have won big, turning victory, which allowed to finally break the resistance of the South and to restore the unity of the nation.
In 1864, Lincoln’s re-election for a second term was held, even though he doubted the correctness of the decision to run his candidacy again, moreover, some political forces opposed this as well. In April 14, 1865 Lincoln, who was in Washington at Ford’s Theater on the play, was wounded: he got shot by the actor John W. Booth, a supporter of the Confederate slave-owners. Without regaining consciousness, in the morning of April 15th, Lincoln died and became the first killed US president.
During his innings he was constantly exposed to harsh critical attacks, however, as the results of opinion polls, Lincoln is still ranked among the most beloved by people and the best, as well as intelligent, in his opinion, the country’s presidents. Death of Abraham Lіnkoln literally shocked the whole World. An endless stream of people went to the White House to say goodbye to the man who led the country through the hardest crisis by uniting the supporters of the unity of the country and the abolition of slavery. Retaining the united country, the United States could eventually become a leading power in the world. In assessing the merits of Lincoln, the great Russian writer LTolstoy said: “He was the same as Beethoven was in music, Dante in poetry, Raphael in painting, Christ in the philosophy of life.”