Learning Lincoln On-line


Click Here to go to the Lincoln Politics Home Page-- 1830's-1860's

Parties & Presidents 1830's-1860's

Use the History.net to help find your answers

Visit National Park Service for a Listing of 1860's Politicians

While living in Springfield, Abraham Lincoln would enter and leave politics.  Mary always thought her husband would become President.  All the time, while at Springfield, Abraham would advance lawyer skills, public speaking, reading and keeping updated on world and national activities.  Stephen Douglas would get him roused to the point of re-entering politics and running against him as U.S. Senator, and then U.S. President.  He would lose the first campaign, by winning the popular vote, but not being chosen by the Illinois Legislature, as law was in the 1850's.  He would handily beat his Illinois opponent in the Presidential run in 1860. 


1.  How the Civil War Started.  The U.S. Senate is given to power to "declare war" on another nation.  Did it happen this way when Fort Sumter was fired on?  Read about how the Civil War started here.


2. During the war Congress adopted policies that altered American society. The Homestead Act of 1862 offered free public land to western settlers. Huge land grants supported construction of a transcontinental railroad. The government raised the tariff, imposed new taxes, enacted the first income tax, and established a system of federally-chartered banks.


3. The government raised the tariff, imposed new taxes, enacted the first income tax, and established a system of federally-chartered banks, a national currency (green-backs) Civil War Banking Acts and Greenback Currency   & Civil War Income Tax    


4. Huge land grants supported construction of a Transcontinental Railroad.  The first Transcontinental Telegraph System was enacted in 1860, and was operational for use by the country in 1861.

5. The Union lost about 360,000 troops during the Civil War and the Confederacy about 260,000. This is almost as many soldiers as have died in all other American wars.   Read the N.Y. Times Article about "a new estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll.  For 110 years, the numbers stood as gospel: 618,222 men died in the Civil War, 360,222 from the North and 258,000 from the South — by far the greatest toll of any war in American history.  But new research shows that the numbers were far too low.  Read the new total and how it was determined.


6.  The Emancipation Proclamation, 1862.  This was an executive order by the President to free the slaves in the Confederate States.  There were political and practical reasons for this proclamation.    


7. The 13th Amendment, ratified in December 1865, ended slavery in the United States.

Slavery was over, but life for the free blacks in America would not be good.  Read about the Reconstruction and Freemen after the War


Political Actions of Abraham Lincoln 1830-1865

    ·         Events (human problems, legal needs, & state/national needs)

    ·         People (candidates, political parties, various personalities)

    ·         Election campaigns and final votes of the people

Student Directions: Information gathering

1. Choose a decade and a specific event, person, or election.

2. Research the political topic--it's causes, people concerns, theme.  Find out what why this topic was important enough to people to cause the formation of a political party, leaders, and campaigns.

3. Research some more and find out how Abraham Lincoln related to the topic or politics of the event.  Did he take a side?  What was his stand?

4. How did the political event change after the election of men?  How did Lincoln do in his part of the event?

5. Gather a collection of images representing the political event and the people involved.

Make a Presentation:

1. Use computer-based presentation software such as Power Point or Prezi to make a show to tell the story of your political event and the people involved. 

2. Design each slide with clearly readable text, images, background design, colors and transitions. 

3. Write an essay or story using computer, or non-computer means.  Include illustrations to go along with the subject you chose to present.



1830-1836- Political beginnings while living at New Salem, including the first "important" stump speech in bare feet; runs for the Illinois General Assembly including wins and losses; his earliest platform and membership in the Whig Party

1837 - Politics: helped to get the Illinois state capital moved from Vandalia to Springfield. April 15; Personal:  leaves New Salem and settles in Springfield; Professional:  Becomes a law partner of John T. Stuart.   In Summer, proposes marriage to Mary Owens, is turned down and the courtship ends.

1838 - Professional: Helps to successfully defend Henry Truett in a famous murder case;  Political: August 6, re-elected to the Illinois Gen. Assembly, becoming Whig floor leader.

1839 - Professional: Travels through nine counties in central and eastern Illinois as a lawyer on the 8th Judicial Circuit. December 3, admitted to practice in United States Circuit Court; Personal: Meets Mary Todd, 21, at a dance.


Early and Mid 1840's

1840 - Professional: In June, Lincoln argues his first case before the Illinois Supreme Court; Political: August 3, re-elected to the Illinois Gen. Assembly; Personal:  In Fall, becomes engaged to Mary Todd.

