Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)
The 16th President of the United States, 1861 – 1865
AKA: Honest Abe, The Rail-Splitter, The Ancient One, The Great Emancipator, The Great Liberator, The Tycoon, Uncle Abe
College: One of 8 US Presidents that did not attend college
Married to: Mary Todd
Children: Robert Todd, Edward Baker “Eddie,” William Wallace “Willie,” and Thomas “Tad”
Previous Jobs: Farm laborer, general store owner, captain in the Illinois militia, postmaster, surveyor, Illinois state representative, lawyer, newspaper publisher, US Congressman
In His Words: “Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties. And not to Democrats alone do I make this appeal, but to all who love these great and true principles.”
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
“Well, I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.”
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
“The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.”
“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”
“You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.”
“If I were two faced, would I be wearing this one?”
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds.”
Not true: Some historians argue that Lincoln did not really want to free the slaves. Some historians argue that Lincoln’s perspective “evolved,” and he eventually decided that freeing the slaves was the right thing to do.
The issue of slavery became the central preoccupation of the US government during the mid-19th century. With Lincoln’s election, war was assured and the South seceded. Lincoln’s first priority, as he properly concluded, was for him to restore the Union. He did that.
He also worked strenuously to pass the Emancipation Proclamation. He overcame remarkable opposition from every side, and did, in fact, free the slaves. Sometimes the simple explanation is correct: Lincoln freed the slaves as quickly as he could.
True: Lincoln gave his father all of his income until he was 21. In later life, he often loaned his father money.
Lincoln received a patent in 1849 for a flotation device to move boats in shallow water. The patent was never commercialized, but he is the only President to hold a patent.
Lincoln was the first bearded President.
West Virginia and Nevada joined the Union during Lincoln’s Presidency.
Lincoln refused to change the US flag during the Civil War, believing that the secession was, in fact, illegal, and the southern states should therefore still be represented on the flag.
Abraham Lincoln used to walk alone at night to the War Department to find out news about the Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln was known to beg or borrow books to read. He is often remembered for educating himself by candlelight at an early age. In any event, he was always reading. Later, he applied his self-taught reading habits as a lawyer, legislator and President. He often read aloud because he liked to hear the words.
Lincoln was the first President to be assassinated.
Historians generally rank Lincoln as the most effective President. Washington is generally ranked # 2, and Franklin Roosevelt # 3.
The Official Portrait: Lincoln sat for various artists while in office, but the official White House Portrait was painted after his death. In 1869, Congress decided to have a competition for a painting of Lincoln, with the incoming President to select the winner. Ulysses S Grant won the election, and his choice was a portrait by William Cogswell. George Healy also entered the competition, but his painting was not the President’s choice. Robert Todd Lincoln purchased Healy’s painting, commenting, “I have never seen a portrait of my father which is to be compared with it in any way.” After his death, Robert Lincoln’s widow bequeathed the Healy portrait to the White House in 1939.
Today, Healy’s portrait hangs in the State Dining Room, and the Cogswell portrait is in storage.