The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

Fellow-citizens, what I have said I have said altogether
extemporaneously, and I will now come to a close.


FEBRUARY 14, 1861

I fear that the great confidence placed in my ability is unfounded.
Indeed, I am sure it is. Encompassed by vast difficulties as I am,
nothing shall be wanting on my part, if sustained by God and the
American people. I believe the devotion to the Constitution is
equally great on both sides of the river. It is only the different
understanding of that instrument that causes difficulty. The only
dispute on both sides is, ‘What are their rights?” If the majority
should not rule, who would be the judge? Where is such a judge to be
found? We should all be bound by the majority of the American people;
if not, then the minority must control. Would that be right? Would
it be just or generous? Assuredly not. I reiterate that the majority
should rule. If I adopt a wrong policy, the opportunity for
condemnation will occur in four years’ time. Then I can be turned
out, and a better man with better views put in my place.

FEBRUARY 15, 1861

I most cordially thank his Honor Mayor Wilson, and the citizens of
Pittsburg generally, for their flattering reception. I am the more
grateful because I know that it is not given to me alone, but to the
cause I represent, which clearly proves to me their good-will, and
that sincere feeling is at the bottom of it. And here I may remark
that in every short address I have made to the people, in every crowd
through which I have passed of late, some allusion has been made to
the present distracted condition of the country. It is natural to
expect that I should say something on this subject; but to touch upon
it at all would involve an elaborate discussion of a great many
questions and circumstances, requiring more time than I can at
present command, and would, perhaps, unnecessarily commit me upon
matters which have not yet fully developed themselves. The condition
of the country is an extraordinary one, and fills the mind of every
patriot with anxiety. It is my intention to give this subject all
the consideration I possibly can before specially deciding in regard
to it, so that when I do speak it may be as nearly right as possible.
When I do speak I hope I may say nothing in opposition to the spirit
of the Constitution, contrary to the integrity of the Union, or which
will prove inimical to the liberties of the people, or to the peace
of the whole country. And furthermore, when the time arrives for me
to speak on this great subject, I hope I may say nothing to
disappoint the people generally throughout the country, especially if
the expectation has been based upon anything which I may have
heretofore said. Notwithstanding the troubles across the river [the
speaker pointing southwardly across the Monongahela, and smiling],
there is no crisis but an artificial one. What is there now to
warrant the condition of affairs presented by our friends over the
river? Take even their own view of the questions involved, and there
is nothing to justify the course they are pursuing. I repeat, then,
there is no crisis, excepting such a one as may be gotten up at any
time by turbulent men aided by designing politicians, My advice to
them, under such circumstances, is to keep cool. If the great
American people only keep their temper on both sides of the line, the
troubles will come to an end, and the question which now distracts
the country will be settled, just as surely as all other difficulties
of a like character which have originated in this government have
been adjusted. Let the people on both sides keep their
self-possession, and just as other clouds have cleared away in due
time, so will this great nation continue to prosper as heretofore.
But, fellow-citizens, I have spoken longer on this subject than I
intended at the outset.

It is often said that the tariff is the specialty of Pennsylvania.
Assuming that direct taxation is not to be adopted, the tariff
question must be as durable as the government itself. It is a
question of national housekeeping. It is to the government what
replenishing the meal-tub is to the family. Every varying
circumstances will require frequent modifications as to the amount
needed and the sources of supply. So far there is little difference
of opinion among the people. It is as to whether, and how far,
duties on imports shall be adjusted to favor home production in the
home market, that controversy begins. One party insists that such
adjustment oppresses one class for the advantage of another; while
the other party argues that, with all its incidents, in the long run
all classes are benefited. In the Chicago platform there is a plank
upon this subject which should be a general law to the incoming
administration. We should do neither more nor less than we gave the
people reason to believe we would when they gave us their votes.
Permit me, fellow-citizens, to read the tariff plank of the Chicago
platform, or rather have it read in your hearing by one who has
younger eyes.
[Mr. Lincoln’s private secretary then read Section 12 of the Chicago
platform, as follows:

“That, while providing revenue for the support of the General
Government by duties upon imports, sound policy requires such an
adjustment of these imposts as will encourage the development of the
industrial interest of the whole country; and we commend that policy
of national exchanges which secures to working-men liberal wages, to
agriculture remunerating prices, to mechanics and manufacturers
adequate return for their skill, labor, and enterprise, and to the
nation commercial prosperity and independence.”

As with all general propositions, doubtless, there will be shades of
difference in construing this. I have by no means a thoroughly
matured judgment upon this subject, especially as to details; some
general ideas are about all. I have long thought it would be to our
advantage to produce any necessary article at home which can be made
of as good quality and with as little labor at home as abroad, at
least by the difference of the carrying from abroad. In such case
the carrying is demonstrably a dead loss of labor. For instance,
labor being the true standard of value, is it not plain that if equal
labor get a bar of railroad iron out of a mine in England and another
out of a mine in Pennsylvania, each can be laid down in a track at
home cheaper than they could exchange countries, at least by the
carriage? If there be a present cause why one can be both made and
carried cheaper in money price than the other can be made without
carrying, that cause is an unnatural and injurious one, and ought
gradually, if not rapidly, to be removed. The condition of the
treasury at this time would seem to render an early revision of the
tariff indispensable. The Morrill [tariff] bill, now pending before
Congress, may or may not become a law. I am not posted as to its
particular provisions, but if they are generally satisfactory, and
the bill shall now pass, there will be an end for the present. If,
however, it shall not pass, I suppose the whole subject will be one
of the most pressing and important for the next Congress. By the
Constitution, the executive may recommend measures which he may think
proper, and he may veto those he thinks improper, and it is supposed
that he may add to these certain indirect influences to affect the
action of Congress. My political education strongly inclines me
against a very free use of any of these means by the executive to
control the legislation of the country. As a rule, I think it better
that Congress should originate as well as perfect its measures
without external bias. I therefore would rather recommend to every
gentleman who knows he is to be a member of the next Congress to take
an enlarged view, and post himself thoroughly, so as to contribute
his part to such an adjustment of the tariff as shall produce a
sufficient revenue, and in its other bearings, so far as possible, be
just and equal to all sections of the country and classes of the


