The 16th President Learning Activity

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Abraham Lincoln Political Career

Lincoln-Hamlin Ticket for President & Vice President.  Lincoln's Cooper-Union speech brought him to national prominence  Click here to read about the speech.

Abraham Lincoln's political career mostly occurred in Illinois.  He would win a seat in the Illinois State General Assembly as Representative, a seat as U.S. Representative, and ran for U.S. Senate, losing to Stephen Douglas.  He started out as a Whig party member, and would later help to start the new Republican party.  Lincoln was self-educated, and at New Salem worked on improving his grammar, including speaking and writing.   Abraham Lincoln wrote and provided three different autobiographies.  Read them Here. 

Answer the questions.  You can follow a great timeline of Lincoln's political career Here.


    After futile pleas to the border states to free slaves voluntarily, Lincoln in the summer of 1862 decided that emancipation was a military and political necessity. The Emancipation Proclamation transformed the war from a conflict to save the Union to a war to abolish slavery. It authorized the enlistment of African Americans; 220,000 served during the war, helping to ensure the destruction of slavery.  This was the big political event during the Civil War.

Political Consequences of War Time

1. During the war Congress adopted policies that altered American society. The Homestead Act offered free public land to western settlers. Huge land grants supported construction of a transcontinental railroad. The government raised the tariff, imposed new taxes, enacted the first income tax, and established a system of federally-chartered banks.
2. The Union lost about 360,000 troops during the Civil War and the Confederacy about 260,000. This is almost as many soldiers as have died in all other American wars.   Click Here for details of deaths.  The tremendous number of casualties became a powerful political influence.
3.  Lincoln Fires McClellan, 1862  Click Here
3.  The Emancipation Proclamation, 1862
4. The 13th Amendment, ratified in December 1865, ended slavery in the United States.

President Lincoln would be elected to a second term against a popular George McClellan (former general under Lincoln).   Read what Mary Todd Lincoln thought of this General in her 4-page letter to her husband.  Click Here for "Lincoln Fires McClellan"

Your Jobs:
Study how Abraham Lincoln could maintain the leadership to "cause" all these great political events to occur.  The Civil War was not popular with all people, and when conscription (the draft) was initiated, many citizens up-roared and protested.  Lincoln and the Union Army remained on-task and would of course win the war.  Just looking at the figures of killed soldiers on both sides, this war had more American deaths than any war before or after.

Take each of the three important political accomplishments listed above and complete the information table:

[Use the links above to read about each and answer the questions]

Political Action: When did this occur, and what was did it accomplish?  How does this Action effect us in the 21st Century?
Homestead Act

. .
Lincoln Fires McClellan




Emancipation Proclamation


. .
13th Amendment
. .
Visit the Commander & Chief Page


Check James Baldwin's article for answers to these questions

1. Abe's first political party affiliation was with what party?

2. Who was Lincoln's main political opponent--from Illinois?

3. How many times did Abe run for office and lose?  

4. What offices did Lincoln win?

5. Lincoln became a leader of a brand new political party.  What was the name of the party?

6. How did Abraham Lincoln get support of the whole nation when he ran for President?  (there was no TV or Internet--only newspapers in the 19th century)

7. Lincoln's political party became the party that was most instrumental in ending an American institution.  What was the institution?

8.  At the Cooper Union Hall, Lincoln gave a great speech, that got him national attention.  What else did this speech cause to happen to him?  Click Here.

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Lincoln at Springfield--Politics 1840's and 1850's

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