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Scriptures, and other works both of a religious and moral nature,
for themselves.

For my part, I desire to see the time when education — and
by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise, and industry — shall
5 become much more general than at present, and should be
gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the
advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to
accelerate that happy period.

With regard to existing laws, some alterations are thought to

10 be necessary. Many respectable men have suggested that our
estray laws, the law respecting the issuing of executions, the
road law, and some others, are deficient in their present form,
and require alterations. But, considering the great probability
that the framers of those laws were wiser than myself, I should

15 prefer not meddling with them, unless they were first attacked
by others ; in which case I should feel it both a privilege and a
duty to take that stand which, in my view, might tend most to
the advancement of justice.

But, fellow citizens, I shall conclude. Considering the great de-

20 gree of modesty which should always attend youth, it is probable
I have already been more presuming than becomes me. However,
upon the subjects of which I have treated, I have spoken as I
have thought. I may be wrong in regard to any or all of them ;
but, holding it a sound maxim that it is better only sometimes to

25 be right than at all times to be wrong, so soon as I discover my
opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them.

Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it
be true or not, I can say, for one, that I have no other so great
as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering

30 myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in
gratifying this ambition is yet to be developed. I am young,
and unknown to many of you. I was born, and have ever
remained, in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or
popular relations or friends to recommend me. My case is thrown


exclusively upon the independent voters of the country ; and, if
elected, they will have conferred a favor upon me for which I shall
be unremitting in my labors to compensate. But, if the good
people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background,
I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much 5


(Age, 27 years)

^ ^ ^ , New Salem, June 13, 18^6

To THE Editor of thy. journal :

In your paper of last Saturday I see a communication, over
the signature of " Many Voters," in which the candidates who
are announced in the Jounial are called upon to '' show their
hands." Agreed. Here 's mine. 10

I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who
assist in bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go for admitting
all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms
(by no means excluding females).

If elected, I shall consider the whole people of Sangamon my 15
constituents, as well those that oppose as those that support me.

While acting as their representative, I shall be governed by
their will on all subjects upon which I have the means of know-
ing what their will is ; and upon all others I shall do what my
own judgment teaches me will best advance their interests. 20
Whether elected or not, I go for distributing the proceeds of
the sales of the public lands to the several states, to enable
our state, in common with others, to dig canals and construct
railroads without borrowing money and paying the interest on it.

If alive on the first Monday in November, I shall vote for 25

Hugh L. White for President.* ,^ . „

Very respectfully

A. Lincoln

* Judge Hugh L. White, Democratic Senator from Tennessee, 1825 to
1839, was nominated by a combination of Whigs and anti-Jackson



(March 3, 1837. Age, 28 years)

The following protest was presented to the House March 3,
1837, which was read and ordered to be spread on the journals,
to wit :

Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed

5 both branches of the General Assembly at its present session,

the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same.

They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on

both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of

abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils.

10 They believe that the Congress of the United States has no

power under the Constitution to interfere with the institution of

slavery in the different states.

They believe that the Congress of the United States has the
power, under the Constitution, to abolish slavery in the District
15 of Columbia, but that the power ought not to be exercised,
unless at the request of the people of the District.

The difference between these opinions and those contained
in the said resolutions is their reason for entering this protest.*

Dan Stone
A. Lincoln
Rep7'esentatives fro77i the cotuity of Sa?igamc

Democrats for President in 1836. He received the electoral votes oi

Tennessee and Georgia.

* The resolutions protested against were as follows :

" Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of Illinois :

" That we highly disapprove of the formation of Abolition Societies,

and of the doctrines promulgated by them.

" That the right of property in slaves is sacred to the slaveholding

States by the Federal Constitution, and that they cannot be deprived of

that right without their consent.

" That the General Government cannot abolish slavery in the Dis-
trict of Columbia against the consent of the citizens of said District,

without a manifest breach of good faith.



Springfield, October 3, 1845

When I saw you at home, it was agreed that I should write
to you and your brother Madison. LTntil I then saw you I was
not aware of your being what is generally called an abolitionist,
or, as you call yourself, a Liberty man, though I well knew
there were many such in your country. 5

I was glad to hear that you intended to attempt to bring

about, at the next election in Putnam, a union of the Whigs

proper and such of the Liberty men as are Whigs in principle

on all questions save only that of slavery. So far as I can per-

i ceive, by such union neither party need yield anything on the 10

I point in difference between them. If the Whig abolitionists of

I New York had voted with us last fall, Mr. Clay would now be

\ President. Whig principles in the ascendant, and Texas not

, annexed ; whereas, by the division, all that either had at stake

in the contest was lost. And, indeed, it was extremely probable 15

beforehand, that such would be the result. As I have always

understood, the Liberty men deprecated the annexation of Texas

extremely ; and this being so, why they should refuse to cast

heir votes [so] as to prevent it, even to me seemed wonderful.

