The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

My friends; this is wholly an unexpected speech, and I did not expect
to be called upon to say a word when I came here. I supposed it was
merely to do something toward raising the flag. I may, therefore,
have said something indiscreet. I have said nothing but what I am
willing to live by and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, die


FEBRUARY 22, 1861

MR. CHAIRMAN:–I feel highly flattered by the encomiums you have seen
fit to bestow upon me. Soon after the nomination of General Taylor,
I attended a political meeting in the city of Wilmington, and have
since carried with me a fond remembrance of the hospitalities of the
city on that occasion. The programme established provides for my
presence in Harrisburg in twenty-four hours from this time. I expect
to be in Washington on Saturday. It is, therefore, an impossibility
that I should accept your kind invitation. There are no people whom
I would more gladly accommodate than those of Delaware; but
circumstances forbid, gentlemen. With many regrets for the character
of the reply I am compelled to give you, I bid you adieu.


FEBRUARY 22, 1860

speech. I have not time to make a speech at length, and not strength
to make them on every occasion; and, worse than all, I have none to
make. There is plenty of matter to speak about in these times, but
it is well known that the more a man speaks the less he is
understood–the more he says one thing, the more his adversaries
contend he meant something else. I shall soon have occasion to speak
officially, and then I will endeavor to put my thoughts just as plain
as I can express myself–true to the Constitution and Union of all
the States, and to the perpetual liberty of all the people. Until I
so speak, there is no need to enter upon details. In conclusion, I
greet you most heartily, and bid you an affectionate farewell.


FEBRUARY 22, 1861

OF PENNSYLVANIA:–I appear before you only for a very few brief
remarks in response to what has been said to me. I thank you most
sincerely for this reception, and the generous words in which support
has been promised me upon this occasion. I thank your great
commonwealth for the overwhelming support it recently gave, not me
personally, but the cause which I think a just one, in the late

Allusion has been made to the fact–the interesting fact perhaps we
should say–that I for the first time appear at the capital of the
great commonwealth of Pennsylvania upon the birthday of the Father of
his Country. In connection with that beloved anniversary connected
with the history of this country, I have already gone through one
exceedingly interesting scene this morning in the ceremonies at
Philadelphia. Under the kind conduct of gentlemen there, I was for
the first time allowed the privilege of standing in old Independence
Hall to have a few words addressed to me there, and opening up to me
an opportunity of manifesting my deep regret that I had not more time
to express something of my own feelings excited by the occasion, that
had been really the feelings of my whole life.

Besides this, our friends there had provided a magnificent flag of
the country. They had arranged it so that I was given the honor of
raising it to the head of its staff, and when it went up I was
pleased that it went to its place by the strength of my own feeble
arm. When, according to the arrangement, the cord was pulled, and it
floated gloriously to the wind, without an accident, in the bright,
glowing sunshine of the morning, I could not help hoping that there
was in the entire success of that beautiful ceremony at least
something of an omen of what is to come. Nor could I help feeling
then, as I have often felt, that in the whole of that proceeding I
was a very humbled instrument. I had not provided the flag; I had
not made the arrangements for elevating it to its place; I had
applied but a very small portion of even my feeble strength in
raising it. In the whole transaction I was in the hands of the
people who had arranged it, and if I can have the same generous
co-operation of the people of this nation, I think the flag of our
country may yet be kept flaunting gloriously.

I recur for a moment but to repeat some words uttered at the hotel in
regard to what has been said about the military support which the
General Government may expect from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania
in a proper emergency. To guard against any possible mistake do I
recur to this. It is not with any pleasure that I contemplate the
possibility that a necessity may arise in this country for the use of
the military arm. While I am exceedingly gratified to see the
manifestation upon your streets of your military force here, and
exceedingly gratified at your promise to use that force upon a proper
emergency–while I make these acknowledgments I desire to repeat, in
order to preclude any possible misconstruction, that I do most
sincerely hope that we shall have no use for them; that it will never
become their duty to shed blood, and most especially never to shed
fraternal blood. I promise that so far as I may have wisdom to
direct, if so painful a result shall in any wise be brought about, it
shall he through no fault of mine.

Allusion has also been made by one of your honored speakers to some
remarks recently made by myself at Pittsburg in regard to what is
supposed to be the especial interest of this great commonwealth of
Pennsylvania. I now wish only to say in regard to that matter, that
the few remarks which I uttered on that occasion were rather
carefully worded. I took pains that they should be so. I have seen
no occasion since to add to them or subtract from them. I leave them
precisely as they stand, adding only now that I am pleased to have an
expression from you, gentlemen of Pennsylvania, signifying that they
are satisfactory to you.

And now, gentlemen of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania, allow me again to return to you my most sincere thanks.


