The face printed on U.S. currency provides a snapshot of American history. Looking at the portraits helps us understand the prominent figures and notable events that have shaped the nation. So why is Abraham Lincoln, one of history’s most admired presidents, memorialized on the $5 bill?
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Abraham Lincoln is on the $5 bill because of his vital role in preserving the Union during the American Civil War and his reputation as an advocate for enslaved people.
As president from 1861-1865, Lincoln led the country through its greatest internal crisis and freed enslaved people in rebelling states through the Emancipation Proclamation.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore Lincoln’s background, his rise to the presidency, his leadership during the Civil War, his advocacy against slavery, and his lasting legacy that led to his immortalization on the $5 bill.
Lincoln’s Early Life and Career Before the Presidency
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, is widely recognized for his leadership during the Civil War and his efforts to abolish slavery. However, before he became president, Lincoln had a humble beginning and a remarkable journey that shaped his character and prepared him for the challenges ahead.
Lincoln’s humble beginnings in Kentucky and Indiana
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky. His family later moved to Indiana, where they faced numerous hardships. Growing up in poverty, Lincoln learned the value of hard work and determination from an early age.
Despite the challenges, he developed a strong sense of justice and a desire to make a difference in the world.
Self-education and work as a lawyer in Illinois
One of the defining aspects of Lincoln’s early life was his commitment to self-education. Although he had limited formal schooling, Lincoln was an avid reader and taught himself various subjects, including law.
He moved to Illinois in 1830, where he began working as a lawyer and quickly gained a reputation for his integrity and skill in the courtroom. His ability to connect with people from all walks of life contributed to his success as a lawyer.
Election to Congress and rise in the Republican Party
Lincoln’s political career began in 1847 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. As a Congressman, he spoke out against the expansion of slavery and gained recognition for his passionate speeches.
Lincoln’s rise in the Republican Party was marked by his opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and his debates with Stephen A. Douglas, which catapulted him into the national spotlight.
Throughout his early life and career, Lincoln faced numerous challenges and setbacks, but he never lost sight of his goal to unite the country and end slavery. His journey from a log cabin in Kentucky to the presidency is a testament to his resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment to justice.
Lincoln’s Election and Lead up to the Civil War
Abraham Lincoln’s presence on the $5 bill is a result of his significant role in American history, particularly during the lead up to the Civil War. His election as the 16th President of the United States in 1860 was a pivotal moment that ultimately led to the outbreak of the war.
Lincoln’s anti-slavery platform in the 1860 election
During the 1860 election, Abraham Lincoln ran on an anti-slavery platform, which was a radical stance at the time. He firmly believed that slavery was morally wrong and was determined to end it. His election victory signaled a shift in the political landscape and served as a catalyst for the tensions between the North and the South.
Lincoln’s election victory was met with strong opposition from the Southern states, who feared that his presidency would threaten their way of life and the institution of slavery. The South believed that Lincoln’s anti-slavery stance would lead to the eventual abolition of slavery and the loss of their economic and social power.
Southern secession after Lincoln’s victory
In response to Lincoln’s victory, several Southern states, including South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, seceded from the Union. They formed the Confederate States of America, which further intensified the growing divide between the North and the South.
The secession of these states marked a significant turning point in American history and set the stage for the Civil War. The Confederate states were determined to protect their way of life and defend the institution of slavery, while the Union sought to preserve the unity of the country and eventually end slavery.
Attempts at compromise and preservation of the Union
In an effort to prevent the outbreak of war and preserve the Union, there were various attempts at compromise. One notable example was the Crittenden Compromise, which aimed to extend the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific Ocean and protect slavery in certain territories.
However, these attempts at compromise ultimately failed, as the divide between the North and the South became too deep.
Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and his firm stance against slavery played a crucial role in shaping the events that led to the Civil War. His presence on the $5 bill serves as a reminder of his significant contributions to American history and his unwavering commitment to the preservation of the Union.
Lincoln’s Leadership During the Civil War
Abraham Lincoln’s leadership during the Civil War played a crucial role in the outcome of the conflict. As the 16th President of the United States, Lincoln faced the immense challenge of preserving the Union and ending the institution of slavery.
His actions and decisions during this time solidified his place as one of the greatest leaders in American history.
Assembling a Cabinet and war strategy
Upon assuming office, Lincoln faced the daunting task of assembling a cabinet that would help him navigate the challenges of the Civil War. He carefully selected individuals from different political backgrounds, including members of his own Republican Party as well as former rivals, to ensure a diverse range of perspectives.
This approach allowed him to benefit from the expertise of his advisors and make informed decisions.
In terms of war strategy, Lincoln faced the challenge of leading a divided nation. He recognized the importance of preserving unity among the northern states and worked tirelessly to rally support for the Union cause.
Through his effective communication skills and ability to inspire, Lincoln was able to maintain the morale of the Union troops and the general public throughout the course of the war.
Significant Union battlefield victories and defeats
During the Civil War, Lincoln faced numerous battles that tested the resolve of the Union forces. While there were both victories and defeats, Lincoln’s leadership was instrumental in some of the most significant Union victories.
One notable example is the Battle of Gettysburg, where Union troops successfully repelled Confederate forces and turned the tide of the war in favor of the Union.
However, Lincoln also experienced defeats on the battlefield, such as the initial Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run. Despite setbacks, Lincoln remained steadfast and resilient, constantly analyzing the situation and adapting his strategies to increase the chances of success for the Union forces.
