Quotes by Abraham Lincoln
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Wikipedia Summary for Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American lawyer and politician who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War, the country's greatest moral, cultural, constitutional, and political crisis. He succeeded in preserving the Union, abolishing slavery, bolstering the federal government, and modernizing the U.S. economy.
Lincoln was born into poverty in a log cabin and was raised on the frontier primarily in Indiana. He was self-educated and became a lawyer, Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator, and U.S. Congressman from Illinois. In 1849, he returned to his law practice but became vexed by the opening of additional lands to slavery as a result of the Kansas–Nebraska Act. He reentered politics in 1854, becoming a leader in the new Republican Party, and he reached a national audience in the 1858 debates against Stephen Douglas. Lincoln ran for President in 1860, sweeping the North in victory. Pro-slavery elements in the South equated his success with the North's rejection of their right to practice slavery, and southern states began seceding from the union. To secure its independence, the new Confederate States fired on Fort Sumter, a U.S. fort in the South, and Lincoln called up forces to suppress the rebellion and restore the Union.
As the leader of moderate Republicans, Lincoln had to navigate a contentious array of factions with friends and opponents on both sides. War Democrats rallied a large faction of former opponents into his moderate camp, but they were countered by Radical Republicans, who demanded harsh treatment of the Southern Confederates. Anti-war Democrats (called "Copperheads") despised him, and irreconcilable pro-Confederate elements plotted his assassination. Lincoln managed the factions by exploiting their mutual enmity, by carefully distributing political patronage, and by appealing to the U.S. people. His Gettysburg Address became a historic clarion call for nationalism, republicanism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy. Lincoln scrutinized the strategy and tactics in the war effort, including the selection of generals and the naval blockade of the South's trade. He suspended habeas corpus, and he averted British intervention by defusing the Trent Affair. He engineered the end to slavery with his Emancipation Proclamation and his order that the Army protect and recruit former slaves. He also encouraged border states to outlaw slavery, and promoted the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlawed slavery across the country.
Lincoln managed his own successful re-election campaign. He sought to heal the war-torn nation through reconciliation. On April 14, 1865, just days after the war's end at Appomattox, Lincoln was attending a play at Ford's Theatre with his wife Mary when he was assassinated by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln is remembered as a martyr and hero of the United States and is consistently ranked as one of the greatest presidents in American history.
I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.
That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.
I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.
There's nothing good in war. Except its ending.
Ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets, and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided there can be no successful appeal back to bullets.
Stand with anyone that is right; stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.
I am not concerned that you have fallen -- I am concerned that you arise.
Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.
In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.
You can have anything you want, if you want it badly enough.
People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.
You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.
A private soldier has as much right to justice as a major-general.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
Great honor is due to those officers who remain true despite the example of their treacherous associates; but the greatest honor and most important fact of all is the unanimous firmness of the common soldiers and common sailors.
It is the eternal struggle between these two principles -- right and wrong. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time and will ever continue to struggle. It is the same spirit that says, ''You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.
Politicians are a set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the people and who, to say the most of them, are, taken as a mass, at least one long step removed from honest men.
I indicated no wish or purpose of my own;I simply expressed my expectation. Cannot the judge perceive the distinction between a purpose and an expectation? I have often expressed an expectation to die but I have never expressed a wish to die.
Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation and makes crimes out of things that are not crimes.
I am here; I must do the best I can, and bear the responsibility of taking the course which I feel I ought to take.
We must settle this question now--whether in a free government the minority have the right to break it up whenever they choose. If we fail, it will go far to prove the incapability of the people to govern themselves.
These men ask for just the same thing: fairness, and fairness only. This is, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have.
If each of billions or trillions of leaves and snowflakes can display its own unique individual identity, how much more so should not each human being?
Military glory the attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood.
Military glory-that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood-that serpent's eye, that charms to destroy.
Writing the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye is the great invention of the world.
