The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

Thinking it may aid you a little, I send you one of our blank
forms of Petitions. It, you will see, is framed to be sworn to
before the Federal court clerk, and, in your cases, will have
[to] be so far changed as to be sworn to before the clerk of your
circuit court; and his certificate must be accompanied with his
official seal. The schedules, too, must be attended to. Be sure
that they contain the creditors’ names, their residences, the
amounts due each, the debtors’ names, their residences, and the
amounts they owe, also all property and where located.

Also be sure that the schedules are all signed by the applicants
as well as the Petition. Publication will have to be made here
in one paper, and in one nearest the residence of the applicant.
Write us in each case where the last advertisement is to be sent,
whether to you or to what paper.

I believe I have now said everything that can be of any
advantage. Your friend as ever,


February 22, 1842.

I never encourage deceit, and falsehood, especially if you have
got a bad memory, is the worst enemy a fellow can have. The fact
is truth is your truest friend, no matter what the circumstances
are. Notwithstanding this copy-book preamble, my boy, I am
inclined to suggest a little prudence on your part. You see I
have a congenital aversion to failure, and the sudden
announcement to your Uncle Andrew of the success of your “lamp
rubbing” might possibly prevent your passing the severe physical
examination to which you will be subjected in order to enter the
Military Academy. You see I should like to have a perfect
soldier credited to dear old Illinois–no broken bones, scalp
wounds, etc. So I think it might be wise to hand this letter
from me in to your good uncle through his room-window after he
has had a comfortable dinner, and watch its effect from the top
of the pigeon-house.

I have just told the folks here in Springfield on this 111th
anniversary of the birth of him whose name, mightiest in the
cause of civil liberty, still mightiest in the cause of moral
reformation, we mention in solemn awe, in naked, deathless
splendor, that the one victory we can ever call complete will be
that one which proclaims that there is not one slave or one
drunkard on the face of God’s green earth. Recruit for this

Now, boy, on your march, don’t you go and forget the old maxim
that “one drop of honey catches more flies than a half-gallon of
gall.” Load your musket with this maxim, and smoke it in your


Although the temperance cause has been in progress for near
twenty years, it is apparent to all that it is just now being
crowned with a degree of success hitherto unparalleled.

The list of its friends is daily swelled by the additions of
fifties, of hundreds, and of thousands. The cause itself seems
suddenly transformed from a cold abstract theory to a living,
breathing, active, and powerful chieftain, going forth
“conquering and to conquer.” The citadels of his great adversary
are daily being stormed and dismantled; his temple and his
altars, where the rites of his idolatrous worship have long been
performed, and where human sacrifices have long been wont to be
made, are daily desecrated and deserted. The triumph of the
conqueror’s fame is sounding from hill to hill, from sea to sea,
and from land to land, and calling millions to his standard at a

For this new and splendid success we heartily rejoice. That that
success is so much greater now than heretofore is doubtless owing
to rational causes; and if we would have it continue, we shall do
well to inquire what those causes are.

The warfare heretofore waged against the demon intemperance has
somehow or other been erroneous. Either the champions engaged or
the tactics they adopted have not been the most proper. These
champions for the most part have been preachers, lawyers, and
hired agents. Between these and the mass of mankind there is a
want of approachability, if the term be admissible, partially, at
least, fatal to their success. They are supposed to have no
sympathy of feeling or interest with those very persons whom it
is their object to convince and persuade.

