Quotes by Abraham Lincoln » Abraham Lincoln

Quotes by Abraham Lincoln


Ambition and Opportunity
Civil War and Secession
Constitution
Criticism
Declaration of Independence
Democracy
Determination and Discipline
Education and Self-Development
Equality
Ethics and Honesty
God and Prayer
Grief and Mourning
Labor and Work
Life
Patience and Perseverance
Public Opinion and Persuasion
Reason and Argument
Slavery and Freedom
United States and Union
War and Soldiers

“I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has.”

  • Speech to One Hundred Sixty-sixth Ohio Regiment, August 22, 1864

“Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed.”

  • Announcement for office , March 9, 1832

“Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.”

  • Lyceum Address, January 27, 1838

“Now, as to the young men. You must not wait to be brought forward by the older men. For instance, do you suppose that I should have ever got into notice if I had waited to be hunted up and pushed forward by older men?”

  • Letter to William H. Herndon, July 22, 1848

“Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.”

  • Letter to Quintin Campbell, June 28, 1862

“I say ‘try’; if we never try, we shall never succeed.”

  • Letter to George B. McClellan, October 13, 1862

“You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm.”

  • Letter to Joseph Hooker, January 26, 1863

“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend it’.”

  • Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

  • Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

“This is essentially a People’s contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men — to lift artificial weights from all shoulders — to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all — to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.”

  • Message to Congress, July 4, 1861

“And having thus chosen our course, without guile, and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear, and with manly hearts.”

  • Special Message to Congress, July 4, 1861

“The struggle of today, is not altogether for today – it is for a vast future also.”

  • Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861

“I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsakes me.”
Letter to William H. Seward, June 28, 1862

“Broken eggs cannot be mended; but Louisiana has nothing to do now but take her place in the Union as it was, barring the already broken eggs.”

  • Letter to August Belmont, July 31, 1862

“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disentrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

  • Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.”

  • Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

“The proportions of this rebellion were not for a long time understood. I saw that it involved the greatest difficulties, and would call forth all the powers of the whole country.”

  • Reply to Members of the Presbyterian General Assembly, June 2, 1863

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

  • Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

“Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came …. Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.”

  • Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

“The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party – and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose.”

  • Meditation on the Divine Will, circa September 2, 1862

“While we must, by all available means, prevent the overthrow of the government, we should avoid planting and cultivating too many thorns in the bosom of society.”

  • Letter to Edwin M. Stanton, March 18, 1864

“In this great struggle, this form of Government and every form of human right is endangered if our enemies succeed. There is more involved in this contest than is realized by every one.”

  • Speech to the 164th Ohio Regiment, August 18, 1864

“There is more involved in this contest than is realized by eery one. There is involved in this struggle the question whether your children and my children shall enjoy the privileges we have enjoyed.”

  • Speech to the 164th Ohio Regiment, August 18, 1864

“Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

  • Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

“Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties. And not to Democrats alone do I make this appeal, but to all who love these great and true principles.”

  • Speech at Kalamazoo, Michigan, August 27, 1856

“Let us then turn this government back into the channel in which the framers of the Constitution originally placed it.”

  • Speech at Chicago, July 10, 1858

“I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle.”

  • Speech to the New Jersey Senate, February 21, 1861

“I hold, that in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual.”

  • First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

“My purpose is to be, in my action, just and constitutional; and yet practical, in performing the important duty, with which I am charged, of maintaining the unity, and the free principles of our common country.”

  • Letter to Horatio Seymour, August 7, 1863

“I freely acknowledge myself the servant of the people, according to the bond of service — the United States Constitution; and that, as such, I am responsible to them.”

  • Letter to James Conkling, August 26, 1863

“If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

  • Conversation with Francis B. Carpenter

“Of our political revolution of ’76, we all are justly proud. It has given us a degree of political freedom, far exceeding that of any other nation of the earth. In it the world has found a solution of the long mooted problem, as to the capability of man to govern himself. In it was the germ which has vegetated, and still is to grow and expand into the universal liberty of mankind.”

  • Temperance Address at Springfield , February 22, 1842

“I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.”

  • Speech at Philadelphia, February 22, 1861

“Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.”

  • Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, January 27, 1838

“Let every man remember that to violate the law is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own and his children’s liberty.”

  • Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, January 27, 1838

“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

  • Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, January 27, 1838

“Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.”

  • Speech in the House of Representatives, June 20, 1848

“In leaving the people’s business in their own hands, we cannot be wrong.”

  • Speech in the House of Representatives, July 27, 1848

“The legitimate object of government is ‘to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they can not, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves’.”

  • Fragment on Government, circa July 1, 1854

“Most governments have been based, practically, on the denial of equal rights of men…ours began, by affirming those rights. They said, some men are too ignorant, and vicious, to share in government. Possibly so, said we; and, by your system, you would always keep them ignorant, and vicious, to share in government. Possibly so, said we; and, by your system, you would always keep them ignorant, and vicious. We proposed to give all a chance; and we expected the weak to grow stronger, the ignorant wiser; and all better, and happier together.”

  • Fragment on slavery, circa July 1854

“According to our ancient faith, the just powers of governments are derived from the consent of the governed.”

  • Speech at Peoria, October 16, 1854

“When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than self-government – that is despotism.”

  • Speech at Peoria, October 16, 1854

“If there is anything which it is the duty of the whole people to never entrust to any hands but their own, that thing is the preservation and perpetuity of their own liberties and institutions.”

  • Speech at Peoria, October 16, 1854

“No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent. I say this is the leading principle – the sheet anchor of American republicanism.”

  • Speech at Peoria, October 16, 1854

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.”

  • Fragment on Democracy, August 1, 1858

“Understanding the spirit of our institutions to aim at the elevation of men, I am opposed to whatever tends to degrade them.”

  • Letter to Theodore Canisius, May 17, 1859

“The people – the people – are the rightful masters of both congresses and courts – not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert it.”

  • Speech in Kansas, December 1859

“I do not mean to say that this government is charged with the duty of redressing or preventing all the wrongs in the world; but I do think that it is charged with the duty of preventing and redressing all wrongs which are wrongs to itself.”

  • Speech at Cincinnati, September 17, 1859

“Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? IS there any better ore qual hope in the world?”

  • First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

“The people will save their government, if the government itself will do its part only indifferently well.”

  • Special Message to Congress, July 4, 1861

“It is as much the duty of government to render prompt justice against itself, in favor of citizens, as it is to administer the same between private individuals.”

  • Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861

“The people’s will, constitutionally expressed, is the ultimate law for all.”

  • Response to Serenade, October 19, 1864

“It is said that we have the best government the world ever knew, and I am glad to meet you, the supporters of that government.”

  • Speech to the 164th Ohio Regiment, October 24, 1864

“It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies.”

  • Response to a Serenade, November 10, 1864

“Happy day, when, all appetites controlled, all poisons subdued, all matter subjected, mind all conquering mind, shall live and move the monarch of the world.”

  • Temperance Address, February 22, 1852

I know not how to aid you, save in the assurance of one of mature age, and much severe experience, that you can not fail, if you resolutely determine, that you will not.”

  • Letter to George Latham, July 22, 1860

“Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.”

  • Letter to Quintin Campbell, June 28, 1862

“I am rather inclined to silence, and whether that be wise or not, it is at least more unusual nowadays to find a man who can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot.”

  • Speech at Pittsburgh, February 14, 1861

“And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy, and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories.”

  • Letter to Joseph Hooker, January 26, 1863

“All creation is a mine, and every man a miner.”

  • Lecture on Discoveries, Inventions and Improvements, February 22, 1859

“A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the [yet] unsolved ones.”

  • Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, September 30, 1859

“Every blade of grass is a study; and to produce two, where was but one, is both a profit and pleasure.”

  • Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, September 30, 1859

“I believe the declaration that ‘all men are created equal’ is the great fundamental principle upon which our free institutions rest.”

  • Letter to James N. Brown, October 18, 1858

“I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects—certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man. ”

  • Debate at Ottawa, Illinois, August 21, 1858

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”

  • Debate at Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858

“We have, as all will agree, a free Government, where every man has a right to be equal with every other man. In this great struggle, this form of Government and every form of human right is endangered if our enemies succeed.”

  • Speech to the One Hundred Sixty-fourth Ohio Regiment, August 22, 1864

“Holding it a sound maxim that it is better only sometimes to be right than at all times to be wrong, so soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them.”

