The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, v5
Abraham Lincoln

Part 4 out of 8

(Private and Confidential.)
SPRINGFIELD, ILL., December 13, 1860


MY DEAR SIR:--Your long letter received. Prevent, as far as
possible, any of our friends from demoralizing themselves and our
cause by entertaining propositions for compromise of any sort on
"slavery extension." There is no possible compromise upon it but
which puts us under again, and leaves all our work to do over again.
Whether it be a Missouri line or Eli Thayer's popular sovereignty, it
is all the same. Let either be done, and immediately filibustering
and extending slavery recommences. On that point hold firm, as with
a chain of steel.

Yours as ever,





MY DEAR SIR:--Yours of the 11th was received two days ago. Should
the convocation of governors of which you speak seem desirous to know
my views on the present aspect of things, tell them you judge from my
speeches that I will be inflexible on the territorial question; but I
probably think either the Missouri line extended, or Douglas's and
Eli Thayer's popular sovereignty would lose us everything we gain by
the election; that filibustering for all south of us and making slave
States of it would follow in spite of us, in either case; also that I
probably think all opposition, real and apparent, to the fugitive
slave clause of the Constitution ought to be withdrawn.

I believe you can pretend to find but little, if anything, in my
speeches, about secession. But my 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.

Truly yours,




SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, December 21, 1860


MY DEAR SIR:--Last night I received your letter giving an account of
your interview with General Scott, and for which I thank you. Please
present my respects to the General, and tell him, confidentially, I
shall be obliged to him to be as well prepared as he can to either
hold or retake the forts, as the case may require, at and after the

Yours as ever,



(For your own eye only)



MY DEAR SIR:--Your obliging answer to my short note is just received,
and for which please accept my thanks. I fully appreciate the
present peril the country is in, and the weight of responsibility on
me. Do the people of the South really entertain fear that a
Republican administration would, directly or indirectly, interfere
with the slaves, or with them about the slaves? If they do, I wish to
assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that
there is no cause for such fears. The South would be in no more
danger in this respect than it was in the days of Washington. I
suppose, however, this does not meet the case. You think slavery is
right and ought to be extended, while we think it is wrong and ought
to be restricted. That, I suppose, is the rub. It certainly is the
only substantial difference between us.

Yours very truly,




December [22?], 1860

That the fugitive slave clause of the Constitution ought to be
enforced by a law of Congress, with efficient provisions for that
object, not obliging private persons to assist in its execution, but
punishing all who resist it, and with the usual safeguards to
liberty, securing free men against being surrendered as slaves.

That all State laws, if there be such, really or apparently in
conflict with such law of Congress, ought to be repealed; and no
opposition to the execution of such law of Congress ought to be made.

That the Federal Union must be preserved.

Prepared for the consideration of the Republican members of the
Senate Committee of Thirteen.




MY DEAR SIR:--I am much obliged by the receipt of yours of the 18th.
The most we can do now is to watch events, and be as well prepared as
possible for any turn things may take. If the forts fall, my
judgment is that they are to be retaken. When I shall determine
definitely my time of starting to Washington, I will notify you.

Yours truly,



SPRINGFIELD, ILL., Dec 24, 1860


MY DEAR SIR:--Without supposing that you and I are any nearer
together, politically, than heretofore, allow me to tender you my
sincere thanks for your Union resolution, expressive of views upon
which we never were, and, I trust, never will be at variance.

Yours very truly,



SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, December 14, 1860.


MY DEAR SIR:--I need a man of Democratic antecedents from New
England. I cannot get a fair share of that element in without. This
stands in the way of Mr. Adams. I think of Governor Banks, Mr.
Welles, and Mr. Tuck. Which of them do the New England delegation
prefer? Or shall I decide for myself?

Yours as ever,




SPRINGFIELD. ILL., January 3, 1861.


DEAR SIR:--Yours without signature was received last night. I have
been considering your suggestions as to my reaching Washington
somewhat earlier than is usual. It seems to me the inauguration is
not the most dangerous point for us. Our adversaries have us now
clearly at disadvantage on the second Wednesday of February, when the
votes should be officially counted. If the two houses refuse to meet
at all, or meet without a quorum of each, where shall we be? I do
not think that this counting is constitutionally essential to the
election, but how are we to proceed in the absence of it? In view of
this, I think it is best for me not to attempt appearing in
Washington till the result of that ceremony is known.

It certainly would be of some advantage if you could know who are to
be at the heads of the War and Navy departments, but until I can
ascertain definitely whether I can get any suitable men from the
South, and who, and how many, I can not well decide. As yet, I have
no word from Mr. Gilmer in answer to my request for an interview with
him. I look for something on the subject, through you, before long.
Yours very truly,

SPRINGFIELD, ILL., January 12, 1861


MY DEAR SIR:--Yours of the 8th received. I still hope Mr. Gilmer
will, on a fair understanding with us, consent to take a place in the
Cabinet. The preference for him over Mr. Hunt or Mr. Gentry is that,
up to date--he has a living position in the South, while they have
not. He is only better than Winter Davis in that he is farther
south. I fear, if we could get, we could not safely take more than
one such man--that is, not more than one who opposed us in the
election--the danger being to lose the confidence of our own friends.
Your selection for the State Department having become public, I am
happy to find scarcely any objection to it. I shall have trouble
with every other Northern Cabinet appointment--so much so that I
shall have to defer them as long as possible to avoid being teased
into insanity, to make changes.

Your obedient servant,




SIR:--Your letter of the 30th ult. inviting me, on behalf of the
Legislature of New York, to pass through that State on my way to
Washington, and tendering me the hospitalities of her authorities and
people, has been duly received. With the feelings of deep gratitude
to you and them for this testimonial of regard and esteem I beg you
to notify them that I accept the invitation so kindly tendered.

Your obedient servant,


P.S.--Please let the ceremonies be only such as to take the least
time possible. A. L.



SPRINGFIELD, ILL., February 4, 1861

DEAR SIR:--I have both your letter to myself and that to Judge Davis,
in relation to a certain gentleman in your State claiming to dispense
patronage in my name, and also to be authorized to use my name to
advance the chances of Mr. Greeley for an election to the United
States Senate.

It is very strange that such things should be said by any one. The
gentleman you mention did speak to me of Mr. Greeley in connection
with the senatorial election, and I replied in terms of kindness
toward Mr. Greeley, which I really feel, but always with an expressed
protest that my name must not be used in the senatorial election in
favor of or against any one. Any other representation of me is a

As to the matter of dispensing patronage, it perhaps will surprise
you to learn that I have information that you claim to have my
authority to arrange that matter in New York. I do not believe you
have so claimed; but still so some men say. On that subject you know
all I have said to you is "justice to all," and I have said nothing
more particular to any one. I say this to reassure you that I have
not changed my position.

