Adapted from Robert Sherwood's play, a sad Lincoln reluctantly enters politics and marriage as his destiny draws him onward.
In 1831 Abraham Lincoln reads Shakespeare and argues with his father. His mother encourages him to follow the Bible, and he leaves on a flat-boat. Lincoln meets Ann Rutledge (Mary Howard) in New Salem. When Jack Armstrong (Howard Da Silva) takes liquor from her tavern, Ann asks for help. Lincoln wrestles Armstrong and wins. Lincoln works in a store and gets it with its $1500 debt. Lincoln studies grammar and is elected captain in the Black Hawk War. Lincoln is postmaster and is urged to run as a Whig. Lincoln tells Ann that he loves her, but she has been jilted and faints at a dance. On Election Day Lincoln speaks and then comforts dying Ann. Lincoln tells Stephen Douglas (Gene Lockhart) he is leaving the legislature to practice law. Lincoln warns Billy Herndon (Alan Baxter) about drinking. Lincoln meets Mary Todd (Ruth Gordon). Her sister Elizabeth objects to Mary marrying Lincoln. Douglas drinks before the wedding. Joshua Speed (Minor Watson) burns Lincoln's letter to Mary. Lincoln says he hates her ambition. Herndon urges him to fight the evil of slavery.
Lincoln goes away to be alone and comes back to Mary, asking her to be his wife. Lincoln goes to Congress, and slavery causes conflicts. John Brown is arrested at Harper's Ferry by Robert E. Lee (unchronologically). Senator Douglas learns that Lincoln is running against him. In their debate Douglas says he supports the right of states to have slavery or not. Lincoln speaks for human equality and freedom over property rights. Lincoln suggests they encourage freedom but cannot do so half slave and half free. Lincoln becomes famous. At home Mary nags Lincoln, who is considered for the Presidency. Crimmin (Roger Imhof) says that Lincoln is a slick politician and believes they will be able to control him. On Election Day Mary is upset, because Douglas is ahead. Lincoln alone with Mary reprimands her and sends her home. Lincoln is assured that he will win, but he calls it the dirtiest campaign. Herndon says the southern states will secede. They learn that Lincoln won New York and the election. Soldiers protect Lincoln. Before leaving Springfield, a bearded Lincoln speaks from the train, saying the Union is held together by liberty and democracy. He hopes it will endure and says farewell.
This portrait of a melancholy Lincoln during his years
in Illinois shows him being passively swept along by those around
him who admire his humor and skills in human relations. He shows
he can overcome a bully by wrestling but often speaks as a pacifist,
who cannot even kill a deer. His dark feelings forebode his presiding
over a bloody war and his own assassination.