Writing, the art of communicating thoughts to the mind through the eye, is the great invention of the world enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space.
You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.
I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the sky and say there is no God.
Perhaps a man's character was like a tree, and his reputation like a shadow; the shadow is what we think of it, the tree is like the real thing.
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.
If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution.
I have always wanted to deal with everyone I meet candidly and honestly. If I have made any assertion not warranted by facts, and it is pointed out to me, I will withdraw it cheerfully.
No client ever had money enough to bribe my conscience or to stop its utterance against wrong, and oppression.
No client ever had money enough to bribe my conscience or to stop its utterance against wrong, and oppression. My conscience is my own -- my creators -- not man's. I shall never sink the rights of mankind to the malice, wrong, or avarice of another's wishes, though those wishes come to me in the relation of client and attorney.
The love of property and consciousness of right and wrong have conflicting places in our organization, which often makes a man's course seem crooked, his conduct a riddle.
Through their deeds, the dead of battle have spoken more eloquently for themselves than any of the living ever could. But we can only honor them by rededicating ourselves to the cause for which they gave a last full measure of devotion.
When I have a particular case in hand, I have that motive and feel an interest in the case, feel an interest in ferreting out the questions to the bottom, love to dig up the question by the roots and hold it up and dry it before the fires of the mind.
When you lack interest in the case the job will very likely lack skill and diligence in the performance.
And then, the negro being doomed, and damned, and forgotten, to everlasting bondage, is the white man quite certain that the tyrant demon will not turn upon him too?
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. It will become all one thing, or all the other.
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.
Thoughtful men must feel that the fate of civilization upon this continent is involved in the issue of our contest. Among the most satisfying proofs of this conviction is the hearty devotion everywhere exhibited by our schools and colleges to the national cause.
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.
A tendancy to melancholy is a misfortune, not a fault.
A tendancy to melancholy...let it be observed, is a misfortune, not a fault.
If you trust, you will be disappointed occasionally, but if you mistrust, you will be miserable all the time.
My paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not to either save or destroy Slavery.
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 some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.
No one has needed favours more than I, and generally, few have been less unwilling to accept them; but in this case, favour to me,would be injustice to the public, and therefore I must beg your pardon for declining it.
Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world?
A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people.
A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.
The Democracy of to-day hold the liberty of one man to be absolutely nothing, when in conflict with another mans right of property. Republicans, on the contrary, are for both the man and the dollar; but in cases of conflict, the man before the dollar.
The power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts.
The political horizon looks dark and lowering; but the people, under Providence, will set all right.
Public opinion, though often formed upon a wrong basis, yet generally has a strong underlying sense of justice.
Let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children's liberty.
The damnest scoundrel that ever lived, but in the infinite mercy of Providence... also the damnest fool.
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.
It is sometimes well to be humble.
A fellow once came to me to ask for an appointment as a minister abroad. Finding he could not get that, he came down to some more modest position. Finally, he asked to be made a tide-waiter. When he saw he could not get that, he asked me for an old pair of trousers. It is sometimes well to be humble.
While the people retain their virtue, and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government, in the short space of four years.
Again, a law may be both constitutional and expedient, and yet may be administered in an unjust and unfair way.
It has long been recognized that the problems with alcohol relate not to the use of a bad thing, but to the abuse of a good thing.
While we are grateful to all the brave men and officers for the events of the past few days, we should, above all, be very grateful to Almighty God, who gives us victory.
I don't like to hear cut and dried sermons. No--when I hear a man preach, I like to see him act as if he were fighting bees.
With this honor devolves upon you also a corresponding responsibility. As the country herein trusts you, so under God it will sustain you.
Two principles have stood face-to-face from the beginning of time; and they will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings.
There are no accidents in my philosophy. Every effect must have its cause. The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future. All these are links in the endless chain stretching from the finite to the infinite.
The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was not made to conceal or destroy the apple, but to adorn and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple-not the apple for the picture.
We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.
