Abraham Lincoln Carving
late 19th century
Revered in American history for his vital contributions to the nation, Lincoln is a popular subject of folk art. Though the provenance of our “Lil’ Lincoln” is unknown, the item was likely carved in the 19th century. He stands 52 inches high and rests on an 11 inch base.
Abraham Lincoln was elected the sixteenth president of the United States in November 6, 1860. A member of the Illinois and U.S. House of Representatives, Lincoln practiced law in Springfield, Illinois prior to his nomination. Lincoln’s opposition to the expansion of slavery was well-known and though he won the election, no ballots were cast for him in ten of the fifteen Southern slave states.
South Carolina was the first state to adopt an ordinance of secession in December 1860. By February 1861, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas had followed. President Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln refused to recognize the secession. Lincoln rejected the December 1860 Crittenden Compromise, which would have extended the Missouri Compromise line dividing territories into slave and free, but Lincoln supported the Corwin Amendment, which would have protected slavery in those states where it already existed.
On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Union troops at Fort Sumpter, beginning the war. Lincoln studiously focused on both military and political dimensions of the war and invoked unprecedented war powers, including the suspension of habeas corpus. Lincoln proposed compensated emancipation, though only in the District of Columbia was it enacted, with the government paying an average of $300 per slave. Lincoln rejected geographically limited emancipation in August 1861 and May 1862 and fighting continued.
Though Lincoln was adamant that his goal was preservation of the Union, he concluded that the war could not be won without freeing the slaves. After the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22 and effective on January 1, 1863. Slaves were freed in the ten states not under Union control, with exemptions in Tennessee, Virginia, and Louisiana, which were mostly under Federal control. As Union armies advanced south, more slaves were freed in the Confederate territory.
During the dedication of Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, four months after the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg. One of the best-known speeches in U.S. history, Lincoln’s 272-word speech ensured listeners of the endurance of the nation.
Though the lack of military success made Lincoln fearful of re-election prospects, he carried all but three states in the 1864 election. On April 9, 1865, General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox, effectively ending the war.
Even during the course of the war Lincoln had considered reconstitution. Determined to reunite the nation and not alienate the South, Lincoln led moderate Republicans in Reconstruction efforts. Lincoln pressured Congress to outlaw slavery throughout the entire nation. A first attempt in June 1864 failed in the House of Representatives, but a second attempt in January 1865 passed and was sent to the states for ratification.
John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate spy from Maryland, attended a speech by Lincoln on April 11, 1865 in which Lincoln endorsed voting rights for blacks. Learning that the President would be attending Ford’s Theatre, Booth devised a plan to assassinate him. Booth fired at point-blank range, mortally wounded the President, who died the morning of April 15, 1865.