Daguerreotype of Lincoln by Alexander Gardner in 1863.
Washington, DC, is an American statesman. He is the sixteenth president of the United States. He was twice elected President of the United States in November 1860 and November 1864. He is the first Republican President in the history of the country. He led the United States in the worst constitutional, military, and moral crisis in its history, the Civil War, and managed to preserve the Union. It was during the latter that makes ratify the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery. He comes out victorious in the war. Murdered five days later, following a plot organized by confederates, he did not finish his second term.
Lincoln is born into a modest family. After a childhood and adolescence without relief, he learns the law alone through his talents as a self-taught and becomes a traveling lawyer. Trained little by little in the field of politics, he led the Whig Party for a time and was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in the 1830s, then to the United States for a term in the 1840s.
While the country has been going through a period of intense tension over slavery for several years, Lincoln, opposing its expansion into the new Federated States, gained national notoriety in 1858 following a series of debates against Stephen A. Douglas, a supporter of the right of States to introduce slavery into their territory. Driven by this popularity, Lincoln is chosen by the newly formed Republican Party to wear his colors in the 1860 presidential elections. Leached by the southern states, he wins most of the northern states and is elected president in 1860. This election entails immediately the secession of seven slave states from the South and the formation of the Confederate States of America, soon joined by other states despite attempts at compromise and reconciliation by the Union.
The attack of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 by Confederate troops pushed most of the North to regroup behind the national flag and Lincoln to concentrate its policy and action on the war effort. Its purpose is then to reunite the nation. While the South enters a state of insurrection, Lincoln exercises his right to suspend habeas corpus, allowing the arrest and detention without trial of thousands of suspected secessionist sympathies. During the war, the fight for the abolition of slavery appears particularly through the Emancipation Proclamation, effective January 1, 1863, in which he encourages intermediaries States to gradually abolish slavery. This proclamation is the first step in a process that eventually led to the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution by Congress, giving freedom to all slaves in the country in December 1865. Lincoln closely follows the evolution of the war and oversees the appointment of generals, including that of Ulysses S. Grant. In his cabinet, he brings together the various leaders of his party and forces them to cooperate. Under his command, the Union put in place a naval blockade to paralyze the trade of the South, took control of border states at the beginning of the war, gained that of the fluvial communication networks of the South, and tirelessly tries to seize the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia, to Grant's success in 1865.
A succession of victorious battles, as well as attempts to reach an agreement with the Democrats, ensured his re-election in 1864. After the defeat of the Confederate States, Lincoln sought to reconcile with the South in his inaugural investiture speech, and called for to appeasement. But his reconstruction program did not see the light of day, due to his assassination on April 14, 1865 by John Wilkes Booth, a southern supporter. The murder of Lincoln is the first assassination of a president of the United States and plunges the country into mourning. Lincoln is considered by both historians and the public as one of the greatest presidents of the United States.
- 3 Presidency
His father, Thomas Lincoln, descended from a long line of Lincoln, the first of which had emigrated from England to Massachusetts in 1637. From there, the generations traveled to Pennsylvania, Virginia, and then to Kentucky. Thomas's father, also named Abraham, was killed by Indians in 1786 1 . A simple illiterate carpenter at first, Thomas became one of the richest farmers in County 2 .
His mother, Nancy Hanks, was born in Virginia to Lucy Hanks and an unknown father. Illiterate, she is raised by parents and guardians until her marriage. It inculcates the Christian religion to his children quoting them Bible passages 3.
The couple gets married in 1806. From this union will be born three children. The first is Sarah, born in 1807, and the second, Abraham; the third, Thomas, who died in infancy, is buried in a small grave in view of the family cabin 3 . Their ownership of three hundred and forty eight acres (one hundred forty hectares) is located on the banks of the Nolin Creek in the southeastern part of Hardin County (Kentucky), near Hodgenville 1.
Abraham Lincoln was born in Hardin County, the "Frontier" February 12, 1809 in the log cabin of his parents, a couple of farmers penniless 1. He is named Abraham, without middle name, in memory of his paternal grandfather. The myth has somewhat exaggerated the poverty of his parents at birth. Abraham attends Cumberland Road School with his sister.
