Did you Ever Wonder...

Which U.S. President is known as the 'Savior of the Union' and emancipator of the slaves?

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Abraham Lincoln, the man who preserved the Union and issued the Emancipation Proclamation was born on 12 February 1809 in a one-room log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky, and rose from humble beginnings to achieve the highest office in the land. He is regarded as one of America's greatest heroes due to his incredible impact on the nation and his distinctive personality. The death of his mother when he was nine years old was devastating on young Abraham and his impoverished father. After he received a brief formal education his family migrated to Illinois where he made a living in manual labour and later worked as a shopkeeper, postmaster, and general store owner. He served as a volunteer captain in the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War – a brief 1832 conflict between the United States and Native Americans – and saw no action during this time. After the war, Lincoln began his political career and was elected to the state legislature in 1834 and left office in 1841 after completing four terms. After teaching himself law by reading he was admitted to the bar in 1836 and moved to Springfield, Illinois, to begin practicing law. After being engaged on and off over a period of two years, he finally married Mary Todd (13 December 1818 – 16 July 1882) – a well-educated woman from a distinguished Kentucky family – in 1842. Tragedy hit hard again home as out of their four sons, only Robert survived to adulthood and had children.

In 1846, Lincoln was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served one two-year term. He returned to practicing law in Springfield and often appeared before the Illinois Supreme Court. His reputation with clients gave rise to his moniker 'Honest Abe'. Lincoln returned to politics in the 1850s to oppose pro-slavery as it was still legal in the southern United States. Lincoln believed that slavery was immoral, ran counter to the wishes of the Founding Fathers and that it violated the fundamental assertion of the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal." Although Lincoln lost the 1858 U.S. Senate race, he secured the Republican Party presidential nomination in 1860 with a reputation as a moderate of the slavery issue and a strong supporter for improving the national infrastructure and the protective tariff. On 6 November 1860, Lincoln became the first Republican to win the presidency after receiving 40 percent of the popular vote, defeating three other candidates. He began his term as 16th president of the United States on 4 March 1861 under difficult conditions: seven states had already seceded, the Confederate States of America had been formally established, and one month later, on 12 April 1861, the American Civil War began when Confederate forces opened fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Lincoln immediately responded to the crisis by distributing $2 million from the Treasury for war material and called for 75,000 volunteers into military service. While closely supervising the war effort, he was set to reunite the nation. In 1863, as the war progressed and the tide turned against the Confederacy, Lincoln emancipated the slaves and the following year won re-election by receiving 55 percent of the popular vote. He was inaugurated for his second term on 4 March 1865, but he was assassinated by a Confederate sympathizer in Washington, D.C. on 15 April 1865. The attack came only days after the American Civil War effectively ended on 9 April 1865 when Confederate General Robert E. Lee (19 January 1807 – 12 October 1870), commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his forces to Union General Ulysses S. Grant (27 April 1822 – 23 July 1885) at Appomattox.

While there are thousands of memorials, monuments, counties, streets, parks and cemeteries named after him, the Lincoln Memorial - located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. – is significant as this neoclassical monument to the 16th president was built to heal national divisions caused by the Civil War. Although construction began in March 1914, it was not dedicated until 30 May 1922. The building in the form of a Greek Doric temple was designed by American Beaux-Arts architect Henry Bacon (1866 – 1924), which was his final project. Inside the memorial are two side chambers containing carved inscriptions of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address and his Gettysburg Address. As shown in the photograph, there is a display of a solitary figure of Lincoln in the central hall. The 19 feet high and 175 tons statue was carved in four years by the six Piccirilli brothers under the supervision of American sculptor Daniel Chester French (20 April 1850 – 7 October 1931). For his eloquence of democracy, his role as 'savior of the Union' and emancipator of the slaves, Lincoln has embodied an enduring legacy.

On this day, 12 February 2022, we commemorate the 213th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States.

André M. Levesque

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