1841 - Personal: January 1, breaks off engagement with Mary Todd. Has episode of depression; Professional: March 1, forms new law partnership with Stephen T. Logan. In August; Personal: makes a trip by steamboat to Kentucky and sees twelve slaves chained together.

1842 - Political: Does not seek re-election to the legislature; Personal: In Summer, resumes courtship with Mary Todd; Political: In September, accepts a challenge to a duel by Democratic state auditor James Shields over published letters making fun of Shields; Personal: September 22, duel with swords is averted by an explanation of letters; Personal: November 4, marries Mary Todd in Springfield.

1843 - Political: Lincoln is unsuccessful in try for the Whig nomination for U.S. Congress; Personal: August 1, first child, Robert Todd Lincoln, is born.

1844 - Personal: May, the Lincoln family moves into a house in Springfield, bought for $1500; Political: Campaigns for Henry Clay in the presidential election. In December, dissolves law partnership with Logan, then sets up his own practice.

1846 - Personal: March 10, a son, Edward Baker Lincoln is born. May 1, nominated to be the Whig candidate for U.S. Congress. August 3, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.


Later 1840's

1847 - Personal: Moves into a boarding house in Washington, D.C. with his wife and sons; Political: December 6, takes his seat when Thirtieth Congress convenes. December 22, presents resolutions questioning President Polk about U.S. hostilities with Mexico.

1848 - Political: January 22, gives a speech on floor of the House against President Polk's war policy regarding Mexico. In June, attends the national Whig convention supporting General Zachary Taylor as the nominee for president. Campaigns for Taylor in Maryland and in Boston, Mass., then in Illinois.

1849 - Political: March 7 and 8, makes an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the Illinois statute of limitations, but is unsuccessful; Professional: March 31, returns to Springfield and leaves politics to practice law; Personal: On May 22, Abraham Lincoln is granted U.S. Patent No. 6,469 (the only president ever granted a patent).




1850 - Personal: February 1, his son Edward dies after a two month illness; Professional: Lincoln resumes his travels in the 8th Judicial Circuit covering over 400 miles in 14 counties in Illinois. 'Honest Abe' gains a reputation as an outstanding lawyer; Personal: December 21, his third son, William Wallace Lincoln (Willie) is born.

1851 - Personal: January 17, Lincoln's father dies.

1853 - Personal: April 4, his fourth son, Thomas (Tad) is born.

1854 - Political: Re-enters politics opposing the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Elected to Illinois legislature but declines the seat in order to try to become U.S. Senator.

1855 - Political: Does not get chosen by the Illinois legislature to be U.S. Senator.

1856 - Political: May 29, helps organize the new Republican party of Illinois. At the first Republican convention Lincoln gets 110 votes for the vice-presidential nomination, bringing him national attention. Campaigns in Illinois for Republican presidential candidate, John C. Frémont.

1857 - Political: June 26, in Springfield, Lincoln speaks against the Dred Scott decision.

1858 - Professional: In May, wins acquittal in a murder trial by using an almanac regarding the height of the moon to discredit a witness; Political: June 16, nominated to be the Republican senator from Illinois, opposing Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. Gives "House Divided" speech at the state convention in Springfield. Also engages Douglas in a series of seven debates with big audiences.

1859 -Political: Illinois legislature chooses Douglas for the U.S. Senate over Lincoln by a vote of 54 to 46; Professional: In the Fall, Lincoln makes his last trip through the 8th Judicial Circuit. December 20, writes a short autobiography.




1860 - Political: March 6, delivers an impassioned political speech on slavery in New Haven, Connecticut. Also in March, the 'Lincoln-Douglas Debates' published.

May 18, 1860 - Political: Nominated to be the Republican candidate for President of the United States. Opposes Northern Democrat Stephen A. Douglas and Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge; Personal:  In June, writes a longer autobiography.

November 6, 1860 - Political: Abraham Licoln is elected as 16th U.S. president and the first Republican. Receives 180 of 303 possible electoral votes and 40 percent of the popular vote.

Dec 20, 1860 - South Carolina secedes from the Union. Followed within two months by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.

Feb 11, 1861 - Personal & Professional: Lincoln gives a brief farewell to friends and supporters at Springfield and leaves by train for Washington. Receives a warning during the trip about a possible assassination attempt.



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