In the fall of 1816, Thomas Lincoln decided to take his family to southwestern Indiana, partly because of legal wrangling over an error in the land titles in Kentucky that he lost. There he squatted public lands in Little Pigeon Creek, deep in the woods. The family lives temporarily in a half-built farm, which lacks a facade. After building a more acceptable habitat, he buys the land and cultivates it. Abraham participates in field work and livestock but is reluctant to hunt and fish. Coming from a family slave, Thomas Lincoln originally shared racial prejudices of his family before joining the same year 1816 a separatist church that fights alcoholism and slavery 3.
In 1818, when he was only nine years of Abraham's mother died of "milk sickness" caused by the ingestion of milk from animals who ate the rough eupatoire 4. When she dies, Nancy Lincoln is 34 years old 5. In the following year, Thomas Lincoln married Sarah "Sally" Bush Johnston, a widow he had known for several years, ten years his junior and had two daughters and a son 5. She looks after the house and treats Abraham on an equal footing with her own children. Abraham and Sarah become so close that later, he remembers her as his " angel mother ".
From eleven to fifteen years old, Abraham goes to school irregularly, between winter harvests and spring plowing. He is nonetheless interested in poetry, writes verses and letters for his parents, and quickly develops a certain appetite for reading, a passion encouraged by his mother-in-law Sarah, but misunderstood by her father. Despite this, Lincoln could only actually read a few books, which he still remembered. As he reads, he discovers the Bible, the history of England and the United States. Among the books he would have read are Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe or Aesop's Fables . His neighborhood later reports that he was willing to travel miles to borrow a book.
At the age of seventeen, Abraham left home for a while to work on a ferry at the junction of Anderson and Ohio.
At nineteen, he lost his sister Sarah, who died giving birth to her first child. In April 1828, he signed a contract with James Gentry, a neighboring settler, to deliver a farm boat to New Orleans. The journey lasts three months, during which he descends with one of the sons Gentry Ohio then Mississippi, where they have to face violent currents and an attack of their cargo. Back in Indiana, Abraham gives his father the $ 25 that this contract has brought him.
In March 1830, when Abraham was 21 years old, Thomas Lincoln decided to join the fertile lands of Illinois, on the banks of the Sangamon River. His son helps him clear his new land. The following winter is rough and the family is stuck for several months with snow and ice.
In March 1831, Abraham plans to make money by proposing to a speculator named Denton Offutt to transport a freight barge to New Orleans. It turns out that Offutt does not have a barge. Abraham, his cousin John Hanks and John Johnston (son of Sarah Lincoln) build one themselves on the edge of the Sangamon. Lincoln becomes a sailor and makes a trip on the Mississippi to New Orleans. On his return, he moved to the village of New Salem, on the Sangamon River. He became a storekeeper, a postman, a supervisor. In 1832 he enlisted in the local militia to fight the Black Hawk Indians and was elected captain of his company. He will later declare that he has never seen Indian warriors, but has participated in virulent disputes between militiamen.
Aspiring to a public life, he ran for office to sit in the state assembly as a representative of the Whig Party, but was defeated the first time before being elected and re-elected several times. Hesitant, he prefers to become a lawyer rather than a blacksmith to make a living. After having already studied mathematics and grammar, he begins to study law. In 1836, he passed the bar exam.
A self-taught provincial lawyer, Lincoln moved to Springfield in 1837 and began his career. He contracted syphilis in 1836 6 .
He is re-elected four times as representative to the Illinois Chamber. He then aspires to become Illinois Representative in the US House of Representatives in Washington, DC
He was elected in 1846 and seated from the end of 1847. In Washington, he opposed the war against Mexico, which he considered unconstitutional and unfair. Despite this opinion, he voted several times to send additional troops. His views are considered anti-patriotic and discontent among Illinois voters, so Lincoln is not seeking re-election. During the war, his future opponent is illustrated by a reverse attitude.
