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Abraham Lincoln


Key Terms and Events

terms Key Terms and Events


Abolitionism  -  · Abolitionism was a radical movement to end slavery completely in the United States. It grew into a distinctly northern campaign by the 1830s, taking special hold in New England, where prominent writers and politicians such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison and Charles Sumner led the rally cries.
Anaconda Plan -  ·  Proposed by General Winfield Scott in the opening stages of the Civil War, the Anaconda Plan was designed to constrain the Confederate military effort in a snake-like vise by controlling the Mississippi River and enforcing an effective blockade of southern port cities on the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Such an approach was intended to reduce land operations and hence casualties to a minimum. Although Lincoln ultimately chose not to foreground the Anaconda Plan, it nevertheless played a crucial role in the Union's success.
Aristocracy -  ·  An aristocracy is a class of people that rules in perpetuity and assumes the trappings of nobility. Though seemingly inimical to the notion of democracy, an aristocracy flourished in the southern states well through the Civil War, making the Confederate cause a sympathetic one to the old world aristocracies of Europe.
Border States -  ·  The border states were a bloc of states that retained the practice of slavery while remaining loyal to the Union. These states included Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. They played a large strategic role in the Civil War, as sentiments over slavery and union were divided in these areas. Although poised to secede at times, the border states stayed faithful despite strict federal controls and war-torn conditions.
Carpetbagger -  ·  A carpetbagger was a northerner who went south during reconstruction to insure that the policies of the federal government would be properly administered in the former Confederate states—or simply to profit financially and politically from his or her position. The term survives today, applying to a politician who seeks office in unfamiliar territory.
Colonization -  ·  In this case, colonization signifies the plan initially proposed by Henry Clay in which freed slaves would be federally compensated in return for relocating to countries such as Haiti and Liberia. This scheme was intended to diminish racial hostilities in the United States by gradually reducing the black population. Lincoln supported colonization well into his presidency, though he eventually had second thoughts about the honorableness of such an approach.
Confederate States of America (the Confederacy) -  ·  Organized after a group of southern states seceded from the Union, the Confederate States of America wished to establish themselves as an independent nation, and fought for this right during the Civil War. Led by President Jefferson Davis, the Confederates were plagued by loose organization and low munitions. In addition, they lacked the support of the international community due to their continuing reliance on slavery. Four years after organizing, this association of eleven states fell to defeat, and gradually joined the United States again.
Conscription Act -  ·  This controversial draft law, passed in the Spring of 1863, provided for the impressment of all able-bodied young men in the service of the Union Army. A clause that allowed for a "rich man's exemption" by payment of a fee or recruitment of a substitute provoked substantial fury, and led to riots in New York City that same summer. Ultimately, the Conscription Act was ineffective, and Lincoln turned to more unashamedly mercenary means to keep the forces manned.
Constitutional Union -  ·  The Constitutional Union Party was a makeshift party formed in time for the election of 1860. Earning its primary support in the border states, the Constitutional Unionists wished to preserve the Union by advancing a moderate platform that reconciled northern and southern interests. Their ticket, composed of John Bell for President and Edward Everett for Vice President, carried a handful of states in the electoral college, but finished well behind the pace set by Lincoln in the north and Breckenridge in the South.
Copperheads -  ·  The Copperheads, also known as Peace Democrats, formed the fiercest opposition to Lincoln in the Union. Many suspected certain Copperheads, including Horatio Seymour and Clement Vallandigham, of sympathizing or even collaborating with the Confederates.
Democrat  -  ·  The Democrats rose to power as the nation's premier political party under the leadership of Andrew Jackson. The Democrats were devoted to states' rights, and strongly opposed the establishment of a national bank. In the mid- nineteenth century, the party became increasingly divided over the question of slavery, eventually splitting into a northern and southern branch before the election of 1860. During Lincoln's presidency, the party was further divided within the Union, splitting into War Democrats, who supported the Union's military effort, and Peace Democrats, or Copperheads, who opposed it.
Emancipation Proclamation -  ·  The Emancipation Proclamation, officially issued by Lincoln on January 1, 1863, freed all slaves in the insurgent portions of the Confederate States of America. The document did not apply to Confederate areas under Union control or to the border states. In practical terms, the Emancipation Proclamation was virtually unenforceable, but it set the tide of antislavery rhetoric and moral integrity squarely behind the Union. Eventually, this would sweep the Union to victory and prepare the country for the groundbreaking Thirteenth Amendment.
Fifth Amendment -  ·  The Fifth Amendment, which states that "no person may be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law," was cited by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in his landmark Dred Scott decision. By declaring that slaves were not citizens, Taney concluded that the slave's right to liberty was less important than the slaveowner's right to property.