  • Address to the People of Sangamon County, March 9, 1832

“I made a point of honor and conscience in all things to stick to my word, especially if others had been induced to act upon it.”

  • Letter to Eliza Browning, April 1, 1838

“In very truth he was, the noblest work of God – an honest man.”

  • Eulogy for Benjamin Ferguson, February 8, 1842

“I believe it is an established maxim im morals that he who makes an assertion without knowing whether it is true or false, is guilty of falsehood; and the accidental truth of the assertion, does not justify or excuse him.”

  • Letter to Allen N. Ford, August 11, 1846

“Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief — resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer.”
Notes for a Law Lecture, circa July 1, 1850

“Stand with anybody that stands RIGHT. Stand with him while he is right and PART with him when he goes wrong.”

  • Speech at Peoria, October 16, 1854

“I planted myself upon the truth, and the truth only, so, as far I knew it, or could be brought to know it.”

  • Speech at Springfield, July 17, 1858

That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles — right and wrong — throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings.”

  • Debate at Alton, October 15, 1858

“Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.”

  • Cooper Union Address, February 27, 1860

“I have said nothing but I am willing to live by, and, in the pleasure of Almighty God, die by.”

  • Speech at Philadelphia, February 22, 1861

“Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.”

  • September 1864

“Bad promises are better broken than kept.”

  • Last public speech, April 11, 1865

“That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or any denomination of Christians in particular.”

  • Handbill Replying to Charges of Infidelity, July 31, 1846

“To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

  • Farewell Address, February 11, 1861

“Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.”

  • First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong.”

  • Meditation on the Divine Will, September 1862

“Let us diligently apply the means, never doubting that a just God, in His own good time, will give us the rightful result.”

  • Letter to John C. Conkling, August 26, 1863

“Nevertheless, amid the greatest difficulties of my Administration, when I could not see any other resort, I would place my whole reliance on God, knowing that all would go well, and that He would decide for the right.”

  • Remarks to the Baltimore Presbyterian Synod, October 24, 1863

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

  • Conversation with Noah Brooks

“…I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”

  • Conversation with Francis B. Carpenter

“If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.”

  • Letter to Albert Hodges, April 4, 1864

“In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book.”

  • Reply to Loyal Colored People of Baltimore upon Presentation of a Bible, September 7, 1864

“Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the almighty and them.”

  • Letter to Thurlow Weed, March 15, 1865

In the untimely loss of your noble son, our affliction here, is scarcely less than your own. So much of promised usefulness to one’s country, and of bright hopes for one’s self and friends, have rarely been so suddenly dashed, as in his fall.

  • Letter to Ephraim D. and Phoebe Ellsworth, May 25, 1861

“In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares.”

  • Letter to Fanny McCullough, December 23, 1862

“I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

  • Letter to Lydia Bixby, November 21, 1864

“To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor, or as nearly as possible, is a worthy object of any good government.”

  • Temperance Address at Springfield, February 22, 1842

“If you intend to go to work, there is no better place than right where you are; if you do not intend to go to work, you can not get along anywhere.”

  • Letter to John D. Johnson, November 4, 1851

“As labor is the common burden of our race, so the effort of some to shift their share of the burden on the shoulders of others is the greatest durable curse of the race.”

  • Fragment on Slavery, circa July 1854

“The ant who has toiled and dragged a crumb to his nest will furiously defend the fruit of his labor against whatever robber assails him. So plain that the most dumb and stupid slave that ever toiled for a master does constantly know that he is wronged.”

  • Fragment on Slavery, circa July 1854

“Free labor has the inspiration of hope; pure slavery has no hope.”

  • Fragment on Free Labor, circa September 1859

“I hold if the Almighty had ever made a set of men that should do all the eating and none of the work, he would have made them with mouths only and no hands, and if he had ever made another class that he had intended should do all the work and none of the eating, eh would have made them without mouths and with all hands.”

  • Speech at Cincinnati, Ohio, September 17, 1859

“Every man is proud of what he does well; and no man is proud of what he does not do well. With the former, his heart is in his work; and he will do twice as much of it with less fatigue. The latter performs a little imperfectly, looks at it in disgust, turns from it, and imagines himself exceedingly tired. The little he has done, comes to nothing, for want of finishing.”

