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A. Lincoln: The Best President of the 19th Century


The 19th century is one of the most distinctive and pivotal periods in the political history of the United States. It marks an era during which America addressed the divisive issues that were hindering its political, social, and economic development, thus presenting an opportunity for its rise into a superpower in the 20th century. To achieve these milestones, the nation needed visionary leadership that surpassed race and socioeconomic class, and that presented new ideologies that would bring change. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, and James Monroe are among the leaders who built the foundation of America. Abraham Lincoln propelled America to new heights of political and economic prosperity, and he is among the most revered presidents in America. Lincoln is the best president of the 19th century because he abolished slavery, led the Union successfully through the American Civil War, vindicated democracy, and signed into law, revolutionary acts.

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A Brief History

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. He was born on February 2, 1809, in Kentucky and died in 1865 after he was assassinated at Ford’s theater by John Wilks Booth (Ketcham, 2020). He is an inspirational figure because even though he was born into poverty, he educated himself to become a lawyer, and later, the president of the United States (Ketcham, 2020). His other achievements include becoming an Illinois state legislator, the leader of the Whig Party, a lawyer, and a U.S. Congressman.

The Civil War

Lincoln became the president of the US at a time when the nation was divided into northern and southern regions. The states in the north remained part of the United States, but those in the south had withdrawn from the union (Varon, 2019). They had declared themselves the Confederates States of America, thus making the nation’s governance difficult. The economics and the political control of slavery led to the American Civil War that was fought between 1861 and 1865 between the northern and southern states (Ketcham, 2020). Lincoln had to deal with immense pressures due to the ravages of the war: numerous deaths on the battlefields, defiant army generals, and opposition from groups like Peace Democrats and Copperheads (Varon, 2019). Despite these challenges, he fought for his objective of preserving the Union. He supported the Union because of its opposition to slavery. He waged war against the Confederacy and anyone who supported or propagated slavery. Lincoln believed that ending slavery was important for the prosperity of America. His primary goal was to unite both regions after the war back into one United States. On April 9, 1865, General Robert Lee of the Confederacy surrendered and brought an end to the civil war (Varon, 2019). The victory was a major achievement for Lincoln and a historic moment for America, although he did not live to see a unified United States as he was assassinated six days later.

The Abolishment of Slavery

Slavery abolishment was one of the greatest accomplishments of Lincoln. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, and it laid the foundation for the process that culminated in the abolishment of slavery (Sinha, 2016). At the time, the war was ongoing, and it allowed African Americans to join the Army and the Navy to fight for the Union. In that regard, more than 20,000 African Americans joined the war, thus earning the opportunity to fight for their freedom (Sinha, 2016). According to the declaration, the release of slaves was mandatory. However, it applied neither in the Border States nor in the confederacy. The Emancipation Proclamation did not abolish slavery. However, Lincoln supported the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment that freed the slaves. The Amendment stated that slavery and indentured servitude were illegal in the United States (Sinha, 2016). It applied to both the northern and southern states because they had united into one United States.

The Vindication of Democracy

Lincoln is credited with vindicating democracy, mainly for preserving the Union and abolishing slavery. He held the belief that American democracy was === with equality of opportunity and equal rights for all. However, he differentiated between basic natural rights (freedom from slavery) and civil and political rights (voting) that would be determined by individual states (Sinha, 2016). He held that slavery was an immense evil that was cancerous to democracy. However, instead of illegalizing it straightaway, he chose to do it progressively (Ketcham, 2020). He used federal money to compensate owners in exchange for the unconditional release of slaves. The division of the North and South was a threat to American democracy. Lincoln argued that secession of the southern states meant disaster for the nation because it would destroy democracy, and as a result, affect America and the world because it meant that such a system of governance was impossible to maintain.

Lincoln also believed that secession was a breach of the constitution, and therefore unlawful. He opposed the move for several reasons: the states had insufficient resources to separate, inhabitants of the North and South would become enemies, and that anarchy would prevail as the government would weaken (Ketcham, 2020). At the time, the world was awash with monarchies, dictatorships, and authoritarian governments, and America was the only democracy. Therefore, it was important to maintain the system for the sake of the nation and as an example to the world that such a model of governance was possible (Ketcham, 2020). During that era, only France attempted to establish and democracy and failed. Lincoln, therefore, had to do everything in his power to win the civil way. A loss would have meant that a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” was an impossibility (Ketcham, 2020). By winning the war, Lincoln vindicated democracy and restored hope in the world for the successful establishment of democracies.

The Enactment of Revolutionary Acts

Lincoln is remembered for signing some of the most revolutionary acts into law. They include the Morrill land-Grant Act, the Homestead Act, and the National Banking Act. The Homestead Act, signed into law by Lincoln in 1862, allowed poor people to obtain land (Ketcham, 2020). This was monumental legislation because people from low socioeconomic groups were able to own land at little or no cost. However, several requirements had to be met by any woman, freed slave, or a citizen who wanted land: 21 years or older and a positive history of never fighting the government. Heads of families were also allowed to apply for grants (Ketcham, 2020). The Act required a new owner of a piece of land to inhabit it for five years and provide proof to the government of the improvements made. The Morrill Act of 1862 aimed to promote the establishment of institutions in all states as a way of boosting higher education in America (Ketcham, 2020). It gave each state 30,000 acres of land to sell and use the proceeds to establish a fund that would support colleges in those states. Lincoln is also credited with establishing the US national banking system through the enactment of the National Banking Act into law in 1863 (Ketcham, 2020). It led to the creation of a strong financial network and the establishment of a national currency. Its impact is evident from the existence of a uniform banking policy that governs all banking institutions in the United States. In addition to the banks, the Act supported the growth of the economy through the establishment of canals, factories, and railroads.

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Lincoln is considered by many people the best president of the 19th century because of what he accomplished and how he achieved it. He led the nation through the American Civil War and united both the Union and the Confederacy into one United States. As a result, he preserved the Union, vindicated democracy, and created a great nation. His patience, determination, and shrewd calculations enabled him to end slavery by presenting the Emancipation Proclamation and supporting the enactment of the 13th Amendment. In the process of preserving the Union and abolishing slavery, Lincoln managed to create a better nation that held the value of economic equality and liberty. His visionary leadership was vital in the development of his legacy that included the United States that was free and whole, devoid of the divisive politics and social stratifications that characterized the era of the Union and the Confederacy. These achievements are proof that Abraham Lincoln is the best president of the 19th century.


Ketcham, H. (2020). The life of Abraham Lincoln. Library of Alexandria.

Sinha, M. (2016). The slaves cause: A history of abolition. Yale University Press.

Varon, E. R. (2019). Armies of deliverance: A new history of the Civil War. Oxford University Press.

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