Fort Sumter -  ·  A key federal holding in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, Fort Sumter became crucial when Lincoln decided to send reinforcements in against the wishes of South Carolina. A Confederate force led by General Pierre Beauregard led the bombardment of the Union-held fort, which eventually surrendered to the onslaught. With this, the Civil War had begun.
Freedman's Bureau -  ·  Set up by the federal government during reconstruction, the Freedman's Bureau was an ambitious attempt to improve the education and employment prospects of blacks in the hostile south. The main achievement of the Freedman's Bureau came in the form of the thousands of schools it established and maintained for black children.
Freeport Doctrine  -  ·  The Freeport Doctrine, advanced by Stephen Douglas during the second Lincoln-Douglas debate, held that local authorities reserved the right to enforce federal jurisdiction as it saw fit. This extreme stance in support of nullification eventually undermined Douglas's political credibility, rendering him a martyr to his own cause of popular sovereignty.
Free-Soil  -  ·  The term "free-soil" came to apply to a movement that believed in containing the spread of slavery. More moderate than many virulent abolitionists, free-soilers were primarily dedicated to preserving the line of demarcation arrived at in the Missouri Compromise. Later, as regional tensions grew, many free-soilers took up the cause of abolitionism.
Fugitive Slave Law -  ·  Fugitive slave laws became necessary after the growth of the underground railroad, a system of safe havens, which allowed slaves to flee north to freedom, often crossing the border into Canada. A series of fugitive slave laws passed in the mid-nineteenth century provided for the speedy return of any runaway slave caught in a free state. Such measures were generally enacted and enforced in the north as a way of compromise with the southern states over related matters involving slavery.
Gerrymandering -  ·  Gerrymandering is a system of drawing up electoral districts irregularly in order to disproportionately benefit a specific party or special interest group. This term was coined after its first practitioner, Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts and Vice President under James Madison.
Gold Standard -  ·  The gold standard is an economic principle by which a basic unit of currency is equivalent in amount to and can be exchanged for a certain amount of gold. Greenbacks were a volatile currency because they were not backed by the gold standard.
Greenbacks -  ·  Greenbacks were the first national banknotes issued by the United States government, issued under the authority of Secretary of Treasury Chase. These notes, not backed by the gold standard, were first released in order to help finance the growing costs of the Civil War.
Habeas Corpus -  ·  Literally meaning "we have the body," habeas corpus is a writ required by the Constitution as proof of reasonable suspicion in order to authorize a search or seizure. During the Civil War, Lincoln controversially suspended the writ of habeas corpus.
Homestead Act  -  ·  The Homestead Act, signed in 1862, offered 160 acres of free land to any citizen willing to farm and settle it for five years. This legislation greatly facilitated frontier expansion and the peopling of the American West.
Internal Improvements -  ·  Internal improvements are domestic measures to improve the infrastructure of a country. In the nineteenth century, internal improvements were mainly advocated by the Whig Party, as in Henry Clay's American System, which called for the construction of a vast network of canals and railroads.
Ku Klux Klan -  ·  The Ku Klux Klan developed shortly after the Civil War in Tennessee as a backlash to radical reconstruction measures and the rise of black civil rights. After reconstruction fizzled in the 1870s, the Ku Klux Klan became dormant, only to rise again with renewed vigor in the twentieth century as black civil rights became a national issue once again.
Manifest Destiny -  ·  Manifest Destiny was the belief that the United States was inevitably fated to extend its borders to the Pacific Ocean and to expand both north and south as well. This idea took hold after the Louisiana Purchase, and became a rallying cry during the Mexican War and in the westward expansion that ensued.
Monitor -  ·  The Monitor was the prize craft of the Union naval forces, an ironclad that did battle with the Virginia during the spring of 1862.
Monroe Doctrine -  ·  The Monroe Doctrine, issued under President James Monroe in 1823, asserted that the Western hemisphere was the exclusive domain of the United States. As such, no intervention from the European Powers would be tolerated. In exchange, the United States resolved to follow a power of non-interference in European lands and colonies across the Atlantic Ocean. More symbolic than practical, the Monroe Doctrine faced a serious test when France occupied Mexico during the Civil War. (See the History SparkNote on The Monroe Doctrine for more information.)
Morrill Land Grant Act  -  ·  The Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 provided federal lands and monies for the construction of public colleges and universities. Several prominent institutions, such as Cornell University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Purdue University were established under this legislation.
