Abraham Lincoln And Jefferson Davis Essay Research

Abraham Lincoln And Jefferson Davis Essay, Research Paper

Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis

Sunny Herren

American History


5 February 1997

In this report I compare two great historical figures: Abraham Lincoln,

the 16th president, steered the Union to victory in the American Civil War and

abolished slavery, and the first and only president of the Confederate States of

America, Jefferson Davis. Abraham Lincoln was the President of the Union, and

Jefferson Davis struggled to lead the Confederacy to independence in the U.S.

Civil War. Lincoln was treasured by the African Americans and was considered an

earthly incarnation of the Savior of mankind (DeGregorio 20-25). On the other

hand, Davis was both admired and hated. Lincoln had a different view of how the

U.S. should be in abolishing slavery. Davis was a politician, president of the

Confederate States of America, and also a successful planter. He had beliefs

for the South to continue in the old ways with slavery and plantations. Both

Lincoln and Davis had strong feelings for the protection of their land (Arnold


Both Abraham and Jefferson Davis shared several differences and

similarities. Lincoln was known to have an easy going and joking type attitude.

In contrast, Davis had a temper such that when challenged, he simply could not

back down (DeGregorio 89). Davis had been a fire-eater before Abraham Lincoln’s

election, but the prospect of Civil War made him gloomy and depressed. Fifty-

three years old in 1861, he suffered from a variety of ailments such as fever,

neuralgia, and inflamed eye, poor digestion, insomnia, and stress. Lincoln also

suffered from illnesses during the war. He had severe cases of headaches and


Both presidents had a lot of pressure of them due to the fact of

defending their region. Lincoln had difficulties growing up because of the

deaths early in his childhood, poverty, and little education. Davis; however,

studied at a Roman Catholic school in Kentucky and at Transylvania University,

and entered West Point in 1824. Davis seemed to have had an outreaching

environment to his success. The major difference, personality wise, was Davis’s

weakness in his inability to get along with other people where Lincoln was a

well liked and easygoing man.

Both men shared a common bond in their education towards war. Davis

served at frontier military posts and in the Black Hawk War before resigning in

1835. Lincoln gained the respect of his fellow townspeople and was elected

captain of his company in the Black Hawk War. Lincoln started his political

career running unsuccessfully for the Illinois legislature in 1832. Tow years

later he was elected to the lower house for the first of four successive terms

as a Whig. Davis moved to Mississippi where he managed a plantation and studied.

In 1845, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat. He

soon had to leave due to the Mexican War. Wanting to be made the commander of

the Southern army, he was instead elected president of the Confederacy on

February 8, 1861. In 1860 Republicans nominated Lincoln for the presidency on a

platform of slavery restriction, internal improvements, homesteads, and tariff

reform. He took oath of office on March 4, 1861. The Civil War started after

Lincoln took oath, and the battle at Fort Sumpter occurred. The upper South had

not yet seceded and when Lincoln took action to defend Ft. Sumpter, the

Confederates opened fire starting the Civil War. The South, lead by Davis,

suffered due to his poor health, which didn’t make him an ideal chief executive.

Davis became increasingly unpopular as the war continued. Both President Davis

and President Lincoln still had to deal with Congress- in Davis’s case with a

weak one, in Lincoln’s case with a much stronger one (Eaton 160-163).

During the last year of the war, Jefferson Davis’s speeches were in fact

inspiring that spring of 1865. Davis was in poor health under the strain of war,

he changed noticeably. He developed a closed sphinx like personality. The

finally of the war happened at Appomattox. Lee, Davis’s army commander,

surrendered to Grant’s army under Lincoln. When Jefferson Davis heard about

Lee’s surrendered he wept, but refused to admit defeat. The combined Union and

Confederate casualties amounted to 33 to 40 percent of the forces involved. The

northerners had lost 359,000 dead, the Southerners, 258,000 (Canfield 85-87). At

the second inaugural, Lincoln summed up his attitude in the famous phrase “with

malice toward none, with charity for all.” Lincoln publically announced his

support for black suffrage. This act sparked, the evil, John Wilkes Booth to

take action on which he had been plotting for an attack against the president.

John Wilkes Booth was a prominent Shakespearean actor with militant Confederate

sympathies. He believed that most Americans hated Lincoln so adamantly that

they would hail his assassin as a national hero. He was aroused by the prospect

of votes for blacks, and he was determined to carry out his assassination scheme.

Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. on April 14, 1865. The

president died the next day (Sandburg 522).

Davis was a suspect in the murder of Lincoln. The Northerners, not

knowing of any details of the assassination, made him a suspect. Davis was

captured and became very unpopular in the Confederacy; he was called a despot.

But his cruel treatment as a prisoner by the U.S. Government made him a martyr

after a time and restored him to immerse popularity in the South (Eaton 490).

These men gave many positive historical contributions. Lincoln was

elected with the bipartisan support and was reelected as a Whig to three

successive terms, Lincoln supported a system of improved transportation for the

state and creation of a state bank. Whig Congressman Lincoln served on the post

Roads Committee and the War Department Expenditures Committee. Lincoln had

intense opposition to the extension of slavery into the territories which

prompted him to abandon the Whig party and join the new Republican Party in 1856.

Lincoln issue toward slavery grew stronger. Lincoln once quoted “There is no

reason in the world why the Negro is not entitled to all the natural rights

enumerated in the Declaration of Independence- the right to live, liberty, and

the pursuit of happiness.” Lincoln was elected as president and continued there

to contribute to the U.S. Soon the President would have his hands full with the

Civil War. Eleven states seceded from the Union in 1861 to form the Confederate

States of America. In September 1862 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation

Proclamation. Lincoln is praised for his excellence in leading the troops to

fight for the independence of slaves. The Civil War marked the end of slavery

forever. Lincoln ranked first of 31 presidents: best of the 5 “great”

presidents, he ranked above George Washington(DeGregorio 232-240).

No man in American history had to face heavier odds and greater

discouragement’s than Jefferson Davis. He had been called the man who

symbolized the solemn convictions and tragic fortunes of millions of men. The

people of the South didn’t agree with everything Davis believed, which made him

unpopular, but he won their respect and affection after the war through his

suffering in prison and through his lifelong defense of the Southern cause

(Canfield 129-131). In my opinion both Lincoln and Davis had an extreme impact

on American history. Lincoln had the largest problem in ending slavery. He, in

my opinion, had the greatest impact on America. In that harsh period of time,

being in favor for the black equality race was dangerous yet courageous.

Lincoln had have been one of the stronger presidents with all the difficulties

he ran into. The decisions were very critical and were thought out with extreme

care. By Lincoln serving as president, we prospered in many ways. His actions

brought about great challenges that he, and the following fathers of our country

would go through. The combining of both races and more freedoms would stir

troubles for many years to come. Although his actions stopped slavery, it

didn’t stop the harsh treatment of the black race which carried out for decades.

Lincoln’s Presidency was dominated by the war. The country was going through

major changes socially and economically. Though Davis led the South through

dramatic changes, no change has ever had more importance than the abolishment of

slavery. Both the North and the South gained knowledge from this horrid

experience of war. Lincoln’s achievements?saving the Union and freeing the

slaves?and his martyrdom just at the war’s end assured his continuing fame.

Both men have made their historical marks due to their great deeds, and ways

they both sacrificed their devotion to shape our country. I agree with most

historians that Lincoln had qualities that made him a great American statesman.

His keen intellect, humor and boldness, and compassion all contributed to his

presidency in unifying the nation and extending freedom.


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