Lincoln's early life typified experiences shared by millions of northerners.
Lincoln's family moved west from Kentucky to Indiana in 1816, partly,
he later said, "on account of slavery." In 1830 Lincoln moved further
west, settling in New Salem, Illinois, where he worked as a general
store clerk. Two years later he volunteered for the Illinois militia
in the Black Hawk War, but saw no action.
ambitious men in the 1830s, Lincoln entered politics. He served as a
Whig member of the Illinois legislature (1834-42), campaigned actively
for his party's presidential candidates, and won a single term in Congress
Brady National Photographic Art Gallery (Washington, D.C.), photographer. "Abraham Lincoln, three-quarter length portrait, standing, facing left." 1864 January 8. Selected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865, Library of Congress.
office in 1848, Lincoln earned his livelihood from an increasingly successful
law practice. By the 1850s, the self-educated Lincoln was one of Illinois's
most prominent attorneys. He represented, among other clients, the powerful
Illinois Central Railroad.
believed his life exemplified the virtues of the North's free labor
system. In the South, laborers were "fatally fixed in that condition
of life," but in the North, he declared, opportunities for "advancement,
improvement in condition," and economic independence existed for everyone.