Lincoln won an election to the state legislature in 1855, but declined the seat to try for a US Senate seat the next year. At that time, Senators were chosen by state legislatures, and Lincoln lost his bid.
Lincoln ran for the U.S. Senate seat held by Stephen Douglas in 1858.
In 1858 Lincoln and Douglas engaged in a series of seven debates throughout Illinois. The subject of each debate was slavery, specifically the issue of whether slavery should be allowed to spread to new territories and states. Lincoln lost the election, but the experience left him poised for greater things.
In 1830 Lincoln, who was 21, moved with his family to the town of New Salem, Illinois.
In 1832 Lincoln briefly served in the Black Hawk War. This would be his only military experience.
In Illinois, Lincoln tried a variety of occupations, including storekeeper.
A young woman Lincoln knew, Ann Rutledge, died in 1835, and stories persist that he was thrown into a deep depression over it. Historians still debate the relationship between Lincoln and Ann Rutledge.
Continuing to educate himself, he read law books and in 1836 he was admitted to the bar.
In 1837 he moved to Springfield, Illinois to take up a law practice.
Abraham Lincoln rose from humble roots to be President of the United States at a time of great national crisis. His journey was perhaps the classic American success story, and the road he took to the White House was not always easy or predictable.
This timeline illustrates some of the major events of Lincoln's life up to the 1850s, when his legendary debates with Stephen Douglas began to show his potential as a presidential candidate.
• 1630s: Abraham Lincoln's Ancestors Settle in America
Ancestors of Abraham Lincoln lived in Hingham, Norfolk, England. A local church, St. Andrew in Hingham, has an alcove with a bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln.
In 1637, with other residents of Hingham, England, Samuel Lincoln left home to settle in the new village of Hingham, Massachusetts.
Lincoln family members eventually moved from the northeast to Virginia, where Lincoln's father, Thomas, was born.
Thomas Lincoln came with his family to the Kentucky frontier as a boy.
Lincoln's mother was Mary Hanks. Little is known about her family or their roots, though the family is believed to be of English descent.
Thomas Lincoln was successful enough to buy his own small Kentucky farm in 1803.