We think of Abraham Lincoln today because this is the anniversary of his birth on Feb. 12, 1809. We remember Lincoln because he served as president in one of the most terrible times in the history of the United States -- the division of our nation, the horrible War Between the States -- and because of his assassination on April 14, 1865, just days after the war ended.
We have had some great presidents, and unfortunately some far short of the ideal, but Lincoln is widely considered to have been one of our greatest presidents.
Born in a log cabin in Kentucky, he moved to Illinois, grew up in backwoods, became a lawyer by reading law, ran for the Illinois Legislature -- and was defeated.
But persistent, he ran again two years later, won and served in the lower house of the Legislature from 1834 to 1842. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846. He attracted attention by opposing the Mexican-American War and slavery. But after the famed debates with Stephen A. Douglas, he lost his race for the United States Senate. Still, the Lincoln-Douglas debates gained him national recognition.
He was nominated for president by the Republican Party in 1860 on a platform calling for restricting slavery. When he won, Southern states began seceding from the Union. Confederates fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12, 1861 -- and the tragic War Between the States began.
Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring freedom Jan. 1, 1863, for slaves in the area in rebellion.
Lincoln was re-elected in 1864. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered April 9, 1865 -- but on April 14, Lincoln was shot by actor John Wilkes Booth in Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. Lincoln died the next day.
What course might our nation have taken had Lincoln not been assassinated? We'll never know. But we remember him as one of the greatest -- and most tragic -- presidents in our history.