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UK Disability History Month

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (1809 –1865) was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in 1865. His greatest achievements included preserved the Union during the American Civil War and bringing about the emancipation of slaves.

Having had breakdowns and suicidal thoughts, he had clinical depression all his life. The deaths of his mother, sister and later some of his children contributed to this.

Lincoln grew up in Kentucky where he worked on the land on his father’s holdings, but he preferred reading. He was largely self-taught, studying law and entering the bar in Illinois and worked there for 16 years. 

 Later he ran for the state legislature and congress, before standing for President. He was driven by a deep sense of equality, that slavery was wrong, which came from his Baptist upbringing.

On January 1, 1863, Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring forever free slaves within the Confederacy.  Although not all the slaves were immediately set free it led in 1865 to the 13th Amendment of the Constitution outlawing slavery.

On November 19, 1863, Lincoln delivered his most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address, to a large crowd at one of the bloodiest battlefields of the Civil War, the Gettysburg National Cemetery in Pennsylvania. In this 272-word speech Lincoln said the Civil War was the ultimate test of the preservation of the Union created in 1776 with the nation "conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal".

This has been interpreted as confirmation that Lincoln was expanding the cause of the Civil War from simply reunifying the Union to also fighting for equality and abolishing slavery.