Abraham Lincoln wrote his own speeches

Abraham Lincoln - Self-study to become a great president

For the current President Barack Obama, Lincoln is, in his own words, a great inspiration. Obama has studied Lincoln's life and speeches and repeatedly refers to the first President of the Republican Party.

Abraham Lincoln is the classic example of the American dream: Born on February 12, 1809 on a poor family farm in Kentucky, he doesn't even go to school for a whole year. He teaches himself to read and write. He becomes a lawyer, politician, one of the greatest presidents in the United States and a successful commander in chief of the US Army.

The talented Mr. Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln just had the right talents, says historian and Lincoln expert Ronald C. White, whose biography “A. Lincoln ”just came out in the US. Lincoln was clever, knew how to assert himself in politics, was a good listener, knew how to deal with people and was not afraid of including competitors on the team. All of this, according to White, became apparent early on. “His friends, who later remembered him, said: he was the leader, he was different from us. He was a strong young man, "explains White," who could work on the farm, but from an early age he was characterized by an intellectual curiosity. He loved books and so he opened up a world that was much bigger than the one in which he lived. "

A good rhetorician

In 1846 Lincoln, who now lives in Illinois, is elected as a member of the US Congress and in 1858 he runs against the Democrat Stephen Douglas in the election for the Senate seat for the state. His pursuit is unsuccessful, but his seven campaign debates with Douglas make him famous. People go long distances to see tall, lean Lincoln arguing with short, stocky Douglas.

Lincoln had a relatively high-pitched voice and didn't look particularly attractive with his always tousled black hair, says Ronald White, but he had taught himself to be “a good, winning speaker.” And that made him stand out in an age , “In which oratory was more in demand than in our time. That was how you could distinguish yourself back then, ”concludes Ronald White.

Lincoln spoke out against slavery early on. He found like-minded people in the newly formed Republican Party. He applied for the presidency for her in 1860. With the votes of the northern states and the west coast, he succeeds in defeating his rivals.

An inevitable civil war

The southern states respond to Lincoln's election by leaving the Union and elect Jefferson Davis as their president. By the time Lincoln took office in March, it was too late to reverse secession or prevent the war that began shortly afterwards with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861.

Lincoln declares when he takes office that the southern states have no constitutional right to leave the Union. But he also says that the Constitution does not prescribe how the issue of slavery is to be settled in the states that are already part of the Union.

With the declaration of emancipation in 1863 he only freed the slaves in the states of the confederation during the war - and thus gained 180,000 men reinforcement for his army. So is the liberation of slaves just a means to win the war? No, says Ronald White. “Lincoln believed that slavery was immoral. But he also believed that the constitution on which he had sworn did not give him the right to take action against slavery where it already existed. He wanted to prevent the expansion to new US states. The declaration of emancipation was then a military measure that helped the military and at the same time freed the slaves. Lincoln knew it wasn't a permanent solution. So he sought a constitutional amendment that banned slavery in the US and that was passed two and a half months before his death. "

With humility to success

It will be four years before the Union can finally force Confederate forces to surrender. All along, Lincoln's aim is to preserve the unity of the nation while making sense of the phrase that all people have equal rights. This is formulated publicly, for example, in his famous speech in Gettysburg, where he inaugurated a military cemetery in 1863. But Lincoln was never arrogant but always humble, explains Ronald White. “That was the secret of his success. Because of this meek nature, people listened to him. And this is best expressed in the last words of his second inaugural address: malice towards no one, mercy towards everyone. "

Lincoln only survived the end of the war by 41 days. On Good Friday, 1865, he was shot dead by a fanatical southern sympathizer while visiting the theater in Washington. What remains are his speeches, which are still morally valid today, and the fact that he preserved the unity of the United States and thus founded America a second time - and this time with the claim that all Americans have the same rights and rights guarantee equal freedom.