The story of Abraham Lincoln, from his early days in backwoods Kentucky to his election as the 16th President of the United States. After running livestock to New Orleans, Abe Lincoln settles in New Salem where he falls in love with Ann Rutledge (Mary Howard) and eventually becomes the postmaster. His popularity with the locals leads to him running for and being successfully elected to the State legislature but his victory is overshadowed by Ann's death. Overcome by a sense of doom and a lack of ambition, Lincoln leaves the legislature after his first term and returns to practising law. However, a fateful meeting with Mary Todd (Ruth Gordon), an extremely ambitious woman, changes the course of Abe's life and of Americas destiny. By entering politics again Lincoln knows that his taking of a stand on slavery will mean the dissolution of the Union. In a series of electrifying debates with Stephen Douglas (Gene Lockhart), Lincoln is catapulted into the national consciousness of political America and leaves Illinois for Washington, never to return.