Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – 15 April 1865) was the 16th President of the United States of America. He served as president for 5 years, from 4 March 1861 until his assassination by John Wilkes Booth on 15 April 1865. Lincoln is known primarily for his leadership during the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) and for signing the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order changing the legal status of slaves to ‘free’.
What follows are 10 facts about Abraham Lincoln.
1. He was largely self-educated
Despite becoming a successful lawyer, Lincoln did not have a degree. His total schooling, obtained from travelling teachers, is estimated to total only around 1 year.
2. Before pursuing national politics, Lincoln served 4 consecutive terms in the Illinois state legislature
Though lawyers are often considered untrustworthy, his reputation for honesty and fairness helped ‘Honest Abe’ win local elections.
3. Lincoln was a ‘president of firsts’
He was the first bearded US President, the first to hold a patent and the first to be in an inaugural photograph. John Wilkes Booth can also be seen in the photo, standing on a balcony above.
4. Lincoln’s wife came from a wealthy slave-owning family
Lincoln married Mary Todd of Lexington Kentucky on 4 November 1842. Several of her half-brothers died serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
5. Lincoln was not an abolitionist
Lincoln was long allied with abolitionists and outlawed slavery by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January 1863, legally freeing some 3 million slaves. However, in his first inaugural address, Lincoln stated that he had ‘no lawful right’ to ‘interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists’.
6. His main purpose in the Civil War was to preserve the Union
There were abolitionists, slavery supporters, pro-unionists and neutral sentiments in both the North and South, but it was Confederate secessionists who began the war by firing on Fort Sumter on 12 April 1861. Lincoln responded by sending troops to recapture lost forts and ‘preserve the Union’.
7. The bill to create US Secret Service was on the President’s desk the night of his assassination
One of the principal purposes of the Secret Service is to protect national leaders such as the President. It is possible that their presence would have saved Lincoln’s life.
8. During his assassination, Lincoln’s bodyguard was absent
The President’s security, John Parker, left his post to watch the play at Washington, DC’s Ford’s Theatre and went to the saloon next door during intermission. It was the same place that John Wilkes Booth was drinking. No one knows where Parker was when Lincoln was killed.
9. The brother of John Wilkes Booth saved Lincoln’s son
Not long before the President was assassinated, Edwin Booth, a famous actor at the time, pulled Robert Lincoln to safety at a train station after he had fallen on the tracks. It was just as a train was about to leave the station.
10. Lincoln is consistently ranked as one of the ‘top 3’ Presidents of the United States
Along with George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt, most polls of academic historians, political scientists and the general public put Lincoln as one of the 3 all-time greats.