Book Essay: Lincoln

Question 1

Professional and Political Experience that Abraham Lincoln Accumulated before Becoming President

Lincoln’s leadership skills as a politician have their genesis in the way he was brought up. He stated that he owed his successful political life to his mother who died when he was only nine years old. As a future politician, Lincoln’s earlier travels around the city enabled him to have a clear knowledge about the city that would later help him during his campaigns. Lincoln was also fond of storytelling and making jokes in his youthful days. It enabled him to slowly start developing popularity among his peers due to his good conversational skills and vast knowledge that he demonstrated through story-telling (McGovern, 2009).

Lincoln’s knowledge of the city was important for his future political career. It can be traced from his arrival in New Salem when he got a job as a clerk in a general store. Working in his capacity as a clerk gave him an opportunity to understand the city and to learn how to deal with people. The general store where Lincoln worked was a meeting place for residents of small towns. As such, working in the store enabled him to know the community well. People were delighted with the way he demonstrated intelligence, wisdom, and integrity. Residents of New Salem were less literate. They were amazed at the reading and writing skills that Lincoln displayed, hence making him gain popularity in the town (McGovern, 2009). The locals started referring to him as a young man who was well-natured.

Young Lincoln also started making a name as he succeeded in wrestling the town bully, amazing his neighbors with strength and ability that he demonstrated while splitting rails and felling trees. His wrestling skills made him regarded as a leading figure in the town. Duties that he performed enabled him to develop adequate survival skills as a child of the American frontier. This helped at twenty one when his father decided to move to Coles County. Lincoln did not move with his father. Instead, he decided to leave his father’s home. He also made a name as a skillful river pilot, hence gaining popularity among the townspeople.

He joined Salem’s debating society that also enabled him to gain skills of elocution. Bowling Green who was the town’s justice of peace lent him a copy of revised laws of Illinois that allowed him to learn the legal matters before providing with an opportunity to enter the court and give his opinions on some insignificant issues (McGovern, 2009). At this time, Lincoln started thinking about law and using his forensic skills to improve his stand in the society. When governor John Raynolds called for volunteers to suppress the insurrection, Lincolns was up to the task during which he got elected as a captain. He was elected to Illinois House of Representatives in 1834. This is what marked the main beginning of his political success.

Lincoln later learned legislative procedures with the help of John Stuart. Stuart advised him to study law. He took the advice and undertook studies in law and later joined Stuart’s law practice. The studies were particularly meant to prepare him to become an attorney. He later joined a travelling caravan of attorneys and judges. His status in Illinois grew after August 1836 elections in which he garnered more votes and was elected the chairman of the finance committee. He was a strong supporter of Internal Improvements Act (McGovern, 2009).

Later, Lincoln left the elected office and started working in Springfield on civic affairs and enjoyed recognition as a member of the state’s best law firms. He mingled his law practice and politics, which enabled him to gain perfect skills in political strategy formulation. He practiced law, but was keen to keep his political contacts.

Lincoln’s opposition to slavery that is evident in the way he publicly fought the Kansas-Nebraska Act let him move from his position as a respected attorney and a politician to a respected statesman and a revered national figure.

Question 2

Why the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and Dred Scott Decision (1857) Brought Lincoln out of Private Life and “Rekindle” his Political Career

McGovern (2009) stated that enactment of the Kansas Act caught Lincoln with surprise based on his belief that the Missouri Compromise was essential and that it was effective in solving the slavery menace. His decision to come out of his private life to take part in public affairs in the fight against the Act was a factor of his fear that enactment of the Act would increase slavery and make it spread at a faster rate. He came out strongly in opposition of the law and moved round as he waged war against the Act. The vigor with which Lincoln fought the law made the then leader of Illinois an antislavery faction. The fight against slavery became the pillar of Lincoln’s political campaigns. Lincoln continued to gain political fame in his fight against slavery. His knowledge of law enabled him use to the Constitution to confirm the fact that the Constitution is against slavery. According to Lincoln, slavery was the antithesis of government and any efforts to propagate it were regarded as illogical. Lincoln slowly changed from being a respected attorney to being a statesman and a national figure.