Back in Springfield, he focuses on his job as a lawyer (a lawyer whose facet is trial lawyer , lawyer) and becomes famous, constituting a large clientele in Chicago. In particular, he defends the Illinois Central Railroad to obtain a charter of the State. He is fighting against McLean County , which wants to introduce a tax on the activities of this company. He receives $ 5,000 on this occasion, but must turn against the company to obtain them. Among the cases he deals with are criminal cases. Defending Duff Armstrong (in), accused of murder, he must oppose a witness claiming to have seen his client among the murderers through the light of the moon. On the basis of a single almanac, Lincoln argues that the moon could not allow the witness to see the scene and get the acquittal. Lincoln is also famous in the Snow brothers' trial.
This exemplary career as a lawyer helps to give Lincoln a reputation as a brilliant, eloquent and honest man.
Abraham Lincoln is elected to the United States Congress while practicing law. From this period, his anti-slavery positions are apparent but he is not in favor of the right to vote for the black population. He became known as a defender of the railways, but also by his speeches against the admission of new slave states in the Union especially when he ran in the 1858 senatorial elections. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repeals the limits of the diffusion of slavery (Compromis of Missouri), puts Lincoln back on the political stage. Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas proposes a referendum on the issue of slavery in the territories in question. In 1858, Lincoln delivered a speech which highlighted the danger of disunity in the country on the slavery issue 7. As a candidate for the 1858 senatorial elections in Illinois against Stephen A. Douglas, he confronts the latter in a series of debates; it argues that slavery is contrary to human rights and, as such, this question can not be a democratic vote 8. Although he lost the election, he acquires this episode with a national reputation that allows it to sit for the 1860 presidential election despite an experience of only two years in the House of Representatives (1847-1849) 8. In 1860, his advisor future, Henry Charles Carey, influenced the protectionist view of Republicans 9.
Lincoln, chosen by Republicans for the presidential election in 1860, was elected Nov. 6, 1860, becoming the 16th President of the United States with 39.9% of votes, thanks to divisions within the Democratic Party. He thus discards the other candidates, Stephen A. Douglas 8 (29.5%), John Cabell Breckinridge (18.1%) and John C. Bell (12.5%).
Shortly after the election, while the new president is not yet invested, seven states are seceding: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. The last six will decide on February 4, 1861 to form the Confederate States of America, which Lincoln refused to recognize. The states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas decide to remain in the Union but warn Lincoln that they will not accept the passage of troops on their territory.
Notwithstanding the many death threats he received, a plot of secessionist extremists to assassinate the new president before his inauguration was foiled on the morning of February 23, 1861 in Baltimore. By March 1861 he claimed that the Union could not be broken.
March 4: Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth President of the United States.
April 12: Beginning of the Civil War with the Battle of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, by Confederate forces. Three days later, Lincoln declared the state of insurrection and planned the lifting of an army of 75,000 volunteers. The states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas secede.
Late April: Lincoln orders the blockade of the Confederate ports and prohibits trade with them.
On November 1, 1861, overestimating the capacity of General George McClellan, he entrusts the General of chief of all Union armies 10.
January 27: Lincoln signs the order of commencement of military operations against the Confederate States.
May 20: The Homestead Act is signed by Abraham Lincoln. It allows every family that can justify that it occupies a land for 5 years to claim the private property, and that within the limit of 160 acres (or 65 hectares). If the family has lived there for at least 6 months, they can also buy the land at a relatively low price of $ 1.25 per acre ($ 308 per 1 km 2 ). This law played a prominent role in the conquest of the American West.
June 19: he begins to write the proclamation of emancipation of the slaves.
1 July: it establishes the income tax to finance the Civil War.
July 2: Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act .
September 22: He announces that he will publish his proclamation of emancipation of slaves in the secessionist states. It will be at the origin of two amendments to the Constitution, the first abolishing slavery, the second guaranteeing civil rights.
January 1: the slaves were emancipated.
June 20: Lincoln incorporates West Virginia in the Union, West Virginia becomes the 35th state.
July 3: Northern victory in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
October 3: Lincoln institutes National Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday of November.
November 19: Lincoln makes a speech for the inauguration of the National Cemetery located on the Gettysburg Battlefield.
December 8: Lincoln announces its program for the reconstruction of the southern states and makes an offer of amnesty to the deserters of the Confederate army.
March 12: Lincoln appoints General Ulysses S. Grant as Commander-in-Chief of Union Armies.
June 7: The National Convention of the Republican Party designates Lincoln as its candidate for the next elections.
