Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War—its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional and political crisis. In so doing he preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the economy. Reared in a poor family on the western frontier, Lincoln was a self-educated lawyer in Illinois, a Whig Party leader, state legislator during the 1830s, and a one-term member of the Congress during the 1840s. He promoted rapid modernization of the economy through banks, canals, railroads and tariffs to encourage the building of factories; he opposed the war with Mexico in 1846. After a series of highly publicized debates in 1858, during which Lincoln spoke out against the expansion of slavery, he lost the U.S. Senate race to his archrival, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln, a moderate from a swing state,
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