Abraham Lincoln i/ / (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th president of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War—its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional and political crisis. In doing so, he preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the economy.
Reared in a poor family on the western frontier, Lincoln was a self-educated lawyer in Illinois, a Whig Party leader, state legislator during the 1830s, and a one-term member of the Congress during the 1840s. He promoted rapid modernization of the economy through banks, canals, railroads and tariffs to encourage the building of factories; he opposed the war with Mexico in 1846. After a series of highly publicized debates in 1858, during which Lincoln spoke out against the expansion of slavery, he lost the U.S. Senate race to his archrival, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas.
In 1860 Lincoln secured the Republican Party presidential nomination as a moderate from a swing state. With very little support in the slave states, Lincoln swept the North and was elected president in 1860. His election prompted seven southern slave states to form the Confederacy before he took the office. No compromise or reconciliation was found regarding slavery.
When the North enthusiastically rallied behind the Union after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Lincoln concentrated on the military and political dimensions of the war effort. His primary goal was to reunite the nation. He unilaterally suspended habeas corpus, arresting and temporarily detaining thousands holding secessionist or anti-war views in the border states without trial, ignoring the ruling by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney that such suspension was unconstitutional (unless done by Congress). Lincoln averted potential British intervention by defusing the Trent Affair in late 1861. His complex moves toward ending slavery centered on the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, using the Army to protect escaped slaves, encouraging the border states to outlaw slavery, and helping push through Congress the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which permanently outlawed slavery. Lincoln closely supervised the war effort, especially the selection of top generals, including his most successful general Ulysses S. Grant. He made the major decisions on Union war strategy. Lincoln's Navy set up a naval blockade that shut down the South's normal trade, helped take control of Kentucky and Tennessee, and gained control of the Southern river system using gunboats. Lincoln tried repeatedly to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond; each time a general failed, Lincoln substituted another, until finally Grant succeeded in 1865.
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