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Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 - April 15, 1865) was the 16th president of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War, its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional and political crisis. In doing so, he preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the economy. Lincoln was a self-educated lawyer in Illinois, a Whig Party leader and a state legislator in the 1830s. After a series of highly publicized debates in 1858, during which Lincoln spoke out against the expansion of slavery, he lost the U.S. Senate race to his archrival, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. In 1860, Lincoln secured a Republican Party presidential nomination. His presidential election resulted in seven southern slave states to form the Confederacy before he took the office on March 4, 1861. Lincoln is regarded by historians as one of the greatest United States presidents. During his term, he created the system of national banks with the National Banking Act. This provided a strong financial network in the country. It also established a national currency. In 1862, Congress created, with Lincoln's approval, the Department of Agriculture. Lincoln was able to appoint five Supreme Court justices during his time as president. He is largely responsible for instituting the Thanksgiving holiday in the US. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address of 1863 became an iconic statement of America's dedication to the principles of nationalism, republicanism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy. Lincoln held a moderate view of Reconstruction. On April 15, 1865, six days after the surrender of Confederate commanding General Robert E. Lee, Lincoln was assassinated at the Ford Theater by John Wilkes Booth, a noted actor and Confederate spy from Maryland. Lincoln was married to Mary Todd Lincoln on November 4, 1842. They had four children, all boys. Only the oldest, Robert, survived to adulthood. After Lincoln's death, Robert committed his mother, Mary, for a short time. The death of their children had a profound effect on the mental health of both Lincoln and his wife.
The son of Swedish immigrants, Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois. At age 13 he left school to roam the Midwest; he remained on the road for six years, working as a day laborer. Sandburg served in the Spanish-American War and then, from 1898 to 1902, attended Lombard College in Galesburg. After college, he went to Milwaukee, where he worked as a journalist; he also married Lillian Steichen there in 1908. During World War I, he served as a foreign correspondent in Stockholm; after the war he returned to Chicago and continued to write about America, especially the common people. Sandburg's first poems to gain wide recognition appeared in Poetry magazine in 1914. Two years later he published his Chicago Poems (1916), and Cornhuskers appeared in 1918. Meanwhile, Sandburg set out to become an authority on Abraham Lincoln (see Vol. 3). His exhaustive biography of the president, which took many years to complete, appeared as Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (2 vols., 1926) and Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (4 vols., 1939), which won a Pulitzer Prize. Sandburg's poetry is untraditional in form. Drawing on Whitman as well as the imagists, its rhymeless and unmetered cadences reflect Midwestern speech, and its diction ranges from strong rhetoric to easygoing slang. Although he often wrote about the uncouth, the muscular, and the primitive, there was a pity and loving kindness that was a primary motive for his poetry. At Sandburg's death, Mark Van Doren, Archibald MacLeish, and President Lyndon Johnson delivered eulogies. In his tribute, President Johnson said that "Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America. . . . He gave us the truest and most enduring vision of our own greatness." The N.Y. Times described Sandburg as "poet, newspaper man, historian, wandering minstrel, collector of folk songs, spinner of tales for children, [whose] place in American letters is not easily categorized. But it is a niche that he has made uniquely his own." Sandburg was the labor laureate of the United States. Sandburg received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1951 for his Complete Poems (1950). Among his many other awards were the gold medal for history and biography (1952) from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; the Poetry Society of America's gold medal (1953) for distinguished achievement; and the Boston Arts Festival Award (1955) in recognition of "continuous meritorious contribution to the art of American poetry." In 1959 he traveled under the auspices of the Department of State to the U.S. Trade Fair in Moscow, and to Stockholm, Paris, and London. In 1960 he received a citation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a great living American for the "significant and lasting contribution which he has made to American literature.