Abraham Lincoln's Personality Traits

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  • 0:00 Lincoln's Personality
  • 0:31 Hardships, Grief, and…
  • 2:43 Lincoln's Sense of Humor
  • 3:38 Justice and Patriotism
  • 4:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Gina Nigro
You might know Abraham Lincoln as the president who freed the slaves, but do you know what he was like as a person? Complete this lesson to learn about Lincoln's grief, compassion, patriotism, and sense of humor.

Lincoln's Personality

Abraham Lincoln lived a life full of tragedy, and he wrote eloquently about the pain of losing loved ones. But, he also used ridiculous jokes and slapstick humor to lighten the mood. He was friendly to almost everyone and had endless compassion for people who were suffering but only got truly close to a few people. He was intensely patriotic and loved the Union very deeply. In this lesson, you'll learn more about these personality traits of America's sixteenth president.

Hardships, Grief, and Compassion

Even though he ended up as the president, Abraham Lincoln's life was hard. He grew up extremely poor and had to take charge of his own education. After he won the presidential election, Lincoln took office amid a national crisis and had to steer the nation through a wrenching civil war. Portraits of Lincoln before and after the war show how much he aged in just four years.

He also faced multiple personal tragedies. His mother died when he was a young boy. With his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, he had four sons: Robert, Edward, Willie, and Tad. Two of them, Edward and Willie, died as children while their father was still alive. The grief of losing their two sons hit Lincoln and his wife hard. Understandably, Lincoln was unhappy a lot of the time; some later historians have even diagnosed him with depression, but people at the time wouldn't have called it that. Depression, as a disease, wasn't a medical diagnosis yet, and considering how hard Lincoln's life was, it doesn't seem like he would need to have any kind of mental illness to be sad a lot of the time.

Lincoln's own grief left him with an enormous amount of compassion for other people. Even though he had to send many men to their deaths during the Civil War, he felt deeply for their families. To one grieving mother who had lost five sons in the Civil War, he wrote:

'I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.'

After one of his friends died, while Lincoln was still grieving the lose of his friend, he wrote this letter to comfort the dead man's daughter:

'It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. . .'

Lincoln's own experience of grief made him compassionate towards other people.

Lincoln's Sense of Humor

Amazingly enough, even though he had such a hard life, Abraham Lincoln had a pretty active sense of humor. He liked to put visitors to the White House at ease by telling jokes. During the Civil War, when his cabinet refused to laugh at his jokes, Lincoln once said he would die if he didn't laugh, describing humor as medicine against the gloom of war. A member of Congress who spent a lot of time around Lincoln, described Lincoln's humor as his great solace and safeguard in seasons of severe mental depression.

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