National Union -  ·  The National Union Party was formed in 1864 out of a confluence of Republicans and War Democrats in an attempt to keep the Union war effort strong and re-elect Lincoln. In order to produce a more balanced ticket, the National Unionists nominated Tennessee military governor Andrew Johnson for Vice President. Although their chances looked bleak at times, Lincoln and Johnson pulled ahead in the November elections for a convincing victory.
New Salem -  ·  New Salem, Illinois was a small frontier town of the mid-nineteenth century, where the young Lincoln got his start in life. Living in New Salem between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-six, Lincoln had his first love affair, earned his law credentials, and gained his first election to public office.
Nullification  -  ·  The principle of nullification holds that a local or state jurisdiction has the power to overturn a law instituted by a federal authority. John C. Calhoun was the first strong advocate of nullification, but his stance was squashed by President Jackson. Nullification later re-surfaced in the national debate over states' rights relating to slavery in the months leading up to secession and the Civil War.
Pacific Railroad Acts -  ·  The Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862-64 provided for a central transcontinental railroad running from Chicago to San Francisco, and later deeded millions of acres of surrounding lands to the railroad companies themselves.
Peninsular Campaign -  ·  The Peninsular Campaign of 1862 was the Union's first sophisticated effort to lay waste to Richmond and the Confederacy. Led by General McClellan, this amphibious strategy began well but faltered in the Shenandoah Valley during the Seven Days' Battles, when Confederate forces behind Generals Jackson and Lee dominated the action.
Pocket Veto  -  ·  A pocket veto is a presidential filibuster of sorts, in which the chief executive refuses to address a piece of legislation for passage and signature until Congress has adjourned, thus rendering it null and void. Lincoln employed this strategy with regard to the Wade-Davis Bill.
Popular Sovereignty -  ·  The principle of popular sovereignty, advanced by Stephen Douglas in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, held that each local jurisdiction reserved the right to determine the question of slavery for themselves. Douglas viewed popular sovereignty as the most suitably democratic answer to the problem of slavery that wracked the expanding nation.
Reconstruction -  ·  Reconstruction describes the period from 1865-1877, when the federal government under Presidents Johnson and Grant, together with the Congress controlled by Radical Republicans like Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner, attempted to institute civil rights reforms in the former Confederate states by a combination of martial law and policy decrees. Reconstruction ended with the election of Rutherford B. Hayes and the Compromise of 1877.
Republican  -  ·  The Republican Party was established in the 1850s after the Whig Party found itself on its last legs. Formed in opposition to the moderate Democratic Party, which equivocated at every available opportunity on the increasingly heated question of slavery, the Republicans were much more decidedly in support of slavery's containment, if not its outright abolition. Eventually, the rise of the Republicans to power would divide the nation in half, sparking the southern states to secession and bringing about the Civil War.
Secession  -  ·  Secession is the formal withdrawal of a member state from an association or union. Several different states had threatened secession in the first decades of the history of the United States, but it was only with South Carolina's secession from the Union on December 20, 1860 that the possibility became a reality.
Springfield -  ·  Springfield, Illinois became the capital city of the state of Illinois in 1837, and was home to Lincoln and family for over twenty years. During these years, Lincoln practiced law and established a homestead there.
Tariff  -  ·  A tariff is a duty or tax imposed on an imported or exported good, intended to boost the domestic economy. Because the northern states were industrialized, and could depend on the south for its agricultural needs, they were in favor of high tariffs to protect domestic industries. By contrast, the southern states, which wished to profit from the export of goods such as cotton, opposed tariff measures. This frequently disputed policy question exacerbated regional tensions throughout the early and mid-nineteenth century.
Theater -  · A theater is a geographically integrated arena of warfare. In the Civil War, there were two main theaters: an eastern theater centering around Richmond and outlying areas of Northern Virginia, and a western theater that ran along the banks of the Mississippi River, gradually pushing eastward as the war extended and the Union armies penetrated further to the south. These two theaters were separated mainly by the Appalachian Mountains.
Thirteenth Amendment  -  · The Thirteenth Amendment, ratified on December 18, 1865, provided for the abolition of slavery throughout the United States. This amendment had originally been proposed by Lincoln as a plank in his 1864 platform for re- election on the National Union ticket.
Virginia -  ·  The Virginia was a Confederate ironclad converted from a Union warship formerly called the Merrimac. The Virginia enjoyed considerable success against the Union navy before running into a stalemate against the Monitor in the spring of 1862.
Wade-Davis Bill -  ·  The Wade-Davis Bill of 1864 was a harsh reconstruction measure proposed by Radical Republicans which required majority loyalty from a former Confederate state before that state's reapplication to the Union would be considered. Lincoln pocket-vetoed the bill, considering it overly punitive.
