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Home > History > Abraham Lincoln Biography in Seven Pages - the Middle Years Part 3

Abraham Lincoln Biography in Seven Pages - the Middle Years Part 3

This page describes the end of the middle years in the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Young Abraham Lincoln

Young Abraham Lincoln

The Mary Todd Saga

In December of 1839, Abe met Mary Todd, a "handsome" woman from a wealthy, slave owning family from Lexington, Kentucky.  Abe had been involved in two romances prior to Mary; one with Ann Rutledge, who died of typhoid, and another with Mary Owens, which ended abruptly. By 1840, however, Abe and Mary Todd became engaged.  Unfortunately, their mutual affections failed to last and by 1841, the engagement was broken, plunging Abe into a deep depression that rendered him unable to attend to his business or his job.  Mired in sadness, Lincoln went back to his boyhood home in Kentucky with his friend Joshua Speed, where he apparently recovered sufficiently to return to his life in Springfield. To this day, there is no historical record of why the pair decided to call off their engagement.  In 1842, however, Abe and Mary had re-established relations and were married on November 4th of that year.  Abe and Mary would have four children, two of which died in childhood. In 1844, Abe and Mary Todd bought their first house on the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets in Springfield.

Abe as Congressman

Following his marriage, Abe's interest in politics continued to influence the course he would take in life. Despite entering a law partnership with Judge Stephen Logan, Abe made several unsuccessful attempts to gain the Whig nomination for congressman in the 30th District of Illinois. In 1846, however, Abe was finally nominated and elected in August of that year.  Abe served one two-year term in Washington and was the only Whig representative in the Democrat-dominated Illinois delegation.  During his time as congressman, Abe spoke out against the Mexican-American War, attributing its cause to president James K. Polk’s  desire for “ military glory—that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood." Lincoln believed the United States was waging an unprovoked war for the purposes of expanding its boundaries. This stance made him particularly unpopular and Lincoln lost much of the political support he once enjoyed, and hence, was not re-elected to Congress.

Back to Law

After this stint as congressman, Lincoln returned to Springfield with a new vigor to practice law. He "rode the circuit" twice every year for ten weeks, practicing law in county seats throughout the state of Illinois.  Many of his cases involved disputes which involved the operations of barges, drawbridges, and railroads.  He would argue cases in front of the Illinois Supreme Court some 175 times, and even argued a case in front of the United States Supreme Court. Of the 51 cases in which he was the only lawyer for a particular client, 31 of the cases were decided in his favor.   Abe, who called himself "the prairie lawyer", took other kinds of cases as well, including those involving murder.  In 1858, he successfully defended "Duff" Armstrong against charges of homicide. One of the witnesses testified to seeing the murder committed in the moonlight.  Abe proceeded to consult his copy of the Farmer's Almanac, which showed the moon at the time was at a low angle, reducing visibility and making it highly unlikely anyone could witness a crime using moonlight alone. Armstrong was acquitted.  At this point, Abe was one of the foremost lawyers in the state of Illinois. Abe, however believed he lacked the logic, reasoning and mathematical skills needed to be an elite lawyer and dedicated himself to intensive late-night readings until he felt he had improved himself with respect to those subjects.

Peoria Speech

As the issue of slavery continued to strain relations between the North and the South, and with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, which opened up the new territories to the possibility of slavery,  Abe returned to politics. On October 16, 1854, Abe issued his famous "Peoria Speech" in which he condemned the institution of slavery, declaring,

" I hate {slavery} because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world..."

Lincoln Loses, but Wins

Late that year, Abe decided to run for the Illinois Senate seat as a Whig. The Whigs, at the time, were crumbling from the inside out. Differing opinions within the party concerning the Kansas-Nebraska Act threatened to tear the party in two, or, to obliterate it all together. Consequently, Lincoln lost the nomination, but became instrumental in the formation of a new party - the Republican Party. The Republican Party quickly gained influence and became a national political powerhouse by the time Lincoln would be elected president.

Immortal Words

In 1857, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Roger Taney, ruled that Blacks had no rights in America as citizens in the famous Dred Scott vs Sandford decision. The decision was a major blow to the abolitionist North and further polarized relations between the two parts of the country. Although Lincoln spoke out against the decision, he affirmed the Court's right to issue such as a decision. That same year, after his nomination by the Illinois Republican Party for the Senate, Abe delivered the immortal words,

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other"


Next: Presidential Years Part 1

Abraham Lincoln Articles

Abraham Lincoln Reading Comprehension (Grades 5 and up). These Include Between 7-10 Critical-Thought, Multiple Choice Qustions. Online Versions Give Immediate Feedback and Score Reports

