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Lincoln’s Rise to Political Leadership

Abraham Lincoln was at one time considered unfit to lead the country; his political life was a struggle. Honest Abe was truly underrated.

He started his political life at a young age. He ran for his first office in 1832, but it wasn’t until 1834 that he was elected to the Illinois legislature. By 1849 he had held four consecutive terms in the legislature and a term in the U.S. Congress.

By 1854 Lincoln began to lose interest in politics. He helped organize campaigns for fellow Whigs. After the repeal of Missouri Compromise, he regained his interests in politics. He opposed slavery and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which he described with these words: “It is wrong, wrong in its effect, letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska and wrong in its principle.”

In early 1856, Lincoln decided to join the new Republican Party in Illinois. The main objective of the party was to keep Democrat James Buchanan from winning the presidency—although Buchanan won.

June 16, 1858, Lincoln was nominated by the Illinois State Republican Convention to run against Stephen Douglas for the United States Senate. Lincoln lost to Douglas on Election Day in 1858. However, he had proven his enormous potential as a national figure and immediately, his name was discussed as a candidate for the presidency in 1860.

During the Republican Convention, Lincoln was one of three serious candidates for president; he wasn’t expected to secure the nomination but he did. He spent the summer of 1860 planning his campaign strategy—stay quiet and let the Democrats split their party votes. His strategy worked and he was elected the new president.

Throughout Lincoln's life he had wanted to leave a legacy. Fighting to make a permanent mark in history, he worked for the honor of all men and never lost sight of his own principles.


Source: Lincoln’s Rise to Political Leadership
Illinois Periodicals Online (IPO) is a digital imaging project at the Northern Illinois University Libraries funded by the Illinois State Library

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