Essay On Abraham Lincoln Deserves To Be Called The Best President
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IN US HISTORY
As I would not be a slave,
so I would not be a master.
This expresses my idea of democracy.
Whatever differs from this,
is no democracy.
The place and role of a statesman in history is determined by how his practical activities correspond with interests of this state’s society. A leader should strive to bring a better life to his country and his people and if he manages to achieve it or not is tested by time, which is the most impartial and objective judge.
The year 2015 marks the 206th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth U.S. President who is often considered the greatest American leaders best known for banishing of slavery and giving to his country a completely different future. Lincoln embodies the “right to rise” that Americans claim as their birthright as he was born in abject poverty to become an inalienable part of the world history.
There are no doubts he was a great and eminent person who made a great contribution to the development of the democracy and human rights. His personality is standing in one line with such famous persons as Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa. He is fairly considered to be one of those rare humans of modern history who has shared “a fate so implausibly extravagant”.
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in Kentucky to a family of a poor farmer, whose wealth was limited to a patch. All the members of his family used to grub this patch, including little Abraham, who was helping his parents in every possible manner (he also gathered berries and hunted). Unfortunately, because of many challenges faced by American farmers at the beginning of the 19th century (attacks of the Indians, epidemics, and hard work) he failed to receive primary education - he simply did not have an opportunity to go to school. However, he was interested in reading since childhood and he was reading constantly.
Lincoln has achieved everything in life on his own. He started an independent life at the age of 21 and managed to try many professions: he worked as a surveyor, storekeeper, a lumberjack, a postal employee and he even fought with the Indians.
Lincoln mastered law within several years, hoping to be admitted to bar. He would read a lot of books on law, for example Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. In 1836, Lincoln passed the bar exam and got the right to practice law. His interests included history and philology and he also studied mechanics and mathematics. Living among the ordinary people, Lincoln was able to gain prestige by being successful in sports, especially in wrestling.
He truly reached everything in his life due to his talent and very hard and persistent work. Indeed he is a self-made man. This is especially valuable given that Abraham Lincoln lived in times when there was a principle that a man — “and in Lincoln’s day this meant males only — could work how and where he wanted, could accumulate property in his own name, and, most importantly, could rise freely as far as his talents and abilities might take him”.
He made his first steps in politics in 1834 when he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the State of Illinois. That was a chance for him to gain a lot of experience in politics. He also gained prestige among his colleagues.
Abraham Lincoln was one of the main architects of the Republican Party in fact he created a new, modern American state. He joined this party in 1858 when the Whig Party was already in ruins. The Republics were largely in opposition to slavery’s extension into the territories. Non spread of slavery to other territories was one of the main practical goals of Lincoln political campaign.
In 1860, Republicans chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for president, which could be now called a very risky endeavor as there were other powerful contenders and not that much experience in Congress yet.
It is worth mentioning that before the election Lincoln had to deal with Stephen Douglas, a very strong opponent. They held the historic debates, the debates between two ideologies and two opposing political orientations. These pre-election debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas assumed the character of a national debate on the issue of slavery, on ways and means to solve this vital issue.
The debates with Douglas shaped his image of a fighter against injustice of slavery, gave him political prominence in the North and created the necessary credibility in the ranks of the Republican Party.
During this first presidential campaign Lincoln also had to deal with a vocal opponent Edwin Stanton. This “Stanton case” should indeed be one of the most important indicators of Lincoln’s political wisdom. During the campaign Stanton would use every chance to show how much he hated Lincoln, to point at his weak sides. And when in the end Lincoln was elected President Stanton was appointed a member of Lincoln’s government and thus became one of the most loyal allies of Lincoln. In addition, he proved to possess “the characteristics common to the best statesmen: humility, integrity, wisdom combined with common sense, a calm demeanor in the hardest times, and a willingness to learn”.
Lincoln’s practical activities confirmed a great depending of the socio-political development of America on the human factor. An example of a “great American citizen” has made major adjustments to the development of American democracy and led to a further awareness that a real alternative of the historical development depends on the personality of a President.
Slavery is an awful and unnatural thing which should not exist in a civilized and spiritual society. People are not treated as people, they are things, belongings which can think, feel, talk and get tired and yet their masters do not care. This is how a former slave Fountain Hughes describes what it means to be a slave: “if I thought, had any idea, that I’d ever be a slave again, I’d take a gun an‘ jus’ end it all right away. Because you’re nothing but a dog. You’re not a thing but a dog. Night never comed out, you had nothing to do. Time to cut tobacco, if they want you to cut all night long out in the field, you cut. An‘ if they want you to hang all night long, you hang, hang tobacco. It didn’ matter bout you tired, being tired. You’re afraid to say you’re tired”.
“Lincoln believed that slavery would over time prove economically untenable, but he also understood that, in the short-term, individual wage-earners could not — indeed would not — compete with slave laborers”.
“Along with many other Americans, Lincoln drew two political conclusions: Confined to its existing southern redoubt, slavery would wither away; but if slavery expanded into new territories, it could displace free laborers and gain a new lease on life”.
Lincoln suggested hired labor instead of slavery and this is what he wrote about it in 1864: “there is no permanent class of hired laborers amongst us. Twenty-five years ago, I was a hired laborer. The hired laborer of yesterday, labors on his own account today; and will hire others to labor for him tomorrow. Advancement — improvement in condition — is the order of things in a society of equals”.
His progressive ideas finally got a chance to last and bring change as soon as the Civil War was over. “The postwar amendments to the U.S. Constitution assured that Americans would never again permit slavery in their land, the true breadth of Lincoln’s vision became clear”. That was the beginning of the era of freedom and natural rights that were underlined in the Declaration of Independence. However, the path to this victory was difficult.
