How did Abraham Lincoln come to power

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln in a photo. Two years later he became president - only then did he grow the beard that you often see in photos and paintings. At that time he gave his famous speech “A divided house cannot exist”. There could not be slavery states alongside non-slavery states forever in the United States. Slavery would either be introduced everywhere or abolished everywhere.

Abraham Lincoln was a President of the United States. So he was head of state and head of government. He lived in the 19th century. Today he is one of the most famous presidents in the history of his country. In 1865 he abolished slavery.

Lincoln was born in a log cabin in 1809. His father was very religious and didn't think much of education, unlike his stepmother. Young Abraham did not have much opportunity to go to school, but he learned from books. He had a variety of jobs and was elected to the Illinois Parliament at the age of 25. This is one of the states that make up the United States. Here he got his nickname "Honest Abe", pronounced Annest Äjb, the "honest Abraham".

At that time he taught himself so much that he was allowed to work as a lawyer. He married a woman from a wealthy family. As a politician and lawyer, he worked to ensure that there were more railways in the country. For two years he was also a senator, i.e. a member of Congress, of Parliament for the entire United States.

Lincoln became known across the country as an opponent of slavery. White and black people should have equal rights. In 1860 he was elected President of the United States. The politicians in the southern US were so angry about this that the southern states left the US. A war broke out over this. In this American Civil War, the North finally won with Abraham Lincoln.

As President, Lincoln made sure that railways and other routes could be built faster. It was good for trade and brought the different parts of the United States closer together. He was also re-elected as president. Shortly before the end of the war, in 1865, someone murdered Lincoln.

If you ask American scholars today who was the most important American president, they almost always put Lincoln in the top three. Many streets and squares are named after him, and several films have been made about Lincoln.

Why did the civil war break out?

Abraham Lincoln as President with the men of his government

In 1860, Lincoln was elected president of the entire country. That was the first time someone had become president despite being rejected by the politicians in the south. So they got scared: Obviously they didn't have as much power as they used to. So the southern states left the United States and founded their own state: the Confederate States of America. The USA suddenly consisted only of the northern states.

That did not mean that war between the northern and southern states would break out immediately. Most people in the north were against the south leaving. But they were also against war and did not want to force the south to become part of the USA again.

The US owned several forts across the country. These are fortresses where soldiers live in case you need them quickly to defend the country. Fort Sumter was in the south but still belonged to the United States. The southern states demanded that the fort be given to them. When they attacked it, the people in the north became so angry that civil war broke out.

What did Lincoln do about slavery?

Dred Scott was born a slave in Virginia, one of the southern states. Of about 30 million people who lived in the USA at the time, almost four million were "property" of another person, that is, slaves.

In the time of Abraham Lincoln, the individual states of the USA were allowed to determine whether they allowed slavery. It was banned in the north. But slaves could be owned in the southern states. Usually these were black people kidnapped from Africa. The slave owners made the slaves work hard and got rich.

In the north, most people were against slavery. There they said that people should be free so that they have a reason to be efficient and to make something of their life. However, many in the north did not want to campaign for slavery to be banned in the south: They were afraid that black people would then migrate from the south to the north.

Lincoln was against slavery because he felt that this was not how Christians should treat people. He had to be careful what he said so that he didn't offend the politician in the south. In any case, Lincoln was determined to prevent slavery from being introduced in the north as well.

In 1858, the chief judges of the United States passed an important judgment. A southern slave owner lived in the north with his slave Dred Scott. Friends of Dred Scott finally said: Dred Scott has lived here so long that he must be given citizenship like any other immigrant. But the judges said: According to our constitution, the supreme law, everyone has the right to his own property. And the slave owner is the owner of the slave. In the north there was now fear that slavery would also come to the north.

As president, Lincoln couldn't really do anything about slavery. To do this, he would have had to have the constitution changed. Only Parliament was allowed to do that. In parliament, however, there were many members from the south who prevented that. In the civil war, however, the southern states had left the United States. Lincoln and his friends eventually had a free rein to change the constitution and laws. In December 1865, slavery was abolished. By then, Lincoln had been dead for over six months.

Why was Lincoln murdered?

A drawing from later times shows how Lincoln was shot in the theater.

Abraham Lincoln was worshiped by many but hated by others. Among them were those who sided with the slave owners in the south. Some were against him because, as president, he had some opponents locked up.

John Wilkes Booth was a spy for the south. He wanted to kidnap Lincoln first. But when he heard that Lincoln was trying to give blacks the right to vote, he got even angrier. He decided to kill Lincoln.

On April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater with his wife. They sat in a box, a separate room with a view of the stage. During a break, the guard left the two of them to go for a drink. Then Booth came into the box and shot a pistol in the back of the President's head. Booth fled. He was killed when the police tried to arrest him.

Lincoln died the morning after the assassination attempt. That was the first time an American president had been assassinated. All over the country he was mourned. A train carrying his body drove through many cities in the United States. Lincoln was buried in Illinois, the state where he first sat in parliament.

He was succeeded by Lincoln's deputy, Andrew Jackson. He made sure that the southern states could gradually become normal parts of the USA again. While slavery was abolished, blacks were often prevented from living and voting as free citizens. That only changed about 100 years later, in the period after 1960.

  • Lincoln with his son Tad in 1864

  • In the civil war with an army leader

  • Presidential faces on Mount Rushmore, with Lincoln on the far right


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