President Lincoln, 1809-1865
The revered 16th President of the United States suffered from severe and incapacitating depressions. This condition occasionally led to thoughts of suicide, as documented in numerous biographies such ads by Carl Sandburg. He was taking a medication common at that time for depression, known as "Blue Mass," a compounded form of elemental mercury; it is thought that he suffered from mercury poisoning. He was "a brooding and often melancholy man."
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."
The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address which is now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C: "With malice toward none; with charity 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 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theater in Washington by John Wilkes Booth, an actor, who somehow thought he was helping the South.