Abraham Lincoln's Presidency

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Why is Abraham Lincoln so important?

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In the decade preceding Abraham Lincoln's election, the United States became increasingly divided along sectarian lines, over the issue of slavery. With the Republican Lincoln's election, Southern states seceded from the United States, forming the Confederate States of America, triggering the Civil War.

Lincoln's reputation is, in large part, founded...

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In the decade preceding Abraham Lincoln's election, the United States became increasingly divided along sectarian lines, over the issue of slavery. With the Republican Lincoln's election, Southern states seceded from the United States, forming the Confederate States of America, triggering the Civil War.

Lincoln's reputation is, in large part, founded upon his leadership in the Civil War. The Civil War was a remarkably bloody conflict, and the location of Washington DC itself rendered it potentially vulnerable to Confederate attack. Nevertheless, under Lincoln's presidency, the Union was able to defeat the Confederacy, bringing them back into the Union.

Lincoln has also been celebrated for his political opposition to slavery and his role in ending it in the United States. Indeed, while fighting the Civil War, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a wartime act which banned slavery within the rebelling states. Later, his support would prove critical in shaping the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, although Lincoln himself would be assassinated before the Amendment's ratification. After Lincoln's death, his Vice President, Andrew Johnson, would inherit the responsibility of implementing Reconstruction (a task that would draw him into conflict with the Radical Republicans).

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Abraham Lincoln is important for two main reasons.

First, Lincoln is important because of his role in freeing the slaves.  Lincoln was not an abolitionist or a believer in racial equality.  He is, therefore, not as morally pure (with regard to race and slavery) as we sometimes portray him.  However, he was anti-slavery, perhaps more than any other major political figure, and he did help to end slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation when it was not completely necessary or inevitable that he do so.

Second, Lincoln is important because of his role in the Civil War.  Lincoln is the figure who gets the most credit for seeing the Union through this crisis.  He showed the moral courage to refuse to allow the South to secede.  He chose, instead, to go to war against them.  During the war, it was Lincoln more than anyone else who allowed the North to succeed.  His political skills helped hold the country together and he ended up being more of a military leader than might have been expected.

Thus, Lincoln allowed the US to emerge from the Civil War as a country that was much more united and much more just than it had been before.

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