FEBRUARY 15, 1861

about two miles through snow, rain, and deep mud. The large numbers
that have turned out under these circumstances testify that you are
in earnest about something or other. But do I think so meanly of you
as to suppose that that earnestness is about me personally? I would
be doing you an injustice to suppose you did. You have assembled to
testify your respect for the Union, the Constitution, and the laws;
and here let me say that it is with you, the people, to advance the
great cause of the Union and the Constitution, and not with any one
man. It rests with you alone. This fact is strongly impressed upon
my mind at present. In a community like this, whose appearance
testifies to their intelligence, I am convinced that the cause of
liberty and the Union can never be in danger. Frequent allusion is
made to the excitement at present existing in our national politics,
and it is as well that I should also allude to it here. I think that
there is no occasion for any excitement. ‘The crisis, as it is
called, is altogether an artificial crisis. In all parts of the
nation there are differences of opinion on politics. There are
differences of opinion even here. You did not all vote for the
person who now addresses you. What is happening now will not hurt
those who are farther away from here. Have they not all their rights
now as they ever have had? Do they not have their fugitive slaves
returned now as ever? Have they not the same Constitution that they
have lived under for seventy-odd years? Have they not a position as
citizens of this common country, and have we any power to change that
position? What, then, is the matter with them? Why all this
excitement? Why all these complaints?

As I said before, this crisis is all artificial! It has no foundation
in facts. It is not argued up, as the saying is, and cannot,
therefore, be argued down. Let it alone and it will go down of

[Mr. Lincoln then said that they must be content with a few words
from him, as he was tired, etc. Having been given to understand that
the crowd was not all Republican, but consisted of men of all
parties, he continued:]

This is as it should be. If Judge Douglas had been elected and had
been here on his way to Washington, as I am to-night, the Republicans
should have joined his supporters in welcoming him, just as his
friends have joined with mine tonight. If all do not join now to
save the good old ship of the Union this voyage, nobody will have a
chance to pilot her on another voyage.

FEBRUARY 16, 1861

I am here to thank you briefly for this grand reception given to me,
not personally, but as the representative of our great and beloved
country. Your worthy mayor has been pleased to mention, in his
address to me, the fortunate and agreeable journey which I have had
from home, on my rather circuitous route to the Federal capital. I
am very happy that he was enabled in truth to congratulate myself and
company on that fact. It is true we have had nothing thus far. to
mar the pleasure of the trip. We have not been met alone by those
who assisted in giving the election to me–I say not alone by them,
but by the whole population of the country through which we have
passed. This is as it should be. Had the election fallen to any
other of the distinguished candidates instead of myself, under the
peculiar circumstances, to say the least, it would have been proper
for all citizens to have greeted him as you now greet me. It is an
evidence of the devotion of the whole people to the Constitution, the
Union, and the perpetuity of the liberties of this country. I am
unwilling on any occasion that I should be so meanly thought of as to
have it supposed for a moment that these demonstrations are tendered
to me personally. They are tendered to the country, to the
institutions of the country, and to the perpetuity of the liberties
of the country, for which these institutions were made and created.

Your worthy mayor has thought fit to express the hope that I may be
able to relieve the country from the present, or, I should say, the
threatened difficulties. I am sure I bring a heart true to the work.
For the ability to perform it, I must trust in that Supreme Being who
has never forsaken this favored land, through the instrumentality of
this great and intelligent people. Without that assistance I shall
surely fail; with it, I cannot fail. When we speak of threatened
difficulties to the Country, it is natural that it should be expected
that something should be said by myself with regard to particular
measures. Upon more mature reflection, however, others will agree
with me that, when it is considered that these difficulties are
without precedent, and have never been acted upon by any individual
situated as I am, it is most proper I should wait and see the
developments, and get all the light possible, so that when I do speak
authoritatively, I may be as near right as possible. When I shall
speak authoritatively, I hope to say nothing inconsistent with the
Constitution, the Union, the rights of all the States, of each State,
and of each section of the country, and not to disappoint the
reasonable expectations of those who have confided to me their votes.
In this connection allow me to say that you, as a portion of the
great American people, need only to maintain your composure, stand up
to your sober convictions of right, to your obligations to the
Constitution, and act in accordance with those sober convictions, and
the clouds now on the horizon will be dispelled, and we shall have a
bright and glorious future; and when this generation has passed away,
tens of thousands will inhabit this country where only thousands
inhabit it now. I do not propose to address you at length; I have no
voice for it. Allow me again to thank you for this magnificent
reception, and bid you farewell.


FEBRUARY 18, 1861

I confess myself, after having seen many large audiences since
leaving home, overwhelmed with this vast number of faces at this hour
of the morning. I am not vain enough to believe that you are here
from any wish to see me as an individual, but because I am for the
time being the representative of the American people. I could not,
if I would, address you at any length. I have not the strength, even
if I had the time, for a speech at each of these many interviews that
are afforded me on my way to Washington. I appear merely to see you,
and to let you see me, and to bid you. farewell. I hope it will be
understood that it is from no disinclination to oblige anybody that I
do not address you at greater length.

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