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Abraham Lincoln

1809-1865. Sixteenth president of the United States. Raised on frontier farms, he was a self- educated lawyer who served in the Illinois legislature and the House of Representatives before becoming president in 1861. A Republican, he attracted support through his simplicity of manner, his defense of established authority, his fusion of farmers and industrialists, his equation of slavery's expansion with threats to Northern prosperity, and his recognition of the inferior condition of black Americans. His election prompted the lower South to secede, and his intransigence on secession, in turn, led the upper South to rebel and sparked civil war. Political and military concerns forced him into decisions many thought dictatorial, and guided him to interpret the war, which was initially to preserve the Union, as a crusade to free the slaves and finally as a national tragedy, a shedding of blood from which would come a new nation. Assassinated by a Southern sympathizer within days after his forces gained the victory, he epitomized the nation's ideals of self-reliance, opportunism, and churchless religion.

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