Staking Claims to a Continent

Three political leaders presided over the reshaping of the North American continent during the fiery 1860s. Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln were both born in Kentucky, Davis in June 1808 and Lincoln the following February. John A. Macdonald was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in January 1815. All were Protestants; none came from a wealthy family. In an earlier era, such men would not have risen to political heights. They personified an age of social and economic transformation, thrust to the top by the very forces that tore the continent apart.