July 18: Lincoln orders the recruitment of 500,000 volunteers in the army.
November 8: Lincoln is re-elected for a second term with 56% of the popular vote.
February 3: Lincoln tries one last time to end the American Civil War by negotiation. It demands the surrender of Confederate forces and the return of States to the Union. They want their independence and the meeting ends in failure.
While the war was going on, Lincoln had to prepare for his reelection for the 1864 presidential election. Lincoln, a fine politician, gathered around him the main factions of the Republican Party as well as some Democrats like Edwin Stanton and Andrew Johnson 11 , 12 . He spent several hours a week talking to politicians from across the country and used his contacts both to keep the different factions of the party united and to build a strong foundation for his policies and counter the efforts radicals who wanted to withdraw it from the presidential ticket 13 , 14 . At its 1864 convention, the Republican Party designated as Lincoln's running mate Senator Andrew Johnson, a Southern Democrat from Tennessee. To broaden his coalition not only Republicans but also Democrats favor the continuation of the war, Lincoln decided to run under the banner of the newly formed Union Party 15. The offensives led by General Grant in the spring of 1864, despite particularly bloody clashes, had ended in deadlock; the lack of military success greatly affected the president's chances of being re-elected and many Republicans feared that Lincoln would be defeated in the election. Lincoln himself shared this concern and signed a document in which he undertook, in case of defeat, to beat the Confederation before leaving the White House 16 "this morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this administration is not re-elected. It will then be my duty to cooperate with the President-elect in order to preserve the Union between the election and the investiture ceremony and to ensure that he can ensure his election on grounds that he can not afford. 'economy after' 17 .
While the Democrats' election platform reaffirmed the party's willingness to make peace with the Confederates and considered the war a "failure," their candidate, General George McClellan, was a supporter of the war effort and largely rejected the ideas defended by his political camp. For his part, Lincoln provided Grant with additional troops and mobilized his party to renew his support for his general-in-chief. Sherman's capture of Atlanta in September and Rear Admiral David Farragut's victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay cut short defeatist attitudes 18 and led to a deep crisis within the Democratic Party, some of its leaders politicians and most of the soldiers declaring themselves openly for Lincoln. Conversely, the Party of National Union was revitalized and Lincoln made emancipation a central theme of his campaign while Republicans are employed to demonstrate locally the perfidy of Copperheads 19. On November 8, Lincoln won a landslide victory against his Democratic opponent, winning all but three states and garnering 78% of the votes of Union soldiers 16, 20.
April 9: "official" end of the American Civil War.
Viewed from the perspective of foreign policy, the problem of secession of the southern states comes down to the recognition of the Confederation of American States by the other countries and the European states in particular. In fact they were mainly interested in the continuation of commercial relations and avoided supporting the Confederation at the risk of establishing privileged relations between the Union and their competitors.
However, according to André Kaspi, specialist in American history: "Lincoln had in his cabinet people hostile to the proclamation of emancipation in 1862. He ignored it because he thought it was essential, mainly for diplomatic reasons . Great Britain [where slavery was abolished in 1838] supported the abolitionists and France [slavery abolished in 1848, except in Algeria] was more on the side of slavers. 21
Upon his election, Lincoln faces the problem of the secession of the southern states. In fact this secession and the creation of the Confederation by the Southern States is not recognized by the States of the Union hence the term "Civil War" (Civil War) used by the Americans (and not "war"). Secession "used in French-language works). The aim of the war, always in the same spirit, is to preserve the Union.
The maintenance of the Union and the reintegration of secessionist states is the first priority of the President. He directly directs the operations of the armed forces before finding in the person of General Ulysses S. Grant a leader whom he can trust. The conduct of war requires men and financing; Lincoln introduces military service to address the volunteer deficit and income tax. His best-known contribution will be the Emancipation Proclamation Freeing Slaves in Confederate States that were not under the control of the Union. The proclamation thus concerned 3,000,000 slaves in the South, but had no effect on nearly a million slaves living in slave states remaining in the Union (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri) or in the United States. Tennessee occupied by Union troops 22 .
He also focused on the creation of a system of national banks ( National Banking Acts between 1863 and 1865).