In the hope, however, that you will not use my name in the matter, I

Yours truly,


FEBRUARY 11, 1861

MY FRIENDS:--One who has never been placed in a like position cannot
understand my feelings at this hour, nor the oppressive sadness I
feel at this parting. For more than twenty-five years I have lived
among you, and during all that time I have received nothing but
kindness at your hands. Here the most cherished ties of earth were
assumed. Here my children were born, and here one of them lies
buried. To you, my friends, I owe all that I have, all that I am.
All the strange checkered past seems to crowd upon my mind. To-day I
leave you. I go to assume a task more difficult than that which
devolved upon General Washington. Unless the great God who assisted
him shall be with and aid me I cannot prevail; but if the same
almighty arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support
me I shall not fail; I shall succeed. Let us pray that the God of
our fathers may not forsake us now. To Him I commend you all.
Permit me to ask that with equal sincerity and faith you will all
invoke His wisdom and goodness for me.

With these words I must leave you; for how long I know not. Friends,
one and all, I must now wish you an affectionate farewell.


I am leaving you on an errand of national importance, attended, as
you are aware, with considerable difficulties. Let us believe, as
some poet has expressed it, "Behind the cloud the sun is still
shining." I bid you an affectionate farewell.




Most heartily do I thank you for this magnificent reception, and
while I cannot take to myself any share of the compliment thus paid,
more than that which pertains to a mere instrument, an accidental
instrument, perhaps I should say, of a great cause, I yet must look
upon it as a most magnificent reception, and as such most heartily do
thank you for it. You have been pleased to address yourself to me
chiefly in behalf of this glorious Union in which we live, in all of
which you have my hearty sympathy, and, as far as may be within my
power, will have, one and inseparable, my hearty consideration.
While I do not expect, upon this occasion, or until I get to
Washington, to attempt any lengthy speech, I will only say to the
salvation of the Union there needs but one single thing--the hearts
of a people like yours.

The people--when they rise in mass in behalf of the Union and the
liberties of their country, truly may it be said, "The gates of hell
cannot prevail against them." In all trying positions in which I
shall be
placed--and, doubtless, I shall be placed in many such--my reliance
will be placed upon you and the people of the United States; and I
wish you to remember, now and forever, that it is your business, and
not mine; that if the union of these States and the liberties of this
people shall be lost, it is but little to any one man of fifty-two
years of age, but a great deal to the thirty millions of people who
inhabit these United States, and to their posterity in all coming
time. It is your business to rise up and preserve the Union and
liberty for yourselves, and not for me.

I desire they should be constitutionally performed. I, as already
intimated, am but an accidental instrument, temporary, and to serve
but for a limited time; and I appeal to you again to constantly bear
in mind that with you, and not with politicians, not with Presidents,
not with office-seekers, but with you is the question, Shall the
Union and shall the liberties of this country be preserved to the
latest generations?


FEBRUARY 12, 1861

FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE STATE OF INDIANA:--I am here to thank you much
for this magnificent welcome, and still more for the generous support
given by your State to that political cause which I think is the true
and just cause of the whole country and the whole world.

Solomon says there is "a time to keep silence," and when men wrangle
by the mouth with no certainty that they mean the same thing while
using the same word, it perhaps were as well if they would keep

The words "coercion" and "invasion" are much used in these days, and
often with some temper and hot blood. Let us make sure, if we can,
the meaning of those who use them. Let us get the exact definitions
of these words, not from dictionaries, but from the men themselves,
who certainly deprecate the things they would represent by the use of
the words.

What, then, is coercion? What is invasion? Would the marching of an
army into South Carolina, without the consent of her people, and with
hostile intent toward them, be invasion? I certainly think it would,
and it would be coercion also, if the South Carolinians were forced
to submit. But if the United States should merely hold and retake
its own forts and other property, and collect the duties on foreign
importations, or even withhold the mails from places where they were
habitually violated, would any or all of these things be invasion or
coercion? Do our professed lovers of the Union, who spitefully
resolve that they will resist coercion and invasion, understand that
such things as these, on the part of the United States, would be
coercion or invasion of a State? If so, their idea of means to
preserve the object of their great affection would seem to be
exceedingly thin and airy. If sick, the little pills of the
homoeopathist would be much too large for it to swallow. In their
view, the Union, as a family relation, would seem to be no regular
marriage, but rather a sort of "free-love" arrangement, to be
maintained on passional attraction.

By the way, in what consists the special sacredness of a State? I
speak not of the position assigned to a State in the Union by the
Constitution, for that is a bond we all recognize. That position,
however, a State cannot carry out of the Union with it. I speak of
that assumed primary right of a State to rule all which is less than
itself, and to ruin all which is larger than itself. If a State and
a county, in a given case, should be equal in number of inhabitants,
in what, as a matter of principle, is the State better than the
county? Would an exchange of name be an exchange of rights? Upon what
principle, upon what rightful principle, may a State, being no more
than one fiftieth part of the nation in soil and population, break up
the nation, and then coerce a proportionably large subdivision of
itself in the most arbitrary way? What mysterious right to play
tyrant is conferred on a district of country, with its people, by
merely calling it a State? Fellow-citizens, I am not asserting
anything. I am merely asking questions for you to consider. And now
allow me to bid you farewell.




Mr. MAYOR, AND GENTLEMEN:--Twenty-four hours ago, at the capital of
Indiana, I said to myself, "I have never seen so many people
assembled together in winter weather." I am no longer able to say
that. But it is what might reasonably have been expected--that this
great city of Cincinnati would thus acquit herself on such an
occasion. My friends, I am entirely overwhelmed by the magnificence
of the reception which has been given, I will not say to me, but to
the President-elect of the United States of America. Most heartily
do I thank you, one and all, for it.

I have spoken but once before this in Cincinnati. That was a year
previous to the late Presidential election. On that occasion, in a
playful manner, but with sincere words, I addressed much of what I
said to the Kentuckians. I gave my opinion that we, as Republicans,
would ultimately beat them as Democrats, but that they could postpone
that result longer by nominating Senator Douglas for the Presidency
than they could by any other way. They did not, in any true sense of
the word, nominate Mr. Douglas, and the result has come certainly as
soon as ever I expected. I also told them how I expected they would
be treated after they should have been beaten, and I now wish to call
their attention to what I then said upon that subject. I then said:

"When we do as we say, beat you, you perhaps want to know what we
will do with you. I will tell you, as far as I am authorized to
speak for the Opposition, what we mean to do with you. We mean to
treat you, as near as we possibly can, as Washington, Jefferson, and
Madison treated you. We mean to leave you alone, and in no way to
interfere with your institutions; to abide by all and every
compromise of the Constitution, and, in a word, coming back to the
original proposition, to treat you so far as degenerate men, if we
have degenerated, may, according to the example of those noble
fathers, Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.

"We mean to remember that you are as good as we; that there is no
difference between us other than the difference of circumstances. We
mean to recognize and bear in mind always that you have as good
hearts in your bosoms as other people, or as we claim to have, and
treat you accordingly."

