Lincoln’s Personal History
Despite the fact that Abraham Lincoln was born in a common family that had nothing in common with the politics or law, later in his life, the boy decided to choose this path. This man had very good qualities for a politician. He was cheerful, kind, charismatic and what is the most important, very popular among his friends, neighbors, and ordinary people that knew him. He also had an analytic mind and always kept his promises.
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When Lincoln moved to Springfield in Illinois, he developed an interest in the law. He changed the social circle; this way, he strived to earn new experience and knowledge. People lent him books about politics and law. His direct goal was to become an attorney. He worked in different agencies; with time, he opened his own one together with his friend. Abraham Lincoln was known as the best attorney in the whole Illinois. Often, he was invited as a judge. Therefore, by working as an attorney and deepening his knowledge of the law, Lincoln managed to prepare himself greatly for becoming the president.
Another great experience Lincoln earned before becoming a president is the political knowledge. It was already mentioned that the man was a very charismatic person that attracted the public attention due to the high intellect, dignity, and good manners. Despite high ambitions, Lincoln never cheated on his principles. He decided to join a party in the minority (the Whig Party) rather than follow ideas that he did not support. His politic career started from the defeat in 1832, but in two years, he managed to enter the Illinois House of Representatives (McGovern 33). It was the first step on his long path towards the presidency. Probably, the most valuable experience that Abraham Lincoln earned before becoming a president was being loyal to his principles of pacifism and the ban on slavery in spite of the public disapproval.
The Main Conflict between the North and South that Led to the War
At those times, slavery was probably the most controversial issue. While Democrats, the major party, supported it in most cases, other parties such as the Whig Party opposed it but not successfully. The Compromise of 1850 at least banned slavery in the North states. However, the new Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and Dred Scott decision of 1857 led to the rapid spread of slavery to all states (McGovern 34).
The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed the two newly created states that were located in the north part of the country decide themselves whether they want to legalize slavery or no. Hence, the people in the North US were not secured from slavery anymore. What is more important, this Act only increased disputes within the country on the issue of slavery.
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Dred Scott decision is another obstacle in the way of Abraham Lincoln. Despite the fact that the base of it was wise and democratic, the Supreme Court had the right to change any federal decision having serious reasons. Thus, it also contributed to the spread of slavery. The new law was passed, and it stated that slaves that left their state and moved to the one with no slavery would remain slaves. In other words, those two acts only worsen the already settled down situation with slavery.
Passing the Kansas-Nebraska Act became a turning point for Abraham Lincoln as a politician. From that moment, Lincoln got the main goal for his politic career, which was the struggle against slavery in the whole country. When the man decided to focus on the law and profession of an attorney, this Act totally changed Lincoln’s life and turned it into the other direction: from jurisprudence to politic. Lincoln realized that a new political party should be created as the opposition to Democrats; thus, the Republican Party emerged. Therefore, the Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed Lincoln to understand that his goal was to become a good politician. At those times, he had the best conditions for achieving his aim since people admired him.
Why Saving the Union was Important
Southern states knew that every president was afraid of their secession, so they would always threaten the government with this event and demanded some privileges. Nevertheless, Lincoln was of a different kind; the South demanders understood it. Lincoln was a person who followed own principles, goals, and promises. When being elected as the President, Lincoln promised that he would solve the problem of disunity and slavery once and forever.
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Saving the Unity was the most important goal for Lincoln as a president. According to Constitution, the issue of separation is prohibited and even cannot be discussed. Hence, President Lincoln defended Constitution by maintaining the Unity. He was much criticized by opponents and common people for not following the Constitution and taking decisions that were not in his competence.
Below, there are six decisions, for which Lincoln was criticized: 1. Lincoln was the first President who created his own Cabinet of Ministers. It was not prohibited, but it was unusual for those times. 2. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus so that all charged people were judged in military courts. This decision should have been made only by the Congress. However, later in 1863, the Republican Congress justified Lincoln’s actions by the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act. 3. “Lincoln ordered a blockade of Southern ports and expanded funds for the purchase and production of weapon” (McGovern 55). This decision also should have been taken by Congress and not by the President alone. 4. Lincoln limited the freedom of speech by arresting workers of news agencies. He did it with the view to uniting people; nonetheless, these actions were illegal. 5. Lincoln was the first American President to authorize conscription. However, not this decision was criticized. He allowed for exemptions and substitutions. A man with $300 in the pocket could avoid the army. Many people thought that this decision was unconstitutional since the poor had no choice while the rich were not afraid of the war (McGovern 66). 6. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, under which, slaves in the South could become free.