Before being elected president, and during his election campaign in particular, Lincoln had made several statements clearly stating his opposition to slavery in the name of moral principles. He will go down in history as the author of the Proclamation for the Emancipation of Slaves, but historians point out that his priority as president having sworn on the Constitution was linked to the restoration of the Union, not to the civil rights of the people. slaves. "If I could save the Union without releasing a single slave, I would do it; if I could save her only by freeing them all, I would do it too … This is my official position and has nothing to do with my personal convictions … I have said quite often that, in my opinion, all men, everywhere, were to be free " 23 .
In his book The Americans , André Kaspi writes: "Lincoln abolitionist? Yes in moderation. Black friend? No. Illinois is a free state that refuses blacks to settle there. And Lincoln does not hide his feelings: "I will say that I am not and have never been in favor of the political and social equality of the black race and the white race, which I do not want and that I never wanted blacks to become jurors or voters or to be allowed to hold political office or to be allowed to marry whites. […] In so far as the two races can not live thus, there must be, as long as they remain together, a lower position and a higher position. I desire, just as much as any other, that the white race occupies the upper position. »» 24 , 25 .
Known as the Great Emancipator, Lincoln was a complex figure who wrestled with his own views on race 26. Over time, successive generations have interpreted Lincoln's views on African Americans differently: "Applying 20 th century beliefs and norms to an America of 1858 and calling Abraham Lincoln" racist "is a vision wrongly unfairly distorts Lincoln's true role in advancing civil and human rights. For standard and the standards of his time, Lincoln's opinions on race and gender were progressive and really changed minds, policies and, above all, hearts for years to come. "26
Lincoln's main audience was the white voters. His views on slavery, racial equality and the African-American colonization are often intermingled 26. In the 1858 debates with Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln expressed the fact that he believed that whites are superior to blacks 26. He declared that he was against miscegenation and allowed blacks to serve as jurors. However, his views evolved over time and during his presidency, as the American Civil War progressed, Lincoln advocated and implemented anti-racist policies including the Emancipation Proclamation and limited suffrage for African Americans. The former slave and abolitionist militant Frederick Douglass unequivocally regarded Lincoln as sharing "the prejudices of his white compatriots against the Negro" 27 but also observed from Lincoln that "in his company, he never reminded me of my humble origin, or my color unpopular " 28 . Douglass testified to Lincoln's true respect for him and other Blacks and the wisdom of his action in securing both the preservation of the Union (his sworn duty as President) and the liberation of slaves. In a speech of 1876, he defended the actions of Lincoln:
"His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, secondly, to liberate his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the sincere sympathy and powerful cooperation of his faithful compatriots. Without this essential and essential condition for success, his efforts must be vain and absolutely fruitless. If he had placed the abolition of slavery before the Union's salvation, he would inevitably have driven from him a powerful class of the American people and made resistance to rebellion impossible.
Seen from the authentic abolitionist soil, Mr. Lincoln seemed slow, cold, dull, and indifferent; but in evaluating him by the feeling of his country, feeling that he was bound to consult as a statesman, he was quick, zealous, radical and determined …
By taking it as a whole, by measuring the enormous scale of the work to be done, considering the necessary means at the end, and examining it from the beginning from the beginning, infinite wisdom has rarely sent the world a better man. suited to his mission as Abraham Lincoln. "
In the past, Lincoln lived in a middle-class, racially mixed neighborhood in Springfield, Illinois. One of his long-time neighbors, Jameson Jenkins (probably a slave-born), had come from North Carolina and was publicly involved in the 1850s as an undercover railroad operator. In 1861, Lincoln called Jenkins to make him a ride to the train depot, where Lincoln delivered his farewell speech before leaving Springfield last 29.
During his second term, Lincoln delivered a speech April 11, 1865 in which he promoted voting rights for blacks 30. John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer, attended the speech and became determined to assassinate Lincoln because of his support to citizenship for blacks 31. Three days later, Lincoln was assassinated by Booth and died the next day.
