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Introduction ( Part 1 of 10 )
Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809–April 15, 1865), sometimes called Abe Lincoln and nicknamed Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter, and the Great Emancipator, was the 16th (1861–1865) President of the United States, and the first president from the Republican Party. Lincoln staunchly opposed the expansion of slavery, and his election polarized the nation and soon led to the Civil War. During the war, Lincoln assumed more power than any previous president in U.S. history. Taking a broad view of the president's war powers, he proclaimed a blockade, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, spent money without congressional authorization, and personally directed the war effort, which ultimately led the Union forces to victory over the rebel Confederacy. Lincoln was an extremely deft politician who emerged as a wartime leader skilled at balancing competing considerations and adept at getting rival groups to work together toward a common goal. His leadership qualities were evident in his handling of the border slave states at the beginning of the fighting, in his defeat of a congressional attempt to reorganize his cabinet in 1862, and in his defusing of the peace issue in the 1864 presidential campaign. Lincoln had a lasting influence on U.S. political and social institutions. The most important was setting the precedent of sweeping executive powers in a time of national emergency. Lincoln was also the president who declared Thanksgiving as a national holiday, established the U.S. Department of Agriculture (though not as a Cabinet-level department), revived national banking and banks, and admitted West Virginia and Nevada as states. He also greatly encouraged the settling and development of the American West, signing the Homestead Act (1862). His assassination, shortly after the end of the Civil War, made him a martyr to millions of Americans. His reputation was forever sealed by the victory that he won, but without the tarnishing that could have resulted from the disorder of Reconstruction in the aftermath of the war. He is usually ranked as one of the greatest presidents.