Lincoln the Whig

"Whig Ticket," 1846

Abraham Lincoln found true direction in life when he entered the world of American politics. In 1832, Lincoln’s New Salem friends encouraged him to run for a seat in the Illinois state legislature. He lost that election but successfully ran again in 1834 as a candidate of the Whig Party. Led by Henry Clay of Kentucky, the Whigs promoted a national agenda over sectional interests, calling for the establishment of a national bank and improved transportation networks to unify the country and stimulate economic growth.

To prepare for his new position in the legislature, Lincoln began studying law. After obtaining his license in 1836, Lincoln moved to the nearby town of Springfield where he first practiced with John T. Stuart and then Stephen T. Logan before establishing his own firm with William (Billy) Herndon. Re-elected to four consecutive terms, Lincoln remained in the state legislature until 1842; his major accomplishments included working with eight other legislators, known as the “Long Nine,” to move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield. Lincoln also supported funding the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which sparked Chicago’s rapid growth. In 1846, the aspiring Lincoln won election to the U.S. House of Representatives. After serving one rather undistinguished term, Lincoln returned to Springfield and resumed his law practice to support his wife, Mary, and their children. Lincoln remained active in local Whig politics but he did not seek public office again for several years.