Historian Eugene H. Berwanger notes:
"During his presidency, Lincoln took a reasoned course that helped the federal government both to destroy slavery and advance the cause of black suffrage. For a man who had refused both reforms four years ago, Lincoln's change of attitude was quick and decisive. He was both open-minded and insightful to his nation's needs in a postwar era. Once committed to a principle, Lincoln walked it with constant progress and determined 32. "
President Lincoln's policy is rapidly benefiting from the increase in the money supply thanks to the discovery of the largest silver-metal deposit in history, after the Bolivian Potosi, which sees in a few years the great fortunes of the American West. Dès 1862, plusieurs centaines de petites compagnies minières se partagent le gisement du Comstock Lode découvert trois ans plus tôt à Virginia City, dans le Nevada, sous les yeux du journaliste Mark Twain, en pleine conquête de l'Ouest. Alors que les États du Sud émettent en Europe un emprunt indexé sur la valeur du coton, profitant du rayonnement de la place financière parisienne, Lincoln préfère développer la finance américaine, lorsqu'il est obligé d'emprunter à tour de bras pour équiper les armées, avec l'aide d'un proche, Jay Cooke (10 août 1821 - 8 février 1905), qui crée une des premières banques d'investissement américaines, Jay Cooke & Co, pour organiser les émissions d'obligation.
Le président Lincoln décide d'opérer très tôt la reconstruction du Sud par des programmes sociaux. En 1862 et 1864 il fait voter deux lois successives pour apporter le soutien de l'État à la construction des premiers chemins de fer transcontinentaux, achevés en 1869 et permettant de donner du travail aux soldats démobilisés. Le gouvernement soutient aussi Associated Press et la Western Union, en leur confiant les commandes aux Journal officiel de Washington 33 , amenant la création par les journaux du MidWest d'une nouvelle Associated Press. Soixante ans plus tard, le président Franklin Delano Roosevelt rappela ce mot d'Abraham Lincoln : « Le plus fort lien de sympathie entre les hommes après les relations de travail devait être celui qui unit les travailleurs de toutes les Nations ».
Il se montre par ailleurs favorable à une amplification des mesures protectionnistes 34 .
Lincoln est élu à la présidence essentiellement en raison des dissensions au sein du Parti démocrate. Au cours de son mandat, il est critiqué au sein de son propre parti car la guerre est longue et coûteuse et beaucoup d'Américains ne voient pas de raison de se battre pour le droit des Noirs. Il sera malgré tout réélu car l'Union est opportunément victorieuse sur le champ de bataille au moment du vote.
Ayant perdu le premier amour de sa vie, Ann Rutledge (en), probablement morte de typhoïde, il courtise Mary Owens, la sœur de son amie Elizabeth Abell. Lincoln fait sa demande en mariage à Owens en mai 1837, mais elle refuse. Dix-huit mois plus tard, il se fiance à Mary Todd. Finalement le 4 novembre 1842, ils se marient. Ils s'installent ensuite dans une maison sur la Huitième et Jackson à Springfield, qui se trouve à proximité de son étude d'avocat. Mary peine un peu à s'accoutumer à sa nouvelle existence, ayant eu l'habitude d'être toujours servie par les nombreux esclaves que possédait sa famille. La relative pauvreté dans laquelle vit le couple est aussi difficile pour elle qui n'a jamais manqué de rien. Des tensions se font jour entre Abraham et Mary lors des premières années de leur mariage, mais elles s'atténuent lorsque naît leur premier fils.
Le couple a quatre enfants. Robert Todd Lincoln naît le 1 er août 1843, à Springfield dans l'Illinois. Il est le seul de leurs enfants qui ait atteint l'âge adulte. Les autres, nés également à Springfield, vont mourir pendant leur enfance ou durant l'adolescence. Edward Baker Lincoln naît le 10 mars 1846 et meurt le 1 er février 1850. William Wallace Lincoln vient au monde le 21 décembre 1850 et meurt à Washington DC le 20 février 1862, lors du premier mandat présidentiel de son père. Thomas « Tad » Lincoln naît le 4 avril 1853 et meurt le 16 juillet 1871, à Chicago. Le dernier descendant de Lincoln, en ligne directe, était Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, mort le 24 décembre 1985. Mary est décrite comme étant une personne « assez instable » 21 .