Fellow-citizens of Kentucky--friends and brethren, may I call you in
my new position?--I see no occasion and feel no inclination to
retract a word of this. If it shall not be made good, be assured the
fault shall not be mine.


FEBRUARY 12, 1861

Mr. CHAIRMAN:--I thank you and those whom you represent for the
compliment you have paid me by tendering me this address. In so far
as there is an allusion to our present national difficulties, which
expresses, as you have said, the views of the gentlemen present, I
shall have to beg pardon for not entering fully upon the questions
which the address you have now read suggests.

I deem it my duty--a duty which I owe to my constituents--to you,
gentlemen, that I should wait until the last moment for a development
of the present national difficulties before I express myself
decidedly as to what course I shall pursue. I hope, then, not to be
false to anything that you have expected of me.

I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, that the working men are the basis of
all governments, for the plain reason that they are all the more
numerous, and as you added that those were the sentiments of the
gentlemen present, representing not only the working class, but
citizens of other callings than those of the mechanic, I am happy to
concur with you in these sentiments, not only of the native-born
citizens, but also of the Germans and foreigners from other

Mr. Chairman, I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve
not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating the
condition of mankind; and therefore, without entering upon the
details of the question, I will simply say that I am for those means
which will give the greatest good to the greatest number.

In regard to the Homestead law, I have to say that, in so far as the
government lands can be disposed of, I am in favor of cutting up the
wild lands into parcels, so that every poor man may have a home.

In regard to the Germans and foreigners, I esteem them no better than
other people, nor any worse. It is not my nature, when I see a
people borne down by the weight of their shackles--the oppression of
tyranny--to make their life more bitter by heaping upon them greater
burdens; but rather would I do all in my power to raise the yoke than
to add anything that would tend to crush them.

Inasmuch as our own country is extensive and new, and the countries
of Europe are densely populated, if there are any abroad who desire
to make this the land of their adoption, it is not in my heart to
throw aught in their way to prevent them from coming to the United

Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I will bid you an affectionate farewell.

FEBRUARY 13, 1861

OF OHIO:--It is true, as has been said by the president of the
Senate, that very great responsibility rests upon me in the position
to which the votes of the American people have called me. I am
deeply sensible of that weighty responsibility. I cannot but know
what you all know, that without a name, perhaps without a reason why
I should have a name, there has fallen upon me a task such as did not
rest even upon the Father of his Country; and so feeling, I can turn
and look for that support without which it will be impossible for me
to perform that great task. I turn, then, and look to the American
people and to that God who has never forsaken them. Allusion has
been made to the interest felt in relation to the policy of the new
administration. In this I have received from some a degree of credit
for having kept silence, and from others some deprecation. I still
think that I was right.

In the varying and repeatedly shifting scenes of the present, and
without a precedent which could enable me to judge by the past, it
has seemed fitting that before speaking upon the difficulties of the
country I should have gained a view of the whole field, being at
liberty to modify and change the course of policy as future events
may make a change necessary.

I have not maintained silence from any want of real anxiety. It is a
good thing that there is no more than anxiety, for there is nothing
going wrong. It is a consoling circumstance that when we look out
there is nothing that really hurts anybody. We entertain different
views upon political questions, but nobody is suffering anything.
This is a most consoling circumstance, and from it we may conclude
that all we want is time, patience, and a reliance on that God who
has never forsaken this people.

Fellow-citizens, what I have said I have said altogether
extemporaneously, and I will now come to a close.


FEBRUARY 14, 1861

I fear that the great confidence placed in my ability is unfounded.
Indeed, I am sure it is. Encompassed by vast difficulties as I am,
nothing shall be wanting on my part, if sustained by God and the
American people. I believe the devotion to the Constitution is
equally great on both sides of the river. It is only the different
understanding of that instrument that causes difficulty. The only
dispute on both sides is, "What are their rights?" If the majority
should not rule, who would be the judge? Where is such a judge to be
found? We should all be bound by the majority of the American people;
if not, then the minority must control. Would that be right? Would
it be just or generous? Assuredly not. I reiterate that the majority
should rule. If I adopt a wrong policy, the opportunity for
condemnation will occur in four years' time. Then I can be turned
out, and a better man with better views put in my place.

FEBRUARY 15, 1861

I most cordially thank his Honor Mayor Wilson, and the citizens of
Pittsburg generally, for their flattering reception. I am the more
grateful because I know that it is not given to me alone, but to the
cause I represent, which clearly proves to me their good-will, and
that sincere feeling is at the bottom of it. And here I may remark
that in every short address I have made to the people, in every crowd
through which I have passed of late, some allusion has been made to
the present distracted condition of the country. It is natural to
expect that I should say something on this subject; but to touch upon
it at all would involve an elaborate discussion of a great many
questions and circumstances, requiring more time than I can at
present command, and would, perhaps, unnecessarily commit me upon
matters which have not yet fully developed themselves. The condition
of the country is an extraordinary one, and fills the mind of every
patriot with anxiety. It is my intention to give this subject all
the consideration I possibly can before specially deciding in regard
to it, so that when I do speak it may be as nearly right as possible.
When I do speak I hope I may say nothing in opposition to the spirit
of the Constitution, contrary to the integrity of the Union, or which
will prove inimical to the liberties of the people, or to the peace
of the whole country. And furthermore, when the time arrives for me
to speak on this great subject, I hope I may say nothing to
disappoint the people generally throughout the country, especially if
the expectation has been based upon anything which I may have
heretofore said. Notwithstanding the troubles across the river [the
speaker pointing southwardly across the Monongahela, and smiling],
there is no crisis but an artificial one. What is there now to
warrant the condition of affairs presented by our friends over the
river? Take even their own view of the questions involved, and there
is nothing to justify the course they are pursuing. I repeat, then,
there is no crisis, excepting such a one as may be gotten up at any
time by turbulent men aided by designing politicians, My advice to
them, under such circumstances, is to keep cool. If the great
American people only keep their temper on both sides of the line, the
troubles will come to an end, and the question which now distracts
the country will be settled, just as surely as all other difficulties
of a like character which have originated in this government have
been adjusted. Let the people on both sides keep their
self-possession, and just as other clouds have cleared away in due
time, so will this great nation continue to prosper as heretofore.
But, fellow-citizens, I have spoken longer on this subject than I
intended at the outset.

It is often said that the tariff is the specialty of Pennsylvania.
Assuming that direct taxation is not to be adopted, the tariff
question must be as durable as the government itself. It is a
question of national housekeeping. It is to the government what
replenishing the meal-tub is to the family. Every varying
circumstances will require frequent modifications as to the amount
needed and the sources of supply. So far there is little difference
of opinion among the people. It is as to whether, and how far,
duties on imports shall be adjusted to favor home production in the
home market, that controversy begins. One party insists that such
adjustment oppresses one class for the advantage of another; while
the other party argues that, with all its incidents, in the long run
all classes are benefited. In the Chicago platform there is a plank
upon this subject which should be a general law to the incoming
administration. We should do neither more nor less than we gave the
people reason to believe we would when they gave us their votes.
Permit me, fellow-citizens, to read the tariff plank of the Chicago
platform, or rather have it read in your hearing by one who has
younger eyes.

