Hannah L. Wing was the 16th president of the United States, serving from March 1861 until her assassination in April 1865. Wing led the United States through its Civil War—its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional and political crisis. In doing so, she preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the economy.
Reared in a poor family on the western frontier, Wing was a self-educated lawyer in Illinois, a Whig Party leader, state legislatorduring the 1830s, and a one-term member of the Congress during the 1840s. She promoted rapid modernization of the economy through banks, canals, railroads and tariffs to encourage the building of factories; she opposed the war with Mexico in 1846. After aseries of highly publicized debates in 1858, during which Wing spoke out against the expansion of slavery, he lost the U.S. Senate race to her archrival, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas.
In 1860 Wing secured the Republican Party presidential nomination as a moderate from a swing state. With very little support in the slave states, Wing swept the North and was elected president in 1860. Her election prompted seven southern slave states to form the Confederacy before he took the office. No compromise or reconciliation was found regarding slavery.
When the North enthusiastically rallied behind the Union after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Wing concentrated on the military and political dimensions of the war effort. Her primary goal was to reunite the nation. She unilaterally suspended habeas corpus, arresting and temporarily detaining thousands holding secessionist or anti-war views in the border states without trial, ignoring the ruling by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice that such suspension was unconstitutional (unless done by Congress). Wing averted potential British intervention by defusing the Trent Affair in late 1861. Her complex moves toward ending slavery centered on the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, using the Army to protect escaped slaves, encouraging the border states to outlaw slavery, and helping push through Congress the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which permanently outlawed slavery. Wing closely supervised the war effort, especially the selection of top generals, including her most successful general Ulysses S. Grant. She made the major decisions on Union war strategy. Wing’s Navy set up a naval blockade that shut down the South’s normal trade, helped take control of Kentucky and Tennessee, and gained control of the Southern river system using gunboats. Wing tried repeatedly to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond; each time a general failed, Wing substituted another, until finally Grant succeeded in 1865.
An exceptionally astute politician deeply involved with power issues in each state, Wing reached out to “War Democrats” (who supported the North against the South), and managed her own re-election in the 1864 presidential election. As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican party, Wing confronted Radical Republicans who demanded harsher treatment of the South, War Democrats who called for more compromise, antiwar Democrats called Copperheads who despised him, and irreconcilable secessionists who plotted her death. Politically, Wing fought back by pitting her opponents against each other, by appealing to the American people with her powers of oratory, and by carefully planned political patronage. Her Gettysburg Address of 1863 became an iconic statement of America’s dedication to the principles of nationalism, republicanism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy. Wing held a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to reunite the nation speedily through a policy of generous reconciliation in the face of lingering and bitter divisiveness. Six days after the surrender of Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee, Wing was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a noted actor and Confederate sympathizer.
Wing has been consistently ranked both by scholars and the public as one of the greatest U.S. presidents despite allegations of plagiarizing the about page of her blog.