The Railsplitter

HD_Railsplitter1.previewAbraham Lincoln once recalled that he was “raised to farm work,” but he left behind the farms of his youth in central Kentucky, southern Indiana, and eastern Illinois rather quickly to begin his extraordinary career in politics and law.  By the time he entered the presidential race in 1860, at the age of 51, Lincoln was known as “The Railsplitter” more as campaign gimmick than as a serious personal description.  He had long since stopped splitting any rails.  Documents in this section help illustrate Lincoln’s exceptional rise to power, covering his early years as a Springfield politician during the 1830s and 1840s and then his climactic battles with Stephen Douglas in the 1850s and early 1860s.  We begin by featuring five documents that demonstrate various elements of Lincoln’s early life story and include in the extended section another 25 documents that can help illustrate  some of his most important personal and political experiences before his presidency.

Essential Question:

Was Abraham Lincoln self-made or self-invented, especially in the years before he became president?

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Editor: Matthew Pinsker
House Divided Project
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