You are on page 1of 11

AY R O S O | 1

A Comparison of Two Great American Presidents;

Abraham Lincoln and George Washington

A Research Paper
Submitted to the
Faculty of Arts and Letters
University of Santo Tomas

In Partial Fulfillment
Of the requirements for the degree
Bachelor of Arts in History

Raymond Justin Ayroso
November 25, 2016

AY R O S O | 2

A Comparison of Two Great American Presidents;

Abraham Lincoln and George Washington


The United States was founded in the year 1776 when 13 colonies declared their
independence from Great Britain. They fought the British in the American Revolutionary war
and eventually won their Independence from Great Britain. George Washington was elected the
1st President of the United States in 1789 and was inaugurated later that year in April 20.
Washington served as president until March 4, 1797 when he was succeeded by John Adams.
Abraham Lincoln was born in the state of Kentucky in the year 1808. He was elected president in
1860 when the nation was deeply divided by slavery and his election caused South Carolina and
other southern states to secede from the Union igniting the American Civil War however Lincoln
managed to resolve the crisis but was assassinated on April 14, 1865 by an actor named John
Wilkes Booth. The researcher chose to compare Washington and Lincoln because these two were
the most famous presidents in American History with enduring legacies and a huge impact on
American Popular Culture.

AY R O S O | 3


The significance of this work lies in the novelty in the attempt to present a
comprehensive study of the comparison of two of the greatest presidents of the United States of
America though a many write-ups exist, the researchers have not delved into the subject to a
greater extent. In highlighting the, this study becomes a significant undertaking and for further
studies on the subject.

In writing this study the researcher employed the historical method by using the
analytical, descriptive, and narrative techniques in research. The gathered data were analyzed to
affirm their validity, accuracy, and relevance, in this way the narration presents accurate and
properly interpreted and contextualized data. It made use of sources such as books, biographies,
and online sources were gathered regarding the life of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington
as American Presidents of their time.

AY R O S O | 4


The study covers the life of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington up to the time of
their death. Within their biographies lies the focus of the study of what is their contribution to the
America and to determine of who was the better president.


As what have been emphasized in the Methodology, the facts that would serve as the
foundation of this study will come from several books, news articles, journals and online
websites which can be a best source of information that are essential in research.
History is the study of the past aiming to understand the present in order to be prepared
for the future. In the light of this study, presented here are books that tackle American History
especially the life of Lincoln and Washington, which is going to be the same thrust of this study.
Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. Print.
*insert brief description of the book
Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. London:
Penguin, 2009. Print.
*insert brief description of the book

Ellis, Joseph J. George Washington: His Excellency. London: Folo, 2008. Print.
*insert brief description of the book

AY R O S O | 5

Chernow, Ron. Washington: A Life. New York: Penguin, 2010. Print.

*insert brief description of the book

A Short History of the United States: From the Arrival of Native American Tribes to the
Obama Presidency by Robert V. Remini

*insert brief description of the book

Washington and Lincoln were both unquestionably great presidents though the difference on how
they handled their administrations is the circumstances they were in. Washington was made
president of a country that was still in its infancy and all he had to do was simply find a way to
keep it lasting. Lincoln on the other was put in charge of a country that was effectively on the
verge of collapsing due to the Civil War. Lincoln successfully guided his country in a very
difficult situation while Washington had an easier situation. Lincoln was better because of his
handling of a very difficult crisis.

Abraham Lincoln

AY R O S O | 6

Lincoln warned the South in his Inaugural Address: "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow
countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail
you.... You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the
most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it."

Lincoln thought secession illegal, and was willing to use force to defend Federal law and the
Union. When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter and forced its surrender, he called on
the states for 75,000 volunteers. Four more slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained
within the Union. The Civil War had begun.

The son of a Kentucky frontiersman, Lincoln had to struggle for a living and for learning. Five
months before receiving his party's nomination for President, he sketched his life:

"I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia,
of undistinguished families--second families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my
tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks.... My father ... removed from Kentucky to ...
Indiana, in my eighth year.... It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in
the woods. There I grew up.... Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still
somehow, I could read, write, and cipher ... but that was all."

Lincoln made extraordinary efforts to attain knowledge while working on a farm, splitting rails
for fences, and keeping store at New Salem, Illinois. He was a captain in the Black Hawk War,

AY R O S O | 7

spent eight years in the Illinois legislature, and rode the circuit of courts for many years. His law
partner said of him, "His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest."

