Abraham Lincoln.

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Copyright, 1894,

by John G. Nicolat

and John Hat.

Copyright renewed, 1922



"May 30, 1893.

'^My dear Nicolay: As you and Colonel Hay have now brought
your great work to a most successful conclusion by the publication
of your life of my father, I hope and request that you and he will
supplement it by collecting, editing, and publishing the speeches,
letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings of my father. You
and Colonel Hay have my consent and authority to obtain for your-
selves such protection by copyright, or otherwise, in respect to the
whole or any part of such a collection, as I might for any reason be
entitled to have. Believe me, very sincerely yours,

''Robert T. Lincoln.

" John C Nicolay."

Both in fulfilment of the request contained in the foregoing let-
ter, and in execution of a long-cherished design, we present to the
public this edition of the Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln,
hoping and trusting that it will be received as a welcome addition
to American historical literature.

John G. Nicolay.

John Hay.




March 9, 1832. — Address to the People of Sangamon County.

Fellow-citizens : Having become a candidate for the honorable
office of one of your Representatives in the next General Assembly
of this State, in accordance with an established custom and the prin-
ciples of true Republicanism it becomes my duty to make known to
you, the people whom I propose to represent, my sentiments with
regard to local aifairs.

Time and experience have verified to a demonstration the public
utility of internal improvements. That the poorest and most thinly
populated countries would be greatly benefited by the opening of
good roads, and in the clearing of navigable streams within their
limits, is what no person will deny. Yet it is folly to undertake
works of this or any other kind without first knowing that we are
able to finish them, — as half -finished work generally proves to be
labor lost. There cannot justly be any objection to having rail-
roads and canals, any more than to other good things, provided they
cost nothing. The only objection is to paying for them; and the
objection arises from the want of ability to pay.

With respect to the County of Sangamon, some more easy means
of communication than it now possesses, for the purpose of facili-
tating the task of exporting the surplus products of its fertile soil,
and importing necessary articles from abroad, are indispensably
necessary. A meeting has been held of the citizens of Jacksonville
and the adjacent country, for the purpose of deliberating and in-
quiring into the expediency of constructing a railroad from some
eligible point on the Illinois River, through the town of Jackson-
ville, in Morgan County, to the town of Springfield, in Sangamon
County. This is, indeed, a very desirable object. No other im-
provement that reason will justify us in hoping for can ecpal in
utility the railroad. It is a never-failing source of communication
between places of business remotely situated from each other.
Upon the railroad the regular progress of commercial intercourse
is not interrupted by either high or low water, or freezing weather,
which are the principal difficulties that render our future hopes of
water communication precarious and uncertain.

Yet, however desirable an object the construction of a railroad
through our country may be j however high our imaginations may
Vol. I.— 1.


be heated at tliouglits of it, — there is always a heart-appalling shock
accompanying the amount of its cost, which forces us to shrink from
our pleasing anticipations. The probable cost of this contemplated
railroad is estimated at $290,000 ; the bare statement of which, in
my opinion, is sufficient to justify the belief that the improvement
of the Sangamon River is an object much better suited to our infant

Respecting this view, I think I may say, without the fear of being
contradicted, that its navigation may be rendered completely prac-
ticable as high as the mouth of the South Fork, or probably higher,
to vessels of from twenty-five to thirty tons burden, for at least one
half of all common years, and to vessels of much greater burden a
part of the time. From my peculiar circumstances, it is probable
that for the last twelve months I have given as particular attention
to the stage of the water in this river as any other person in the
country. In the month of March, 1831, in company with others, I
commenced the building of a flatboat on the Sangamon, and finished
and took her out in the course of the spring. Since that time I have
been concerned in the mill at New Salem, These circumstances are
sufficient evidence that I have not been very inattentive to the stages
of the water. The time at which we crossed the mill-dam being in
the last days of April, the water was lower than it had been since
the breaking of winter in February, or than it was for several weeks
after. The principal difficulties we encountered in descending the
river were from the drifted timber, which obstructions all know are
not difficult to be removed. Knowing almost precisely the height
of water at that time, I believe I am safe in saying that it has as
often been higher as lower since.

From this view of the subject it appears that my calculations with
regard to the navigation of the Sangamon cannot but be founded
in reason ; but, whatever may be its natural advantages, certain it
is that it never can be practically useful to any great extent with-
out being greatly improved by art. The drifted timber, as I have
before mentioned, is the most formidable barrier to this object. Of
all parts of this river, none will require so miich labor in propor-
tion to make it navigable as the last thirty or thirty-five miles ; and
going with the meanderings of the channel, when we are this dis-
tance above its mouth we are only between twelve and eighteen
miles above Beardstowu in something near a straight direction;
and this route is upon such low ground as to retain water in many
places during the season, and in all parts such as to draw two thirds
or three fourths of the river water at all high stages.

This route is on prairie-land the whole distance, so that it appears
to me, by removing the turf a sufficient width, and damming up the
old channel, the whole river in a short time would wash its way
through, thereby curtailing the distance and increasing the velocity
of the current very considerably, while there would be no timber
on the banks to obstruct its navigation in future ; and being nearly
straight, the timber which might float in at the head would be apt
to go clear through. There are also many places above this where
the river, in its zigzag course, forms such complete peninsulas as


to be easier to cut at the uecks than to remove the obstructions from
the bends, which, if done, would also lessen the distance.