And again, it is so common and so easy to ascribe motives to men
of these classes other than those they profess to act upon. The
preacher, it is said, advocates temperance because he is a
fanatic, and desires a union of the Church and State; the lawyer
from his pride and vanity of hearing himself speak; and the hired
agent for his salary. But when one who has long been known as a
victim of intemperance bursts the fetters that have bound him,
and appears before his neighbors “clothed and in his right mind,”
a redeemed specimen of long-lost humanity, and stands up, with
tears of joy trembling in his eyes, to tell of the miseries once
endured, now to be endured no more forever; of his once naked and
starving children, now clad and fed comfortably; of a wife long
weighed down with woe, weeping, and a broken heart, now restored
to health, happiness, and a renewed affection; and how easily it
is all done, once it is resolved to be done; how simple his
language! there is a logic and an eloquence in it that few with
human feelings can resist. They cannot say that he desires a
union of Church and State, for he is not a church member; they
cannot say he is vain of hearing himself speak, for his whole
demeanor shows he would gladly avoid speaking at all; they cannot
say he speaks for pay, for he receives none, and asks for none.
Nor can his sincerity in any way be doubted, or his sympathy for
those he would persuade to imitate his example be denied.

In my judgment, it is to the battles of this new class of
champions that our late success is greatly, perhaps chiefly,
owing. But, had the old-school champions themselves been of the
most wise selecting, was their system of tactics the most
judicious? It seems to me it was not. Too much denunciation
against dram-sellers and dram-drinkers was indulged in. This I
think was both impolitic and unjust. It was impolitic, because
it is not much in the nature of man to be driven to anything;
still less to be driven about that which is exclusively his own
business; and least of all where such driving is to be submitted
to at the expense of pecuniary interest or burning appetite.
When the dram-seller and drinker were incessantly told not in
accents of entreaty and persuasion, diffidently addressed by
erring man to an erring brother, but in the thundering tones of
anathema and denunciation with which the lordly judge often
groups together all the crimes of the felon’s life, and thrusts
them in his face just ere he passes sentence of death upon him
that they were the authors of all the vice and misery and crime
in the land; that they were the manufacturers and material of all
the thieves and robbers and murderers that infest the earth; that
their houses were the workshops of the devil; and that their
persons should be shunned by all the good and virtuous, as moral
pestilences–I say, when they were told all this, and in this
way, it is not wonderful that they were slow to acknowledge the
truth of such denunciations, and to join the ranks of their
denouncers in a hue and cry against themselves.

To have expected them to do otherwise than they did to have
expected them not to meet denunciation with denunciation,
crimination with crimination, and anathema with anathema–was to
expect a reversal of human nature, which is God’s decree and can
never be reversed.

When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion,
kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an
old and a true maxim that “a drop of honey catches more flies
than a gallon of gall.” So with men. If you would win a man to
your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.
Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say
what he will, is the great highroad to his reason; and which,
when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing
his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause
really be a just one. On the contrary, assume to dictate to his
judgment, or to command his action, or to mark him as one to be
shunned and despised, and he will retreat within himself, close
all the avenues to his head and his heart; and though your cause
be naked truth itself, transformed to the heaviest lance, harder
than steel, and sharper than steel can be made, and though you
throw it with more than herculean force and precision, you shall
be no more able to pierce him than to penetrate the hard shell of
a tortoise with a rye straw. Such is man, and so must he be
understood by those who would lead him, even to his own best

