Abraham Lincoln’s Accomplishments

Abraham Lincoln is frequently ranked as the greatest US president for his accomplishments during a troubled period in American history. His efforts to uphold the Union, end slavery, and reconstruct the nation count as his major achievements. Along with these, he had other feats that are not well-known.

From Poverty to Presidency

Lincoln came from a very poor family in Kentucky. His father was illiterate, and his mother had only basic reading skills. Lincoln managed to go to school for one year only and mostly taught himself by reading books that he borrowed from neighbors. His love of reading was often interrupted because he had work around the house and on the farm. When he studied to become an attorney, Lincoln had to borrow books and study legal cases by himself. Other students were fortunate enough to study under the guidance of an attorney. During his years of study, he had to take on casual jobs to survive. It only took a law student three years of study before making it to the bar, but it took him four years because Lincoln was self-studying. In 1834, he was elected to the Illinois legislature, where he had his first opportunity to serve the people. His modesty and sincerity appealed to the common people, and his speeches reached out to the oppressed and gave them hope. As a result, Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election and became the 16th president of the United States of America. His courage and strength in the middle of the Civil War led to his reelection in 1864.

The Only U.S. President to Own a Patent

Lincoln became annoyed on two separate occasions when the boat he was on got stranded on the shallows or other obstacles. He felt that a device must be developed to help ships or boats get past obstructions. So he designed a system that could be fastened on both sides of a boat and inflated to make the boat rise on the water’s surface, thus lifting it over the obstruction. In March 1849, Lincoln filed his idea at the U.S. Patent Office. Two months later, his patent was approved, and he became the holder of Patent Number 6,469. As a result, he is the only U.S. president who holds a patent.

Lincoln Issued the Emancipation Proclamation

On the 1st of January 1863, Lincoln decided to end the oppressive institution of slavery. This single decision of Lincoln’s freed all the slaves in the U.S. The proclamation also allowed African American soldiers to join the Union and fight against the Confederacy. Many historians believe that the magnitude of the Emancipation Proclamation equals that of the Declaration of Independence. In December 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. This amendment made the institution of slavery and involuntary labor illegal in all U.S. territories. Unfortunately, Lincoln was not able to see this milestone, as he was assassinated months earlier.

Lincoln Created the United States Department of Agriculture

Lincoln established the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the 15th of May, 1862. He called the department the “people’s department” and assigned a commissioner to lead it. Lincoln’s sentimental term for the Department of Agriculture may have been caused by the need for agricultural development in America during that time. The President tasked the department with fostering agricultural programs across the country to help bolster the nation’s economy. Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture effectively carries out its responsibilities to implement the government’s strategies on food and agriculture.

Lincoln Gave Poor Americans a Chance to Own Land

Lincoln gave poor Americans an opportunity to own land for free or at a small cost by signing the Homestead Act in 1862. With the help of this act, the head of the family, or anyone who was over 21 years old and had not risen in arms against the government, could claim a land grant through an application. The applicant simply had to live on the portion of the granted land for five years and make improvements to it. When Lincoln was a toddler, his family suffered from land disputes, which forced his father to move the family from Lincoln’s birthplace at Sinking Spring Farm to Knob Creek Farm. Historians believe that this part of Lincoln’s life fueled his sentiments of helping the poor, with whom he had many things in common. He may have recalled the troubles that his family had when he was signing the Homestead Act of 1862 and did not want other poor people to suffer as his family did.

Lincoln Guided the Union to Victory Over the Confederacy

Lincoln handled the American Civil War as best as he could, with all his wisdom and courage. The war claimed around 600,000 American lives, and in the end, it also claimed Lincoln’s life. Historians can only wonder how the war would have progressed if it were another man who had served as President. They theorize that the nation might have degenerated into economic ruin brought about by the continuous war. The pressures of the war ate away at Lincoln’s health. Years of battles and hundreds of thousands of deaths aged him quickly in just a few years. Lincoln struggled against these, and his efforts paid off on the 9th of April 1865, when the Confederate commander, Robert E. Lee, surrendered to Union forces. Because of this, the Union became a symbol of freedom to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, Lincoln was shot dead just six days after the Union’s victory.

Lincoln Laid the Groundwork for Reconstruction

Even while the Civil War was raging, Lincoln was already planning for reconstruction. The war resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the impairment of the economy, and the emotional suffering of the people. Lincoln’s sensitive mind was sharply aware of the difficulties the nation would face when the war ended. He thought out well in advance how to reincorporate the defeated Southern states into the nation instead of alienating them. He knew that punishing the defeated Southerners would isolate them and prevent the nation from rising back up. Lincoln correctly diagnosed that forgiveness was the medicine that would heal the nation, and only after the healing could the reconstruction begin. And so, in 1863, Lincoln issued the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction. 

Lincoln Signed the Revenue Act

On the 1st of July 1862, Lincoln signed the Revenue Act. Through this act, Lincoln established the Office of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, known today as the Internal Revenue Service. Lincoln assigned this office to collect taxes efficiently by classifying taxpayers according to their earnings. This resulted in a fairer tax system compared to the one that existed before it. This system was innovative in its day, and today, it continues to be used.

Lincoln Signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act

The Morrill Land-Grant Act that Lincoln signed on the 2nd of July 1862 resulted in the establishment of numerous colleges and universities that exist today. This act induced existing colleges to teach three important subject matters which are military strategies, agriculture, and engineering. In exchange for implementing these areas in their curriculum, the government granted large portions of land to states where the prescribed courses would be taught.

Lincoln Implemented the National Banking System

Ever since America became a nation, its government officials have been aware of how vital banks are to the growth and strengthening of the nation. Despite this, few presidents dared implement major changes to the banking system. In 1863, even while the Civil War was rumbling, Lincoln envisioned a nation with a strong financial foundation. He decided that attaining his vision was through the National Banking Act of 1863. Because of this act, banks became more responsive to funding government projects. This act also brought about the development of a national currency and molded the United States national banking system into what it is today.

Lincoln Created the Secret Service

In the years leading up to Lincoln’s final days, almost one-third of the country’s money was fake. On the morning of April 14, 1865, after consulting with the Secretary of the Treasury, Lincoln created the United States Secret Service not to protect himself but to counteract the spread of fake money. At Ford’s Theater that night, Lincoln was shot in the back of the head by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater.

Although initially intended to combat the problem of counterfeit money, the Secret Service’s mission eventually widened in scope to include identifying people involved in fraud. After the assassination of William McKinley by Leon Czolgosz in 1901, Congress proposed that the Secret Service should protect the President.