What the cost of this work would be, I am unable to say. It is
probable, however, that it would not be greater than is common to
streams of the same length. Finally, I believe the improvement of
the Sangamon River to be vastly important and highly desirable to
the people of the county; and, if elected, any measure in the legis-
lature having this for its object, which may appear judicious, will
meet my approbation and receive my support.

- It appeal's that the practice of loaning money at exorbitant rates
of interest has already been opened as a field for discussion ; so I
suppose I may enter upon it without claiming the honor, or risking
the danger which may await its first explorer. It seems as though
we are never to have an end to this baneful and corroding system,
acting almost as prejudicially to the general interests of the commu-
nity as a du*ect tax of several thousand dollars annually laid on
each county for the benefit of a few individuals only, unless there
be a law made fixing the limits of usury. A law for this purpose,
I am of opinion, may be made without materially injuring any class
of people. In cases of extreme necessity, there could always be
means found to cheat the law; while in all other cases it would
have its intended effect. I would favor the passage of a law on this
subject which might not be very easily evaded. Let it be such that
the labor and difficulty of evading it could only be justified in cases
of greatest necessity.

Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan
or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most
important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That
ever}'- man may receive at least a moderate education, and thereby
be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by
which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, ap-
pears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone,
to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from
all being able to read the Scriptures, and other works both of a reli-
gious 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 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

With regard to existing laws, some alterations are thought to 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 altera-
tions. But, considering the gi'eat probability that the framers of
those laws were wiser than myself, I should prefer not meddling
with them, unless they were fii'st 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-citizenSj I shall conclude. Considering the great de-


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 be
right than at all times to be wrong, so soon as I discover my opin-
ions 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 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 chagrined.

Your friend and fellow-citizen, A. Lincoln.

New Salem, March 9, 1832.

April 28, 1832. — Receipt for Arms.

Special Order (No. — ). Beardstown, April 28, 1832.

The Brigade Inspector, having inspected Captain Abraham Lin-
coln's Company and mustered them into service, reports that thirty
guns are wanting to arm the Company completely. Quartermaster-
General Edwards will furnish the Captain with that number of
arms, if to be had in his department.

John J. Hardin, Brig. Major.
By order of Brigadier-GtENERal Samuel Whiteside.
Commanding B. M. V. Ulinois.

Received April 28, 1832, for the use of the Sangamon County
company under my command, thirty muskets, bayonets, screws, and
wipers, which I oblige myself to return upon demand.

A. Lincoln, Captain.
















































a CO



(Indorsement in pencil on the foregoing.)

A. Lincoln— 5 days at $3.00 $15.00

John A. Kelsoe, chain bearer for 5 days at 75 cts 3.75

Robert Lloyd, 5 days at 75 cts 3.75

Hugh Armstrong, for services as axeman, 5 days at 75 cts . 3.75

A. Lincoln, for making plat and report 2.50


June 13, 1836. — Announcement op Political Views.

New Salem, June 13, 1836.

To the Editor of the ^^ 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 "Journal" are
called upon to '' show their hands." Agi*eed. Here 's mine.

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 con-
stituents, 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 knowing what
their will is ; and upon all others I shaU do what my own judgment
teaches me will best advance their interests. 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 Hugh
L. White for President. Very respectfully,

A. Lincoln.

June 21, 1836. — Letter to Robert Allen.

New Salem, June 21, 1836.

Bear Colonel : I am told that during my absence last week you
passed through this place, and stated publicly that you were in pos-
session of a fact or facts which, if known to the public, would en-
tirely destroy the prospects of N. W, Edwards and myself at the
ensuing election ; but that, through favor to us, you should forbear
to divulge them. No one has needed favors more than I, and, gen-
erally, few have been less unwilling to accept them ; but in this case
favor to me would be injustice to the public, and therefore I must
beg your pardon for declining it. That I once had the confidence
of the people of Sangamon, is sufficiently evident; and if I have
since done anything, either by design or misadventure, which if
known woiild subject me to a forfeiture of that confidence, he that
knows of that thing, and conceals it, is a traitor to his country's

I find myself wholly unable to form any conjecture of what fact
or facts, real or supposed, you spoke; but my opinion of your ve-
racity will not permit me for a moment to doubt that you at least
believed what you said. I am flattered with the personal regard
you manifested for me; but I do hope that, on more mature reflec-
tion, you will view the public interest as a paramount consideration,
and therefore determine to let the worst come. I here assure you
that the candid statement of facts on your part, however low it


may sink me, shall never break the tie of personal friendship be-
tween us. I wish an answer to this, and you are at liberty to pub-
lish both, if you choose. Very respectfully,
Col. Robert Allen. A. Lincoln.

December 13, 1836. — Letter to Miss Mary Owens.

Vandalia, December 13, 1836.

