Some Collected Thoughts of Abraham Lincoln
It is not, “Can any of us imagine better?” but, “Can we all do better?”
The fight must go on. The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one, or even one hundred defeats.
The ballot box is stronger than the bullet.
These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in full concert, to fleece the people.
On the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any one plan or system, I can only say that it is the most important subject that we, as a people, can be engaged in…
There is no law stronger than the public sentiment where it is to be enforced. Free speech and discussion, and immunity from the whip seem to be implied by the guarantee to each state from a republican form of government.
No man is good enough to govern another without the other’s consent.
Politicians are a set of people who have interests aside from the interests of the people and who, to say the most of them are, taken on mass, at least one step removed from honest men.
Our government rests on public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion can change the government practically as such.
I am for the people of the whole nation doing just as they please in all matters which concern the whole nation; … And for each individual to do as he chooses in all matters which concern nobody else.
Any people anywhere being so inclined and having the power , have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and then form a new one that suits them better. This is a most sacred right– a right which we hope and believe will eventually liberate the world. Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people?
Is there any equal hope in the world?
[As labor is our common burden, so the effort of some to shift their equal and fair share of the burden onto the shoulders of others is the great and durable curse of the human race.]
“[No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who have toiled their way up from poverty, none less inclined to take or to touch anything they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they possess to others who will use it to close the door of advancement against people like they are, and then affix new obstacles and disabilities and burdens upon them until all those liberties so hard earned and hard won shall be lost.”]
Carl Sandburg, on this speech: Lincoln considered the basic point of the American political and economic system to be based on the common man. … This passage is his roughhewn sketch of American society, placing the farmer and the free laborer as the living and controlling element in a government of the people.
Upon the subjects of which I have treated, I have spoken as I thought…. So soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them.
There is just one way to bring up a child in the way he should go, and that is to travel that way yourself.
Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
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.
Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition … I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed by my fellowmen, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.
“Give to him that is needy” is the Christian rule of charity; but “Take from him that is needy” is the rule of slavery.
Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them.
When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.
When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs himself and another man, that is more than self-government – that is despotism.
In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free…
He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help.
Whatever you are, be a good one.
Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.
I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.
It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels worthy of himself.
I hope it will not be irreverent for me to say that if it is probable that God would reveal his will to others, on a point so connected to my duty, it might be supposed that he would reveal it directly to me…. These are not, however, the days of miracles….
I must study the plain, physical facts of the case, ascertain what is possible, and learn what appears to be wise and right.
I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.
I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know who his grandson will be.
The probability that we shall fail in the struggle should not deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.
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 creator’s, not man’s.
The authors of that notable instrument [the Declaration of Independence] intended to include all men, but they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what respects they did consider all men created equal-equal with “certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This they said and this they meant.
I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside me.
We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.
How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?
Four; calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.
There’s no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There is nothing good in war. Except its ending.
Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
It often requires more courage to dare to do right than to fear to do wrong.
With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.
I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about the social and political equality of the white and black races. I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes.
I am approached with the most opposite opinions and advice, and that by religious men, who are equally certain that they represent the divine will.
Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.