Dred Scott’s decision that was based on the reasoning that a black man transported to a free state had no freedom to fight for through a legal suit also added to Lincoln’s obsession with the extremities of slavery. Criticism that Lincoln raised against the Dred Scott’s decision was based on Lincoln’s argument that a failure by the Congress to stop slavery would mean the practice would become legal everywhere. Lincoln decided to join the public sphere and fight against the decision as he knew that the only way to stop it from being binding is to have the Republicans dedicate themselves to overturning the decision. The Republicans unanimously agreed to support Lincoln to challenge Douglas’ reelection to the US Senate, hence increasing Lincoln’s public presence (McGovern, 2009).

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Question 3

Arguments that Lincoln Made against Southern Secession and Ways in which he Repress Civil Liberties during the War and Otherwise

Most arguments that Lincoln gave against secession were pragmatic in nature. They were issued to make people convinced that their countries were better placed while in the union as compared to the state if they seceded. He was opposed to the idea of secession based on the reasoning that it was wrong to remove respective sections from each other. He was also opposed to the idea of secession based on the idea that the states could not be separated physically as secession is unlawful. For him, secession did not exist in the Constitution and it was not to be given room. According to Lincoln, governments that allow secession can disintegrate into anarchy (McGovern, 2009). For him, secession would be based on the understanding that Americans are not enemies. He also argued that secession would be destructive to the world’s democracy and confirm for the whole world that the government of the people could hardly survive. According to Lincoln’s arguments, the minorities are regarded as having a duty to be submissive to the will of the majority. Lincoln’s belief was based on the understanding that if the majority gets their way, most people will get satisfied. He believed that secession would worsen the figurative slave law.

According to McGovern (2009), Lincoln argued that if secession was left to take place due to disagreement of the minority with the majority, the disagreement would be experienced over and over again. It is because of his perception that a rule by the majority can succeed, while a rule by minority is inadmissible.

Question 4

Lincoln’s Early Attitudes toward Slavery and Racial Equality and the Grounds on which he Justified Emancipation

In his early and middle adult years, Lincoln was not preoccupied with the idea of slavery. It could be because he did not suffer from the vices of slavery directly (McGovern, 2009). Besides, Lincoln was hopeful that the society was undergoing transformation that would help attain a society that embraced freedom for all. Lincoln’s position regarding slavery did not influence his perception of racial prejudices. He had the perception that blacks and whites were not at equal social levels. He was opposed to the idea of interracial marriages and black suffrage.

Lincoln justified emancipation on the grounds that it was a military necessity that had to be applied to preserve the union (McGovern, 2009). He felt that slaves had to be freed to prevent them from being subdued. In this case, Lincoln argued that the constitutional protection of slavery was outweighed by the constitutional war powers of the president. While making reference to Europe, Lincoln argued that emancipation was a valid means of warfare because slaves and slave labour were extensively used. He also believed that freedom would enable slaves to fight for the union.

Question 5

Limited War Replaced by Total War and Generals Ulysses S Grant and William Sherman Implemented the Policy of Total Warfare

The idea of limited war is used to refer to a situation when war is limited to well-defined boundaries, fought against armed forces, and neither extended to populations, nor entails confiscation of property. Limited war was mainly aimed at preserving the union. It was to be fought with a close consideration of the constitutional rights of rebels. The call for limited war was based on the reasoning that total war would delay reunion as rebels would be more furious. When he advocated for limited war, Lincoln felt that the goal of the war could be achieved without much bloodshed and disruption. However, Lincoln later changed his stand on the nature of war that was necessary. He realized that limited war could not be successful in achieving desired objectives because his generals fought reluctantly and incompetently (McGovern, 2009). Lincoln shifted from his advocacy for limited war to a call for swift war that would help defeat the confederate counterparts. Lincoln got generals who could aggressively lead the troops in the fight that turned into a total war.

McGovern (2009) noted that generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Sherman implemented the policy of total warfare by employing aggressive war tactics. Generals Ulysses S. Grant showed determination to control Mississippi valley. Together with William Sherman, General Grant used aggressive actions. For example, he took over forts Henry and Donelson and took about 1,500 rebels as prisoners. He aggressively captured cities like Vicksburg that he regarded as essential for supplying materials to his troops. After crossing Mississippi, he forced his army to execute relentless attacks. He gave his troops the freedom to get food from the surrounding country to keep them going through the war. Grant used a grand strategy whereby union soldiers moved in concert. At the same time, Sherman’s forces also embarked on relentless wars in the West by applying the policy of total war.