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The 1860 Republican Convention was held in Chicago at the Wigwam, the building pictured here.

Abraham Lincoln
and His Political Party

Maretta Smith
Brookwood Middle School, Glenwood

Abraham Lincoln showed exceptional leadership skills and qualities throughout his years as a politician. "It was a mark of his sincere intentions that Abraham Lincoln wanted the advice of men who were as strong or stronger than himself. Mr. Lincoln obtained no fear of being crushed or overridden by such men who revealed surpassing naivete or a tranquil confidence in his powers of leadership with his political party," wrote one historian. Lincoln's greatest political skill was his ability at public speaking. Lincoln was widely known as "Honest Abe" because of his ability to express himself honestly and follow through on his promises to the public and the Republican Party. What Lincoln said as a leader, however, had to coordinate with his beliefs and the standards of his political party.

Lincoln's political career lasted a total of thirty-one years. From the time he entered the Illinois state legislature until his death, he served the United States faithfully. Abraham Lincoln, the politician, was recognized for using amusing stories that were enormously helpful in making important points. He often used his gift as storyteller to put people at ease.

Lincoln possessed a third talent—his capacity for clear, simple statements. He could define issues with a minimum of words and in a style of language that could not be mistaken. "My politics," he reportedly said, "are short and sweet like an old woman's dance." The point Lincoln was trying to make was that he used a short, straightforward, and to-the-point strategy while expressing his political views.

Lincoln's leadership within the Republican Party helped promote it. Lincoln's leadership depended partly on his opponents and their responses to his campaign speeches. To outward appearances, Lincoln was doing nothing more than helping to build a political party.

The role of the Republican Party in the 1800s was to oppose the issue of slavery and stop its spread. The Republicans, led by Lincoln, voted down all efforts at formal compromises on slavery. The party was opposed to making slavery legal in all places of the United States. Lincoln sometimes went into a "crisscross of roll calls, quotations, documents in established history, to prove 'the fathers' held the Republican political party's view of restricting slavery," Carl Sandburg claimed.

Although Lincoln did not call for the political or social equality of black people, the issue he and the



Republican Party presented to the America of the 1850s was central. "Can we, as a nation, continue together permanently forever half slave, half free? The problem is too mighty for me. May God, in His mercy superintend the solution." These were Lincoln's words, and they expressed the Republican party's early purposes very well.

By Lincoln's words of support for his political party, he showed himself to be a master of the political arts. The supreme political art is the capacity to articulate thoughts in such terms that the public can recognize them as its own. Such master politicians truly belong to the ages. Lincoln and the Republican Party were truly factors in America's history.—[From Paul Boller, Presidential Anecdotes; Bruce Catton, Never Call Retreat; Bruce Catton, The Coming Fury; Henry Graff, The Presidents; Robert Howard, Illinois: A History of the Prairie State; Ralph Newman, Lincoln for the Ages; Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln; Benjamin Thomas, Abraham Lincoln.]



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