Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States and commonly referred to as the greatest President of all time, was the leader of America in one of her darkest times, the American Civil War. Although controversial at the time, one of Lincoln’s most recognizable and notable achievements was abolishing slavery. His stance on slavery was fierce, but clear, and ultimately led the South to secede and begin war against Union. Despite being hated by half of the country while he was occupying the Oval Office, Abraham Lincoln was the greatest President of all time due to the courage he had to stand up for what he believes in despite the imminent consequences, his aggressive, but also necessary actions during the American Civil War, his ability to preserve the Union during and after the wartimes, and his hand in modernizing the U.S. economy.
Abraham Lincoln grew up in Hodgenville, Kentucky where he was obsessive with learning and self-education. This tenacity to learn became crucial to his career; he became a lawyer, the leader of the Whig Party, and later earned himself a spot on the Illinois House of Representatives. In 1846, Lincoln was elected to the United States House of Representatives where his ideas came into view on nationwide scale. Although the Lincoln name began to rise, he never lost sight of his morals and never sought out policies just to gain respect and popularity among Americans. This was not an idea that Lincoln started when he was elected to the House of Representatives either; this was an idea that he acquired as a young lawyer. Lincoln was known for never taking cases that he did not agree with or thought would require him to lie; this is an example of his true character and speaks volumes of his honesty and integrity. Despite his friendly demeanor on the outside, Abraham Lincoln was also very aggressively defensive when it came to his beliefs and protecting freedom of speech. During one his speeches during his time on the Illinois House of Representatives, the audience was getting out of hand and beginning to get violent; one of Lincoln’s supports was started to get attacked by an assailant. Lincoln then stormed into the crowd, grabbed the assailant by his neck and pants, and threw him . This is a testament to how strongly Lincoln feels about his beliefs and arguments and shows that he will not back down to those who oppose him. One of Lincoln’s most notable achievements in office was the abolishment of slavery. Even with the presence of threats and the aggressiveness from the public, Lincoln stood by his beliefs and fought for the the policy. It wasn’t until January 31, 1865 that Congress passed the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery in the U.S. and also included that involuntary servitude was a crime and punishable by law. Although the American Civil War was before the 13th Amendment was passed, Lincoln’s stance and intentions were clear to the public and, arguably, was the primary reason for the cause of the South to secede from the Union . Despite the imminent consequences, Lincoln persisted with the fight for abolishment and the idea that all men were created equal. This becomes clear in Lincoln’s famous “Gettysburg Address” in which he states that he is fighting with the intent to preserve the Union and bring equality to all citizens (including those fighting on the Confederate side) . Although the address was only about two minutes in length, it was an incredibly moving speech that is ranked among the top speeches of any past or current leaders of the United States.
Abraham Lincoln had some questionable actions when it came to the war against the South, but they were all necessary evils in order to reach the ends means. Some historians that refute the idea that Lincoln is possibly the best President have questioned the provocation of the war by attacking Fort Sumter. Known as the beginning of the Civil War, Lincoln was faced with a few problems when it came to Fort Sumter (disputed land between the North and the South. The Union was currently occupying the island but, due to the surrounding Confederate militia, they were unable to get any ammo or food resupplies from the government. When Lincoln was inaugurated, he was unsure how the nation would react if the North were to take military action against the Confederacy. He thought on one hand that some Americans would feel sympathy for the Southerners and maybe secede also, but on the other hand, he knew he needed Fort Sumter and would not allow his men to starve and die inside those walls. Lincoln did not want to attack first, because the nation would see him as the aggressor. So he decided to send the governor of South Carolina a message that said he was going to send an unarmed resupply to Fort Sumter. This meant that, unless the Confederacy attacked first, the Union troops inside Fort Sumter would be resupplied and ready for war. Just as Lincoln suspected, the Confederacy attacked the resupply mission, starting the American Civil War at 4:30am on April 12, 1861 . The Civil War was an inevitable occurrence, Lincoln was just the first man brave enough to stand up and risk his entire presidency and the nation on the principle that slavery was wrong. Another argument against Lincoln is his unconstitutional war efforts against the South that were unapproved by Congress. Instead of asking for permission and troops, he invaded the south and used military force and authority to gain troops from the state governments. This goes back to the point that the war was inevitable and the simple principle of war: win. Winning war is ugly and must be done by all means necessary. Lincoln understood this principle and predicated his entire military strategy upon this idea. Because of Lincoln’s fierce stance, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Arkansas seceded from the Union. Those who opposed the President were not in good shape either, Lincoln was unconstitutionally arresting those who publicly opposed him and unconstitutionally banned Habeas Corpus, which requires those arrested to have the write to be presented in front of a judge . His actions, although controversial, was all for the intended-swift defeat of the Confederate army.