Vhat was their process of reasoning, I can only judge from 20

jgihat a single one of them told me. It was this : " We are not

^ do evil that good may come." This general proposition is

doubtless correct ; but did it apply ? If by your votes you could

have prevented the extension^ etc., of slavery would it not have

been good^ and not evil^ so to have used your votes, even though 25

it involved the casting of them for a slaveholder ? By the fi'uit

the tree is to be known. An evil tree cannot bring forth

good fruit. If the fruit of electing Mr. Clay would have been

" That the Governor be requested to transmit to the States of Vir-
ginia, Alabama, Mississippi, New York, and Connecticut a copy of the
foregoing report and resolutions."


to prevent the extension of slavery, could the act of electing
have been evil ?

But I will not argue further. I perhaps ought to say that
individually I never was much interested in the Texas question.
5 I never could see much good to come of annexation, inasmuch
as they were already a free republican people on our own
model. On the other hand, I never could very clearly see how
the annexation would augment the evil of slavery. It always
seemed to me that slaves would be taken there in about equal

10 numbers, with or without annexation. And if more ivere taken
because of annexation, still there would be just so many the
fewer left where they were taken from. It is possibly true, to
some extent that with annexation, some slaves may be sent to
Texas and continued in slavery that otherwise might have been

15 liberated. To whatever extent this may be true, I think annex-
ation an evil. I hold it to be a paramount duty of us in the free
states, due to the union of the states, and perhaps to liberty
itself (paradox though it may seem), to let the slavery of the
other states alone ; while, on the other hand, I hold it to be

20 equally clear that we should never knowingly lend ourselves,
directly or indirectly, to prevent that slavery from dying a natural
death — to find new places for it to live in, when it can no longer
exist in the old. Of course I am not now considering what would
be our duty in cases of insurrection among the slaves. To recur

25 to the Texas question, I understand the Liberty men to have
viewed annexation as a much greater evil than ever I did, and
I would like to convince you, if I could, that they could have
prevented it, if they had chosen.

I intend this letter for you and Madison together, and if you

30 and he, or either, shall think fit to drop me a line, I shall be


Yours with respect

A. Lincoln





Washington, July 10, 1848
Dear William :

Your letter covering the newspaper slips was received last
night. The subject of that letter is exceedingly painful to me ;
and I cannot but think there is some mistake in your impres-
sion of the motives of the old men. I suppose I am now one
of the old men ; and I declare, on my veracity, which I think is 5
good with you, that nothing could afford me more satisfaction
than to learn that you and others of my young friends at home
are doing battle in the contest, and endearing themselves to the
people, and taking a stand far above any I have ever been able
to reach in their admiration. I cannot conceive that other old 10
men feel differently. Of course I cannot demonstrate what I
say ; but I was young once, and I am sure I was never ungen-
erously thrust back. I hardly know what to say. The way for
a young man to rise is to improve himself every way he can,
never suspecting that anybody wishes to hinder him. Allow me 15
to assure you that suspicion and jealousy never did help any
man in any situation. There may sometimes be ungenerous at-
tempts to keep a young man down ; and they will succeed, too,
if he allows his mind to be diverted from its true channel to
brood over the attempted injur}^ Cast about, and see if this 20
feeling has not injured every person you have ever known to
fall into it.

Now, in what I have said, I am sure you will suspect nothing
but sincere friendship. I would save you from a fatal error.
You have been a laborious, studious young man. You are far 25
better informed on almost all subjects than I have ever been.
You cannot fail in any laudable object, unless you allow your
mind to be improperly directed. I have somewhat the advantage


of you in the world's experience, merely by being older ; and
it is this that induces me to advise.

Your friend, as ever

A. Lincoln


Niagara Falls ! By what mysterious power is it that millions
and millions are drawn from all parts of the world to gaze upon
5 Niagara Falls ? There is no mystery about the thing itself. Every
effect is just as any intelligent man, knowing the causes, would
anticipate without seeing it. If the water moving onward in a
great river reaches a point where there is a perpendicular jog
of a hundred feet in descent in the bottom of the river, it is

10 plain the water will have a violent and continuous plunge at that
point. It is also plain, the water, thus plunging, will foam and
roar, and send up a mist continuously, in which last, during
sunshine, there will be perpetual rainbows. The mere physical
of Niagara Falls is only this. Yet this is really a very small part

