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Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky. His parents were both illiterate farmers and Abraham Lincoln was largely self-taught. He devoured books and studied American history, English history, and even Shakespeare. As a young man, he worked on the family’s farmlands and as a shopkeeper. There are many stories about Lincoln’s honesty—he once walked for miles just to give a woman six cents that he had overcharged her. Thus, he received the nickname “Honest Abe.”
At 22 years old, Lincoln left his family and set out to Illinois. There he taught himself about the law and was admitted to the Illinois Bar Association. He worked as a successful lawyer for several years and was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. As a Representative, Lincoln spoke out against the war with Mexico and protested slavery.
Many historians argue about Lincoln’s stance on slavery. Some say that his personal views and the views he revealed to the larger public were at odds. As a politician, Lincoln addressed the issue of slavery delicately. Still, his opinions were known and worried southern states that supported slavery.
In 1860, Lincoln ran for president and won the election, becoming the first Republican president of the United States.
Before his inauguration, seven southern states declared their secession from the United States, forming the Confederate States of America.
Other southern states remained with the Union but showed their support for the Confederacy. Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy and promised the country that it would not be divided. Thus, the Civil War began.
In 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act, which freed slaves in territories not under Union control.
Lincoln enacted this law with his Emancipation Proclamation. Slaves were freed in the rebellious states and the Confederacy was weakened. However, slaves were not freed in the border states, whose support and loyalty Lincoln needed. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all slaves, it brought the problem of slavery to the forefront. Eventually, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and all people were free.
Shortly after the end of the Civil War, President Lincoln went to the
Ford Theater to watch a play.
John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate spy, shot Lincoln in the head and fatally wounded him. Lincoln died in a house across the street from the theater. Booth escaped but the army tracked him down and shot him.