Abraham Lincoln, now one of our most revered presidents, was far from universally popular when he ran for the presidency in 1860. Many people, including some fellow Republicans, considered him an inexperienced country bumpkin. Opposition newspapers described him variously as “a third-rate backwoods lawyer,” “a man of few talents,” and “a fourth-rate lecturer who can’t speak good grammar.” The Democrats labeled him a “rail splitter,” a sneering reference to his early life as a farmer. They said, “We want a statesman, not a rail splitter, for president.” The attacks didn’t stop with Lincoln’s election. His enemies continued to fling insulting nicknames at him, such as Despot, Buffoon, Old Scoundrel, and Ignoramus Abe.

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