Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865), 16th president of the United States (1861-1865) and one of the great leaders in American history. A humane, far-sighted statesman in his lifetime, he became a legend and a folk hero after his death.
Lincoln rose from humble backwoods origins to become one of the great presidents of the United States. In his effort to preserve the Union during the Civil War, he assumed more power than any preceding president. If necessity made him almost a dictator, by fervent conviction he was always a democrat. A superb politician, he persuaded the people with reasoned word and thoughtful deed to look to him for leadership. He had a lasting influence on American political institutions, most importantly in setting the precedent of vigorous executive action in time of national emergency.
Abraham Lincoln's ancestry on his father's side has been traced to Samuel Lincoln, a weaver who emigrated from Hingham, England, to Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1637.
The president's forebears were pioneers who moved west with the expanding frontier from Massachusetts to Berks County, Pennsylvania, and then to Virginia. Abraham's father, Thomas Lincoln, was born in Rockingham County in backcountry Virginia in 1778. In 1781 Thomas Lincoln's father, who was also named Abraham, took his family to Hughes Station on the Green River, 32 km (20 mi) east of Louisville, Kentucky. In 1786 a Native American killed the first Abraham Lincoln while he was at work clearing land for a farm in the forest.
Thomas Lincoln continued to live in Kentucky. He saw it develop from a frontier wilderness into a rapidly growing state. But like his ancestors he preferred the rugged life on the frontier. In a brief autobiography written for a political campaign, Lincoln said that his father "even in childhood was a wandering labor boy, and grew up...