[Mr. Lincoln's private secretary then read Section 12 of the Chicago
platform, as follows:]

"That, while providing revenue for the support of the General
Government by duties upon imports, sound policy requires such an
adjustment of these imposts as will encourage the development of the
industrial interest of the whole country; and we commend that policy
of national exchanges which secures to working-men liberal wages, to
agriculture remunerating prices, to mechanics and manufacturers
adequate return for their skill, labor, and enterprise, and to the
nation commercial prosperity and independence."

As with all general propositions, doubtless, there will be shades of
difference in construing this. I have by no means a thoroughly
matured judgment upon this subject, especially as to details; some
general ideas are about all. I have long thought it would be to our
advantage to produce any necessary article at home which can be made
of as good quality and with as little labor at home as abroad, at
least by the difference of the carrying from abroad. In such case
the carrying is demonstrably a dead loss of labor. For instance,
labor being the true standard of value, is it not plain that if equal
labor get a bar of railroad iron out of a mine in England and another
out of a mine in Pennsylvania, each can be laid down in a track at
home cheaper than they could exchange countries, at least by the
carriage? If there be a present cause why one can be both made and
carried cheaper in money price than the other can be made without
carrying, that cause is an unnatural and injurious one, and ought
gradually, if not rapidly, to be removed. The condition of the
treasury at this time would seem to render an early revision of the
tariff indispensable. The Morrill [tariff] bill, now pending before
Congress, may or may not become a law. I am not posted as to its
particular provisions, but if they are generally satisfactory, and
the bill shall now pass, there will be an end for the present. If,
however, it shall not pass, I suppose the whole subject will be one
of the most pressing and important for the next Congress. By the
Constitution, the executive may recommend measures which he may think
proper, and he may veto those he thinks improper, and it is supposed
that he may add to these certain indirect influences to affect the
action of Congress. My political education strongly inclines me
against a very free use of any of these means by the executive to
control the legislation of the country. As a rule, I think it better
that Congress should originate as well as perfect its measures
without external bias. I therefore would rather recommend to every
gentleman who knows he is to be a member of the next Congress to take
an enlarged view, and post himself thoroughly, so as to contribute
his part to such an adjustment of the tariff as shall produce a
sufficient revenue, and in its other bearings, so far as possible, be
just and equal to all sections of the country and classes of the


FEBRUARY 15, 1861

about two miles through snow, rain, and deep mud. The large numbers
that have turned out under these circumstances testify that you are
in earnest about something or other. But do I think so meanly of you
as to suppose that that earnestness is about me personally? I would
be doing you an injustice to suppose you did. You have assembled to
testify your respect for the Union, the Constitution, and the laws;
and here let me say that it is with you, the people, to advance the
great cause of the Union and the Constitution, and not with any one
man. It rests with you alone. This fact is strongly impressed upon
my mind at present. In a community like this, whose appearance
testifies to their intelligence, I am convinced that the cause of
liberty and the Union can never be in danger. Frequent allusion is
made to the excitement at present existing in our national politics,
and it is as well that I should also allude to it here. I think that
there is no occasion for any excitement. 'The crisis, as it is
called, is altogether an artificial crisis. In all parts of the
nation there are differences of opinion on politics. There are
differences of opinion even here. You did not all vote for the
person who now addresses you. What is happening now will not hurt
those who are farther away from here. Have they not all their rights
now as they ever have had? Do they not have their fugitive slaves
returned now as ever? Have they not the same Constitution that they
have lived under for seventy-odd years? Have they not a position as
citizens of this common country, and have we any power to change that
position? What, then, is the matter with them? Why all this
excitement? Why all these complaints?

As I said before, this crisis is all artificial! It has no foundation
in facts. It is not argued up, as the saying is, and cannot,
therefore, be argued down. Let it alone and it will go down of

[Mr. Lincoln then said that they must be content with a few words
from him, as he was tired, etc. Having been given to understand that
the crowd was not all Republican, but consisted of men of all
parties, he continued:]

This is as it should be. If Judge Douglas had been elected and had
been here on his way to Washington, as I am to-night, the Republicans
should have joined his supporters in welcoming him, just as his
friends have joined with mine tonight. If all do not join now to
save the good old ship of the Union this voyage, nobody will have a
chance to pilot her on another voyage.

FEBRUARY 16, 1861

I am here to thank you briefly for this grand reception given to me,
not personally, but as the representative of our great and beloved
country. Your worthy mayor has been pleased to mention, in his
address to me, the fortunate and agreeable journey which I have had
from home, on my rather circuitous route to the Federal capital. I
am very happy that he was enabled in truth to congratulate myself and
company on that fact. It is true we have had nothing thus far. to
mar the pleasure of the trip. We have not been met alone by those
who assisted in giving the election to me--I say not alone by them,
but by the whole population of the country through which we have
passed. This is as it should be. Had the election fallen to any
other of the distinguished candidates instead of myself, under the
peculiar circumstances, to say the least, it would have been proper
for all citizens to have greeted him as you now greet me. It is an
evidence of the devotion of the whole people to the Constitution, the
Union, and the perpetuity of the liberties of this country. I am
unwilling on any occasion that I should be so meanly thought of as to
have it supposed for a moment that these demonstrations are tendered
to me personally. They are tendered to the country, to the
institutions of the country, and to the perpetuity of the liberties
of the country, for which these institutions were made and created.

Your worthy mayor has thought fit to express the hope that I may be
able to relieve the country from the present, or, I should say, the
threatened difficulties. I am sure I bring a heart true to the work.
For the ability to perform it, I must trust in that Supreme Being who
has never forsaken this favored land, through the instrumentality of
this great and intelligent people. Without that assistance I shall
surely fail; with it, I cannot fail. When we speak of threatened
difficulties to the Country, it is natural that it should be expected
that something should be said by myself with regard to particular
measures. Upon more mature reflection, however, others will agree
with me that, when it is considered that these difficulties are
without precedent, and have never been acted upon by any individual
situated as I am, it is most proper I should wait and see the
developments, and get all the light possible, so that when I do speak
authoritatively, I may be as near right as possible. When I shall
speak authoritatively, I hope to say nothing inconsistent with the
Constitution, the Union, the rights of all the States, of each State,
and of each section of the country, and not to disappoint the
reasonable expectations of those who have confided to me their votes.
In this connection allow me to say that you, as a portion of the
great American people, need only to maintain your composure, stand up
to your sober convictions of right, to your obligations to the
Constitution, and act in accordance with those sober convictions, and
the clouds now on the horizon will be dispelled, and we shall have a
bright and glorious future; and when this generation has passed away,
tens of thousands will inhabit this country where only thousands
inhabit it now. I do not propose to address you at length; I have no
voice for it. Allow me again to thank you for this magnificent
reception, and bid you farewell.