Mary : I have been sick ever since my arrival, or I should have
written sooner. It is but little difference, however, as I have very
little even yet to write. And more, the longer I can avoid the mor-
tification of looking in the post-office for your letter and not finding
it, the better. You see I am mad about that old letter yet. I don't
like very well to risk you again. I 'U try you once more, anyhow.

The new State House is not yet finished, and consequently the
legislature is doing little or nothing. The governor delivered an
inflammatory political message, and it is expected there will be some
sparring between the parties about it as soon as the two Houses get
to business. Taylor delivered up his petition for the new county
to one of our members this morning. I am told he despairs of its
success, on account of all the members from Morgan County oppos-
ing it. There are names enough on the petition, I think, to justify
the members from our county in going for it ; but if the members
from Morgan oppose it, which they say they will, the chance will
be bad.

Our chance to take the seat of government to Springfield is better
than I expected. An internal-improvement convention was held
here since we met, which recommended a loan of several millions of
dollars, on the faith of the State, to construct railroads. Some of the
legislature are for it, and some against it ; which has the majority
I cannot tell. There is great strife and struggling for the office of
the United States Senator here at this time. It is probable we shall
ease their pains in a few days. The opposition men have no candi-
date of their own, and consequently they will smile as complacently
at the angry snarl of the contending Van Buren candidates and their
respective friends as the Christian does at Satan's rage. You recol-
lect that I mentioned at the outset of this letter that I had been un-
well. That is the fact, though I believe I am about well now ; but
that, with other things I cannot account for, have conspired, and
have gotten my spirits so low that I feel that I would rather be any
place in the world than here. I really cannot endure the thought
of staying here ten weeks. "Write back as soon as you get this, and,
if possible, say something that will please me, for really I have not
been pleased since I left you. This letter is so dry and stupid that
I am ashamed to send it, but with my present feelings I cannot do
any better.

Give my best respects to Mr. and Mrs. Able and family.

Your friend, Lincoln.


January 27, 1837. — Address before the Young Men's Lyceum
OF Springfield, Illinois.

As a subject for the remarks of the evening, " The perpetuation of
our political institutions " is selected.

In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the
American people, find our account running under date of the nine-
teenth century of the Christian era. We find ourselves in the peace-
ful possession of the fairest portion of the earth as regards extent
of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find our-
selves under the government of a system of political institutions
conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty
than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when
mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheri-
tors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquire-
ment or establishment of them ; they are a legacy bequeathed us by
a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed,
race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed
it) to possess themselves, and through themselves us, of this goodly
land, and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys a political edifice
of liberty and equal rights; 'tis ours only to transmit these —
the former unprofaned by the foot of an invader, the latter unde-
cayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation — to the latest
generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task
gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and
love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faith-
fully to perform.

How then shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect
the approach of danger ? By what means shall we fortify against it?
Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean
and crush us at a blow ? Never ! All the armies of Europe, Asia,
and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own
excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a com-
mander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a
track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected ? I
answer, If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot
come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves
be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live
through all time, or die by suicide.

I hope I am over wary ; but if I am not, there is even now some-
thing of ill omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard
for law which pervades the country — the growing disposition to
substitute the wild and furious passions in lieu of the sober
judgment of courts, and the worse than savage mobs for the execu-
tive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any
community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our
feelings to admit, it would be a violation of truth and an insult to
our intelligence to deny. Accounts of outrages committed by mobs
form the every-day news of the times. They have pervaded the


country from New England to Louisiana ; they arQ neither peculiar
to the eternal snows of the former nor the burning suns of the lat-
ter ; they are not the creature of climate, neither are they confined
to the slaveholding or the non-slaveholding States, Alike they
spring up among the pleasure-hunting masters of Southern slaves,
and the order-loving citizens of the land of steady habits. What-
ever then their cause may be, it is common to the whole country.

It would be tedious as well as useless to recount the horrors of aU
of them. Those happening in the State of Mississippi and at St.
Louis are perhaps the most dangerous in example and revolting to
humanity. In the Mississippi case they first commenced bj^ hanging
the regular gamblers — a set of men certainly not following for a
livelihood a very useful or very honest occupation, but one which,
so far from being forbidden by the laws, was actually licensed by
an act of the legislature passed but a single year before. Next^
negroes suspected of conspiring to raise an insurrection were
caught up and hanged in all parts of the State; then, white men
supposed to be leagued with the negroes; and finally, strangers
from neighboring States, going thither on business, were in many
instances subjected to the same fate. Thus went on this process of
hanging, from gamblers to negroes, from negroes to white citizens,
and from these to strangers, till dead men were seen literally dang-
ling from the boughs of trees upon every roadside, and in numbers
almost sufficient to rival the native Spanish moss of the country as
a drapery of the forest.

Turn then to that horror- striking scene at St. Louis. A single
victim only was sacrificed there. This story is very short, and is
perhaps the most highly tragic of anything of its length that has
ever been witnessed in real life. A mulatto man by the name of
Mcintosh was seized in the street, dragged to the suburbs of the
city, chained to a tree, and actually burned to death ; and aU within
a single hour from the time he had been a freeman attending to his
own business and at peace with the world.

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 91)