ABSTRACT

We do not know much about Abraham Lincoln’s early life, partly because he wanted it that way. When John Locke Scripps prepared a campaign biography in 1860, Lincoln would only tell him that his youth could be summed up in a few words from Thomas Gray’s Elegy, “the short and simple annals of the poor.”1 But we do know more than what the future president revealed then. Abraham Lincoln was born in central Kentucky on February 12, 1809. Thomas Jefferson was president, but only three weeks remained of his eight years in office. Jefferson would be succeeded by his protégé, James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, on March 4. The Union of Lincoln’s birth consisted of seventeen states plus large, sparsely populated territories not yet organized into states. Kentucky was one of four states (along with Vermont, Tennessee, and Ohio) admitted to the Union after the thirteen original states adopted the Constitution in 1787, which specified procedures for admitting new ones.