The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

It is very strange that such things should be said by any one. The
gentleman you mention did speak to me of Mr. Greeley in connection
with the senatorial election, and I replied in terms of kindness
toward Mr. Greeley, which I really feel, but always with an expressed
protest that my name must not be used in the senatorial election in
favor of or against any one. Any other representation of me is a

As to the matter of dispensing patronage, it perhaps will surprise
you to learn that I have information that you claim to have my
authority to arrange that matter in New York. I do not believe you
have so claimed; but still so some men say. On that subject you know
all I have said to you is “justice to all,” and I have said nothing
more particular to any one. I say this to reassure you that I have
not changed my position.

In the hope, however, that you will not use my name in the matter, I

Yours truly,


FEBRUARY 11, 1861

MY FRIENDS:–One who has never been placed in a like position cannot
understand my feelings at this hour, nor the oppressive sadness I
feel at this parting. For more than twenty-five years I have lived
among you, and during all that time I have received nothing but
kindness at your hands. Here the most cherished ties of earth were
assumed. Here my children were born, and here one of them lies
buried. To you, my friends, I owe all that I have, all that I am.
All the strange checkered past seems to crowd upon my mind. To-day I
leave you. I go to assume a task more difficult than that which
devolved upon General Washington. Unless the great God who assisted
him shall be with and aid me I cannot prevail; but if the same
almighty arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support
me I shall not fail; I shall succeed. Let us pray that the God of
our fathers may not forsake us now. To Him I commend you all.
Permit me to ask that with equal sincerity and faith you will all
invoke His wisdom and goodness for me.

With these words I must leave you; for how long I know not. Friends,
one and all, I must now wish you an affectionate farewell.


I am leaving you on an errand of national importance, attended, as
you are aware, with considerable difficulties. Let us believe, as
some poet has expressed it, “Behind the cloud the sun is still
shining.” I bid you an affectionate farewell.




Most heartily do I thank you for this magnificent reception, and
while I cannot take to myself any share of the compliment thus paid,
more than that which pertains to a mere instrument, an accidental
instrument, perhaps I should say, of a great cause, I yet must look
upon it as a most magnificent reception, and as such most heartily do
thank you for it. You have been pleased to address yourself to me
chiefly in behalf of this glorious Union in which we live, in all of
which you have my hearty sympathy, and, as far as may be within my
power, will have, one and inseparable, my hearty consideration.
While I do not expect, upon this occasion, or until I get to
Washington, to attempt any lengthy speech, I will only say to the
salvation of the Union there needs but one single thing–the hearts
of a people like yours.

The people–when they rise in mass in behalf of the Union and the
liberties of their country, truly may it be said, “The gates of hell
cannot prevail against them.” In all trying positions in which I
shall be
placed–and, doubtless, I shall be placed in many such–my reliance
will be placed upon you and the people of the United States; and I
wish you to remember, now and forever, that it is your business, and
not mine; that if the union of these States and the liberties of this
people shall be lost, it is but little to any one man of fifty-two
years of age, but a great deal to the thirty millions of people who
inhabit these United States, and to their posterity in all coming
time. It is your business to rise up and preserve the Union and
liberty for yourselves, and not for me.

I desire they should be constitutionally performed. I, as already
intimated, am but an accidental instrument, temporary, and to serve
but for a limited time; and I appeal to you again to constantly bear
in mind that with you, and not with politicians, not with Presidents,
not with office-seekers, but with you is the question, Shall the
Union and shall the liberties of this country be preserved to the
latest generations?


FEBRUARY 12, 1861

FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE STATE OF INDIANA:–I am here to thank you much
for this magnificent welcome, and still more for the generous support
given by your State to that political cause which I think is the true
and just cause of the whole country and the whole world.

Solomon says there is “a time to keep silence,” and when men wrangle
by the mouth with no certainty that they mean the same thing while
using the same word, it perhaps were as well if they would keep

The words “coercion” and “invasion” are much used in these days, and
often with some temper and hot blood. Let us make sure, if we can,
the meaning of those who use them. Let us get the exact definitions
of these words, not from dictionaries, but from the men themselves,
who certainly deprecate the things they would represent by the use of
the words.

What, then, is coercion? What is invasion? Would the marching of an
army into South Carolina, without the consent of her people, and with
hostile intent toward them, be invasion? I certainly think it would,
and it would be coercion also, if the South Carolinians were forced
to submit. But if the United States should merely hold and retake
its own forts and other property, and collect the duties on foreign
importations, or even withhold the mails from places where they were
habitually violated, would any or all of these things be invasion or
coercion? Do our professed lovers of the Union, who spitefully
resolve that they will resist coercion and invasion, understand that
such things as these, on the part of the United States, would be
coercion or invasion of a State? If so, their idea of means to
preserve the object of their great affection would seem to be
exceedingly thin and airy. If sick, the little pills of the
homoeopathist would be much too large for it to swallow. In their
view, the Union, as a family relation, would seem to be no regular
marriage, but rather a sort of “free-love” arrangement, to be
maintained on passional attraction.

By the way, in what consists the special sacredness of a State? I
speak not of the position assigned to a State in the Union by the
Constitution, for that is a bond we all recognize. That position,
however, a State cannot carry out of the Union with it. I speak of
that assumed primary right of a State to rule all which is less than
itself, and to ruin all which is larger than itself. If a State and
a county, in a given case, should be equal in number of inhabitants,
in what, as a matter of principle, is the State better than the
county? Would an exchange of name be an exchange of rights? Upon what
principle, upon what rightful principle, may a State, being no more
than one fiftieth part of the nation in soil and population, break up
the nation, and then coerce a proportionably large subdivision of
itself in the most arbitrary way? What mysterious right to play
tyrant is conferred on a district of country, with its people, by
merely calling it a State? Fellow-citizens, I am not asserting
anything. I am merely asking questions for you to consider. And now
allow me to bid you farewell.




