Abraham Lincoln.

...Early speeches, Springfield speech, Cooper union speech, inaugural addresses, Gettysburg address, selected letters, Lincoln's lost speech online

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Little Masterpieces

Edited by Bliss Perry


early speeches
springfield speech
cooper union speech
inaugural addresses
gettysburg address
selected letters
Lincoln's lost speech

2nd COPIY,








Copyright, 1894, by John G.


Copyrig-ht, iSgS, by

Acknowledgment is due The Centuty Co. for ^e-t
mission to use selections from the text of their
complete edition of the Works of Abra-
ham Lincoln, edited by fohn G.
Nicolay and fohn Hay.


He knew to bide his time,

And can his fame abide,

Still patient in his simple faith sublime,

Till the wise years decide.

Great captains, with their guns and drums,

Disturb our judgment for the hour,

But at last silence comes ;
These all are gone, and, standing like a

'.Our children shall behold his fame,

The kindly-earnest, brave, foreseeing man.

Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not

New birth of our new soil, the first Ameri-

Lowell, Commenwr atio7i Ode.


Editors Introduction

" It is not too much to say of him [LincolnJ
that he is among the greatest masters of prose
ever produced by the English race." — The
{London) Spectator.

It is said that Nathaniel Hawthorne was once
asked the secret of his style. That consummate
writer replied — no doubt with one of his in-
scrutable smiles — " It is the result of a great
deal of practice. It comes from the desire to
tell the simple truth as honestly and vividly as
I can." The flawless perfection of Lincoln's
style in his noblest utterances eludes a final
analysis as completely as the exquisite pages of
our great romancer, yet in striving to under-
stand some of the causes of that perfection we
may use the hint which Hawthorne has given

Lincoln had " a great deal of practice" in the
art of speech long before his debates against
Douglas made him known to the nation : end-
less talks in country stores, endless jests in
frontier taverns, twenty years of pleading in
the circuit courts, twenty-five years of constant
political discussion. His law partner has noted
his incessant interest in the precise meaning of
words. His reputation for clear statement to


a jury was the result of his passion for putting
ideas into language " plain enough for any boy
to comprehend. ' ' Lincoln's mind worked slow-
ly, and he was long in finding the words that
exactly expressed his thoughts, but when he
had once hit upon the word or phrase he never
forgot it. " He read less and thought more
than any man in the countr3^" says Herndon
with a sort of pride, and it should be remem-
bered that throughout his gradual development
as a master of his mother tongue he was pre-
occupied, not with words for their own sake,
but solely with words as the garb of ideas.

Furthermore, Lincoln's mental characteristics
illustrate with singular force the remark of
Hawthorne that style is the result of a desire to
tell the simple truth as honestly and vividl}^ as
one can. He was " Honest Abe ;" not indeed
so innocent and frank and unsophisticated as
many people believed ; not a man who told all
he knew, by any means ; but yet a man essen-
tially fair-minded. He looked into the nature
of things. He read human nature dispassion-
ately. A man of intense feeling, he was never-
theless, in mature life at least, without senti-
mentality. He was not fooled by phrases. As
a debater, he made no attempt to mislead his
audience ; as President, when he found frank
conversation impossible, he told a humorous
story of more or less remote bearing upon the
subject in hand. He kept inviolate his mental
integrity. And without integrity of mind the


would-be master of speech becomes a mere jug-
gler with words. In the letter to Thurlow
"Weed concerning the Second Inaugural Ad-
dress, Lincoln described that memorable utter-
ance as " a truth which I thought needed to be
told." No description could be more noble.

That Lincoln's gift of humor added much to
the vividness and homely naturalness of his
style will not be questioned. But the connec-
tion between fair-mindedness and humor is not
always remembered. The man of true humor
— not, of course, the mere joker or wit — sees all
sides of a proposition. He recognizes instinc-
tively its defects of proportion, its incongruities.
It is the great humorists who have drawn the
truest pictures of human life, because their
humor was a constant corrective against one-
sidedness. Lincoln's mind had the impartial-
ity, the freedom from prejudice, the flexibility
of sympathy, which belongs to the humorist

It has sometimes been argued that his fond-
ness for story-telling showed a deficient com-
mand of language ; that knowing his inability
to express his ideas directly, he conveyed them
indirectly by an anecdote. It would probably
be nearer the truth to say that the stories were
a proof of his understanding of the limitations
of language. He divined the boundaries of ex-
pression through formal speech, and knew
when a picture, a parable, would best serve his


As great responsibilities came to rest upon
him, as the harassing problems of our national
life pressed closer and closer, the lonely Presi-
dent grew more clear-eyed and certain of his
course. The politician was lost in the states-
man. His whole life, indeed, was a process of
enfranchisement from selfish and narrow views.
He stood at last on a serener height than other
men of his epoch, breathing an ampler air, per-
ceiving more truly the eternal realities. And
his style changed as the man changed. What
he saw and felt at his solitary final post he has
in part made known, through a slowly perfected
instrument of expression. So transparent is
the language of the Gettysburg Address and of
the Second Inaugural that one may read through
them, as through a window, Lincoln's wise and
gentle and unselfish heart. Other praise is

The selections included in this volume are
designed to illustrate the steady development
of Lincoln's literary power. They begin with
a few specimens of his earlier style, which was
direct, forceful, and manly, but not markedly
better than that of many of his contemporaries.
The famous " Lost Speech" of May 29, 1856,
has been reprinted in the Appendix. As it
does not present Lincoln's exact language
throughout, it could scarcely be placed with the
other selections, but its personal and historical
interest is so great that lovers of Lincoln will
be glad to have it preserved in convenient form.