  • Speech before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, September 30, 1859

“The old general rule was that educated people did not perform manual labor. They managed to eat their bread, leaving the toil of producing it to the uneducated. This was not an insupportable evil to the working bees, so long as the class of drones remained very small. But now, especially in these free States, nearly all are educated–quite too nearly all, to leave the labor of the uneducated, in any wise adequate to the support of the whole. It follows from this that henceforth educated people must labor. Otherwise, education itself would become a positive and intolerable evil. No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive.”

  • Speech before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, September 30, 1859

“The world is agreed that labor is the source from which human wants are mainly supplied. There is no dispute upon that point.”

  • Speech before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, September 30, 1859

“Every man, black, white or yellow, has a mouth to be fed and two hands with which to feed it – and that bread should be allowed to go to that mouth without controversy.”

  • Speech at Hartford, Connecticut, March 5, 1860

“Work, work, work, is the main thing.”

  • Letter to John M. Brockman, September 25, 1860

“I am not ashamed to confess that twenty-five years ago I was a hired laborer, mauling rails, at work on a flatboat – just what might happen to any poor man’s son. I want every man to have a chance.

  • Speech at New Haven, March 6, 1860

“I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind; and therefore, I will simply say that I am for those means which will give the greatest good to the greatest numbers.”

  • Speech at Cincinnati, February 12, 1861

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

  • First Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861

“Let him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.”

  • Reply to New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association, March 21, 1864

“Others have been made fools of by the girls; but this can never be with truth said of me. I most emphatically, in this instance, made a fool of myself.”

  • Letter to Eliza Browning, April 1, 1838

“In this troublesome world, we are never quite satisfied.”

  • Letter to Mary Todd Lincoln, April 16, 1848

“The true rule, in determining to embrace or reject anything, is not whether it have any evil in it, but whether it have more of evil than of good.”

  • Speech on Internal Improvements, June 20, 1848

“I wish to do justice to all.”

  • Speech to U.S. House of Representatives, July 27, 1848

“Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today.”

  • Notes for a law lecture, circa July 1, 1850

“The better part of one’s life consists in his friendships.”

  • Letter to Joseph Gillespie, May 19, 1849

“Let bygones be bygones; let past differences as nothing be.”

  • Speech at Chicago, December 10, 1856

“It really hurts me very much to suppose that I have wronged anybody on earth.”

  • Debate at Quincy, October 13, 1858

“The inclination to exchange thoughts with one another is probably an original impulse of our nature.”

  • Second Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions, February 11, 1859

“I have found that it is not entirely safe, when one is misrepresented under his very nose, to allow this misrepresentation to go uncontradicted.”

  • Speech at Columbus, September 16, 1859

“I have found that when one is embarrassed, usually the shortest way to get through with it is to quit talking or thinking about it, and go at something else.”

  • Speech at Cincinnati, September 17, 1859

“My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

  • Farewell Address at Springfield, February 11, 1861

“How miserably things seem to be arranged in this world. If we have no friends, we have no pleasure; and if we have them, we are sure to lose them, and be doubly pained by the loss.”

  • Letter to Joshua F. Speed, February 25, 1862

“It is a cheering thought throughout life that something can be done to ameliorate the condition of those who have been subject to the hard usage of the world.”

  • Address on Colonization to a deputation of Negroes, August 14, 1862

“Yield larger things to which you can show nor more than equal right; and yield lesser ones, though clearly your own. Better give your path to a dog, than be bitten by him in contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the bite.”

  • Letter to James M. Cutts, Jr., October 26, 1863

“I have endured a great deal of ridicule without much malice; and have received a great deal of kindness, not quite free from ridicule. I am used to it.”

  • Letter to James H. Hackett, November 2, 1863

“Important principles may and must be inflexible.”

  • Last public speech, April 11, 1865

“Let none falter, who thinks he is right, and we may succeed.”

  • Speech at Springfield, December 26, 1839

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.

  • Letter to Isham Reavis, November 5, 1855

“A man watches his pear-tree day after day, impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the process and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him patiently wait, and the ripe pear at the length falls into his lap.”

  • Remarks at White House, circa February 1865

“We shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it.”

