3. Abraham Lincoln -- Created Equal
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
-- Abraham Lincoln (Gettysburg Address)
Abraham Lincoln took office as president of the United States in March 1861 to a nation deeply divided regarding the practice and idea of slavery. One month later, on April 12, 1861, Confederate soldiers attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, which began a four year civil war that cost over a half million American lives. In hindsight, it would appear that Lincoln was given two main objectives during his presidency: 1. Keep America from dismantling, and 2. Come to some resolution regarding the practice of slavery.
Having been an advocate for the abolishment of slavery for many years preceding his presidency, the solution to the second objective was obvious, yet risky -- free the slaves. Lincoln felt it was his Duty to free the slaves even though doing so would certainly make him marked for assasination attempts. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed 3 of the nation's 4 million slaves. In November, 1863 Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address which defended the freeing of the slaves by paraphrasing what the Declaration of Indepenence held true, "...that all men are created equal."
President Lincoln was assassinated in April, 1865 at Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate spy. His death may be viewed today as a reminder that Duty for one's country can carry with it a huge burden, but is often seen as a sacrifice for the greater good.
1. Featured Documents - The Emancipation Proclamation.
2. Transcript - The Gettysburg Address.
3. Biography - Abraham Lincoln.