FEBRUARY 18, 1861

I confess myself, after having seen many large audiences since
leaving home, overwhelmed with this vast number of faces at this hour
of the morning. I am not vain enough to believe that you are here
from any wish to see me as an individual, but because I am for the
time being the representative of the American people. I could not,
if I would, address you at any length. I have not the strength, even
if I had the time, for a speech at each of these many interviews that
are afforded me on my way to Washington. I appear merely to see you,
and to let you see me, and to bid you. farewell. I hope it will be
understood that it is from no disinclination to oblige anybody that I
do not address you at greater length.


FEBRUARY 18, 1861.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--I See you have erected a very fine and
handsome platform here for me, and I presume you expected me to speak
from it. If I should go upon it, you would imagine that I was about
to deliver you a much longer speech than I am. I wish you to
understand that I mean no discourtesy to you by thus declining. I
intend discourtesy to no one. But I wish you to understand that,
though I am unwilling to go upon this platform, you are not at
liberty to draw inferences concerning any other platform with which
my name has been or is connected. I wish you long life and
prosperity individually, and pray that with the perpetuity of those
institutions under which we have all so long lived and prospered, our
happiness may be secured, our future made brilliant, and the glorious
destiny of our country established forever. I bid you a kind


FEBRUARY 18, 1860

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--I have no speech to make to you; and no time
to speak in. I appear before you that I may see you, and that you
may see me; and I am willing to admit that so far as the ladies are
concerned I have the best of the bargain, though I wish it to be
understood that I do not make the same acknowledgment concerning the


FEBRUARY 18, 1861.

MR. MAYOR:--I can hardly appropriate to myself the flattering terms
in which you communicate the tender of this reception, as personal to
myself. I most gratefully accept the hospitalities tendered to me,
and will not detain you or the audience with any extended remarks at
this time. I presume that in the two or three courses through which
I shall have to go, I shall have to repeat somewhat, and I will
therefore only express to you my thanks for this kind reception.


FEBRUARY 18, 1861.

GOVERNOR MORGAN:--I was pleased to receive an invitation to visit the
capital of the great Empire State of this nation while on my way to
the Federal capital. I now thank you, Mr. Governor, and you, the
people of the capital of the State of New York, for this most hearty
and magnificent welcome. If I am not at fault, the great Empire
State at this time contains a larger population than did the whole of
the United States of America at the time they achieved their national
independence, and I was proud--to be invited to visit its capital, to
meet its citizens, as I now have the honor to do. I am notified by
your governor that this reception is tendered by citizens without
distinction of party. Because of this I accept it the more gladly.
In this country, and in any country where freedom of thought is
tolerated, citizens attach themselves to political parties. It is
but an ordinary degree of charity to attribute this act to the
supposition that, in thus attaching themselves to the various
parties, each man in his own judgment supposes he thereby best
advances the interests of the whole country. And when an election is
past it is altogether befitting a free people, as I suppose, that,
until the next election, they should be one people. The reception
you have extended me to-day is not given to me personally,--it should
not be so,--but as the representative, for the time being, of the
majority of the nation. If the election had fallen to any of the
more distinguished citizens who received the support of the people,
this same honor should have greeted him that greets me this day, in
testimony of the universal, unanimous devotion of the whole people to
the Constitution, the Union, and to the perpetual liberties of
succeeding generations in this country.

I have neither the voice nor the strength to address you at any
greater length. I beg you will therefore accept my most grateful
thanks for this manifest devotion--not to me, but the institutions of
this great and glorious country.


FEBRUARY 18, 1861.

NEW YORK:--It is with feelings of great diffidence, and, I may say,
with feelings of awe, perhaps greater than I have recently
experienced, that I meet you here in this place. The history of this
great State, the renown of those great men who have stood here, and
have spoken here, and have been heard here, all crowd around my
fancy, and incline me to shrink from any attempt to address you. Yet
I have some confidence given me by the generous manner in which you
have invited me, and by the still more generous manner in which you
have received me, to speak further. You have invited and received me
without distinction of party. I cannot for a moment suppose that
this has been done in any considerable degree with reference to my
personal services, but that it is done in so far as I am regarded, at
this time, as the representative of the majesty of this great nation.
I doubt not this is the truth, and the whole truth of the case, and
this is as it should be. It is much more gratifying to me that this
reception has been given to me as the elected representative of a
free people, than it could possibly be if tendered merely as an
evidence of devotion to me, or to any one man personally.

And now I think it were more fitting that I should close these hasty
remarks. It is true that, while I hold myself, without mock modesty,
the humblest of all individuals that have ever been elevated to the
Presidency, I have a more difficult task to perform than any one of

You have generously tendered me the support--the united support--of
the great Empire State. For this, in behalf of the nation--in behalf
of the present and future of the nation--in behalf of civil and
religious liberty for all time to come, most gratefully do I thank
you. I do not propose to enter into an explanation of any particular
line of policy, as to our present difficulties, to be adopted by the
incoming administration. I deem it just to you, to myself, to all,
that I should see everything, that I should hear everything, that I
should have every light that can be brought within my reach, in order
that, when I do so speak, I shall have enjoyed every opportunity to
take correct and true ground; and for this reason I do not propose to
speak at this time of the policy of the Government. But when the
time comes, I shall speak, as well as I am able, for the good of the
present and future of this country for the good both of the North and
of the South--for the good of the one and the other, and of all
sections of the country. In the meantime, if we have patience, if we
restrain ourselves, if we allow ourselves not to run off in a
passion, I still have confidence that the Almighty, the Maker of the
universe, will, through the instrumentality of this great and
intelligent people, bring us through this as He has through all the
other difficulties of our country. Relying on this, I again thank you
for this generous reception.


FEBRUARY 19, 1861

MR. MAYOR AND CITIZENS OF TROY:--I thank you very kindly for this
great reception. Since I left my home it has not been my fortune to
meet an assemblage more numerous and more orderly than this. I am
the more gratified at this mark of your regard since you assure me it
is tendered, not to the individual but to the high office you have
called me to fill. I have neither strength nor time to make any
extended remarks on this occasion, and I can only repeat to you my
sincere thanks for the kind reception you have thought proper to
extend to me.


FEBRUARY 19, 1861

FELLOW-CITIZENS:--It is altogether impossible I should make myself
heard by any considerable portion of this vast assemblage; but,
although I appear before you mainly for the purpose of seeing you,
and to let you see rather than hear me, I cannot refrain from saying
that I am highly gratified--as much here, indeed, under the
circumstances, as I have been anywhere on my route--to witness this
noble demonstration--made, not in honor of an individual, but of the
man who at this time humbly, but earnestly, represents the majesty of
the nation.