  • Last public speech, April 11, 1865

“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.”

  • Temperance Address at Springfield , February 22, 1842

“Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much.”

  • Speech at Chicago, December 10, 1856

“Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces judicial decisions. He makes possible the enforcement of them, else impossible.”

  • Note for speeches, circa October 1858

“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.”

  • Debate at Ottawa, August 21, 1858

“No policy that does not rest upon philosophical public opinion can be permanently maintained.”

  • Speech at New Haven, March 6, 1860

“Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence.”

  • Lyceum Address at Springfield, January 27, 1838

“Happy day, when, all appetites controlled, all poisons subdued, all matter subjected, mind, all conquering mind, shall live and move the monarch of the world. Glorious consummation! Hail fall of Fury! Reign of Reason, all hail!

  • Temperance Address, February 22, 1842

“If a man will stand up and assert, and repeat and re-assert, that two and two do not make four, I know nothing in the power of argument that can stop him.”

  • Speech at Peoria, October 16, 1854

“If a man says he knows a thing, then he must show how he knows it.

  • Debate at Ottawa, August 21, 1858

“There are two ways of establishing a proposition. One is by trying to demonstrate it upon reason; and the other is to show that great men in former times have thought so and so, and thus to pass it by the weight of pure authority.”

  • Speech at Columbus, Ohio, September 16, 1859

“Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature — opposition to it is in his love of justice. These principles are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely, as slavery extension brings them, shocks, and throes, and convulsions must ceaselessly follow. Repeal the Missouri Compromise — repeal all compromises — repeal the declaration of independence — repeal all past history, you still can not repeal human nature. It still will be the abundance of man’s heart, that slavery extension is wrong; and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will continue to speak.

  • Speech at Peoria, October 16, 1854

“You know I dislike slavery; and you fully admit the abstract wrong of it.”

  • Letter to Joshua Speed, August 24, 1855

“The slave-breeders and slave-traders, are a small, odious and detested class, among you; and yet in politics, they dictate the course of all of you, and are as completely your masters, as you are the master of your own negroes.”

  • Letter to Joshua Speed, August 24, 1855

“On the question of liberty, as a principle, we are not what we have been. When we were the political slaves of King George, and wanted to be free, we called the maxim that “all men are created equal” a self evident truth; but now when we have grown fat, and have lost all dread of being slaves ourselves, we have become so greedy to be masters that we call the same maxim “a self evident lie.”

  • Letter to George Robertson, August 15, 1855

“The Autocrat of all the Russias will resign his crown, and proclaim his subjects free republicans sooner than will our American masters voluntarily give up their slaves.”

  • Letter to George Robertson, August 15, 1855

“Welcome, or unwelcome, agreeable, or disagreeable, whether this shall be an entire slave nation, is the issue before us.”

  • Fragment of a Speech, circa May 18, 1858

“I believe this Government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”

  • House Divided Speech, June 16, 1858

“I believe each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruits of his labor, so far as it in no wise interferes with any other man’s rights.”

  • Speech at Chicago, Illinois, July 10, 1858

“I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.”

  • Speech at Chicago, July 10, 1858

“If we cannot give freedom to every creature, let us do nothing that will impose slavery upon any other creature.”

  • Speech at Chicago, July 10, 1858

“Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere.

  • Speech at Edwardsville, September 11, 1858

“I think we have fairly entered upon a durable struggle as to whether this nation is to ultimately become all slave or all free, and though I fall early in the contest, it is nothing if I shall have contributed, in the least degree, to the final rightful result.

  • Letter to H.D. Sharpe, December 8, 1858

“If slavery is right, it ought to be extended; if not, it ought to be restricted – there is no middle ground.”

  • Speech at Hartford, March 5, 1860

“You think slavery is right and should be extended; while we think slavery is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us.”

  • Letter to Alexander H. Stephens, December 22, 1860

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.”

  • Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862

“What I did, I did after very full deliberation, and under a heavy and solemn sense of responsibility. I can only trust in God that I have made no mistake.”

  • Reply to Serenade in Honor of [Preliminary] Emancipation Proclamation, September 24, 1862

“In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth.”

  • Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

“Still, to use a coarse, but an expressive figure, broken eggs can not be mended. I have issued the emancipation proclamation, and I can not retract it.”

