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Contents > Author > Abraham Lincoln > Autobiographical Statement, Dec. 20, 1859 1809- 1865
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Abraham Lincoln
Autobiographical Statement, Dec. 20, 1859
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I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents
were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families--second
families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth
year, was of a family of the name of Hanks, some of whom now
reside in Adams, and others in Macon counties, Illinois. My paternal
grandfather, Abraham Lincoln, emigrated from Rockingham County,
Virginia, to Kentucky, about 1781 or 2, where, a year or two later,
he was killed by indians, not in battle, but by stealth, when he
was laboring to open a farm in the forest. His ancestors, who were
quakers, went to Virginia from Berks County, Pennsylvania. An effort
to identify them with the New-England family of the same name
ended in nothing more definite, than a similarity of Christian names
in both families, such as Enoch, Levi, Mordecai, Solomon, Abraham,
and the like.

My father, at the death of his father, was but six years of age; and
he grew up, literally without education. He removed from Kentucky
to what is now Spencer county, Indiana, in my eighth year. We
reached our new home about the time the State came in the Union.
It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in
the woods. There I grew up. There were some schools, so called;
but no qualification was ever required of a teacher, beyond "readin,
writin, and cipherin," to the Rule of Three. If a straggler supposed
to understand latin, happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he
was looked upon as a wizzard. There was absolutely nothing to
excite ambition for education. Of course when I came of age I did
not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher to the
Rule of Three; but that was all. I have not been to school since. The
little advance I now have upon this store of education, I have picked
up from time to time under the pressure of necessity.

I was raised to farm work, which I continued till I was twenty two.
At twenty one I came to Illinois, and passed the first year in Illinois -
Macon county. Then I got to New-Salem, (at that time in Sangamon,
now in Menard county), where I remained a year as a sort of Clerk
in a store. Then came the Black-Hawk war; and I was elected a
Captain of Volunteers - a success which gave me more pleasure
than any I have had since. I went the campaign, was elated, ran
for the Legislature the same year (1832) and was beaten - the only
time I have been beaten by the people. The next, and three
succeeding biennial elections, I was elected to the Legislature. I
was not a candidate afterwards. During this Legislative period I
had studied law, and removed to Springfield to practice it. In 1846
I was once elected to the lower House of Congress. Was not a
candidate for re-election. From 1849 to 1854, both inclusive,
practiced law more assiduously than ever before. Always a whig
in politics, and generally on the whig electoral tickets, making
active canvasses. I was losing interest in politics, when the repeal
of the Missouri Compromise aroused me again. What I have done
since then is pretty well known.

If any personal description of me is thought desirable, it may be
said, I am, in height, six feet, four inches, nearly; lean in flesh,
weighing, on an average, one hundred and eighty pounds; dark
complexion, with coarse black hair, and grey eyes - no other marks
or brands recollected. Yours very truly,

A. Lincoln.

(December 20, 1859)

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