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braham Lincoln is probably the best-known, yet least understood American president. Even his intimate friends were puzzled by the brooding  lawyer and statesman who turned aside questions about his early life--and whose frontier origins were first parodied and then mythologized.

      Lincoln was arguably the most eloquent chief executive, yet his formal education amounted to only a few months. Elected in 1860 as a compromise candidate, Lincoln bore the weight of personal tragedy and the burden of civil war through his presidency. He secured emancipation of an oppressed race, preserved the union, and inaugurated "a new birth of freedom" to a republic reaching to the Pacific, before falling to a assassin just months after his reelection.

      Yet the character of the "Great Emancipator" was forged not in wartime Washington, DC but in the forgotten homesteads of the Kentucky and Indiana frontier. Lincoln was twenty one when he arrived in the short-lived settlement of New Salem in central Illinois. Another eight years would pass before he migrated to the new capital at Springfield and emerged as a preeminent trial lawyer and politician.

      This series explores the formative years of Abraham Lincoln. It is a personal journey following in the youthful Lincoln's footsteps. The physical environment that nurtured the future president is surprisingly intact. What impressions of the world drawn these rural settings engendered Lincolnís compassion for suffering, his reverence for the ideals of Americaís founding, and his supreme effort to raise himself above his contemporaries?

      The English statesman William Gladstone saw in Lincoln "evidence of a moral elevation most rare in a statesman, or indeed in any man." The America of Lincolnís youth may have passed, but Abraham Lincolnís rise from the humblest origins to the presidency is among the greatest character studies known to history.

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