This reception, like all the others that have been tendered to me,
doubtless emanates from all the political parties, and not from one
alone. As such I accept it the more gratefully, since it indicates
an earnest desire on the part of the whole people, with out regard to
political differences, to save--not the country, because the country
will save itself but to save the institutions of the country, those
institutions under which, in the last three quarters of a century, we
have grown to a great, and intelligent, and a happy people--the
greatest, the most intelligent, and the happiest people in the world.
These noble manifestations indicate, with unerring certainty, that
the whole people are willing to make common cause for this object;
that if, as it ever must be, some have been successful in the recent
election and some have been beaten, if some are satisfied and some
are dissatisfied, the defeated party are not in favor of sinking the
ship, but are desirous of running it through the tempest in safety,
and willing, if they think the people have committed an error in
their verdict now, to wait in the hope of reversing it and setting it
right next time. I do not say that in the recent election the people
did the wisest thing, that could have been done--indeed, I do not
think they did; but I do say that in accepting the great trust
committed to me, which I do with a determination to endeavor to prove
worthy of it, I must rely upon you, upon the people of the whole
country, for support; and with their sustaining aid, even I, humble
as I am, cannot fail to carry the ship of state safely through the

I have now only to thank you warmly for your kind attendance, and bid
you all an affectionate farewell.


FEBRUARY 19, 1860

FELLOW-CITIZENS:--I see that you are providing a platform for me. I
shall have to decline standing upon it, because the president of the
company tells me that I shall not have time to wait until it is
brought to me. As I said yesterday, under similar circumstances at
another gathering, you must not draw the inference that I have any
intention of deserting any platform with which I have a legitimate
connection because I do not stand on yours. Allow me to thank you
for this splendid reception, and I now bid you farewell.

FEBRUARY 19, 1861

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--I have but a moment to stand before you to
listen to and return your kind greeting. I thank you for this
reception, and for the pleasant manner in which it is tendered to me
by our mutual friends. I will say in a single sentence, in regard to
the difficulties that lie before me and our beloved country, that if
I can only be as generously and unanimously sustained as the
demonstrations I have witnessed indicate I shall be, I shall not
fail; but without your sustaining hands I am sure that neither I nor
any other man can hope to surmount these difficulties. I trust that
in the course I shall pursue I shall be sustained not only by the
party that elected me, but by the patriotic people of the whole


FEBRUARY 19, 1861

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--I appear before you not to make a speech. I
have not sufficient time, if I had the strength, to repeat speeches
at every station where the people kindly gather to welcome me as we
go along. If I had the strength, and should take the time, I should
not get to Washington until after the inauguration, which you must be
aware would not fit exactly. That such an untoward event might not
transpire, I know you will readily forego any further remarks; and I
close by bidding you farewell.


FELLOW-CITIZENS:--I have stepped before you merely in compliance with
what appears to be your wish, and not with the purpose of making a
speech. I do not propose making a speech this afternoon. I could
not be heard by any but a small fraction of you, at best; but, what
is still worse than that, I have nothing just now to say that is
worthy of your hearing. I beg you to believe that I do not now
refuse to address you from any disposition to disoblige you, but to
the contrary. But, at the same time, I beg of you to excuse me for
the present.


FEBRUARY 19, 1861

Mr. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN:--I am rather an old man to avail myself
of such an excuse as I am now about to do. Yet the truth is so
distinct, and presses itself so distinctly upon me, that I cannot
well avoid it--and that is, that I did not understand when I was
brought into this room that I was to be brought here to make a
speech. It was not intimated to me that I was brought into the room
where Daniel Webster and Henry Clay had made speeches, and where one
in my position might be expected to do something like those men or
say something worthy of myself or my audience. I therefore beg you
to make allowance for the circumstances in which I have been by
surprise brought before you. Now I have been in the habit of
thinking and sometimes speaking upon political questions that have
for some years past agitated the country; and, if I were disposed to
do so, and we could take up some one of the issues, as the lawyers
call them, and I were called upon to make an argument about it to the
best of my ability, I could do so without much preparation. But that
is not what you desire to have done here to-night.

I have been occupying a position, since the Presidential election, of
silence--of avoiding public speaking, of avoiding public writing. I
have been doing so because I thought, upon full consideration, that
was the proper course for me to take. I am brought before you now,
and required to make a speech, when you all approve more than
anything else of the fact that I have been keeping silence. And now
it seems to me that the response you give to that remark ought to
justify me in closing just here. I have not kept silence since the
Presidential election from any party wantonness, or from any
indifference to the anxiety that pervades the minds of men about the
aspect of the political affairs of this country. I have kept silence
for the reason that I supposed it was peculiarly proper that I should
do so until the time came when, according to the custom of the
country, I could speak officially.

I still suppose that, while the political drama being enacted in this
country at this time is rapidly shifting its scenes--forbidding an
anticipation with any degree of certainty to-day of what we shall see
to-morrow--it is peculiarly fitting that I should see it all, up to
the last minute, before I should take ground that I might be
disposed, by the shifting of the scenes afterward, also to shift. I
have said several times upon this journey, and I now repeat it to
you, that when the time does come, I shall then take the ground that
I think is right--right for the North, for the South, for the East,
for the West, for the whole country. And in doing so I hope to feel
no necessity pressing upon me to say anything in conflict with the
Constitution, in conflict with the continued union of these States,
in conflict with the perpetuation of the liberties of this people, or
anything in conflict with anything whatever that I have ever given
you reason to expect from me. And now, my friends, have I said
enough? [Loud cries of "No, no!" and, "Three cheers for LINCOLN!"]
Now, my friends, there appears to be a difference of opinion between
you and me, and I really feel called upon to decide the question

FEBRUARY 20, 1861

Mr. MAYOR:--It is with feelings of deep gratitude that I make my
acknowledgments for the reception that has been given me in the great
commercial city of New York. I cannot but remember that it is done
by the people who do not, by a large majority, agree with me in
political sentiment. It is the more grateful to me because in this I
see that for the great principles of our Government the people are
pretty nearly or quite unanimous. In regard to the difficulties that
confront us at this time, and of which you have seen fit to speak so
becomingly and so justly, I can only say I agree with the sentiments
expressed. In my devotion to the Union I hope I am behind no man in
the nation. As to my wisdom in conducting affairs so as to tend to
the preservation of the Union, I fear too great confidence may have
been placed in me. I am sure I bring a heart devoted to the work.
There is nothing that could ever bring me to consent--willingly to
consent--to the destruction of this Union (in which not only the
great city of New York, but the whole country, has acquired its
greatness), unless it would be that thing for which the Union itself
was made. I understand that the ship is made for the carrying and
preservation of the cargo; and so long as the ship is safe with the
cargo, it shall not be abandoned. This Union shall never be
abandoned, unless the possibility of its existence shall cease to
exist without the necessity of throwing passengers and cargo
overboard. So long, then, as it is possible that the prosperity and
liberties of this people can be preserved within this Union, it shall
be my purpose at all tunes to preserve it. And now, Mr. Mayor,
renewing my thanks for this cordial reception, allow me to come to a


