Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; online

. (page 90 of 91)
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sonable 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 Constitu-
tion, 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 thou-
sands inhabit it now. I do not propose to address you at length ;
I have no voice for it. AUow me again to thank you for this mag-
nificent reception, and bid you farewell.

February 18, 1861. — Address at Rochester, New York.

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. — Address at Syracuse, New York.

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 any 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 perpe-
tuity 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 farewell.

February 18, 1861.— Address at Utica, New York.

Ladies and Qentlemen : 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 concern-
ing the men.

February 18, 1861.— Reply to the Mayor op Albany, New York.

Mr. Mayor: I can hardly appropriate to myself the flattering
terms in which you communicate the tender of this reception, as per-
sonal 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 some-
what, and I will therefore only express to you my thanks for this
kind reception.

February 18, 1861. — Reply to Governor Morgan op New
York, at Albany.

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 ex-
tended 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 dis-
tinguished 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. — Address to the Legislature of New
York, at Albany.

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the General Assembly of the State
of Netv YorJc : It is with feelings of great diffidence, and, I may say,
with feelings of awe, perhaps greater than I have recently expe-
rienced, 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 been heard here, all crowd around my fancy, and
iucUne 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 re-
ceived 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 shoiild 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 them.

You have generously tendered me the support — the united sup-
port — 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 aU 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 oppor-
tunity 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 mean time, 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.— Address at Troy, New York.

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. — Address at Poughkbepsie, New York.

Fellow-citizens: It is altogether impossible I should make myself
heard by any considerable portion of this vast assemblage ; but, al-
though 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 circiim-
stances, 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

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, without regard to polit-
ical differences, to save — not the country, because the country will
save itself — but to save the institutions of the country — those insti-
tutions under which, in the last three quarters of a century, we have
grown to a great, an 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 dissat-
isfied, 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 storm.

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


February 19, 1861. — ^Address at Hudson, New Tobk.

Fellow-citizens: I see that you have provided a platform, but I
shall have to decline standing on it. The superintendent tells me
I have not time during our brief stay to leave the train. I had to
decline standing on some very handsome platforms prepared for me
yesterday. But I say to you, as I said to them, you must not on
this account draw the inference that I have any intention to desert
any platform I have a legitimate right to stand on. I do not appear
before you for the purpose of making a speech. I come only to see
you, and to give you the opportunity to see me ; and I say to you,
as I have before said to crowds where there were so many handsome
ladies as there are here, I think I have decidedly the best of the bar-
gain. I have only, therefore, to thank you most cordially for this
kind reception, and bid you all farewell.

February 19, 1861. — Address at Peekskill, New York.

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 re-
ception, 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 demon-
strations 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 difllculties. 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 country.

February 19, 1861. — Address at New York City.

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
i )y 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 liave 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 any-
thing 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 indif-
ference 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 oflcially.

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 Con-
stitution; in conflict with the continued union of these States, in
conflict with the perpetuation of the liberties of this people, or any-
thing 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 myself.

February 20, 1861. — Reply to the Mayor of New York City.

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 difQculties
that confront us at this time, and of which you have seen fit to speak so
becomingly and so justly, I can only say 1 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 — will-
ingly 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 carry-
ing 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 over-
board. 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 times to preserve it. And now, Mr. Mayor, re-
newing my thanks for this cordial reception, allow me to come to a

February 21, 1861. — Address to the Senate of New Jersey.

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Senate of the State of Netv
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 strug-
gle 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' " 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 fix:ed 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 somethiag 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 1
was the man. I understand, nevertheless, that they come forward
here to greet me as the constitiitionally 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 Constitu-
tion, 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 individual.

February 21, 1861. — Address to the Assembly op New Jersey.

Mr. SpeaJcer 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 demon-
strations of respect with which I have been greeted. I think little
should be given to anjr man, but that it should be a manifestation
of adherence to the Union and the Constitution. I understand my-
self 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 a,cted. 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 bra-
vest 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 infor-
mation and aU 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 Bast, the West, the South, and the
whole country. I 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. [Here the audience broke out into cheers so loud
and long that for some moments it was impossible to hear Mr. Lin-
coln's voice.] 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.— Reply to the Mayor of Philadelphia,

Mr. Mayor and Fellow-citizens of Philadelphia : I appear before
you to make no lengthy speech, but to thank you for this reception.
Vol. I.— 44.


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

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 90 of 91)