Throughout the entire Civil War, Lincoln had the intent to preserve the Union. This was never about the demolition of the South or to rid the country of those fighting for the Confederates. Lincoln simply wanted everyone to have “equal” treatment, including those in slavery. His ability to win the war and also bring the nation back together was an astonishing achievement that is one of the main reason why the United States is the way it is today. This idea of preserving the Union while maintaining his plan for the abolition of slavery was clear in the Emancipation Proclamation that he issued in early 1863 . This was not only a declaration to the nation of what the Union was fighting for, but it was also a military strategy. Lincoln figured that if the slaves in the Southern parts of the United States found the document and were able to interpret it, they would revolt against their masters and begin fighting for the North. The war was not all about killing either, Lincoln did not want to lose all American lives in the South; so he attacked the South’s economy. Because of the Confederates heavy reliance on slavery, their economy did not outreach much and heavily relied on the North for goods. Once the North was removed from the equation, they were weakened and an easier target for the Union. During the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln made it obvious and clear to the public eye that his primary goal of the war was to preserve the Union and equal rights . This emotionally charged speech gave the North a sense of patriotism and pride, unifying the North and Southerners began to take notice. People, no matter the side, could see that Lincoln was fighting for what he thought was right and did not want to lose lives; just that the loss of life is sometimes necessary.
The economy is the scale in which determines the worth and success of a country. Abraham Lincoln had three major accomplishments regarding the United States economy that has helped modernize it into what it is today: institution of income tax, issued the first paper currency, reinstated the national bank. Although income tax nowadays is accepted by everyone and very common, Lincoln’s administration was the first to try it out on the American citizens. Today, we have different tax rates and tax brackets that determine how much everyone pays; but back then, Lincoln issued a 3% income tax on all incomes greater than $800 . The issuing of the paper currency is another thing his administration first did that can be seen today. To help during the Civil War, Lincoln issued a paper currency to people with a promise that the banks would accept it and back it as payment. This was the first time that a payment was not backed by gold or silver so, although skeptical, the citizens had to accept the President’s wishes. This ended up becoming one of the most important decisions in our history; after the war, Lincoln continued issuing the currency and this has lived on into today’s days. Now, the American dollar is the standard currency for the entire world, all from Lincoln’s decision. With the issuing of paper money, the government had to have some way to back people’s money and give security in their credit. To do this, Lincoln reinstated a national bank; namely, the one that Andrew Jackson got rid of in the 1830s. It is said that “the National Bank Acts of 1863 and 1864 also created the federal-state dual structure that is now a defining trait of the U.S. banking system and economy . By establishing the Comptroller of the Currency within the U.S. Treasury in the process, Lincoln and his administration created an entity responsible for the implementation and supervision of national banks along with certain activities of bank subsidiaries. This office continues to remain in existence today” . A multitude of the decisions and precedents set by the Lincoln administration are still largely used in economies today and furthers the claim that he is the greatest President of all time.
Despite the counter arguments that refute Abraham Lincoln as the greatest President of all time, his actions and accomplishments speak for themselves and it can clearly be seen that he has affected the United States today more than most. From his stance on slavery, affect on the economy, preservation of the Union, and his never-quit-or-surrender attitude is what made him a great and courageous leader. Although his actions at the time were seen as controversial by some, he is commonly known today from both sides of the isle as one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States of America.
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