The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7



FEBRUARY 18, 1861.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--I See you have erected a very fine and
handsome platform here for me, and I presume you expected me to speak
from it. If I should go upon it, you would imagine that I was about
to deliver you a much longer speech than I am. I wish you to
understand that I mean no discourtesy to you by thus declining. I
intend discourtesy to no one. But I wish you to understand that,
though I am unwilling to go upon this platform, you are not at
liberty to draw inferences concerning any other platform with which
my name has been or is connected. I wish you long life and
prosperity individually, and pray that with the perpetuity of those
institutions under which we have all so long lived and prospered, our
happiness may be secured, our future made brilliant, and the glorious
destiny of our country established forever. I bid you a kind


FEBRUARY 18, 1860

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--I have no speech to make to you; and no time
to speak in. I appear before you that I may see you, and that you
may see me; and I am willing to admit that so far as the ladies are
concerned I have the best of the bargain, though I wish it to be
understood that I do not make the same acknowledgment concerning the


FEBRUARY 18, 1861.

MR. MAYOR:--I can hardly appropriate to myself the flattering terms
in which you communicate the tender of this reception, as personal to
myself. I most gratefully accept the hospitalities tendered to me,
and will not detain you or the audience with any extended remarks at
this time. I presume that in the two or three courses through which
I shall have to go, I shall have to repeat somewhat, and I will
therefore only express to you my thanks for this kind reception.


FEBRUARY 18, 1861.

GOVERNOR MORGAN:--I was pleased to receive an invitation to visit the
capital of the great Empire State of this nation while on my way to
the Federal capital. I now thank you, Mr. Governor, and you, the
people of the capital of the State of New York, for this most hearty
and magnificent welcome. If I am not at fault, the great Empire
State at this time contains a larger population than did the whole of
the United States of America at the time they achieved their national
independence, and I was proud--to be invited to visit its capital, to
meet its citizens, as I now have the honor to do. I am notified by
your governor that this reception is tendered by citizens without
distinction of party. Because of this I accept it the more gladly.
In this country, and in any country where freedom of thought is
tolerated, citizens attach themselves to political parties. It is
but an ordinary degree of charity to attribute this act to the
supposition that, in thus attaching themselves to the various
parties, each man in his own judgment supposes he thereby best
advances the interests of the whole country. And when an election is
past it is altogether befitting a free people, as I suppose, that,
until the next election, they should be one people. The reception
you have extended me to-day is not given to me personally,--it should
not be so,--but as the representative, for the time being, of the
majority of the nation. If the election had fallen to any of the
more distinguished citizens who received the support of the people,
this same honor should have greeted him that greets me this day, in
testimony of the universal, unanimous devotion of the whole people to
the Constitution, the Union, and to the perpetual liberties of
succeeding generations in this country.

I have neither the voice nor the strength to address you at any
greater length. I beg you will therefore accept my most grateful
thanks for this manifest devotion--not to me, but the institutions of
this great and glorious country.


FEBRUARY 18, 1861.

NEW YORK:--It is with feelings of great diffidence, and, I may say,
with feelings of awe, perhaps greater than I have recently
experienced, that I meet you here in this place. The history of this
great State, the renown of those great men who have stood here, and
have spoken here, and have been heard here, all crowd around my
fancy, and incline me to shrink from any attempt to address you. Yet
I have some confidence given me by the generous manner in which you
have invited me, and by the still more generous manner in which you
have received me, to speak further. You have invited and received me
without distinction of party. I cannot for a moment suppose that
this has been done in any considerable degree with reference to my
personal services, but that it is done in so far as I am regarded, at
this time, as the representative of the majesty of this great nation.
I doubt not this is the truth, and the whole truth of the case, and
this is as it should be. It is much more gratifying to me that this
reception has been given to me as the elected representative of a
free people, than it could possibly be if tendered merely as an
evidence of devotion to me, or to any one man personally.

And now I think it were more fitting that I should close these hasty
remarks. It is true that, while I hold myself, without mock modesty,
the humblest of all individuals that have ever been elevated to the
Presidency, I have a more difficult task to perform than any one of

You have generously tendered me the support--the united support--of
the great Empire State. For this, in behalf of the nation--in behalf
of the present and future of the nation--in behalf of civil and
religious liberty for all time to come, most gratefully do I thank
you. I do not propose to enter into an explanation of any particular
line of policy, as to our present difficulties, to be adopted by the
incoming administration. I deem it just to you, to myself, to all,
that I should see everything, that I should hear everything, that I
should have every light that can be brought within my reach, in order
that, when I do so speak, I shall have enjoyed every opportunity to
take correct and true ground; and for this reason I do not propose to
speak at this time of the policy of the Government. But when the
time comes, I shall speak, as well as I am able, for the good of the
present and future of this country for the good both of the North and
of the South--for the good of the one and the other, and of all
sections of the country. In the meantime, if we have patience, if we
restrain ourselves, if we allow ourselves not to run off in a
passion, I still have confidence that the Almighty, the Maker of the
universe, will, through the instrumentality of this great and
intelligent people, bring us through this as He has through all the
other difficulties of our country. Relying on this, I again thank you
for this generous reception.


FEBRUARY 19, 1861

MR. MAYOR AND CITIZENS OF TROY:--I thank you very kindly for this
great reception. Since I left my home it has not been my fortune to
meet an assemblage more numerous and more orderly than this. I am
the more gratified at this mark of your regard since you assure me it
is tendered, not to the individual but to the high office you have
called me to fill. I have neither strength nor time to make any
extended remarks on this occasion, and I can only repeat to you my
sincere thanks for the kind reception you have thought proper to
extend to me.


