Lincoln Attacks Slavery in a Debate with Stephen Douglas

These twenty-seven lines provide valuable insight into Lincoln’s thought process at a crucial moment of his public life. He advances the fundamental truth that all creatures will fight for the fruits of their labor, drawing upon the kind of moral story he admired as a youthful reader of Aesop’s fables. It illustrates his use of familiar parables to convey complex ideas to his audience.

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. So plain that no one, high or low, ever does mistake it, except in a plainly selfish way; for although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself.