On 12 February 1809, future president Abraham Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Growing up in a poor family in Kentucky and Indiana, he only attended school for one year. However, he was determined to improve his mind and read books to increase his knowledge. As an adult in Illinois, he held a number of jobs from postmaster to shopkeeper before entering politics by serving in the Illinois legislature from 1834-1842. He then served in Congress from 1847-1849. He married Mary Todd in 1842 and had four sons by him.
During the 1850’s he returned to politics and was an important leader in the new Republican Party. Slavery had been a major issue especially when new states or territories were being added. Though not an advocate for slavery, he sought to avoid conflict by limiting the expansion of slavery into new states but allowing it to remain where it was already practiced. The secessionist movement though was rising, and he argued that such a division would divide them and destroy the union created in the formation of the United States.
His oratory won him praises and recognition of his status as a leader. And it helped to cool the secessionists for a time. Though he did not seek the abolition of slavery in the South, when he was elected president in 1860 many states began seceding and war would soon commence between the United States and the Confederate States of America. Lincoln became fully committed as a result to the abolition of slavery. He would sign the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 that freed slaves in the Confederate States. It did not apply right away to the entire nation (which was resolved by the 13th Amendment that outlawed for the entire nation).
Lincoln was known for his dry wit, his impressive stature at 6′ 4, and he also loved animals as well. During his time in the Whist House there were a variety of pets that included a pet turkey and a goat. His humor hid from people his depression at times as to what was going on with the war. He was plagued early on with military defeats and some generals who were more used to parade grounds than actually conducting military operations. Pro-Confederacy newspapers mocked him mercilessly. And Confederate sympathizers called him a despot for signing the Emancipation Proclamation. He was killed after the wars end by John Wilkes Booth on 14 April 1865. His favorite horse, Old Bob, was part of the funeral procession.
He is remembered as the Great Emancipator for under his presidency the United States fought to abolish slavery. While many criticize him for his moderate views in his early years, he became totally committed to its abolition during the war. While the 13th Amendment was passed by Congress before his assassination, it was not formally ratified by the states until December 1865.
In the aftermath of the American Civil War, several amendments to the U.S. Constitution were needed to correct several important issues. The first was slavery which was outlawed by the 13th Amendment. Another question was about who qualifies as a citizen under the law. It may seem obvious now, but a clear and concise definition was not in the Constitution. Without such a definition, a state could pass a law that would declare person or a group of people as non-citizens on their own. Some laws already existed in the South that severely limited or completely denied African Americans citizenship. Some newly readmitted Confederate states enacted laws that severely restricted their legal rights, angering Northern states.
President Andrew Johnson, who had succeeded Lincoln after his assassination, supported emancipation but as a former slaveowner, did not support the 13th (Congress overturned his veto) and likewise did so on the 14th as well. The 14thamendment not only granted full citizenship to the former slaves, but it also rescinded the three-fifths rule of those enslaved for congressional representation. Now every person counted in determining congressional representation rather trying to make fractions out of people. Everyone age 21 and over was granted the right to vote as well. The amendment had enforcement provisions in it as well if a state chose to ignore the law and impose laws contrary to it. Confederate states had to approve both the 13th and 14th Amendments to rejoin the United States.
When Louisiana and South Carolina ratified the amendment on 9 Jul 1868, that gave it the necessary three-fourths majority to ratify. It was then sent back to Congress for formal certification and became law on 28 Jul 1868. Due to Jim Crow Laws, which many Southern states enacted to make it difficult to vote, those laws would have to be addressed by later court decisions and federal laws. Segregation, where blacks and whites could have separate but equal facilities, was made constitutional in 1897 in Plessy vs. Ferguson. It was overturned by the 1954 case Brown vs Board of Educationending segregation.
On 15 September 1858 transcontinental mail service between St. Louis, Missouri and San Francisco, CA began when the Overland Mail Company sent out its first stages. Under contract with the U.S. Postal Department, it would transport mail twice a week between those two points in 25 days. It avoided the slow ocean voyage and promised quicker transport of mail between east and west. Although subsidized by a $600,000 by the federal government, Overland Mail Company would spend over a million dollars establishing way stations (10-20 mile intervals) and improving the 2,800 mile route.
Custom-built stages driven by teams of horses soon were racing across the open spaces of the West. They carried more than mail with passengers willing to spend 25 days in carriage that was hardly comfortable. Way stations along the way provided some comfort but pricey. And if you got off the stage at a way station, there was a possibility the stage might take off with out you. In that case you were stranded until the next one arrived but if it was full it might be a while for the next one as well. Aside from the dust that was ever present, there were no comforts and the coach ran night and day. Toilets were few and far between (as were places to wash off the dust). Then there were other problems as well. Coaches were targets for robbers and even the occasional Indian attack making it sometimes a risky proposition. Add to it that some stage drivers were not always sober making the ride more uncomfortable. Some of the routes connected states like Alabama to California through Texas.
In 1860 Overland Mail was taken over by Wells Fargo that operated the Pony Express mail service and other operations. With the Civil War looming, the Overland would be forced to change its route by an Act of Congress. Its contract with the government would end in March 1861. During the war, many of the West and Southwest and stations would be become targets of either the Union or Confederacy to prevent their use by the other side. Wells Fargo would resume stagecoach transcontinental service but it would end on 10 May 1869 when the transcontinental railroad was completed. Local stagecoach service though would continue on (to ferry people, cargo, and mail away from trains) until the advent of the automobile. Today there is an effort underway to preserve the transcontinental route as a heritage trail.