Chapter XVI

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky in 1809. His family was very poor. His mother died when he was young. His father remarried and they moved to Indiana. He quit school when he was small because his father needed him to work. However, Abraham Lincoln wanted to learn, so he borrowed books from a neighbor. This was before electric lights had been invented. He studied by candlelight. Sometimes they were too poor to buy candles, so then he studied by the light of the fireplace. Later he moved to Illinois. There his neighbor was a lawyer. He studied law books that he borrowed. He became a lawyer without going to college. He was a clever lawyer. A railroad company paid him a high salary to work for them. In 1846, he was elected to congress where he opposed the war with Mexico.

In 1852, people who wanted to stop slavery in the territories formed the Republican Party. According to the constitution, congress did not have the power to end slavery in a state. However, congress could stop slavery in all of the territories if it wanted to. In 1858, Lincoln became the Republican candidate for senator from Illinois. He did not win the election, but Republicans all over America read his speeches and admired them.

In America, political parties hold a convention to select their candidate for president. The party in each state sends delegates to a national convention. In 1860, the Republican national convention was in Chicago. Many important people in the Republican Party wanted to be the Republican candidate for President. It was up to the convention to decide whom it would choose. The three men with the most support were Seward, Lincoln, and Fremont. When the delegates at the convention voted, Seward had the largest number of delegates, but he did not have enough to win on the first ballot. In order to be the candidate, the person must get more than half of the votes. The convention votes again and again until some one gets more than half of the votes of the delegates. Many delegates liked Seward, but they were afraid he could not win the election in November because ordinary voters thought he was too strongly opposed to slavery. They thought the Republicans should put up a candidate that could get the support of ordinary people. By nighttime, no Republican candidate had gotten the support of half of the delegates, so they had to try to pick a candidate the next day

Abraham Lincoln wanted to be the Republican candidate. That evening he talked to many delegates. He knew that many of the delegates from Pennsylvania were owners of small iron factories. Lincoln told the delegates from Pennsylvania that if he were president, he would help them to sell more goods by putting a high tariff on imported goods from England. Lincoln knew that many of the delegates from Indiana were farmers with many sons. They did not have enough land to give to each of their sons. Lincoln said that if he were president, he would stop selling government land and would give it away free. Lincoln told the delegates from each state the things they wanted to hear. Lincoln did not like slavery, but at that time he believed that the constitution did not permit the president to do anything about slavery in the states where it existed. But he said he would stop slavery in the territories.

By this time, many of the German immigrants had become American citizens and had joined the Republican Party. There were many German delegates at the convention. The Germans decided to hold a private discussion that evening. They met in a hotel room to discuss the situation. Some of them liked Seward. Others liked Lincoln. But all of them were against Fremont, because Fremont did not like immigrants. They decided to stop Fremont by having all the Germans support the same candidate. They decided that Lincoln had the best chance of winning the election in November. So all of the Germans began to support Lincoln. The next day Lincoln became the candidate of the Republican Party.

In the November election of 1860, there were four political parties. Abraham Lincoln, the candidate of the Republican Party said he would not allow slavery in the territories. That year the Democrats split into two parties. Breckinridge, the candidate of the Southern Democrats, said he would allow slavery in all of the territories. Douglas, the candidate of the Northern Democrats said he would allow the people already living in a territory to decide whether they would allow slavery or not. Bell, the candidate of the Constitutional Union Party, said people should not talk about slavery because discussing the subject could only lead to trouble. In November, the votes were counted.






Northern Democrat




Southern Democrat




Constitutional Union



Lincoln won the election with less than 40% of the vote. Six out of ten of the American people had not voted for him and did not like him. Almost all of Lincoln's votes came from the northern states. Almost nobody in the southern states voted for Lincoln. In the southern states, most of the people voted for Breckenridge. Most of the voters in the South hated Lincoln.