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Abraham Lincoln: American Politician and Lawyer

Abraham Lincoln is one of America's most famous and beloved presidents. From the famous Gettysburg Address to helping to abolish slavery, Lincoln is widely regarded as a good and decent man whose love for his country never wavered. While he was an important part of American history in this regard, he also had a successful career as a lawyer. This background is part of what made Lincoln so adapted to writing excellent speeches and what made him so well-versed in understanding the law as well as right versus wrong. He spent most of his early life on a farm in Indiana and eventually moved to Illinois, where he took several jobs, including as a storekeeper and a surveyor. But his deep interest in the law formed the foundation for what he would become later in life.

Early Career

As a young man, Abraham Lincoln worked on his father's farm. This background gave him an understanding of hard work and perseverance, even though hard labor didn't suit his personality or his ambition to become something greater. After he became a young adult and moved to Illinois, he and a partner purchased a store that later closed. Lincoln was stuck holding most of the debt but was determined to repay it honestly. He moved on to try his hand at surveying the Western part of the United States, but that also became a job he did not enjoy and was not successful at. He decided to attempt a career as a lawyer, but rather than going to law school, Lincoln was self-taught. He rigorously studied by reading a large selection of previous legal cases and law books, and in 1836, at the young age of 25, he obtained his law license. He began by writing legal forms and doing simple cases, but he became a partner with a local lawyer named John T. Stuart in 1837. This partnership taught him a more hands-on approach when dealing with legal cases, judges, and the court system.

  • Lincoln's Legal Career: This page provides a brief yet succinct summary of Lincoln's legal career.

  • Biography: Learn all about Lincoln and see a timeline of his career and life here.

  • A Clever Lawyer (video): Watch this video to find out about Lincoln's accomplishments as a lawyer.

  • Mr. Lincoln and Friends: Discover more about the many different lawyers Abraham Lincoln worked with over the years.

  • Law Career: This page offers a brief synopsis of some of Lincoln's legal partnerships.

  • How to Practice Law Like Abraham Lincoln: Modern lawyers can find a lot to relate to in this discussion of how Lincoln practiced.

  • Looking for Lincoln (video): Historical experts discuss Lincoln's life as a "prairie lawyer" in this video.

  • American Lawyer-President (PDF): This document has comprehensive information about Lincoln's career as well as a lesson plan for teachers.

Lincoln's Later Career Years

Over the next several years, Lincoln worked alongside Stuart as a partner in law. He worked as a trial lawyer and was very proficient at understanding the many nuances of practicing law, such as the language and technicalities involved with typical legal proceedings and filings. This made him adept at performing duties like drafting property deeds, dealing with taxes, and helping the locals with simple legal advice. Clients came from all over the country to hire him as their legal representative. His knack for speaking and writing helped propel him into the spotlight as one of the best lawyers in the nation. During the railroad boom of the late 1800s, he participated in several court cases representing people who were fighting the railroad companies to protect their property lines. This helped him earn a reputation for being one of the most diligent attorneys in the country.

  • Learning Lincoln: This fun website has lots of interesting facts about Lincoln's career and some examples of the cases he worked on and lawyers he worked with.

  • Photo Gallery: Click here for a timeline and photo gallery dedicated to Lincoln's life.

  • Legal Cases: You'll find information about some of Lincoln's legal cases on this website.

  • Lincoln's Home: The National Park Service has preserved Lincoln's home and presents information about his life and where he lived.

  • Biography and Resources: Lincoln served in the House of Representatives, and this page on the House website features a brief biography.

  • Lesson Plans: Find lesson plans and more on how you can learn about Lincoln's life and career by clicking on this link.

  • Legal Papers: You can find many documents related to Lincoln here, including his important legal papers.

  • Lincoln Pleads His Own Case: This page has an interesting story about how Abraham Lincoln may have become interested in the law.

  • A Groundwork for Greatness: Discover how Lincoln's early years created the foundation for his important career later in life.

Political Life

Lincoln had a way with words, which propelled him into the political spotlight. Because of his talent as a gifted orator, he reached out to the American people in a way that many others could not. This helped him win a seat in the House of Representatives in 1846. He spoke out against the Mexican-American War and against slavery, which he felt needed to be abolished. He ran as a Republican for president in 1860 and was successfully elected as the 16th president of the United States in 1861. He was then re-elected in 1864. Throughout his presidential career, Abraham Lincoln fought tirelessly against the horrors of slavery and tried diligently to unite a divided nation. His leadership during the Civil War was integral to how our country is shaped today. Sadly, he was assassinated at Ford's Theatre by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. This moment in history is known as one of America's darkest days. People all over the country revered Lincoln as a great man, even those who may have disagreed with him. Today, his legacy as a uniting force for America and someone who fought tirelessly for freedom lives on.