La sexualité d'Abraham Lincoln est sujette à débat. Plusieurs personnes ont émis l'hypothèse qu'il était homosexuel ou bisexuel, parmi lesquelles le chercheur Clarence Arthur Tripp, qui a notamment mis en avant les relations ambiguës qu'il aurait entretenues avec des hommes, alors qu'il faisait preuve de distance envers les femmes ; Tripp a ainsi fait état de deux relations homoérotiques de Lincoln 35 .
Lincoln reste dans l'histoire des États-Unis le plus grand des présidents par la taille : 1,93 m 36 , il a les cheveux noirs et épais, un grand nez et de grandes oreilles 37 . Les portraits les plus connus de Lincoln le montrent barbu alors qu'il n'a porté la barbe que dans les dernières années de sa vie. Il semble qu'il l'ait laissée pousser en 1860 à la demande de Grace Bedell, une petite fille de 11 ans 38 , 39 .
De nature hypochondriaque, Lincoln qui souffre, semble-t-il de dépressions chroniques, est à la fin de la guerre civile très diminué ayant perdu vingt kilos 40 . Hormis la syphilis — que Lincoln soignait au mercure, les chercheurs se sont interrogés sur les autres maladies dont aurait souffert le président américain sans parvenir à des conclusions définitives 40 , 41 .
14 avril 1865 : Abraham Lincoln rencontre souvent le général Grant, qui commande les troupes de l'Union, pour aborder les problèmes de la reconstruction des États sudistes. C'est au cours d'une sortie au théâtre Ford à Washington (la pièce s'appelait Our American Cousin ) qu'il est assassiné 5 par un sympathisant sudiste. Ce dernier, John Wilkes Booth, s'introduit derrière Lincoln et lui tire une balle à bout portant derrière la tête, au niveau de la nuque. Les médecins accourent et voient tout de suite que la balle a atteint le cerveau. Ils le transportent dans une maison en face du théâtre où il passe la nuit sans reprendre connaissance. Lincoln meurt le lendemain matin, à 7 h 22. Booth cria en s'enfuyant « Sic semper tyrannis! » (latin : « Ainsi en est-il toujours des tyrans ! »). Cette citation se trouve dans l'hymne du Maryland, où Booth avait rencontré un certain succès en tant qu'acteur, et sur le Grand Sceau de l'État de Virginie dont elle est la devise officielle. La nouvelle arrive en Europe dix jours plus tard, par le paquebot Australasian , puis télégraphiée par Reuters assez tôt pour le bouclage de l'édition du 27 avril 1865 du quotidien Le Temps 42 , 43 .
Ironiquement, le propre frère de Booth, Edwin, avait sauvé la vie du fils de Lincoln, quelques années auparavant, alors que celui-ci, étant tombé sur une voie ferrée, risquait d'être heurté par le train arrivant en gare 44 .
Quatre personnes furent condamnées à mort par un tribunal militaire à la suite de l'assassinat de Lincoln. Parmi elles, une femme Mary Surratt qui fut la première à être exécutée par le gouvernement des États-Unis.
Abraham Lincoln est enterré à Springfield, en Illinois, dans une crypte fortifiée bâtie en 1901 à la suite de menaces proférées contre sa dépouille. Auparavant, son cercueil avait été déplacé 17 fois depuis son enterrement initial en 1865 ainsi qu'ouvert à 5 reprises : le 21 décembre 1865, le 19 septembre 1871, le 9 octobre 1874, le 14 avril 1887 et le 26 septembre 1901.
Lincoln est l'un des présidents les plus admirés de l'histoire des États-Unis 37 : selon un classement dressé par des historiens pour le magazine The Atlantic Monthly , il est l'Américain le plus influent de l'Histoire 45 . Son nom a été donné à la capitale de l'État du Nebraska, un monument (le Lincoln Memorial) est érigé en son honneur au centre de la capitale fédérale et son effigie apparaît sur la pièce de 1 ¢ comme sur le billet de 5 $, elle est aussi apparue sur un billet de 100 $ émis le 10 mars 1863 en Louisiane qui est un des premiers billets émis par le gouvernement américain après que le National Banking Act fut accepté en février 1863. Son portrait est sculpté sur le mont Rushmore et les endroits importants de sa vie ont été transformés en musées. Depuis sa mort, environ 16 000 livres lui auraient été consacrés, selon les estimations de la commission du bicentenaire d'Abraham Lincoln 37 . Le musée Abraham Lincoln de Springfield, dans l'Illinois est l'un des principaux musées consacrés au président.
