Abraham Lincoln was elected barely five months before the outbreak of the American Civil War, and was assassinated less than a month before its end. During this time he paved the way for the abolition of slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation and also delivered the Gettysburg Address, one of the most famous speeches in American history.

Having originally come from Kentucky, Lincoln’s family settled in Illinois shortly after his twenty-first birthday. He soon moved to the town of New Salem where he became involved in local politics and began to teach himself law. He was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1836, by which time he had already been elected to the Illinois House of Representatives.

Having served just one term in the United States House of Representatives in 1847-49, it wasn’t until 1856 that Lincoln re-embraced national politics and joined the newly-formed anti-slavery Republican Party. The high profile Lincoln–Douglas debates in 1858 earned Lincoln national recognition and, two years later, he secured the Republican nomination for President on the third ballot.

The 1860 election saw four candidates vying for the Presidency, of whom only Lincoln did not make any campaign speeches. He instead harnessed the enthusiasm of the young adults in the Wide Awakes organisation to generate support for the new Republican Party. With his anti-slavery ideology Lincoln didn’t receive a single vote from 10 of the 15 Southern slave states, but emerged victorious in the election thanks to overwhelming support in the North and West that translated into a decisive majority in the Electoral College.

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