Abraham Lincoln

by Hyunjae from San Diego


"Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand" (The Bible). This wise maxim from the Bible was vividly portrayed by Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. However, Lincoln did not start his life with wisdom and riches. Lincoln was born on the Kentucky frontier in 1809 to poor and illiterate parents. Despite this setback, Lincoln climbed his way up from the bottom and emerged victorious as one of the most renowned and well-known Presidents of the United States. Nevertheless, during his time in office, Lincoln faced many challenges and difficulties as the U.S. was rapidly splitting and its residents were tearing each other apart. Lincoln courageously persevered through this troublesome dilemma, and at the end showed mercy to everyone in the nation; even the "enemies," justifying Lincoln as a true hero.

Lincoln giving his inaugural address ( ())
Lincoln giving his inaugural address ( ())

     Abraham Lincoln persevered and did not back down from all the criticism and hate that he received from the south during his inauguration. Rather, he made various attempts to appease the South and unite it back with the Union in his speech: "'A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country can not do this'" (Lincoln). Lincoln's analogy with the divorced husband and wife clearly portrayed the nation's divided state at the time. However, despite this nationwide predicament happening under Lincoln's nose, he did not capitulate and allow the U.S. separate; he made every attempt to keep the Confederates happy and remain with the Union. Never giving up when all hope seemed lost, Lincoln held his firm belief in reuniting the nation until no more could be done. When Civil War eventually broke out, Lincoln also displayed his perseverance during the war; he withstood the criticism received from the countless abolitionists and black leaders for not freeing the slaves quickly: "Lincoln, they argue, 'would not let his personal feelings determine his political acts.' Fredrick Douglass, renowned black spokesman for equal rights, apparently concurred. In Douglass's estimation Lincoln was 'preeminently the white man's president'" (Douglas). Lincoln had been forced to hear these black spokespersons cry out against him in fury for not freeing the slaves. However, Lincoln remained true to his ideals about uniting the nation first, and evidently turned a deaf ear to the harsh words spoken to him by the abolitionists and black leaders as he only freed slaves at the time when it was necessary; not the time he was begged to. Clearly, no one else's thoughts were of more importance to Lincoln than his own; never buckling under the pressure of critics. Lincoln truly demonstrated the quality of perseverance during the most troubling times; also utilizing his courage to help carry out his difficult decisions.

Lincoln with General McClellan at Antietam ( ())
Lincoln with General McClellan at Antietam ( ())

      Lincoln had been courageous through his entire presidency, never backing down from danger and doing what needed to be done to reunite the U.S. After his inauguration, a Confederate Governor demanded that Lincoln remove Federal troops from South Carolina:

After his inauguration, Lincoln sought to keep control of all federal property in the Confederate states. This goal was challenged by the South Carolina governor's demand that Lincoln remove the military troops from his state. Lincoln chose instead to resupply the men of Fort Sumter in Charleston. He warned the Confederate commander of the supply ship's approach and told them not to interfere (Robertson)

Even after being threatened by the Confederates to remove troops from Carolina, Lincoln did not relent and give the Confederates complete power; he courageously did what he thought was right, disregarding the opinions of others. Lincoln warned the Confederate Commander to not interfere, showcasing his true bravery and unwillingness to step down to anyone. Even while being in danger of completely tearing apart the Union, Lincoln had been undaunted. He would not take orders from anyone, and clearly portrayed his thoughts of the Confederates by downright refusing to remove troops from Fort Sumter. Lincoln also demonstrated courage in his inclination to do whatever was necessary so that victory would be achieved; even if it meant costing many people their jobs. "It fell to Lincoln to raise an army and find good generals to lead it to victory. This became a slow, trial-by-error process, for which Lincoln received much criticism. He appointed and dismissed several generals" (Robertson). In order to successfully reunite the nation, Lincoln first had to win the Civil War that was driving the country apart. However, Lincoln's many incompetent generals were hindering the progress of the war for the Union, forcing Lincoln to take drastic action. He had known that he would have had to dismiss all generals that were not meeting his standards, and that was exactly what Lincoln had done, at the same time risking his reputation amongst his own people. Lincoln jeopardized his standing even with the Union when the South already seceded, but he had know that firing generals was what needed to be done so that the Union may win the war and eventually be united with the Confederacy. Lincoln's courageousness to both stay true to his own ideals and to do whatever needed to be done sheds light on more of his heroic qualities, such as compassion for others.

Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse ( ())
Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse ( ())

        Lincoln had shown true mercy and clemency to the Confederates who were seceding and turning against the Union. When most of the southern states seceded after Lincoln's inauguration to form what would be called the Confederacy, Lincoln did not go off in fury and anger. His response was actually quite to the contrary, as shown in his first inaugural address:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature (Lincoln)

Lincoln pleaded with the South to remain united, despite their differences. Lincoln wanted nothing more than for the South and the Union be one again, and remained focused on achieving this near-impossible goal; not being furious that the south would dare to secede. He evidently felt as if there had been some good in the South yet, as he described them as having "angels" in their nature.  Lincoln even showed the same leniency when the South surrendered; after thousands upon thousands died in the War: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan" (Lincoln). Complete forgiveness had been given to the South after the War despite the amount of deaths and tragedies that have occurred. Only true compassion may allow one to be willing to simply forgive such a disastrous incident as the Civil War.  Lincoln truly displayed this commending quality of compassion during and after the war. His ability to show complete redemption to the Confederacy proves his mercy.

Lincoln inspires us even today in Mount Rushmore ( ())
Lincoln inspires us even today in Mount Rushmore ( ())

  Abraham Lincoln had many qualities that defined him as a hero: Perseverance, mercy, and courage being only three of them. However, what matters most is not the number of redeeming qualities one possesses. What matters is how well one lives up the definition of that quality; how well one defines that quality with their lives, morals, and ideals as Lincoln had done.  He persevered through the most troubling times, he courageously defended his own ideals, and he showed mercy to all who needed it, no matter who they may have been. Lincoln inspires people to this day, through his lasting ethics of mercy and compassion: "I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice" (Lincoln). Lincoln's innate ability to be merciful teaches many of us here and now that strength and power are not always what will prevail. To be successful, one must think beyond their own desires and look into whatever must be done so that a goal can be achieved. As a house divided on itself cannot stand, a house leaning on itself; supporting itself with a strong foundation; that is what will stand. This is what Lincoln's persistent, courageous, merciful, and heroic lifetime taught me.

Works Cited

"Abraham Lincoln." American Civil War Reference Library. Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom. Ed. Lawrence W. Baker. Vol. 2: Biographies. Detroit: UXL, 2000. 265-278. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

"Abraham Lincoln." The Presidents: A Reference History. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1996. Biography in Context. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

Barber, James. Presidents. New York: Dorling Kindersley Pub., 2003. Print.

Lincoln, Abraham. "Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Address." Civil War Trust, 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

"Lincoln, Abraham." UXL Encyclopedia of U.S. History. Sonia Benson, Daniel E. Brannen, Jr., and Rebecca Valentine. Vol. 5. Detroit: UXL, 2009. 906-912. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

Page created on 1/9/2014 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 1/9/2014 12:00:00 AM

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Related Links

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Foundation - More information on Abraham Lincoln
The White House - Factual info on Lincoln from the White House itself
Abraham Lincoln Online - General information on Abraham Lincoln's life, important dates and events, and secrets