Wilmot Proviso -  ·  The Wilmot Proviso of 1847 provided for the express prohibition of slavery from any territory acquired as a result of the Mexican War. Though the Wilmot Proviso was initiated by a Democratic congressman, it enjoyed strong Whig support, including that of Representative Lincoln.
Whig  -  · The Whig Party was formed in the 1830s out of opposition to the strong rule of President Jackson. Led by vocal senators such as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, the Whigs advocated internal improvements, high tariffs, and a national bank.


Annexation of Texas - As per its program of manifest destiny, the United States annexed, or incorporated, Texas in 1844 after Texas had successfully won its independence from Mexico. This development eventually led to the outbreak of the Mexican War in 1846.
Antietam - After Lee's charge into Union territory, he was repulsed at Antietam by forces under the command of McClellan on September 17, 1862 in the bloodiest single day of the Civil War.
Appomattox Court House  - Appomattox Court House was the name of the small town in south central Virginia where Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865, effectively ending the Civil War.
Black Hawk War - The Black Hawk War of 1832 was fought in Illinois and Iowa when the Sac and Fox tribes led by Black Hawk unsuccessfully attempted to reclaim their native homelands.
Chancellorsville - The Battle of Chancellorsville, fought May 2, 1863, was yet another disastrous defeat for the Union in Northern Virginia, this time under the command of Hooker.
Chickamauga - Chickamauga, fought September 19-20, 1863, was one of the last significant Confederate successes in the western theater. Losses were heavy as usual.
Civil Rights Act of 1866 - The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was an early attempt by the Radical Republicans to assert federal power in the southern states during reconstruction. The act, which bestowed citizenship among all blacks, was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1883 as a violation of states' rights.
Civil Rights Act of 1875 - The Civil Rights Act of 1875, the last major piece of legislation passed by the federal government during reconstruction, was an attempt to desegregate all public places in the southern states. This was a highly ambitious and unrealistic goal, and quickly proved impracticable, especially after reconstruction officially ended with the Compromise of 1877.
Compromise of 1850 - The Compromise of 1850, engineered by Henry Clay, allowed for the entry of California to the Union as a free state in exchange for a stricter fugitive slave law. However, the compromise did not settle the question of slavery in the western territories, which led to increased tensions that came to a head only after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854.
Compromise of 1877 -  After the election of 1876 ended inconclusively, a congressional committee met to determine the winner between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden. In the Compromise of 1877, Southern Democrats swung their support to Hayes in exchange for an end to reconstruction, and the withdrawal of federal troops from the five military zones in the former Confederacy.
Dred Scott decision  -  In a landmark decision handed down March 6, 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney argued that a slave was not a citizen of the United States, and thus could not bring a lawsuit to a federal court. Further, he noted that as per the Fifth Amendment, no slave-owning citizen could be deprived of property, i.e. his slaves, without due process of law. This controversial decision opened up the territories and the several free-soil states to legalized slavery, and heightened regional tensions over the slavery question considerably.
First Inaugural Address  -  Lincoln gave his First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861, hoping to avert civil war by asserting the necessity of preserving the union without coming down too hard on the slavery question.
First Manassas  -  Fought on July 21, 1861, First Manassas, also known as the First Battle of Bull Run, ended in catastrophe for the Union, and served to revise northern opinion that the Civil War would come to a quick conclusion.
Fredericksburg -  The Union suffered a crucial defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. After General Burnside was forced to stay along the northern banks of the Rappahannock River for two weeks, the Confederacy was able to mobilize its forces, and successfully turned back yet another aborted Union offensive in Northern Virginia.
Gettysburg - Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War. After Lee and Stuart pushed well north into Union territory, Union and Confederate forces met in Southern Pennsylvania during a three-day battle that lasted from July 1-3, 1863. Once Union forces led by Meade had repulsed the Confederate charge, Lee never seriously challenged the Union in their own territory again, and the stage was set for the gradual Union push to Appomattox.
Gettysburg Address -  Lincoln delivered his two-minute Gettysburg Address at the dedication of a national cemetery there on November 19, 1863. Famous though it is today, at the time it fell somewhat flat, and Lincoln was thought to have been overshadowed by the principal speaker of the day, Edward Everett.
Kansas-Nebraska Act - Stephen Douglas pushed the Kansas-Nebraska Act through Congress in 1854, effectively nullifying the Missouri Compromise. By this new legislation, the question of slavery was once again thrown open to the discretion of each territory by verdict of Douglas's popular sovereignty principle. This eventually led to the onset of violent warfare between rival factions in Kansas, and was an indirect cause of the Civil War.
