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What sort of laws did he pass as a legislator in Illinois?

      -Bruce Breuninger, Park Vista High School, Lake Worth, FL

Along with his efforts to get the state capital moved from Vandalia to Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln focused primarily on legislation related to "internal improvements" or laws that helped promote the development of canals, railroads, and other infrastructure that would help promote commerce.

Timothy P. Townsend
Lincoln Home National Historic Site

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 I would like to know how many elections Abraham Lincoln lost before he won the Presidential election.

            -Carson T.

Lincoln only lost one direct election, his first, in 1832, at the age of twenty-three, when he finished eighth out of thirteen candidates in a contest for state legislator in Illinois (the top four vote-getters received election to office).  Lincoln did famously “ lose” two U.S. senate contests (1855 and 1859) but elections for senator in those days were held in state legislatures and not by popular vote, so they represented party defeats more than personal setbacks.  This view of Lincoln’s political career is not widely held.  Many people believe Lincoln suffered all kinds of defeats.  Yet when he wrote an autobiographical sketch for his presidential campaign December 20, 1859, he noted proudly that his defeat in 1832 was “the only time I ever have been beaten by the people.”

Dr. Matthew Pinsker
Dickinson College

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How much of Lincoln's change from moderate centrist Republican to radical liberal abolitionist was due to ideals and how much was politically motivated?

            -Nathan K., High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Bronx, NY

Nobody can answer a question about motivations with certainty, but most scholars agree that Lincoln ’s evolution on the question of when and how to abolish slavery was caused mainly by the war and the shifting circumstances that made him feel it was essential to the survival of the nation to risk a bold gamble for black freedom.  He was always anti-slavery, but the particular conditions of the war by mid-1862 convinced him that he was also legally justified in emancipating slaves both as a measure of military necessity and as “ an act of justice” to an oppressed people, as the final proclamation put it.

Dr. Matthew Pinsker
Dickinson College