He married Mary Todd, and they had four boys, only one of whom lived to maturity. In 1858
Lincoln ran against Stephen A. Douglas for Senator. He lost the election, but in debating with
Douglas he gained a national reputation that won him the Republican nomination for President in

As President, he built the Republican Party into a strong national organization. Further, he rallied
most of the northern Democrats to the Union cause. On January 1, 1863, he issued the
Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy.

Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated
most movingly in dedicating the military cemetery at Gettysburg: "that we here highly resolve
that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of
freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from
the earth."

Lincoln won re-election in 1864, as Union military triumphs heralded an end to the war. In his
planning for peace, the President was flexible and generous, encouraging Southerners to lay
down their arms and join speedily in reunion.

The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address, now inscribed on
one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.: "With malice toward none; with charity

AY R O S O | 8

for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the
work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds.... "

On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington by
John Wilkes Booth, an actor, who somehow thought he was helping the South. The opposite was
the result, for with Lincoln's death, the possibility of peace with magnanimity died.

George Washington

On April 30, 1789, George Washington, standing on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in
New York, took his oath of office as the first President of the United States. "As the first of
everything, in our situation will serve to establish a Precedent," he wrote James Madison, "it is
devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles."
Born in 1732 into a Virginia planter family, he learned the morals, manners, and body of
knowledge requisite for an 18th century Virginia gentleman.
He pursued two intertwined interests: military arts and western expansion. At 16 he helped
survey Shenandoah lands for Thomas, Lord Fairfax. Commissioned a lieutenant colonel in 1754,
he fought the first skirmishes of what grew into the French and Indian War. The next year, as an
aide to Gen. Edward Braddock, he escaped injury although four bullets ripped his coat and two
horses were shot from under him.

From 1759 to the outbreak of the American Revolution, Washington managed his lands around
Mount Vernon and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses. Married to a widow, Martha

AY R O S O | 9

Dandridge Custis, he devoted himself to a busy and happy life. But like his fellow planters,
Washington felt himself exploited by British merchants and hampered by British regulations. As
the quarrel with the mother country grew acute, he moderately but firmly voiced his resistance to
the restrictions.
When the Second Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia in May 1775, Washington,
one of the Virginia delegates, was elected Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. On July
3, 1775, at Cambridge, Massachusetts, he took command of his ill-trained troops and embarked
upon a war that was to last six grueling years.
He realized early that the best strategy was to harass the British. He reported to Congress, "we
should on all Occasions avoid a general Action, or put anything to the Risque, unless compelled
by a necessity, into which we ought never to be drawn." Ensuing battles saw him fall back
slowly, then strike unexpectedly. Finally in 1781 with the aid of French allies--he forced the
surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.
Washington longed to retire to his fields at Mount Vernon. But he soon realized that the Nation
under its Articles of Confederation was not functioning well, so he became a prime mover in the
steps leading to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. When the new
Constitution was ratified, the Electoral College unanimously elected Washington President.

He did not infringe upon the policy making powers that he felt the Constitution gave Congress.
But the determination of foreign policy became preponderantly a Presidential concern. When the
French Revolution led to a major war between France and England, Washington refused to
accept entirely the recommendations of either his Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who was

A Y R O S O | 10

pro-French, or his Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who was pro-British. Rather,
he insisted upon a neutral course until the United States could grow stronger.
To his disappointment, two parties were developing by the end of his first term. Wearied of
politics, feeling old, he retired at the end of his second. In his Farewell Address, he urged his
countrymen to forswear excessive party spirit and geographical distinctions. In foreign affairs, he
warned against long-term alliances.
Washington enjoyed less than three years of retirement at Mount Vernon, for he died of a throat
infection December 14, 1799. For months the Nation mourned him.


Abraham Lincoln I would say was an even better president than George Washington in fact he is
the greatest president. Scholars almost always rank Abraham Lincoln as number 1 while
Washington is usually ranked at number 2 or number 3. Washington had an easier time as
president but Lincoln had to manage a crisis as severe as the American Civil War. Most leaders
whose countries end up in a civil war end up losing but Lincoln won his Civil War and
Americans today remember him in high regard.

A Y R O S O | 11

Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. Print.
Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. London:
Penguin, 2009. Print.
Ellis, Joseph J. George Washington: His Excellency. London: Folo, 2008. Print.
Chernow, Ron. Washington: A Life. New York: Penguin, 2010. Print.
A Short History of the United States: From the Arrival of Native American Tribes to the Obama
Presidency by Robert V. Remini