FEBRUARY 21, 1860

thank you briefly for this very kind reception given me, not
personally, but as the temporary representative of the majesty of the
nation. To the kindness of your hearts, and of the hearts of your
brethren in your State, I should be very proud to respond, but I
shall not have strength to address you or other assemblages at
length, even if I had the time to do so. I appear before you,
therefore, for little else than to greet you, and to briefly say
farewell. You have done me the very high honor to present your
reception courtesies to me through your great man a man with whom it
is an honor to be associated anywhere, and in owning whom no State
can be poor. He has said enough, and by the saying of it suggested
enough, to require a response of an hour, well considered. I could
not in an hour make a worthy response to it. I therefore, ladies and
gentlemen of New Jersey, content myself with saying, most heartily do
I indorse all the sentiments he has expressed. Allow me, most
gratefully, to bid you farewell.


FEBRUARY 21, 1861.

MR. MAYOR:--I thank you for this reception at the city of Newark.
With regard to the great work of which you speak, I will say that I
bring to it a heart filled with love for my country, and an honest
desire to do what is right. I am sure, however, that I have not the
ability to do anything unaided of God, and that without His support
and that of this free, happy, prosperous, and intelligent people, no
man can succeed in doing that the importance of which we all
comprehend. Again thanking you for the reception you have given me,
I will now bid you farewell, and proceed upon my journey.


FEBRUARY 21, 1861

I have been invited by your representatives to the Legislature to
visit this the capital of your honored State, and in acknowledging
their kind invitation, compelled to respond to the welcome of the
presiding officers of each body, and I suppose they intended I should
speak to you through them, as they are the representatives of all of
you; and if I were to speak again here, I should only have to repeat
in a great measure much that I have said, which would be disgusting
to my friends around me who have met here. I have no speech to make,
but merely appear to see you and let you look at me; and as to the
latter I think I have greatly the best of the bargain. My friends,
allow me to bid you farewell.


FEBRUARY 21, 1861

JERSEY:--I am very grateful to you for the honorable reception of
which I have been the object. I cannot but remember the place that
New Jersey holds in our early history. In the Revolutionary struggle
few of the States among the Old Thirteen had more of the battle-
fields of the country within their limits than New Jersey. May I be
pardoned if, upon this occasion, I mention that away back in my
childhood, the earliest days of my being able to read, I got hold of
a small book, such a one as few of the younger members have ever seen
Weems's Life of Washington. I remember all the accounts there given
of the battle-fields and struggles for the liberties of the country;
and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the
struggle here at Trenton, New Jersey. The crossing of the river, the
contest with the Hessians, the great hardships endured at that time,
all fixed themselves on my memory more than any single Revolutionary
event; and you all know, for you have all been boys, how these early
impressions last longer than any others. I recollect thinking then,
boy even though I was, that there must have been something more than
common that these men struggled for. I am exceedingly anxious that
that thing that something even more than national independence, that
something that held out a great promise to all the people of the
world to all time to come--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 a
humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this his
almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great
struggle. You give me this reception, as I understand, without
distinction of party. I learn that this body is composed of a
majority of gentlemen who, in the exercise of their best judgment in
the choice of a chief magistrate, did not think I was the man. I
understand, nevertheless, that they come forward here to greet me as
the constitutionally elected President of the United States--as
citizens of the United States to meet the man who, for the time
being, is the representative of the majesty of the nation--united by
the single purpose to perpetuate the Constitution, the union, and the
liberties of the people. As such, I accept this reception more
gratefully than I could do did I believe it were tendered to me as an


FEBRUARY 21, 1861

MR. SPEAKER AND GENTLEMEN: I have just enjoyed the honor of a
reception by the other branch of this Legislature, and I return to
you and them my thanks for the reception which the people of New
Jersey have given through their chosen representatives to me as the
representative, for the time being, of the majesty of the people of
the United States. I appropriate to myself very little of the
demonstrations of respect with which I have been greeted. I think
little should be given to any man, but that it should be a
manifestation of adherence to the Union and the Constitution.
I understand myself to be received here by the representatives of the
people of New Jersey, a majority of whom differ in opinion from those
with whom I have acted. This manifestation is therefore to be
regarded by me as expressing their devotion to the Union, the
Constitution, and the liberties of the people.

You, Mr. Speaker, have well said that this is a time when the bravest
and wisest look with doubt and awe upon the aspect presented by our
national affairs. Under these circumstances you will readily see why
I should not speak in detail of the course I shall deem it best to
pursue. It is proper that I should avail myself of all the
information and all the time at my command, in order that when the
time arrives in which I must speak officially, I shall be able to
take the ground which I deem best and safest, and from which I may
have no occasion to swerve. I shall endeavor to take the ground I
deem most just to the North, the East, the West, the South, and the
whole country. I shall take it, I hope, in good temper, certainly
with no malice toward, any section. I shall do all that may be in my
power to promote a peaceful settlement of all our difficulties. The
man does not live who is more devoted to peace than I am, none who
would do more to preserve it, but it may be necessary to put the foot
down firmly. And if I do my duty and do right, you will sustain me,
will you not? [Loud cheers, and cries of "Yes, yes; we will."]
Received as I am by the members of a Legislature the majority of whom
do not agree with me in political sentiments, I trust that I may have
their assistance in piloting the ship of state through this voyage,
surrounded by perils as it is; for if it should suffer wreck now,
there will be no pilot ever needed for another voyage.

Gentlemen, I have already spoken longer than I intended, and must beg
leave to stop here.