The Emancipation Proclamation and accepting formerly enslaved soldiers
One of Lincoln’s most significant contributions during the Civil War was the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. This executive order declared that all slaves in Confederate territory were to be freed.
Although it did not immediately end slavery, the proclamation marked a significant turning point in the war and paved the way for the eventual abolition of slavery in the United States.
In addition to the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln also played a crucial role in accepting formerly enslaved individuals into the Union Army. By allowing African Americans to join the fight for their freedom, Lincoln demonstrated his commitment to equality and justice.
This decision not only bolstered the Union forces but also contributed to the eventual victory of the Union in the Civil War.
Lincoln’s Vision for Reconstruction and Enduring Legacy
Plans for unifying the nation after the war
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, played a crucial role in guiding the nation through one of its darkest periods, the Civil War. However, his contribution did not stop there. Lincoln had a clear vision for the reconstruction of the country after the war, aiming to unify the divided nation and heal the wounds caused by years of conflict.
He believed in a lenient approach towards the Southern states, advocating for their reintegration into the Union. This vision for reconstruction laid the foundation for a lasting peace and reconciliation.
Lincoln’s plan for reconstruction, known as the Ten Percent Plan, offered amnesty to most Confederate officials and allowed for the creation of new state governments once 10% of a state’s voting population pledged allegiance to the Union.
This plan aimed to quickly restore the Southern states to their former status within the United States, while also ensuring that the rights of newly freed slaves were protected.
Lincoln’s vision for reconstruction was cut short by his untimely assassination, but his ideas and principles continued to influence the nation’s path forward. His successor, Andrew Johnson, implemented a more lenient approach to reconstruction, influenced by Lincoln’s ideas, but faced significant challenges and opposition from both the Radical Republicans and the Southern states.
Assassination by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth
Tragically, Abraham Lincoln’s vision for reconstruction was cut short by his assassination on April 14, 1865. Just days after the Confederacy’s surrender, Lincoln was attending a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer.
The nation was plunged into mourning, as the loss of Lincoln was seen as a devastating blow to the country’s hopes for a peaceful and unified future.
Booth’s assassination of Lincoln was a stark reminder of the deep divisions that still existed within the country, even after the war had ended. It served as a tragic reminder of the challenges faced by the nation in the process of reconstruction and the long road ahead towards healing and unity.
Lincoln memorialized as savior of the Union and ‘Great Emancipator’
Abraham Lincoln’s legacy as the “Great Emancipator” and savior of the Union has been etched into the fabric of American history. His unwavering commitment to the abolition of slavery and his leadership during the Civil War have made him a revered figure in the fight for civil rights and equality.
To honor his enduring legacy, Lincoln’s image was chosen to grace the United States five-dollar bill. This decision was made to commemorate his pivotal role in preserving the Union and his commitment to the principles of freedom and equality.
The inclusion of Lincoln on the five-dollar bill serves as a constant reminder of his contributions to the nation and the ongoing struggle for justice and unity.
Why Lincoln Was Chosen for the $5 Bill
Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary, puts Lincoln on currency
Abraham Lincoln’s presence on the $5 bill can be attributed to Salmon P. Chase, who served as Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary during his presidency. Chase believed that Lincoln’s leadership during the Civil War and his efforts to preserve the Union deserved recognition on a national level.
As a result, he proposed the inclusion of Lincoln’s image on the $5 bill.
Chase’s decision to honor Lincoln in this way was not only a tribute to the president, but it also served as a symbol of unity and reconciliation for a nation torn apart by war. By placing Lincoln on the currency, Chase hoped to remind Americans of the values and principles that Lincoln stood for – including equality, freedom, and the preservation of the Union.
Lincoln solidified as face of the $5 in 1928
While Chase played a significant role in placing Lincoln on the currency, it was not until 1928 that Lincoln’s image was officially solidified as the face of the $5 bill. This decision was made by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which was responsible for designing and producing U.S. currency at the time.
The choice to feature Lincoln prominently on the $5 bill was influenced by his enduring legacy and the impact he had on American history. Lincoln’s presidency marked a turning point in the nation’s development, as he led the country through the Civil War and played a pivotal role in the abolition of slavery.
Enduring association of Lincoln with union, freedom, and sacrifice
One of the main reasons why Lincoln continues to be featured on the $5 bill is the enduring association between his image and the values of union, freedom, and sacrifice. Lincoln’s leadership during the Civil War and his unwavering commitment to preserving the Union left a lasting impact on the nation.
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which declared freedom for enslaved African Americans in Confederate states, further solidified his association with freedom and equality. His dedication to these principles has made him an iconic figure in American history, making it fitting for him to be featured on the $5 bill.
Furthermore, Lincoln’s tragic assassination and the sacrifices he made for the nation have contributed to his enduring legacy. By featuring Lincoln on the $5 bill, the United States pays tribute to his leadership, his commitment to justice, and his role in shaping the nation’s history.
Abraham Lincoln earned his immortal place in American history through his determined leadership and vision to preserve the Union, uphold the Constitution, and end slavery. Despite meeting a tragic end, Lincoln’s legacy lived on as generations came to recognize him as a quintessential American hero.
His position on the $5 bill, authorized by those who knew him best, reflects his outsized role in shaping the nation’s future during its most pivotal era – a legacy befitting representation on our currency.