Freeing the Slaves
The Emancipation Proclamation significantly changed the meaning of the war and freedom. It was not the war for the territory anymore as it always was. Instead, it became the struggle for freedom. It was the last chance to become a real person for Negros or the best way for masters to keep old traditions. Before the emancipation, the Black took part in the war passively and just defended their own lives. Nevertheless, after the Proclamation, they achieved the biggest goal of their life: becoming free from their masters and being equal to the white people.
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Never in his life, Abraham Lincoln supported slavery despite the fact that his uncle and granduncle were masters of slaves. Probably such an attitude was developed due to religious parents who thought that all people were created equal by God. Hence, Abraham Lincoln thought that he could not ban slavery in the South, but he could prevent it in the North – it was his initial aim. Therefore, solving the problem of slaves was the primary goal of Lincoln’s political career.
It is strange, but despite struggling to fight against slavery, Lincoln did not believe that the black and white men could ever be socially equal. He did not want them to be slaves, but he did not see them naturally in the white society. Lincoln did not support interracial marriages, as well. In line, he even wanted to send the black people away from the US.
The reason as to why despite having no warm attitude to the black people, Lincoln wanted to make them free was the legality of this action. The President as a good lawyer noticed that the history of independent US started from the United States Declaration of Independence, which declared that all people were created equal. The Constitution was written later on the basis of that Declaration. Therefore, Lincoln made a conclusion that slavery was wrong; thus, the Constitution included a wrong passage about it. It was the basis for the Emancipation Proclamation justice: Declaration was the first document of the US that banned the slavery was banned.
How the North Won the War
Lincoln never wanted to launch a war; for, many times he emphasized that he, his government and his country, in general, were not aggressors. Therefore, even when Southern rebels started to act against the government, Lincoln waited until military actions started. At the beginning of the war, Lincoln supported the idea of the limited war with strict boundaries. Limited war meant that militants were forced to consider rebels’ constitutional rights. They were not allowed to seize the Confederates’ property. Furthermore, rebels were planned to stay unpunished after the end of the war. Nevertheless, this tactic was inefficient, and Lincoln adopted another strategy. It was the total war.
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Lincoln became president-in-chief through making military strategies and attending battles, but at the same time, he neglected his other responsibilities. The total war meant that militants were not limited in their actions. Furthermore, Confederates were now considered the enemy of the national security; hence, they were to be punished. They blocked Southern ports, implemented the Anaconda Plan (chocked off Confederate supplies in the east but strengthened positions in the west), attacked Confederate capital of Richmond, and seized any property they needed. Nevertheless, this approach also was not very effective since the Union thought that having more weapon and militants would help them win easily.
The keys to success were talented commanders. Grant and Sherman were the people who changed the direction of the war. Grant waged the aggressive war in the West near the Mississippi river. He took two important forts, fifteen hundred rebel prisoners, Vicksburg, and secured Nashville and Memphis. Grant ignored the Army protocol and often drank whiskey or bourbon. Nevertheless, Lincoln was satisfied with his work, so allowed him to do whatever he wanted. At this time, Sherman also preferred aggressive but successful war. He won 19 battles in a row and insisted on launching the economic war by destroying civilian supplies, burning fields, and tiring up rail lines (McGovern 79). Hence, due to Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman, the war was won by the Union. Lincoln proved that he was not only a good administrator but also a strong war President.
President Lincoln focused his attention rather on the domestic policy than the foreign one. He succeeded in the monetary policy, agriculture, infrastructure, and war. 1. Lincoln and Congress passed the Internal Revenue Act in 1861 that allowed the government to have a reliable source of income from tax payers that could be spent for waging war (McGovern 91). The Legal Tender Act was passed by the Republican government one year later in 1862. It authorized paper money, which was called greenbacks at the time. After that event, Lincoln decided to increase the income tax for rich residents of the US from 5% to 10%. The Subsequent Revenue Acts in 1862 and 1864 put this idea in practice (McGovern 92). Through passing the National Banking Act in 1863, the government introduced the national currency.
Also, Lincoln implemented major reforms in the agriculture by passing the Homestead Act of 1862 that made the public land available for small farmers. They received an opportunity to get 160 acres. The Morrill Land Grant College Act of 1862 also significantly contributed to the development of the sector by giving federal lands to states that states could sell them in their turn (McGovern 92). Finally, the Department of Agriculture was created; its main task was to manage farmers’ interests and needs.
Among other important reforms, Lincoln also passed the Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864. They were about the “…construction of a railroad and telegraph line” (McGovern 91). By this reform, Lincoln managed to improve the infrastructure significantly. The Republican government passed the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction in 1863; it was supposed to rebuild cities affected by the war (McGovern 92). Therefore, Lincoln cared much about all citizens and wanted to improve the life of each social stratum.