15 of that world's wonder. Its power to excite reflection and emo-
tion is its great charm. The geologist will demonstrate that the
plunge, or fall, was once at Lake Ontario, and has worn its way
back to its present position ; he will ascertain how fast it is wear-
ing now, and so get a basis for determining how long it has

20 been wearing back from Lake Ontario, and finally demonstrate
by it that this world is at least fourteen thousand years old. A
philosopher of a slightly different turn will say, '' Niagara Falls
is only the lip of the basin out of which pours all the surplus
water which rains down on two or three hundred thousand

25 square miles of the earth's surface." He will estimate with ap-
proximate accuracy that five hundred thousand tons of water
fall with their full weight a distance of a hundred feet each
minute — thus exerting a force equal to the lifting of the same
weight, through the same space, in the same time. And then


the further reflection comes that this vast amount of water, con-
stantly pounding down, is supplied by an equal amount con-
stantly lifted up, by the sun ; and still he says, " If this much is
lifted up for this one space of two or three hundred thousand
square miles, an equal amount must be lifted up for every other 5
equal space " ; and he is overwhelmed in the contemplation of
the vast power the sun is constantly exerting in the quiet noise-
less operation of lifting water up to be rained down again.

But still there is more. It calls up the indefinite past. \\'hen
Columbus first sought this continent — when Christ suffered on 10
the cross — when Moses led Israel through the Red Sea — nay,
even when Adam first came from the hand of his Maker : then,
as now, Niagara was roaring here. The eyes of that species of
extinct giants whose bones fill the mounds of America have
gazed on Niagara, as ours do now. Contemporary with the first 1 5
race of men, and older than the first man, Niagara is strong
and fresh to-day as ten thousand years ago. The mammoth
and mastodon, so long dead that fragments of their monstrous
bones alone testify that they ever lived, have gazed on Niagara
— in that long, long time never still for a single moment [never 20
dried], never froze, never slept, never rested.


. . . Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to
compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the
nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and
waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior 25
opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business

Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found
than one who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend
than he who habitually overhauls the register of deeds in search 30
of defects in titles, whereon to stir up strife, and put money in


his pocket ? A moral tone ought to be infused into the profes-
sion which should drive such men out of it.

The matter of fees is important, far beyond the mere ques-
tion of bread and butter involved. Properly attended to, fuller
5 justice is done to both lawyer and client. An exorbitant fee
should never be claimed. As a general rule never take your
whole fee in advance, nor any more than a small retainer.
When fully paid beforehand, you are more than a common
mortal if you can feel the same interest in the case, as if some-

lo thing was still in prospect for you, as well as for your client.
And when you lack interest in the case the job will very likely
lack skill and diligence in the performance. Settle the amount
of fee and take a note in advance. Then you will feel that you
are working for something, and you are sure to do your work

15 faithfully and well. . . .

There is a vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily
dishonest. I say vague, because when we consider to what ex-
tent confidence and honors are reposed in and conferred upon
lawyers by the people, it appears improbable that their impression

20 of dishonesty is very distinct and vivid. Yet the impression is
common, almost universal. Let no young man choosing the law
for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief — resolve
to be honest at all events ; and if in your own judgment you
cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being

25 a lawyer. Choose some other occupation, rather than one in the
choosing of which you do, in advance, consent to be a knave.



January 2, 185 1
Dear Johnston :

Your request for eighty dollars I do not think it best to
comply with now. At the various times when I have helped
you a little you have said to me, " We can get along very well
now" ; but in a very short time I find you in the same difficulty
again. Now, this can only happen by some defect in your con- 5
duct. What that defect is, I think I know. You are not lazy,
and still you are an idler. I doubt whether, since I saw you,
you have done a good whole day's work in any one day. You do
not very much dislike to work, and still you do not work much,
merely because it does not seem to you that you could get 10
much for it. This habit of uselessly wasting time is the whole
difficulty ; it is vastly important to you, and still more so to
your children, that you should break the habit. It is more
important to them, because they have longer to live, and can
keep out of an idle habit before they are in it, easier than they 15
can get out after they are in.