FEBRUARY 21, 1861

to make no lengthy speech, but to thank you for this reception. The
reception you have given me to-night is not to me, the man, the
individual, but to the man who temporarily represents, or should
represent, the majesty of the nation. It is true, as your worthy
mayor has said, that there is great anxiety amongst the citizens of
the United States at this time. I deem it a happy circumstance that
this dissatisfied portion of our fellow-citizens does not point us to
anything in which they are being injured or about to be injured; for
which reason I have felt all the while justified in concluding that
the crisis, the panic, the anxiety of the country at this time is
artificial. If there be those who differ with me upon this subject,
they have not pointed out the substantial difficulty that exists.
I do not mean to say that an artificial panic may not do considerable
harm; that it has done such I do not deny. The hope that has been
expressed by your mayor, that I may be able to restore peace,
harmony, and prosperity to the country, is most worthy of him; and
most happy, indeed, will I be if I shall be able to verify and fulfil
that hope. I promise you that I bring to the work a sincere heart.
Whether I will bring a head equal to that heart will be for future
times to determine. It were useless for me to speak of details of
plans now; I shall speak officially next Monday week, if ever. If I
should not speak then, it were useless for me to do so now. If I do
speak then, it is useless for me to do so now. When I do speak, I
shall take such ground as I deem best calculated to restore peace,
harmony, and prosperity to the country, and tend to the perpetuity of
the nation and the liberty of these States and these people. Your
worthy mayor has expressed the wish, in which I join with him, that
it were convenient for me to remain in your city long enough to
consult your merchants and manufacturers; or, as it were, to listen
to those breathings rising within the consecrated walls wherein the
Constitution of the United States and, I will add, the Declaration of
Independence, were originally framed and adopted. I assure you and
your mayor that I had hoped on this occasion, and upon all occasions
during my life, that I shall do nothing inconsistent with the
teachings of these holy and most sacred walls. I have never asked
anything that does not breathe from those walls. All my political
warfare has been in favor of the teachings that come forth from these
sacred walls. May my right hand forget its cunning and my tongue
cleave to the roof of my mouth if ever I prove false to those
teachings. Fellow-citizens, I have addressed you longer than I
expected to do, and now allow me to bid you goodnight.


FEBRUARY 22, 1861

MR. CUYLER:--I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing
here, in this place, where were collected together the wisdom, the
devotion to principle, from which sprang the institutions under which
we live. You have kindly suggested to me that in my hands is the task
of restoring peace to the present distracted condition of the
country. I can say in return, sir, that all the political sentiments
I entertain have been drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them,
from the sentiments which originated and were given to the world from
this hall. I have never had a feeling politically that did not
spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of
Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were
incurred by the men who assembled here and framed and adopted that
Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that
were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved
that independence. I have often inquired of myself what great
principle or idea it was that kept the confederacy so long together.
It was not the mere matter of separation of the colonies from the
motherland, but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence
which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I
hope, to the world for all future time. It was that which gave
promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the
shoulders of all men. This is the sentiment embodied in the
Declaration of Independence. Now, my friends, can the country be
saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the
happiest men in the world if I can help to save it. If it cannot be
saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But if this
country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about
to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.
Now, in my view of the present aspect of affairs, there need be no
bloodshed or war. There is no necessity for it. I am not in favor
of such a course, and I may say, in advance, that there will be no
bloodshed unless it is forced upon the Government, and then it will
be compelled to act in self-defence.

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 nearly 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

It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President
under our national Constitution. During that period fifteen
different and greatly distinguished citizens have, in succession,
administered the executive branch of the Government. They have
conducted it through many perils, and generally with great success.
Yet, with all this scope of precedent, I now enter upon the same task
for the brief constitutional term of four years under great and
peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore
only menaced, is now formidably attempted.

I hold that, in contemplation of universal law and of the
Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is
implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national
governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had
a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to
execute all the express provisions of our national Constitution, and
the Union will endure forever--it being impossible to destroy it
except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

Again, if the United States be not a government proper, but an
association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it as a
contract be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made
it? One party to a contract may violate it--break it, so to speak;
but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition
that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the
history of the Union itself. 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. It was further matured, and the faith of all
the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it
should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And,
finally, in 1787 one of the declared objects for ordaining and
establishing the Constitution was "to form a more perfect Union."

But if the destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the
States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before
the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion
can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to
that effect are legally void; and that acts of violence, within any
State or States, against the authority of the United States, are
insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

I therefore consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws,
the Union is unbroken; and to the extent of my ability I shall take
care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the
laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing
this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part; and I shall perform
it so far as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American
people, shall withhold the requisite means, or in some authoritative
manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a
menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will
constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence; and there
shall be none, unless it be forced upon the national authority. The
power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the
property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the
duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these
objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or
among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States, in
any interior locality, shall be so great and universal as to prevent
competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there
will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for
that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the
government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to
do so would be so irritating, and so nearly impracticable withal,
that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such

The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all
parts of the Union. So far as possible, the people everywhere shall
have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm
thought and reflection. The course here indicated will be followed
unless current events and experience shall show a modification or
change to be proper, and in every case and exigency my best
discretion will be exercised according to circumstances actually
existing, and with a view and a hope of a peaceful solution of the
national troubles and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and

That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy
the Union at all events, and are glad of any pretext to do it, I will
neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word
to them. To those, however, who really love the Union may I not

Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our
national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes,
would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you
hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any
portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you,
while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones
you fly from--will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?

All profess to be content in the Union if all constitutional rights
can be maintained. Is it true, then, that any right, plainly written
in the Constitution, has been denied? I think not. Happily the human
mind is so constituted that no party can reach to the audacity of
doing this. Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a
plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied.
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--certainly would if such a right
were a vital one. But such is not our case. All the vital rights of
minorities and of individuals are so plainly assured to them by
affirmations and negations, guaranties and prohibitions, in the
Constitution, that controversies never arise concerning them. But no
organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically
applicable to every question which may occur in practical
administration. No foresight can anticipate, nor any document of
reasonable length contain, express provisions for all possible
questions. Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by national or
by State authority? The Constitution does not expressly say. May
Congress prohibit slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does
not expressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the Territories?
The Constitution does not expressly say.

From questions of this class spring all our constitutional
controversies, and we divide upon them into majorities and
minorities. If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must,
or the Government must cease. There is no other alternative; for
continuing the Government is acquiescence on one side or the other.

If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce, they
make a precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them; for a
minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority
refuses to be controlled by such minority. For instance, why may not
any portion of a new confederacy a year or two hence arbitrarily
secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to
secede from it? All who cherish disunion sentiments are now being
educated to the exact temper of doing this.

Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to
compose a new Union as to produce harmony only, and prevent renewed

Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. 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

I do not forget the position assumed by some, that constitutional
questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that
such decisions must be binding, in any case, upon the parties to a
suit, as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to
very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all
other departments of the government. And, while it is obviously
possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still
the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case,
with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent
for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a
different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must
confess that if the policy of the government, upon vital questions
affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions
of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary
litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have
ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically
resigned the government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor
is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It
is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly
brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to
turn their decisions to political purposes.

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. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive slave
clause of the Constitution and the law for the suppression of the
foreign slave trade are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law
can ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people
imperfectly supports the law itself. The great body of the people
abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over
in each. This, I think, cannot be perfectly cured; and it would be
worse in both cases after the separation of the sections than before.
The foreign slave trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be
ultimately revived, without restriction, in one section, while
fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be
surrendered at all by the other.

Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our
respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall
between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the
presence and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts
of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face,
and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between
them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more
advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can
aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties
be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among
friends? Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when,
after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease
fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are
again upon you.

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who
inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing
government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending
it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I
cannot be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic
citizens are desirous of having the national Constitution amended.
While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the


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