Abraham Lincoln Activities

  • Important Places in the Life of Abraham Lincoln Interactive Map - This interactive map allows students to explore the important places in Abraham Lincoln's life such as New Salem, Springfield, New York City, and many others.
  • Mr. Polk's War - This captivating printable requires students to understand the concept of manifest destiny and to conduct a mock interview in which they answer tough questions in the role of Abraham Lincoln (against the Mexican-American War) and in the role of President James K. Polk (in support of the war).
  • Futility Versus Immortality - This activity requires students to analyze the qualities of poor leaders such as Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan and contrast them with a leader such as Abraham Lincoln.
  • I'll Always Remember Where I Was - This historical prompts requires students to imagine the earth-shaking effect the news of the Emancipation Proclamation had on Americans in 1862. In the spirit of the Emancipation Proclamation, students must write about the biggest news event of their lives and describe its impact.
  • The Power of Dreams - This printout describes Abraham Lincoln's famous dream about his own assassination and then requires students to describe and draw a scene from a powerful dream they've had.
  • Oh Captain! My Captain! - This printout describes Walt Whitman's famous Oh Captain! My Captain! elegy to President Lincoln and then asks students to think of their own hero and to write a similar poem.
  • Primary Source Analysis - Lincoln's Letter to Fanny McCollough This printable activity requires students to analyze a famous condolence letter written by Abraham Lincoln to a teenage girl after her father was killed in the Civil War.
  • With Malice for None, With Charity for All Decoding Puzzle - This activity requires students to decode and interpret the famous presidential quote uttered by Abraham Lincoln.
  • Dr. Samuel Mudd - Critical Thought Questions The printable narrative that describes the role Dr. Mudd played after Lincoln's assassination. It includes three short-answer questions regarding the main ideas of the article content, critical thought about the content, and vocabulary from the passage.
  • Ms. Laura Keene - Critical Thought Questions This printable narrative that describes the role Ms. Laura Keene played after Lincoln's assassination. It includes three short-answer questions regarding the main ideas of the article content, critical thought about the content, and vocabulary from the passage.
  • The Execution of Mary Surratt - Critical Thought Questions - This printable narrative describes the circumstances in the Mary Surratt execution . It includes four short-answer questions regarding the main ideas of the article content, critical thought about the content, and vocabulary from the passage.
  • Abraham Lincoln Paragraph Paramedics - Find and correct the spelling, punctuation, and usage errors in the paragraph. Click on the error and then type in the correction. Immediate feedback is given.
  • Presidential Quotes - This activity first requires students to match the famous quote with the president. Next, students must choose their favorite quote and attempt to explain it in detail.
  • Presidential Heights - Did you know James Madison was the shortest president? Did you know Abraham Lincoln was the tallest president? This fun math activity requires students to answer questions about the heights of presidents by viewing the bar graph and making conversions from feet to inches and inches to feet.
  • Printable Presidents Word Search
  • - All 45 are in there!
  • Illinois State Quarter (Featuring Lincoln) Coloring
  • Lincoln Memorial Coloring
  • Lincoln Home National Historic Site Video

Online Games Involving Lincoln

  • Presidential Mismatch - Students must rearrange the presidential chart so that the presidents are in the correct order in which they served. The number of presidents used in the game is customizable. The timer allows for friendly competitions. Students who enjoy history will love this game!
  • Currency Mismatch - This is a wildly fun game that requires students to drag and drop the correct presidential faces to their correct dollar bills. The game is timed and makes for awesome friendly competitions within a classroom.
  • Glamour Legends - This fun game allows students to dress up George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Tubman, or Christopher Columbus in more modern, or more primitive clothes.
  • Presidents Word Search - This is an online word search with the 45 presidents. Choose with or without a timer.

United States Presidents

 1. George Washington  16. Abraham Lincoln  32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
 2. John Adams  17. Andrew Johnson  33. Harry S. Truman
 3. Thomas Jefferson  18. Ulysses S. Grant  34. Dwight D. Eisenhower 
 4. James Madison  19. Rutherford B. Hayes  35. John F. Kennedy
 5. James Monroe  20. James A. Garfield  36. Lyndon B. Johnson
 6. John Quincy Adams  21. Chester A. Arthur  37. Richard Nixon
 7. Andrew Jackson  22/24. Grover Cleveland  38. Gerald R. Ford
 8. Martin Van Buren  23. Benjamin Harrison  39. Jimmy Carter
 9. William Henry Harrison  25. William McKinley  40. Ronald Reagan
10. John Tyler  26. Theodore Roosevelt  41. George H.W. Bush
11. James K. Polk  27. William Howard Taft  42. Bill Clinton
12. Zachary Taylor  28. Woodrow Wilson  43. George W. Bush
13. Millard Fillmore  29. Warren G. Harding  44. Barack Obama
14. Franklin Pierce  30. Calvin Coolidge  45. Donald J. Trump
15. James Buchanan  31. Herbert Hoover  


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