FEBRUARY 19, 1861

FELLOW-CITIZENS:--It is altogether impossible I should make myself
heard by any considerable portion of this vast assemblage; but,
although I appear before you mainly for the purpose of seeing you,
and to let you see rather than hear me, I cannot refrain from saying
that I am highly gratified--as much here, indeed, under the
circumstances, as I have been anywhere on my route--to witness this
noble demonstration--made, not in honor of an individual, but of the
man who at this time humbly, but earnestly, represents the majesty of
the nation.

This reception, like all the others that have been tendered to me,
doubtless emanates from all the political parties, and not from one
alone. As such I accept it the more gratefully, since it indicates
an earnest desire on the part of the whole people, with out regard to
political differences, to save--not the country, because the country
will save itself but to save the institutions of the country, those
institutions under which, in the last three quarters of a century, we
have grown to a great, and intelligent, and a happy people--the
greatest, the most intelligent, and the happiest people in the world.
These noble manifestations indicate, with unerring certainty, that
the whole people are willing to make common cause for this object;
that if, as it ever must be, some have been successful in the recent
election and some have been beaten, if some are satisfied and some
are dissatisfied, the defeated party are not in favor of sinking the
ship, but are desirous of running it through the tempest in safety,
and willing, if they think the people have committed an error in
their verdict now, to wait in the hope of reversing it and setting it
right next time. I do not say that in the recent election the people
did the wisest thing, that could have been done--indeed, I do not
think they did; but I do say that in accepting the great trust
committed to me, which I do with a determination to endeavor to prove
worthy of it, I must rely upon you, upon the people of the whole
country, for support; and with their sustaining aid, even I, humble
as I am, cannot fail to carry the ship of state safely through the

I have now only to thank you warmly for your kind attendance, and bid
you all an affectionate farewell.


FEBRUARY 19, 1860

FELLOW-CITIZENS:--I see that you are providing a platform for me. I
shall have to decline standing upon it, because the president of the
company tells me that I shall not have time to wait until it is
brought to me. As I said yesterday, under similar circumstances at
another gathering, you must not draw the inference that I have any
intention of deserting any platform with which I have a legitimate
connection because I do not stand on yours. Allow me to thank you
for this splendid reception, and I now bid you farewell.

FEBRUARY 19, 1861

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--I have but a moment to stand before you to
listen to and return your kind greeting. I thank you for this
reception, and for the pleasant manner in which it is tendered to me
by our mutual friends. I will say in a single sentence, in regard to
the difficulties that lie before me and our beloved country, that if
I can only be as generously and unanimously sustained as the
demonstrations I have witnessed indicate I shall be, I shall not
fail; but without your sustaining hands I am sure that neither I nor
any other man can hope to surmount these difficulties. I trust that
in the course I shall pursue I shall be sustained not only by the
party that elected me, but by the patriotic people of the whole


FEBRUARY 19, 1861

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--I appear before you not to make a speech. I
have not sufficient time, if I had the strength, to repeat speeches
at every station where the people kindly gather to welcome me as we
go along. If I had the strength, and should take the time, I should
not get to Washington until after the inauguration, which you must be
aware would not fit exactly. That such an untoward event might not
transpire, I know you will readily forego any further remarks; and I
close by bidding you farewell.


FELLOW-CITIZENS:--I have stepped before you merely in compliance with
what appears to be your wish, and not with the purpose of making a
speech. I do not propose making a speech this afternoon. I could
not be heard by any but a small fraction of you, at best; but, what
is still worse than that, I have nothing just now to say that is
worthy of your hearing. I beg you to believe that I do not now
refuse to address you from any disposition to disoblige you, but to
the contrary. But, at the same time, I beg of you to excuse me for
the present.


FEBRUARY 19, 1861

Mr. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN:--I am rather an old man to avail myself
of such an excuse as I am now about to do. Yet the truth is so
distinct, and presses itself so distinctly upon me, that I cannot
well avoid it--and that is, that I did not understand when I was
brought into this room that I was to be brought here to make a
speech. It was not intimated to me that I was brought into the room
where Daniel Webster and Henry Clay had made speeches, and where one
in my position might be expected to do something like those men or
say something worthy of myself or my audience. I therefore beg you
to make allowance for the circumstances in which I have been by
surprise brought before you. Now I have been in the habit of
thinking and sometimes speaking upon political questions that have
for some years past agitated the country; and, if I were disposed to
do so, and we could take up some one of the issues, as the lawyers
call them, and I were called upon to make an argument about it to the
best of my ability, I could do so without much preparation. But that
is not what you desire to have done here to-night.

I have been occupying a position, since the Presidential election, of
silence--of avoiding public speaking, of avoiding public writing. I
have been doing so because I thought, upon full consideration, that
was the proper course for me to take. I am brought before you now,
and required to make a speech, when you all approve more than
anything else of the fact that I have been keeping silence. And now
it seems to me that the response you give to that remark ought to
justify me in closing just here. I have not kept silence since the
Presidential election from any party wantonness, or from any
indifference to the anxiety that pervades the minds of men about the
aspect of the political affairs of this country. I have kept silence
for the reason that I supposed it was peculiarly proper that I should
do so until the time came when, according to the custom of the
country, I could speak officially.

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