L'anniversaire de sa naissance a été déclaré jour férié — jusqu'à la création du Presidents Day (« jour des présidents »), jour férié destiné à honorer tous les présidents des États-Unis. Le 12 février 2009, plusieurs cérémonies célébrant le bicentenaire de sa naissance eurent lieu au Lincoln Memorial, dans la capitale fédérale. Le théâtre Ford, lieu de son assassinat, a organisé un gala pour fêter sa réouverture après les travaux de rénovation qui coûtèrent plusieurs millions de dollars 37 .
L'assassinat d'Abraham Lincoln, quelques jours après la fin de la guerre de Sécession, a empêché ses contemporains de critiquer son action. Certains historiens relèvent aujourd'hui qu'il était bien plus préoccupé par le maintien de l'Union que par les droits des esclaves. L'écrivain Jorge Luis Borges porte même à son égard un jugement plus sévère encore (voir article), mais cet avis reste isolé.
La marine américaine a honoré sa mémoire en nommant plusieurs de ses navires USS Abraham Lincoln . Il s'agit d'un sous-marin lance-missiles et d'un porte-avions nucléaire.
L'État de Illinois est surnommé Land of Lincoln (la terre de Lincoln) et cette appellation est reprise sur les plaques d'immatriculations de cet État.
Lincoln Park, le plus vaste parc urbain public de la ville de Chicago (Illinois), et deuxième plus grand du pays après celui de Central Park, fut nommé en son honneur. Il abrite également le Lincoln Monument, une statue de bronze haute de 3,7 m en hommage à Lincoln. Plusieurs statues de Lincoln trônent à travers la ville de Chicago, notamment à Grant Park.
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, est un centre culturel de New York. Construit dans les années 1960, il est le siège d'une douzaine de compagnies artistiques.
Au cours de la guerre de Sécession, Lincoln prononce sur le champ de bataille de Gettysburg son célèbre discours de Gettysburg en hommage aux soldats morts pour « la renaissance de la liberté — un gouvernement du peuple, par le peuple et pour le peuple ». Le texte, très court, est gravé sur le monument qui lui rend hommage à Washington ; il est considéré par les Américains comme une déclaration d'importance majeure que les élèves du primaire apprennent par cœur.
Lincoln est aussi renommé pour la lettre qu'il envoya en novembre 1864 à une certaine Madame Bixby, une veuve de Boston dont les cinq fils seraient tombés pendant la guerre de Sécession. Ce texte est généralement considéré comme un des plus beaux de Lincoln, au même titre que son discours de Gettysburg et le discours inaugural de sa deuxième présidence.
- John Ford a réalisé deux films mettant en scène Abraham Lincoln :
- 1936 : Je n'ai pas tué Lincoln ( The Prisoner of Shark Island ) sur le docteur Samuel Mudd qui a soigné l'assassin de Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, dans sa fuite.
- 1939 : Vers sa destinée ( Young Mr. Lincoln ) où Henry Fonda incarne les premiers pas en politique du futur président mais surtout sa carrière d'avocat lors d'un procès fictif, recréé à partir de faits réels.
- 2007 : Benjamin Gates et le Livre des secrets ( National Treasure : Book of Secrets ) est un film de Jon Turteltaub. Le rôle de Lincoln est joué par Glenn Beck. L'intrigue repose sur le journal de John Wilkes Booth.
- 2009 : Les derniers jours d'Abraham Lincoln ( Lincolns letzter Tag ), de Wilfried Hauke : documentaire de deux épisodes qui retrace la dernière journée d'Abraham Lincoln ainsi que la traque de John Wilkes Booth, entrecoupé de flashbacks sur sa carrière.
- 2013 : Abraham Lincoln, sur les chemins de la liberté , de Carole Bienaimé (France Télévisions) : film documentaire à l'occasion des 150 ans de la signature de la proclamation de l'Émancipation des esclaves aux États-Unis par Abraham Lincoln.
- Mark E. Neely, The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia , 1984.
- Dale Carnegie, Lincoln the unknown , 1945.