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He also voted several times in favor of the Wilmot Proviso, that would prohibit slavery in any territory that was acquired from Mexico, siding with the majority in the Whig House of Representatives (McPherson).
However, Lincoln's opposition to the Mexican War was not popular in Illinois. Democratic newspapers dubbed him 'Spotty Lincoln', and indicated that he had committed political suicide with musings such as "What an epitaph: 'Died of Spotted Fever'" (qtd. McPherson). This label would come back to haunt him when he ran in 1848 for the Whig presidential nominee against Zachary Taylor. Although Lincoln's successor in the House, his former partner Logan, lost due to backlash against the Whig party's antiwar stance, Taylor did win the presidency.
However, most disturbing to Lincoln was the fact that he did not get the patronage appointment to commissioner of the General Land Office, as he had anticipated.
Lincoln returned home to devote his time to his law practice, disheartened with politics, and became one of the leading attorneys in the state. He represented both large corporations and small firms (Stevenson), and many of his cases involved local matters of debt, slander and libel, foreclosure, divorce, trespass, and more (McPherson). but, it would be the Kansas-Nebraska Act that would force Lincoln back into the political limelight.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act revoked the ban on slavery in the Louisiana Purchase territory that was north of 36° 30'. This repeal of a critical part of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 made Kansas Territory open to slavery (Stevenson). This polarized the slave and free states more significantly than anything else ever had, inciting several years of civil war between anti- and pro-slavery forces in Kansas, becoming a prelude to the national Civil War, according to McPherson. This also gave birth to the Republican party, whose primary platform was the exclusion of slavery from territories.
Whereas prior to 1854 Lincoln had said little against slavery in public, the following six years would see him deliver approximately 175 speeches who would center on the exclusion of slavery from territories, as a step towards eradicating it everywhere eventually.
Lincoln believed that the Founding Fathers had adopted the Declaration of Independence as well as enacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which barred slavery from most of the existing territories, as an anti-slavery stance. He put forth that this was the reason why the words 'slave' or 'slavery' in the Constitution. He further surmised that opening all of the Louisiana Purchase up to slavery, via the Kansas-Nebraska Act, reversed the course of the Founding Fathers, arousing Lincoln "as he had never been before" (qtd. McPherson).
Lincoln again ran for state legislature, this time taking the stump for other 'anti-Nebraska' Whigs.
He and other anti-Nebraska Whigs and Democrats took control of the legislature. In 1855, Lincoln resigned to become the Whig candidate for the U.S. Senate position. He lost and returned to his law practice, until he helped found the Illinois Republican party, in 1856. In 1858, he challenged Douglas for the Senate, in which the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates were conducted (Stevenson). The plan was for the Republicans to take control of the legislature and then reconstitute the Court and ban slavery from the territories, stifling its growth, where it would eventually "whither and die" (Striner 123). Although the popular vote was nearly even, the Democrats held the majority of seats and reelected Douglas (McPherson).
Lincoln: The President:
Lincoln continued to speak and began to consider the presidency. "Lincoln explicated the parallels between the Republican position on slavery and that of the Founding Fathers" (McPherson). He spoke throughout New England, while traveling to see his son Robert Todd Lincoln, the only son to reach maturity (Emerson), promoting his 'free labor ideology'. He relayed his own life story, of a poor man's son, that had went from mauling rails to a successful legal and political career and how he believed every man should have the opportunity to better their own conditions. When he returned to Illinois, Lincoln discovered his friends had mounted a concerted effort for his presidential nomination. In the end, Lincoln carried every free state, except New Jersey, whose electoral votes he split with Douglas, and won the election by just less than 40% of the popular, due to the four-party campaign that split the Democrat party. He won no popular votes in the ten southern states, of which seven enacted ordinances of secession, before Lincoln's inauguration (Stevenson).
Lincoln gave private assurances that he would not go any further against slavery in states where it already existed, yet did not speak publicly on it prior to his inauguration, feeling that he had already said all he had to say in previous speeches. However, he noted that the primary conflict was that pro-slavery states felt slavery should be extended, while Lincoln felt it should be restricted. The seven seceded states understood though, that Lincoln's ultimate goal was the extinction of slavery (McPherson).
Lincoln's inaugural address affirmed the illegality of secession but reiterated his promise not to interfere with slavery where it already existed. However, passions did not cool, and Fort Sumter would be the flash point of tension. As McPherson states, Lincoln would spend many sleepless nights trying to decide what to do, regarding the Confederacy's demand to transfer Fort Sumter, as it would not tolerate a foreign fort in one of its harbors. Lincoln eventually decided to not pull his forces out, informing the Confederate government that he was sending only provisions to resupply Fort Sumpter, no arms, ammunition or men would be added, thus leaving the decision of war up to Jefferson Davis (Stevenson). and, so the war came.
A series of minor battle successes and some disastrous losses plagued the war. Then, in 1863, Lincoln delivered a powerful economic blow against the Confederacy with the Emancipation Proclamation, encouraging slaves to escape and come into the Union where they would be free, crippling the Southern workforce (Stevenson; "Biographies"). Lincoln was reelected in 1864, and the Union's military successes continued (McPherson). Lee would eventually surrender at Appomattox, in April of 1865. Although Lincoln did not live to see the ratification of the 13th Amendment, his goal of the abolishment of slavery was finally accomplished.
John Wilkes Booth:
After Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln spoke to a large crowd of celebrants at the White House on 11 April. He hinted that his Reconstruction policy would enfranchise literate blacks and black army veterans. "That means nigger citizenship," muttered a member of the crowd, the actor John Wilkes Booth. "Now, by God, I'll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make" (qtd. McPherson).
Booth was a native of Maryland and actor who had supported the Confederacy. He was an unstable egotist, and hated Lincoln. The head of a shadowy conspiracy that had ties to the Confederate Secret Service, Booth had intended to kidnap Lincoln and hold him hostage in Richmond. However, this plot was ruined when Richmond fell to the Union. Instead, Booth decided to kill the president (Kauffman). and, on April 14th, 1865, while the Lincolns watched a comedy, Our American Cousin, at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. (Stevenson).
Booth entered the Lincolns' box and shot Abraham Lincoln in the head. At 7:22, the following morning, Lincoln was dead (McPherson).
Biographies of the Presidents: Abraham Lincoln." World Almanac & Book of Facts 2006: pp. 597-598. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOHost. University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ. November 26, 2007 http://web.ebscohost.com.
Emerson, J. "How Booth saved Lincoln's Life." Civil War Times. 44(1) Apr 2005: pp. 44-49. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOHost. University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ. November 26, 2007 http://web.ebscohost.com.
Ewers, J. "The Real Lincoln." U.S. News & World Report. 138(6) 21 Feb 2005: pp. 66-73. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOHost. University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ. November 26, 2007 http://web.ebscohost.com.
Kauffman, M. American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies. New York: Random House, 2006.
McPherson, J. "Lincoln, Abraham." American National Biography Online. Feb 2000. American National Biography. ANB.ORG. University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ. November 26, 2007…[continue]
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