  • Letter to John A. McClernand, January 8, 1863

“I have very earnestly urged the slave-states to adopt emancipation; and it ought to be, and is an object with me not to overthrow, or thwart what any of them may in good faith do, to that end.”

  • Letter to John M. Schofield, June 23, 1863

“You say you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you; but, no matter. Fight you, then exclusively to save the Union.

  • Letter to James Conkling, August 26, 1863

“And then, there will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation…”

  • Letter to James Conkling, August 26, 1863

“You dislike the emancipation proclamation; and, perhaps, would have it retracted. You say it is unconstitutional – I think differently.”

  • Letter to James Conkling, August 26, 1863

“I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel. And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling.”

  • Letter to Albert Hodges, April 4, 1864

“We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name – liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names – liberty and tyranny.”

  • Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, Maryland, April 18, 1864

“The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.”

  • Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, Maryland, April 18, 1864

I wish all men to be free.”

  • Letter to Henry W Hoffman, October 4, 1864

“One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war.”

  • Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

“I have always thought all men should be free; but if any should be slaves, it should be first those who desire ti for themselves, and secondly, those who desire it others. Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”

  • Speech to One Hundred Fortieth Indiana Regiment, March 17, 1865

“Let North and South – let all Americans – let all lovers of liberty everywhere join in the great and good work.”

  • Speech at Peoria, October 16, 1854

“We do not want to dissolve the Union; you shall not.”

  • Speech at Galena, August 1, 1856

“To the best of my judgment I have labored for, and not against the Union.”

  • Speech at Springfield, October 29, 1858

“Let us neither express nor cherish any hard feelings toward any citizen who by his vote has differed with us. Let us at all times remember that all American citizens are brothers of a common country, and should dwell together in the bonds of fraternal feeling.”

  • Remarks at Springfield, November 20, 1860

“[M]y opinion is that no state can, in any way lawfully, get out of the Union, without the consent of the others; and that it is the duty of the President, and other government functionaries to run the machine as it is.”

  • Letter to Thurlow Weed, December 17, 1860

“The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776.”

  • First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

“The United States don’t need the services of boys who disobey their parents.”

  • Letter to Gideon Welles, undated

“I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be ‘the Union as it was.’”

  • Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862

“May our children and our children’s children to a thousand generations, continue to enjoy the benefits conferred upon us by a united country, and have cause yet to rejoice under those glorious institutions bequeathed us by Washington and his compeers.”

  • Speech at Frederick, Maryland, October 4, 1862

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

  • Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

“A fair examination of history has seemed to authorize a belief that the past action and influences of the Untied States were generally regarded as having been beneficent towards mankind.”

  • Letter to the Workingmen of Manchester, England, January 19, 1863

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

  • Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

“The restoration of the Rebel States to the Union must rest upon the principle of civil and political equality of both races; and it must be sealed by general amnesty.

  • Letter to James S. Wadsworth, January 1864

“It is not merely for to-day, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children’s children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives.”

  • Speech to the One Hundred Sixty-sixth Ohio Regiment, August 22, 1864

“Nowhere in the world is presented a government of so much liberty and equality. To the humblest and poorest amongst us are held out the highest privileges and positions. The present moment finds me at the White House, yet there is as good a chance for your children as there was for my father’s.”

  • Speech to 148th Ohio Regiment, August 31, 1864

“Thoughtful men must feel that the fate of civilization upon this continent is involved in the issue of our contest.”

  • Letter to John Maclean, December 27, 1864

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”

  • Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

“He who does something at the head of one Regiment, will eclipse him who does nothing at the head of a hundred.”

  • Letter to David Hunter, December 31, 1861

“With us every soldier is a man of character, and must be treated with more consideration than is customary in Europe.”

  • Letter to Count Gasparin, August 4, 1862

“I would like to speak in terms of praise du to the many brave officers and soldiers who have fought in the cause of the war.”

  • Response to Serenade, July 7, 1863

“Men who, by fighting our battles, bear the chief burthen of saving our country.”

  • Letter to Montgomery Blair, July 24, 1863

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

  • Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

“War at the best, is terrible, and this war of ours, in its magnitude and in its duration, is one of the most terrible.”

  • Speech at Philadelphia, June 16, 1864