The bloody Civil War had already lasted for about three years when President Lincoln issued the historic Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The act proclaimed “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free”, which actually freed few people. This was an important cause of fracture of the military actions in favor of free states. This act marked the formal change of the goals of the War – it turned into the fight not only for the restoration of the Union, but also for the abolition of slavery.
Unfortunately, it did not apply to slaves in the “Border States of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware; nor did it affect slaves in southern areas already under Union control”, because it was impossible to expect from states which seceded to abide by President Lincoln’s orders.
In addition, the Proclamation freed people without granting them civil and political rights. Emancipation was rather motivated by military necessity. Nevertheless, this act should be regarded as the first step in ending slavery as the war itself aimed to this.
Slaves felt different treatment during the war – they had a chance to join the Union Army and Navy, which could actually make former slaves liberators. By the end of the war, nearly 200,000 black soldiers and sailors fought for the Union and freedom.
The Fifteenth Amendment declared that the right of U.S. citizens to vote could “not be abridged or denied” by any state “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
However, the Fourteenth Amendment exclusively mentions the word “male”, which can be attributed to delineation of rights under the Constitution. Unfortunately, the Fifteenth Amendment failed to provide women with the right to vote, which resulted into the split of the old abolitionist movement and caused the creation of an independent women’s rights movement.
“While Lincoln today enjoys the near-universal esteem of his countrymen, during his lifetime he was hardly a man for all seasons and all reasons.” There may certain issues in Lincoln’s approaches to slavery and preservation of statehood that deserve special attention and surely understanding on the part of modern society of the reality and challenges for Lincoln as a President in time of severe War. Indeed, the War that waged not only between armies, as had long been the tradition in Western warfare, but also between societies, their economic resources, and their very ways of life.
Despite the mentioned above progressive ideas of Lincoln, we should remember that his views on slavery evolved. Abraham Lincoln highly appreciated the art of political compromise and he was ready sacrifice of all to preserve the Union. Lincoln’s strive to free slaves was limited to mere letting them be free, without entitling them with equal political and social rights. He also never meant to bring racial equality to black and white races. It is curious to note that shortly before signing the Emancipation Proclamation in the Confederate South, “President Lincoln invited a visiting free black delegation to consider emigrating to Haiti or Central America, saying, “It is better for us both to be separated.”
Indeed the North initially waged war to restore the unity of the Union and not for the abolition of slavery. Still slavery became one of the main causes of the Civil War.
At the beginning of the war the North also observed the Fugitive Slave Law which obliged northern courts to enforce the seizure and return of slaves who had escaped northward to freedom, however a lot of ordinary soldiers somehow supported those fugitives themselves.
Government attempts to keep within the limits of Lincoln officially declared goals of the war and ignore the problem of slavery failed. There were a lot of issues regarding treatment of slaves: what to do with those slaves who had passed the front line, those who had found themselves on the territory occupied by the federal army. Thus, President long hesitated to eliminate slavery, as he remembered it was stipulated in constitutional legislation of certain states. However, after almost two years of war, Lincoln came to believe that slavery, which lay at the root of the rebellion, must be eliminated.
Lincoln started resolving the problem of slavery from the border states. On March 6, 1862, the President offered certain states to abolish slavery with the compensation to the owners of slaves from the federal government.
The next important step in resolving the problem of slavery was passing of the Law prohibiting the use of army for the seizure and return of fugitive slaves to owners, singing of the Treaty on the Prohibition of trading African slaves with Great Britain and Law prohibiting slavery and payment of compensation in the Federal District of Columbia on April 16, 1862. In 1861, Lincoln was forced to cancel the declaration of General Fremont’s Emancipation Proclamation in Missouri for fear of losing the border states. Thus we may clearly see the evolution of Lincoln’s views in this matter.
Still we should be talking about Lincoln’s worldwide fame today which is without any doubt is a result of his decisive and statesman-like conduct as president during the great Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln was not only one of the most prominent persons in America, this man left a significant mark in world. He has given a fresh look at human values to Americans and world.
A lot of researches try to realize the wonderful phenomenon of historical infatuation with Abraham Lincoln. Many historians are brought together on different occasions in order to evaluate the contribution to the development of his nation and his role as a leader of a powerful state amidst the severe national crisis in times of the Civil War is examined in essays and books. “There are perhaps as many as 15,000 Americans who are serious collectors of Lincoln memorabilia”. One should not of course forget Lincoln memorial in Washington DC, which is considered to be one of the most visited presidential memorials in the country. Another fact might easily surprise anyone is that anything which is somehow associated with Abe Lincoln is sold on online auction eBay in no time.
In the history of the United States Lincoln will always remain a person who prevented the collapse of the country and who freed slaves. Thus, he is fairly considered to be the Founding Fathers’ successor and the creator of American democracy.
Today we have a chance to learn lessons from history. We should always cherish memories of those who stimulate us to be better and to do better. And we should keep in mind what Lincoln said during his prominent Gettysburg Address:
the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it cannot forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotionthat this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln: Presidential Accomplishments,” National Park Service, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.cr.nps.gov/logcabin/html/al3.html.
“Full text of the Gettysburg Address”, Internet Archive, accessed March 4, 2015, https://archive.org/stream/gettysburgaddres00linc/gettysburgaddres00linc_djvu.txt.
George Clark et al., Abraham Lincoln: a Legacy of Freedom (U.S. Department of State: Bureau of International Information Programs, 2008), 68.
Guy Bailey, Natalie Maynor, Patricia Cukor-Avila, eds. The Emergence of Black English, Text and Commentary, (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co., 1991), 29; 31–36.
Joseph Keppler, Die Vehme (American Social History Project, 1870).
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