We believe that the spreading out and perpetuity of the institution of slavery impairs the general welfare. We believe -- nay, we know, that that is the only thing that has ever threatened the perpetuity of the Union itself.
If we exchange one dollar, we both have one dollar each. But if we exchange one good thought, we both have two good thoughts.
Again I admonish you not to be turned from your stern purpose of defending your beloved country and its free institutions by any arguments urged by ambitious and designing men, but stand fast to the Union and the old flag.
Slavery is founded on the selfishness of man's nature -- opposition to it on his love of justice. These principles are in eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely as slavery extension brings them, shocks and throes and convulsions must ceaselessly follow.
In the first place, I insist that our fathers did not make this nation half slave and half free, or part slave and part free. I insist that they found the institution of slavery existing here. They did not make it so, but they left it so because they knew of no way to get rid of it at that time.
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. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
The matter of fees is important, far beyond the mere question of bread and butter involved. Properly attended to, fuller justice is done to both lawyer and client.
I have never united myself to any church because I found difficulty in giving my assent without mental reservation to the long, complicated statements of Christian doctrine which characterize the articles of belief and the usual confession of faith.
I have never had a feeling, politically, that did not spring from the Declaration of Independence that all should have an equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence, I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.
In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party.
A nation may be said to consist of its territory, its people, and its laws. The territory is the only part which is of certain durability.
These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel.
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.
Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time.
Peace will come soon to stay, and so come as to be worth keeping in all future time. It will then have proved that among free men there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet, and that they who take such appeal are sure their cases and pay the costs.
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 disrepect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular.
The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance.
In order to win a man to your cause, you must first reach his heart, the great high road to his reason.
In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.
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 have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.
The demon of intemperance ever seems to have delighted in sucking the blood of genius and of generosity.
The demon of intemperance ever seems to have delighted in sucking the blood of genius and of generosity. What one of us but can call to mind some relative more promising in youth than all his fellows, who has fallen a sacrifice to his rapacity?
The time has come when I am for everybody fighting the rebels. Let Indians fight them; let the Negroes fight them; and if you have got any strong-legged jackasses in Iwoa that can kick rebels to death, they have my hearty consent.
I have an irrepressible desire to live till I can be assured that the world is a little better for my having lived in it.
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.
The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but can not do at all, or can not so well do, for themselves -- in their separate, and individual capacities.
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.
I am struggling to maintain the government, not to overthrow it. I am struggling especially to prevent others from overthrowing it.
Great distance in either time or space has wonderful power to lull and render quiescent the human mind.
Money will cease to be master and become the servant of humanity. Democracy will rise superior to the money power.
Let there be no compromise on the question of extending slavery. If there be, all our labor is lost, and, ere long, must be done again.
It is easiest to be all things to all men, but it is not honest. Self-respect must be sacrificed every hour in the day.
No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive.
I am slow to listen to criminations among friends, and never espouse their quarrels on either side. My sincere wish is that both sides will allow bygones to be bygones, and look to the present and future only.
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.
All the armies of Europe combined could not by force make a track upon the Blue Ridge, or take a drink from the Ohio. If we are to be destroyed, we must do it ourselves.
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.
It is not our frowning battlements...or the strength our gallant and disciplined army? These are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land... Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere.
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.
I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves, it should be first those who desire for themselves, and secondly those who desire it for others. Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.
Always let your subordinates know that the honor will be all theirs if they succeed and the blame will be yours if they fail.
Kindness is the only service that will stand the storm of life and not wash out. It will wear well and will be remembered long after the prism of politeness or the complexion of courtesy has faded away.
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown.
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.
One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended.
We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.
We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.
In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man.
In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good.
Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us therefore study the incidents in this as philosophy to learn wisdom from and none of them as wrongs to be avenged.
If ever this free people, if this Government itself is ever utterly demoralized, it will come from this incessant human wriggle and struggle for office, which is but a way to live without work.
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