Born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hodgenville, Ky.; died Apr. 15, 1865, in Washington, D.C. American statesman. The son of a farmer.
Lincoln was a descendant of the earliest American settlers. He worked during his youth as a day laborer on surrounding farms; he was also a flatboatman, rail-splitter, surveyor, and postal employee. At the same time he strove to educate himself. In 1836 he passed the bar examination and became a lawyer. Fairness and incorruptibility, a sharp mind, and brilliant oratorical abilities led to his rapid rise. From 1834 to 1841, Lincoln was a member of the legislative assembly of the state of Illinois. From 1847 to 1849 he was a member of the House of Representatives. During the annexationist US war against Mexico in 1846–48, Lincoln introduced into Congress a resolution calling for cessation of the war. In 1854 he was one of the organizers of the Republican Party. Lincoln’s activities reflected the interests of progressive circles of the bourgeoisie of the Northern states and of the petite bourgeoisie throughout the country. He advocated the broadening of the civil and political rights of the people and favored granting suffrage to women.
Lincoln was a resolute foe of slavery and advocated liberation of the slaves. He opposed efforts to spread slavery to the whole USA. However, Lincoln believed that the issue of slavery lay within the competence of the individual states and that the federal government had no right to control it. In 1860, Lincoln was elected president of the USA. Despite his moderate stand on slavery, his election was a signal for the slaveholding Southern states to secede from the Union; it set off the Civil War of 1861–65.
During the first stage of this war, Lincoln considered the goal to be the crushing of the rebel slaveholders and the restoration of a unified country. K. Marx and F. Engels criticized Lincoln for his foot-dragging and inconsistencies on the question of abolishing slavery, which reflected the hesitations of the bourgeoisie. They pointed to the need to conduct a revolutionary kind of war. Under pressure of the masses and of the Radical Republicans, who represented the most revolutionary part of the bourgeoisie, Lincoln changed his position in the course of the war and instituted a series of increasingly revolutionary measures. In May 1862 the Homestead Act was adopted. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became law on Jan. 1, 1863. The proclamation signified the complete evolution of Lincoln’s political views. He had gone from a policy of territorial containment of slavery to the areas where it was already established to a new course involving the abolition of slavery. In 1864, Lincoln was elected to a second term. The shift by Lincoln’s government to revolutionary-style warfare led to the military destruction of the slaveholder forces and the abolition of slavery throughout the USA. On Apr. 14, 1865, Lincoln was mortally wounded by the actor J. Booth, who was an agent of the slaveholders and their allies in the Northern states. The murder of Lincoln was not only an act of vengeance on the part of reactionaries. It was also an attempt to deprive the opponents of slavery of their outstanding leader at a time when, with the war at an end, Reconstruction had become the leading political issue. This was to be a period of new and harsh exacerbation of the struggle for the rights of the Negroes.
Lincoln is a national hero of the American people, the bearer of the revolutionary traditions that are followed by all progressive people in the USA in the struggle against reaction and for the interests of the people.
Complete Works, vols. 1–12. Edited by J. Nicolay and J. Hay. New York, 1905.
Ivanov, R. F. A. Linkol’n i grazhdanskaia voina v SShA. Moscow, 1964.
Petrov, D. B. A. Linkol’n—velikii grazhdanin Ameriki. Moscow, 1960.
Sandburg, C. Linkol’n. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from English.)
Nicolay, J., and J. Hay. A. Lincoln: A History, vols. 1–10. [New York] 1917.
R. F. IVANOV
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.