It’s almost impossible to imagine what the United States might look like today if Abraham Lincoln hadn’t been elected president in 1860.
It probably would have become two separate nations, or territories gobbled up by foreign powers if there had not been a president with Lincoln’s iron will to keep the Union together no matter what the cost.
It’s difficult to grasp how vehemently many people, even in the north, objected to the Civil War and blamed Lincoln for its bloody battles. Opponents of President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq seem tame by comparison. But Lincoln refused to quit and, with later victories by generals such as Ulysses S. Grant, restored support to continue the war until the Confederacy surrendered.
There would have been no Emancipation Proclamation if the man born 200 years ago today in Kentucky had not become president — no order leading to freedom for the enslaved African- Americans of this country. Slavery probably would have eventually ended as technology made it economically infeasible, but it would have lasted far longer and expanded farther into the West before that happened.
But Lincoln was elected in 1860 and again in 1864. The union held together and slavery was abolished.
If Lincoln had not been assassinated in 1865, Reconstruction in the south would almost certainly have been less punitive than it was, and racial equity probably would have come sooner.
The United States has hardly been a perfect country. But it would have been far worse without Lincoln. That’s reason enough to pay special attention to the 200th anniversary of his birth.