FEBRUARY 27, 1861

Mr. MAYOR:–I thank you, and through you the municipal authorities of
this city who accompany you, for this welcome. And as it is the
first time in my life, since the present phase of politics has
presented itself in this country, that I have said anything publicly
within a region of country where the institution of slavery exists, I
will take this occasion to say that I think very much of the ill
feeling that has existed and still exists between the people in the
section from which I came and the people here, is dependent upon a
misunderstanding of one another. I therefore avail myself of this
opportunity to assure you, Mr. Mayor, and all the gentlemen present,
that I have not now, and never have had, any other than as kindly
feelings toward you as to the people of my own section. I have not
now, and never have had, any disposition to treat you in any respect
otherwise than as my own neighbors. I have not now any purpose to
withhold from you any of the benefits of the Constitution, under any
circumstances, that I would not feel myself constrained to withhold
from my own neighbors; and I hope, in a word, that when we shall
become better acquainted–and I say it with great confidence–we
shall like each other better. I thank you for the kindness of this

FEBRUARY 28, 1861

MY FRIENDS:–I suppose that I may take this as a compliment paid to
me, and as such please accept my thanks for it. I have reached this
city of Washington under circumstances considerably differing from
those under which any other man has ever reached it. I am here for
the purpose of taking an official position amongst the people, almost
all of whom were politically opposed to me, and are yet opposed to
me, as I suppose.

I propose no lengthy address to you. I only propose to say, as I did
on yesterday, when your worthy mayor and board of aldermen called
upon me, that I thought much of the ill feeling that has existed
between you and the people of your surroundings and that people from
among whom I came, has depended, and now depends, upon a

I hope that, if things shall go along as prosperously as I believe we
all desire they may, I may have it in my power to remove something of
this misunderstanding; that I may be enabled to convince you, and the
people of your section of the country, that we regard you as in all
things our equals, and in all things entitled to the same respect and
the same treatment that we claim for ourselves; that we are in no
wise disposed, if it were in our power, to oppress you, to deprive
you of any of your rights under the Constitution of the United
States, or even narrowly to split hairs with you in regard to these
rights, but are determined to give you, as far as lies in our hands,
all your rights under the Constitution–not grudgingly, but fully and
fairly. I hope that, by thus dealing with you, we will become better
acquainted, and be better friends.

And now, my friends, with these few remarks, and again returning my
thanks for this compliment, and expressing my desire to hear a little
more of your good music, I bid you good-night.


[During the struggle over the appointments of LINCOLN’s Cabinet, the
President-elect spoke as follows:]

Gentlemen, it is evident that some one must take the responsibility
of these appointments, and I will do it. My Cabinet is completed.
The positions are not definitely assigned, and will not be until I
announce them privately to the gentlemen whom I have selected as my
Constitutional advisers.

MARCH 4, 1861

FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES:–In compliance with a custom as
old as the Government itself, I appear before you to address you
briefly, and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the
Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President
“before he enters on the execution of his office.”

I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those
matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States
that by the accession of a Republican administration their property
and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There
has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed,
the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and
been open to their inspection. It is found in near1y all the
published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from
one of those speeches when I declare that

“I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the
institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I
have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I
had made this and many similar declarations, and had never recanted
them. And, more than this, they placed in the platform for my
acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and
emphatic resolution which I now read:

“Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the
States, and especially the right of each State to order and control
its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment
exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the
perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend, and we
denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State
or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as amongst the gravest of

I now reiterate these sentiments; and, in doing so, I only press upon
the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case
is susceptible, that the property, peace, and security of no section
are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming administration.
I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the
Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to
all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause–as
cheerfully to one section as to another.

There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from
service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the
Constitution as any other of its provisions:

“No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws
thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or
regulation therein be discharged from such service or labor, but
shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or
labor may be due.”

It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those
who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and
the intention of the lawgiver is the law. All members of Congress
swear their support to the whole Constitution–to this provision as
much as to any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose
cases come within the terms of this clause “shall be delivered up,”
their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in
good temper, could they not with nearly equal unanimity frame and
pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?

There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be
enforced by national or by State authority; but surely that
difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be
surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to others
by which authority it is done. And should any one in any case be
content that his oath shall go unkept on a merely unsubstantial
controversy as to how it shall be kept?

Again, in any law upon this subject, ought not all the safeguards of
liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced,
so that a free man be not, in any case, surrendered as a slave? And
might it not be well at the same time to provide by law for the
enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that

“the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and
immunities of citizens in the several States”?

I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations, and with
no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical
rules. And, while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of
Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much
safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to
and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed, than to violate
any of them, trusting to find impunity in having them held to be

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