Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln
George Washington was born in the colony of Virginia in 1732. His mother was Mary Ball Washington. His father was Augustine Washington,
also known as "Gus." Washington studied mathematics, trigonometry, and map-making. He used
Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, in a one-room log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky; his family moved to southern
Indiana in 1816. Lincoln's formal schooling was limited to three brief periods in local schools, as he had to work constantly to support
his family. In 1830, his family moved to Macon
these skills to become a surveyor. Surveyors measure distances between different points on land. At age 16, George helped survey land
in Virginia for Lord Fairfax, Lord Fairfax commented that George was "at all times composed and dignified." The following year, George
was appointed surveyor for Culpepper County, Virginia.
A major turning point in Washington's life came with the French and Indian War, which began in 1754. It was a conflict between England and
France for control of land in America. Washington first became a major in the Virginia militia. By the end of the war, he was a colonel.
After the war, Washington married Martha Custis, a wealthy widow. Washington helped raise her two children on the estate known as Mount Vernon.
He turned to tobacco planting, though he was not very successful. He was, however, elected to the Virginia colonial legislature.
Washington was chosen as a delegate from Virginia to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774. He was 42 years old and impressed the
other delegates with his skills as a legislator. They were also impressed with his commitment to the cause of independence.
When the Second Continental Congress met in 1775, John Adams nominated Washington to be the commander in chief of the Continental Army. The delegates
all agreed. On June 15, Washington was promoted from colonel in the militia to full general. He refused to accept any salary throughout the war.
Many expected Washington to assume some authority in the nation. Instead, he said farewell to his officers in December 1783 and retired to Mount Vernon.
He provided his leadership again only when the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787.
The delegates unanimously chose Washington to preside over the convention. Washington was silent most of the time, but his presence was important. One
observer noted that the delegates kept Washington in mind when they outlined presidential powers in the Constitution. Soon after the Constitution was
ratified in 1789, Washington was elected the first president of the United States. The electors from every state chose Washington. It was another unanimous
decision to give him authority. John Adams was elected vice president.
Washington knew that as the first president that he had an important responsibility. "I walk on untrodden ground," he wrote in a private letter in 1790.
"There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent."
Even though Washington was elected for a second term, he refused to run for a third. Jefferson and Hamilton had been bitter rivals. Their differences led
to the development of political parties, which Washington hated. In his Farewell Address in 1796, he called for neutrality and an end to fighting between
opposing political groups.
Washington retired again, just as he did after the Revolutionary War. He lived for three more years at Mount Vernon with Martha. In December 1799, he
inspected his farm in the rain and got a severe sore throat. He died as his doctors used bloodletting to treat him, which historians believe may have
been the real cause of his death.
County in southern Illinois, and Lincoln got a job working on a river flatboat hauling freight down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.
After settling in the town of New Salem, Illinois, where he worked as a shopkeeper and a postmaster, Lincoln became involved in local politics as a
supporter of the Whig Party, winning election to the Illinois state legislature in 1834.
Abraham Lincoln, a self-taught Illinois lawyer and legislator with a reputation as an eloquent opponent of slavery, shocked many when he overcame several
more prominent contenders to win the Republican Party's nomination for president in 1860.
His election that November pushed several Southern states to secede by the time of his inauguration in March 1861, and the Civil War began barely a month
later. Contrary to expectations, Lincoln proved to be a shrewd military strategist and a savvy leader during what became the costliest conflict ever fought
on American soil.
His Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1863, freed all slaves in the rebellious states and paved the way for slavery's eventual abolition, while his
Gettysburg Address later that year stands as one of the most famous and influential pieces of oratory in American history.
In April 1865, with the Union on the brink of victory, Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed by the Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth; his untimely
death made him a martyr to the cause of liberty and Union. Over the years Lincoln's mythic stature has only grown, and he is widely regarded as one of the
greatest presidents in the nation's history.