On this point the Washingtonians greatly excel the temperance
advocates of former times. Those whom they desire to convince
and persuade are their old friends and companions. They know
they are not demons, nor even the worst of men; they know that
generally they are kind, generous, and charitable even beyond the
example of their more staid and sober neighbors. They are
practical philanthropists; and they glow with a generous and
brotherly zeal that mere theorizers are incapable of feeling.
Benevolence and charity possess their hearts entirely; and out of
the abundance of their hearts their tongues give utterance; “love
through all their actions runs, and all their words are mild.”
In this spirit they speak and act, and in the same they are heard
and regarded. And when such is the temper of the advocate, and
such of the audience, no good cause can be unsuccessful. But I
have said that denunciations against dramsellers and dram-
drinkers are unjust, as well as impolitic. Let us see. I have
not inquired at what period of time the use of intoxicating
liquors commenced; nor is it important to know. It is sufficient
that, to all of us who now inhabit the world, the practice of
drinking them is just as old as the world itself that is, we have
seen the one just as long as we have seen the other. When all
such of us as have now reached the years of maturity first opened
our eyes upon the stage of existence, we found intoxicating
liquor recognized by everybody, used by everybody, repudiated by
nobody. It commonly entered into the first draught of the infant
and the last draught of the dying man. From the sideboard of the
parson down to the ragged pocket of the houseless loafer, it was
constantly found. Physicians proscribed it in this, that, and
the other disease; government provided it for soldiers and
sailors; and to have a rolling or raising, a husking or
“hoedown,” anywhere about without it was positively insufferable.
So, too, it was everywhere a respectable article of manufacture
and merchandise. The making of it was regarded as an honorable
livelihood, and he who could make most was the most enterprising
and respectable. Large and small manufactories of it were
everywhere erected, in which all the earthly goods of their
owners were invested. Wagons drew it from town to town; boats
bore it from clime to clime, and the winds wafted it from nation
to nation; and merchants bought and sold it, by wholesale and
retail, with precisely the same feelings on the part of the
seller, buyer, and bystander as are felt at the selling and
buying of ploughs, beef, bacon, or any other of the real
necessaries of life. Universal public opinion not only tolerated
but recognized and adopted its use.

It is true that even then it was known and acknowledged that many
were greatly injured by it; but none seemed to think the injury
arose from the use of a bad thing, but from the abuse of a very
good thing. The victims of it were to be pitied and
compassionated, just as are the heirs of consumption and other
hereditary diseases. Their failing was treated as a misfortune,
and not as a crime, or even as a disgrace. If, then, what I have
been saying is true, is it wonderful that some should think and
act now as all thought and acted twenty years ago? and is it just
to assail, condemn, or despise them for doing so? The universal
sense of mankind on any subject is an argument, or at least an
influence, not easily overcome. The success of the argument in
favor of the existence of an overruling Providence mainly depends
upon that sense; and men ought not in justice to be denounced for
yielding to it in any case, or giving it up slowly, especially
when they are backed by interest, fixed habits, or burning

Another error, as it seems to me, into which the old reformers
fell, was the position that all habitual drunkards were utterly
incorrigible, and therefore must be turned adrift and damned
without remedy in order that the grace of temperance might
abound, to the temperate then, and to all mankind some hundreds
of years thereafter. There is in this some thing so repugnant to
humanity, so uncharitable, so cold-blooded and feelingless, that
it, never did nor ever can enlist the enthusiasm of a popular
cause. We could not love the man who taught it we could not hear
him with patience. The heart could not throw open its portals to
it, the generous man could not adopt it–it could not mix with
his blood. It looked so fiendishly selfish, so like throwing
fathers and brothers overboard to lighten the boat for our
security, that the noble-minded shrank from the manifest meanness
of the thing. And besides this, the benefits of a reformation to
be effected by such a system were too remote in point of time to
warmly engage many in its behalf. Few can be induced to labor
exclusively for posterity, and none will do it enthusiastically.
–Posterity has done nothing for us; and, theorize on it as we
may, practically we shall do very little for it, unless we are
made to think we are at the same time doing something for

What an ignorance of human nature does it exhibit to ask or to
expect a whole community to rise up and labor for the temporal
happiness of others, after themselves shall be consigned to the
dust, a majority of which community take no pains whatever to
secure their own eternal welfare at no more distant day! Great
distance in either time or space has wonderful power to lull and
render quiescent the human mind. Pleasures to be enjoyed, or
pains to be endured, after we shall be dead and gone are but
little regarded even in our own cases, and much less in the cases
of others. Still, in addition to this there is something so
ludicrous in promises of good or threats of evil a great way off
as to render the whole subject with which they are connected
easily turned into ridicule. “Better lay down that spade you are
stealing, Paddy; if you don’t you’ll pay for it at the day of
judgment.” “Be the powers, if ye ‘ll credit me so long I’ll take
another jist.”

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