2 July 2013
Abraham Lincoln and the Great Man Theory
Do great men affect the outcome of certain events or do certain events sway the minds of these said men? This was a question that Scottish philosopher, Thomas Carlyle sought out to answer. In his work entitled On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History he states, “We have undertaken to discourse here for a little on Great Men, their manner of appearance in our world’s business, how they have shaped themselves in the world’s history, what ideas men formed of them, what work they did.” (Carlyle, pg.1). This quote alone embodies Carlyle’s Great Man Theory. The Great Man Theory suggests that great men affect the future. Abraham Lincoln is observed as one of the most pivotal figures in American History. Throughout his presidency, Lincoln dealt with a variety of social and economic issues that would affect America’s welfare for years to come. Whether it was the times that forced the greatness in Lincoln or Lincoln always had it in him, he was the leader that the United States needed in such a desperate time.
Abraham Lincoln was born to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln in 1809. They resided in a log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky but were soon forced to move after a land dispute and the Lincolns moved to Indiana. Here the family squatted on public land and survived on the land while Thomas searched for a way to purchase some land. Soon after the move, Abraham’s mother passed away from a rare bone disorder. Thomas would remarry Sarah Bush Johnston only a few months after Nancy’s death. Due to financial issues, up to this point Thomas could not afford schooling for his children. Sarah urged Abraham to read. From this point on, Lincoln became fascinated with education and would self educate himself throughout his childhood up until adulthood where he received formal education.
In 1832 the Black Hawk War broke out between the United States and Native Americans. The locals immediately elected the 24 year old Lincoln to lead them as captain. He would not see any combat but this effort was not fruitless. During the war, Lincoln would make some distinct political contacts and soon after the war, he would begin his political career. In 1834, Abraham Lincoln was elected to Illinois State Legislature as a member of the Whig party. During his time as a member of legislature, he would take part in discussions regarding state enforced tariffs and the economic infrastructure. It was here, when Lincoln first became concerned with the issue of slavery, not so much as a civil issue but as a hindrance to the economy (Abraham Lincoln, pg1).
Shortly after his time spent in the Whig party, Lincoln would become interested in law and he soon began to teach himself. Once qualified by the bar, he moved to Springfield, IL and practiced law under the John T. Stuart Law Firm. His time spent here would prove to be beneficial but Lincoln was eager to begin his own practice. In 1844, he with partner with William Herndon and the two started practicing law together. Although they had different styles of approaching law, the two would develop a close bond and a successful practice. Lincoln would prove to be a good lawyer in Springfield but due to lack of work, he needed supplemental income. He began following the court as it toured all over Illinois and shortly after he would serve a single term in the House of Representatives. In office, he was profound and quickly became unpopular for his thoughts on the Mexican-American war and elected not to run for another term but instead he returned back to Springfield to practice law (Abraham Lincoln, pg 2).
The Mexican- American War led to the seizure of New Mexico and California to the United States that were previously under Mexican rule. The overall sentiment of the victory was joyous, but others saw something very unsettling about this territorial gain. As territories began to expand as a result of