Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States, son of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, was born on February 12th, 1809. He had one sister, two years his senior, who died in early womanhood; and his only brother, his junior by two years, died in childhood.
When nine years of age, he lost his mother, the family having, two years previously, removed to what was then the territory of Indiana, and settled in the southern part. The thirteen years spent here inured him to all the exposures and hardships of frontier life. An active assistant in farm duties, he neglected no opportunity of strengthening his mind, reading with avidity such instructive works as he could procure-on winter evenings, oftentimes, by the light of the blazing fire-place. As satisfaction for damage accidentally done to a borrowed copy of Weems’ Life of Washington-the only one known to be in the neighborhood-he pulled fodder for two days for the owner.
At twenty years of age, he had reached the height of nearly six feet and four inches, with a comparatively slender yet uncommonly strong muscular frame. Morally, he was proverbially honest, conscientious, and upright.
Lincoln-who had determined to become a lawyer, in common with most energetic, enterprising young men of that period and section-embarked in politics. While pursuing his law studies, he engaged in land surveying as a means of support. In 1834, not yet having been admitted to the bar, he was first elected to the Legislature of his adopted state of Illinois. During this session he rarely took the floor to speak, content to play the part of an observer rather than of an actor.
While a member of the Legislature, he had devoted himself, as best he could to mastering his chosen profession, and in 1836 was admitted to practice. Securing at once a good amount of business, he began to rise as a most effective jury advocate, who could readily perceive, and promptly avail himself of, the turning points of a case. A certain quaint humor, withal, which he was wont to employ in illustration-combined with his sterling, practical sense, going straight to the core of things-stamped him as an original. Disdaining the tricks of the mere rhetorician, he spoke from the heart to the heart, and was universally regarded by those with whom he came in contact as every inch a man, in the best and broadest sense of that term. His thoughts, his manner, his address were eminently his own. Affecting none of the cant of the demagogue, the people trusted him, revered him as one of the best, if not the best, among them.
Although he had determined to retire from the political arena and taste the sweets which a life with one’s own family can alone secure, his earnest wishes were at length overruled by the as earnest demands of that party with the success of which he firmly believed his country’s best interests identified. In 1846, Lincoln was persuaded to accept the Whig nomination for Congress and was elected by an unprecedented large majority.
With the opening of the Thirtieth Congress-December 6th, 1847-Lincoln took his seat in the lower house of Congress for the first time as a member of the Senate.
Adapted from The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Frank Crosby, 2013
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