Lincoln-Douglas Debates  -  During his 1858 run for Senate on the Republican ticket in Illinois, Lincoln engaged the incumbent Democrat Douglas in a series of seven debates across the state. These debates, which occurred in the weeks and months leading up to election day, received national attention and propelled Lincoln to prominence. During the second debate at Freeport, Douglas advanced a doctrine defending the Kansas-Nebraska Act and popular sovereignty even in the face of the Dred Scott decision.
Mexican War - Fought between 1846 and 1848, the Mexican War was an attempt by the United States under President Polk to assert its right to expansionism by virtue of manifest destiny. Seen as a Democratic power play and an act of foreign aggression, the war was opposed by many prominent Whigs, including Lincoln. (For more information, see the History SparkNote on the Mexican War.)
Missouri Compromise -  The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was engineered by Henry Clay. It allowed for the entry of Missouri to the Union as a slave state, largely in exchange for the creation of a demarcation line categorically prohibiting the extension slavery north of Missouri's southern border. This legislation was later repealed by Douglas's Kansas-Nebraska Act and Taney's Dred Scott decision.
Mumfreesboro -  The Battle of Mumfreesboro, fought between December 31, 1862 and January 2, 1863, was a costly affair for both Union and Confederacy in which no clear winner emerged, and no clear tactical objective was accomplished.
New York City Draft Riots  -  The New York City Draft Riots, staged between July 12 and 15, 1863, were a protest against the Conscription Act, and particularly the "rich man's exemption." Prompted in particular by the Irish-American community, the riots featured looting, lynching, and pillaging. After Lincoln sent troops up from Gettysburg to quell the disturbance, hundreds of people were killed or wounded.
Panic of 1837 - The Panic of 1837 resulted from rampant speculation in combination with President Jackson's continuing opposition to the national bank. It hampered the economy for several years and severely damaged the presidency of Martin Van Buren, Jackson's successor.
Panic of 1857 - The Panic of 1857, caused by a major bank failure, plagued President Buchanan's administration and added an element of economic tension to a nation already strained by the question of slavery.
Panic of 1873 - The Panic of 1873 was mainly caused by overexpansion during the reconstruction years. Under President Grant, the federal government decided to re-issue greenbacks in hopes of reviving the economy, despite Grant's previous opposition to any deviation from the gold standard.
Second Inaugural Address  - Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, given on March 4, 1865, was notably shorter than his First Inaugural. With the end of the war in sight, Lincoln appealed to his audience for a compassionate approach toward reconstruction and the soon-to-be defeated Confederacy.
Second Manassas - A retreating Union army was overwhelmed at Second Manassas, or the Second Battle of Bull Run. Fought on September 29-30, 1862, this Confederate victory encouraged Lee to enter Union territory on the offensive, leading to the Battle of Antietam.
Seven Days' Battles - The culmination of McClellan's Peninsular Campaign, the Seven Days' Battles ended in defeat for the Union forces after a brilliant defensive by Generals Jackson and Lee. Fought from June 25-July 1, 1862, this bloody campaign was one of the most costly to be fought in the eastern theater during the early stages of the Civil War.
Sherman's March to the Sea  - After capturing, evacuating, and burning the city of Atlanta in the autumn of 1864, Sherman led a savage six-week march across the Georgia countryside, consuming and destroying everything of potential use to the Confederate army for miles around. Just before the New Year he arrived at Savannah, meeting up with the Union navy and preparing to begin his push north to Richmond.
Shiloh - The Battle at Shiloh was fought on April 6-7, 1862. It has been estimated that fully 80 percent of the nearly 80,000 men who fought at Shiloh had never been involved in battle before. Casualties were high throughout. After an initial pounding, Union forces under Grant gradually rallied to stave off the Confederate defense.
Trent Affair - The Trent Affair involved the Union seizure of two Confederate diplomats on board a British mail steamer in November 1861. After the diplomats were transported to a jail in Boston, British sentiment rose in anger against the Union. Only when the British had mobilized a significant army to march against the Union did Lincoln relinquish the prisoners and issue an apology in order to smooth over relations between the two countries.
Vicksburg - Vicksburg finally fell to Union forces led by Grant on July 4, 1863 after a lengthy siege. This victory gave the Union complete control of the Mississippi River and did much to constrict the leverage of the Confederate forces in the western theater.
War of 1812 - The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Great Britain over control of the high seas. After a lengthy campaign, the United States emerged victorious, producing in the process a new set of war heroes including Andrew Jackson and Winfield Scott.

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