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Abraham Lincoln

ABRAHAM LINCOLN was born in Hardin County, Ky., February 12, 1809. His earliest ancestor in America was Samuel Lincoln, of Norwich, England, who settled in Hingham, Mass., where he died, leaving a son, Mordecai, whose son of the same name removed to Monmouth, N. J., and thence to Berks County, Pa., where he died in 1735. One of his sons, John, removed to Rockingham County, Va., and died there, leaving five sons, one of whom, named Abraham, emigrated to Kentucky about 1780. About 1784 he was killed by Indians, leaving three sons, Mordecai, Josiah, and Thomas, and two daughters. Their mother then located in Washington County, Ky., and there brought up her family. The youngest son, Thomas, learned the trade of a carpenter, and in 1806 married Nancy Hanks, a niece of the man with whom he learned his trade. They had three children, the second being Abraham, the future President of the United States. In 1816 Thomas Lincoln removed to Indiana, and settled on Little Pigeon Creek, not far distant from the Ohio River, where Abraham grew to manhood. He made the best use of his limited opportunities to acquire an education and at the same time prepare himself for business. At the age of 19 years he was intrusted with a cargo of farm products, which he took to New Orleans and sold. In 1830 his father again emigrated, and located in Macon County, Ill. Abraham by this time had attained the unusual stature of 6 feet 4 inches, and was of great muscular strength; joined with his father in building his cabin, clearing the field, and splitting the rails for fencing the farm. It was not long, however, before his father again changed his home, locating this time in Coles County, where he died in 1851 at the age of 73 years. Abraham left his father as soon as his farm was fenced and cleared and hired himself to a man named Denton Offutt, in Sangamon County, whom he assisted to build a flatboat; accompanied him to New Orleans on a trading voyage and returned with him to New Salem, Menard County, where Offutt opened a store for the sale of general merchandise. Mr. Lincoln remained with him for a time, during which he employed his leisure in constant reading and study. Learned the elements of English


grammar and made a beginning in the study of surveying and the principles of law. But the next year an Indian war began, and Lincoln volunteered in a company raised in Sangamon County and was immediately elected captain. His company was organized at Richland April 21, 1832; but his service in command of it was brief, for it was mustered out on May 27. Mr. Lincoln immediately reenlisted as a private and served for several weeks, being finally mustered out on June 16, 1832, by Lieutenant Robert Anderson, who afterwards commanded Fort Sumter at the beginning of the civil war. He returned to his home and made a brief but active canvass for the legislature, but was defeated. At this time he thought seriously of learning the blacksmith's trade, but an opportunity was offered him to buy a store, which he did, giving his notes for the purchase money. He was unfortunate in his selection of a partner, and the business soon went to wreck, leaving him burdened with a heavy debt, which he finally paid in full. He then applied himself earnestly to the study of the law. Was appointed postmaster of New Salem in 1833, and filled the office for three years. At the same time was appointed deputy county surveyor. In 1834 was elected to the legislature, and was reelected in 1836, 1838, and 1840, after which he declined further election. In his last two terms he was the candidate of his party for the speakership of the house of representatives. In 1837 removed to Springfield, where he entered into partnership with John T. Stuart and began the practice of the law. November 4, 1842, married Miss Mary Todd, daughter of Robert S. Todd, of Kentucky. In 1846 was elected to Congress over Rev. Peter Cartwright. Served only one term, and was not a candidate for reelection. While a member he advocated the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. Was an unsuccessful applicant for Commissioner of the General Land Office under President Taylor; was tendered the office of governor of Oregon Territory, which he declined. Was an able and influential exponent of the principles of the Whig party in Illinois, and did active campaign work. Was voted for by the Whig minority in the State legislature for United States Senator in 1855. As soon as the Republican party was fully organized throughout the country he became its leader in Illinois. In 1858 he was chosen by his party to oppose Stephen A. Douglas for the Senate, and challenged him to a joint debate. The challenge was accepted, and a most exciting debate followed, which attracted national attention. The legislature chosen was favorable to Mr. Douglas, and he was elected. In May, 1860, when the Republican convention met in Chicago, Mr. Lincoln was nominated for the Presidency, on the third ballot, over William H. Seward, who was his principal competitor. Was elected on November 6, receiving 180 electoral votes to 72 for John C. Breckinridge, 39 for John Bell, and 12 for Stephen A. Douglas. Was inaugurated March 4, 1861. On June 8, 1864, was unanimously renominated for the Presidency by the Republican convention at Baltimore, and at the election in November received

212 electoral votes to 21 for General McClellan. Was inaugurated for his second term March 4, 1865. Was shot by an assassin at Ford's Theater, in Washington, April 14, 1865, and died the next day.. Was buried at Oak Ridge, near Springfield, Ill.


Fellow-Citizens of the United States:

In compliance with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President "before he enters on the execution of his office."

I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement. Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches

when I declare that—

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the

laws, can be given will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause as cheerfully to one section as to another.

There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:

No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution-to this provision as much as to any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause "shall be delivered up" their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not with nearly equal unanimity frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?

There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by national or by State authority, but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to others by which authority it is done. And should anyone in any case be content that his oath shall go unkept on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?

Again: In any law upon this subject ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be not in any case surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well at the same time to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States"?

I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules; and while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed than to violate any of them trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.

It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our National Constitution. During that period fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens have in succession administered the executive branch of the Government. They have conducted it through many perils, and generally with great success. Yet, with all this scope of precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief constitutional term

of four years under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.

I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever, it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

Again: If the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it-break it, so to speak-but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was "to form a more perfect Union."

But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it so far as practicable unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The

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