You are now in need of some money ; and what I propose
is, that you shall go to work, " tooth and nail," for somebody
who will give you money for it. Let father and your boys take
charge of your things at home, prepare for a crop, and make 20
the crop, and you go to work for the best money w^ages, or in
discharge of any debt you owe, that you can get ; and, to secure
you a fair reward for your labor, I now promise you, that for
every dollar you will, between this and the first of May, get
for your own labor, either in money or as your own indebted- 25
ness, I will then give you one other dollar. By this, if you hire
yourself at ten dollars a month, from me you will get ten more,
making twenty dollars a month for your work. In this I do
not mean you shall go off to St. Louis, or the lead mines, or
the gold mines in California, but I mean for you to go at it 30


for the best wages you can get close to home in Coles County.
Now, if you will do this, you will be soon out of debt, and,
what is better, you will have a habit that will keep you from
getting in debt again. But, if I should now clear you out of
5 debt, next year you would be just as deep in as ever. You say
you would almost give your place in heaven for seventy or
eighty dollars. Then you value your place in heaven very cheap,
for I am sure you can, with the offer I make, get the seventy
or eighty dollars for four or five months' work. You say if I

10 will furnish you the money you will deed me the land, and, if
you don't pay the money back, you will deliver possession.
Nonsense ! If you can't now live with the land, how will you
then live without it ? You have always been kind to me, and I
do not mean to be unkind to you. On the contrary, if you will

15 but follow my advice, you will find it worth more than eighty

times eighty dollars to you.

Affectionately your brother

A. Lincoln


Shelbyville, November 4, 185 1
Dear Brother:

When I came into Charleston day before yesterday, I learned
that you are anxious to sell the land where you live and move
to Missouri. I have been thinking of this ever since, and can-

20 not but think such a notion is utterly foolish. What can you
do in Missouri better than here ? Is the land any richer ? Can
you there, any more than here, raise corn and wheat and oats
without work ? Will anybody there, any more than here, do
your work for you ? If you intend to go to work, there is no

25 better place than right where you are ; if you do not intend to
go to work, you cannot get along anywhere. Squirming and
crawling about from place to place can do no good. You have


raised no crop this year ; and what you really want is to sell
the land, get the money, and spend it. Part with the land you
have, and, my life upon it, you will never after own a spot big
enough to bury you in. Half you will get for the land you will
spend in moving to Missouri, and the other half you will eat, 5
drink, and wear out, and no foot of land will be bought. Now,
I feel it my duty to have no hand in such a piece of foolery. I
feel that it is so even on your own account, and particularly on
mother's account. The eastern forty acres I intend to keep for
mother while she lives ; if you will not cultivate it, it will rent 10
for enough to support her — at least, it will rent for something.
Her dower in the other two forties she can let you have, and
no thanks to me. Now, do not misunderstand this letter ; I do
not write it in any unkindness. I write it in order, if possible, to
get you to face the truth, which truth is, you are destitute because 1 5
you have idled away all your time. Your thousand pretenses for
not getting along better are all nonsense ; they deceive nobody
but yourself. Go to work is the only cure for your case.


(Fragment written about July i, 1854)

Equality in society alike beats inequality, whether the latter
be of the British aristocratic sort or of the domestic slavery sort. 20
We know Southern men declare that their slaves are better off
than hired laborers amongst us. How little they know whereof
they speak ! There is no permanent class of hired laborers
amongst us. Twenty-five years ago I was a hired laborer. The
hired laborer of yesterday labors on his own account to-day, and 25
will hire others to labor for him to-morrow. Advancement —
improvement in condition — is the order of things in a society
of equals. As labor is the common burden of our race, so the ef-
fort of some to shift their share of the burden onto the shoulders


of others is the great durable curse of the race. Originally a
curse for transgression upon the whole race, when, as by slav-
ery, it is concentrated on a part only, it becomes the double-
refined curse of God upon his creatures.
5 Free labor has the inspiration of hope ; pure slavery has no
hope. The power of hope upon human exertion and happiness
is wonderful. The slave master himself has a conception of it,
and hence the system of tasks among slaves. The slave whom
you cannot drive with the lash to break seventy-five pounds of

10 hemp in a day, if you will task him to break a hundred, and
promise him pay for all he does over, he will break you a hun-
dred and fifty. You have substituted hope for the rod. And
yet perhaps it does not occur to you that to the extent of
your gain in the case, you have given up the slave system and

15 adopted the free system of labor.


(Extracts from speech at Peoria, Illinois, October 16, 1854)

... I think, and shall try to show, that it is wrong — wrong
in its direct effect, letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska, and
wrong in its prospective principle, allowing it to spread to every
other part of the wide world where men can be found inclined

20 to take it. . " .

This declared indifference, but, as I must think, covert real

zeal, for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it

because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it

because it deprives our republican example of its just influence

25 in the world ; enables the enemies of free institutions with
plausibility to taunt us as hypocrites ; causes the real friends of
freedom to doubt our sincerity ; and especially because it forces
so many good men among ourselves into an open war with


the very fundamental principles of civil liberty, criticizing the

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Online LibraryA LincolnSelections from the letters, speeches (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 13)