Mr. MAYOR, AND GENTLEMEN:–Twenty-four hours ago, at the capital of
Indiana, I said to myself, “I have never seen so many people
assembled together in winter weather.” I am no longer able to say
that. But it is what might reasonably have been expected–that this
great city of Cincinnati would thus acquit herself on such an
occasion. My friends, I am entirely overwhelmed by the magnificence
of the reception which has been given, I will not say to me, but to
the President-elect of the United States of America. Most heartily
do I thank you, one and all, for it.

I have spoken but once before this in Cincinnati. That was a year
previous to the late Presidential election. On that occasion, in a
playful manner, but with sincere words, I addressed much of what I
said to the Kentuckians. I gave my opinion that we, as Republicans,
would ultimately beat them as Democrats, but that they could postpone
that result longer by nominating Senator Douglas for the Presidency
than they could by any other way. They did not, in any true sense of
the word, nominate Mr. Douglas, and the result has come certainly as
soon as ever I expected. I also told them how I expected they would
be treated after they should have been beaten, and I now wish to call
their attention to what I then said upon that subject. I then said:

“When we do as we say, beat you, you perhaps want to know what we
will do with you. I will tell you, as far as I am authorized to
speak for the Opposition, what we mean to do with you. We mean to
treat you, as near as we possibly can, as Washington, Jefferson, and
Madison treated you. We mean to leave you alone, and in no way to
interfere with your institutions; to abide by all and every
compromise of the Constitution, and, in a word, coming back to the
original proposition, to treat you so far as degenerate men, if we
have degenerated, may, according to the example of those noble
fathers, Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.

“We mean to remember that you are as good as we; that there is no
difference between us other than the difference of circumstances. We
mean to recognize and bear in mind always that you have as good
hearts in your bosoms as other people, or as we claim to have, and
treat you accordingly.”

Fellow-citizens of Kentucky–friends and brethren, may I call you in
my new position?–I see no occasion and feel no inclination to
retract a word of this. If it shall not be made good, be assured the
fault shall not be mine.


FEBRUARY 12, 1861

Mr. CHAIRMAN:–I thank you and those whom you represent for the
compliment you have paid me by tendering me this address. In so far
as there is an allusion to our present national difficulties, which
expresses, as you have said, the views of the gentlemen present, I
shall have to beg pardon for not entering fully upon the questions
which the address you have now read suggests.

I deem it my duty–a duty which I owe to my constituents–to you,
gentlemen, that I should wait until the last moment for a development
of the present national difficulties before I express myself
decidedly as to what course I shall pursue. I hope, then, not to be
false to anything that you have expected of me.

I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, that the working men are the basis of
all governments, for the plain reason that they are all the more
numerous, and as you added that those were the sentiments of the
gentlemen present, representing not only the working class, but
citizens of other callings than those of the mechanic, I am happy to
concur with you in these sentiments, not only of the native-born
citizens, but also of the Germans and foreigners from other

Mr. Chairman, I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve
not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating the
condition of mankind; and therefore, without entering upon the
details of the question, I will simply say that I am for those means
which will give the greatest good to the greatest number.

In regard to the Homestead law, I have to say that, in so far as the
government lands can be disposed of, I am in favor of cutting up the
wild lands into parcels, so that every poor man may have a home.

In regard to the Germans and foreigners, I esteem them no better than
other people, nor any worse. It is not my nature, when I see a
people borne down by the weight of their shackles–the oppression of
tyranny–to make their life more bitter by heaping upon them greater
burdens; but rather would I do all in my power to raise the yoke than
to add anything that would tend to crush them.

Inasmuch as our own country is extensive and new, and the countries
of Europe are densely populated, if there are any abroad who desire
to make this the land of their adoption, it is not in my heart to
throw aught in their way to prevent them from coming to the United

Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I will bid you an affectionate farewell.

FEBRUARY 13, 1861

OF OHIO:–It is true, as has been said by the president of the
Senate, that very great responsibility rests upon me in the position
to which the votes of the American people have called me. I am
deeply sensible of that weighty responsibility. I cannot but know
what you all know, that without a name, perhaps without a reason why
I should have a name, there has fallen upon me a task such as did not
rest even upon the Father of his Country; and so feeling, I can turn
and look for that support without which it will be impossible for me
to perform that great task. I turn, then, and look to the American
people and to that God who has never forsaken them. Allusion has
been made to the interest felt in relation to the policy of the new
administration. In this I have received from some a degree of credit
for having kept silence, and from others some deprecation. I still
think that I was right.

In the varying and repeatedly shifting scenes of the present, and
without a precedent which could enable me to judge by the past, it
has seemed fitting that before speaking upon the difficulties of the
country I should have gained a view of the whole field, being at
liberty to modify and change the course of policy as future events
may make a change necessary.

I have not maintained silence from any want of real anxiety. It is a
good thing that there is no more than anxiety, for there is nothing
going wrong. It is a consoling circumstance that when we look out
there is nothing that really hurts anybody. We entertain different
views upon political questions, but nobody is suffering anything.
This is a most consoling circumstance, and from it we may conclude
that all we want is time, patience, and a reliance on that God who
has never forsaken this people.

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