With the Springfield speech of June i6, 1S58,
Lincoln entered upon a new phase of his career.
Its careful enunciation of a great political prin-
ciple made it the turning-point of a memorable
campaign. The significance of its opening
paragraph, in particular, has been discussed in
the prefatory note to the speech itself, and need
not be repeated here. The space-limit of the
volumes in this series forbids the presentation
of any of the entire speeches of the joint debates
with Douglas, and so closely mter-related, so
full of allusion and cross reference are all of
those speeches that detached paragraphs would
give little conception of the qualities displayed
by either of the debaters. The Cooper Union
speech of Februar}^ 25, 1S60, however, goes
over much of the ground of the Douglas de-

The remaining speeches in the volume belong
to Lincoln's career as President, They range
from the most informal addresses to the In-
augurals. The Emancipation Proclamation is
also included. The letters exhibit still another
side of Lincoln's strange and fascinating indi-
viduality. In compression and clear-cut force,
in their humor and homely pathos, in their
shrewd knowledge of character, these letters
are among the most extraordinary ever written.
While they afford new glimpses into Lincoln's
nature, it is true of them, as it is of his other
writings, that they express without explaining
the secret of his personality. One closes a vol-


time of Lincoln's addresses and letters with
something of the feeling that Walt Whitman
has uttered with regard to Lincoln's portraits :
" None of the artists or pictures has caught the
deep though subtle and indirect expression of
this man's face. There is something else
therer Bl%ss Perry.




Editor's Introduction . . . v

Speeches — Selected

The Whigs and the Mexican War . 3

Notes for a Law Lecture . . 7

Fragment on Slavery . . .11

The Dred Scott Decision and the

Declaration of Independence . 13
Springfield Speech . . .23
Cooper Union Speech . . -37
Farewell at Springfield . . 70
Speech in Independence Hall, Phila-
delphia . . . .71

' First Inaugural Address . . 74

Emancipation Proclamation . . 90

Gettysburg Address . . .94

Speech to i66th Ohio Regiment . 96

Response to a Serenade . . 98
Reply to Committee on Electoral Count loi

Second Inaugural Address . . 102


To McClellan . . . .109

To Seward . . . .111

To Greeley . . . .113

To the Workingmen of Manchester . 115
To Hooker . . . .118

To Burnside .... 120
To Edward Everett . . . 121

To Grant .... 122

To Mrs. Bixby . . . .123

To Thurlow Weed . . .124


Lincoln's Lost Speech . . . 127

Selected Speeches

Selections from Lincoln's
Speeches and Letters

The Whigs and the Mexican War

July 27, 1848

[An extract from a speech delivered in the
House of Representatives while Lincoln was a
Congressman from Illinois. The speech was in
support of General Taylor, the Whig candidate
for the Presidency. Lincoln had opposed Presi-
dent Polk's declaration of war against Mexico,
had introduced resolutions of inquir}^ on that
subject, and made a strong speech on Jan-
uary 12, 1848, explaining his own attitude.
The speech of July 27 was full of wit, at times
more caustic than refined. The extract here
presented sums up clearly Lincoln's views as
to the Mexican War, and is a good example of
his best parliamentary style at this stage of his

But, as General Taylor is, par excellence,
the hero of the Mexican War, and as you Demo-
crats say we Whigs have always opposed the
war, you think it must be very awkward and
embarrassing for us to go for General Taylor.
The declaration that we have always opposed
the war is true or false, according as one may
understand the term ' ' oppose the war. ' ' If to
say *' the war was unnecessarily and unconsti-

Abraham Lincoln

tutionally commenced by the President" be op-
posing the war, then the Whigs have very gen-
erally opposed it. Whenever they have spoken
at all, they have said this ; and they have said
it on what has appeared good reason to them.
The marching an army into the midst of a
peaceful Mexican settlement, frightening the
inhabitants away, leaving their growing crops
and other property to destruction, to you may
appear a perfectly amiable, peaceful, unprovok-
ing procedure ; but it does not appear so to us.
So to call such an act, to us appears no other
than a naked, impudent absurdity, and we
speak of it accordingly. But if, when the war
had begun, and had become the cause of the
country, the giving of our money and our blood,
in common with yours, was support of the war,
then it is not true that we have always opposed
the war. With few individual exceptions, you
have constantly had our votes here for all the
necessary supplies. And, more than this, you
have had the services, the blood, and the lives
of our political brethren in every trial and on
every field. The beardless boy and the mature
man, the humble and the distinguished — you
have had them. Through suffering and death,
by disease and in battle, they have endured and
fought and fell with you. Clay and Webster
each gave a son, never to be returned. From
the State of my own residence, besides other
worthy but less known Whig names, we sent
Marshall, Morrison, Baker, and Hardin ; they

The Whigs and Mexican War

all fought, and one fell, and in the fall of that
one we lost our best Whig man. Nor were the
Whigs few in number, or laggard in the day of
danger. In that fearful, bloody, breathless
struggle at Buena Vista, where each man's hard
task was to beat back five foes or die himself,
of the five high officers who perished, four were

In speaking of this, I mean no odious com-
parison between the lion-hearted Whigs and
the Democrats who fought there. On other
occasions, and among the lower officers and
privates on that occasion, I doubt not the pro-
portion was different. I wish to do justice to
all. I think of all those brave men as Ameri-
cans, in whose proud fame, as an American, I
too have a share. Many of them, Whigs and
Democrats, are my constituents and personal
friends ; and I thank them, — more than thank
them, — one and all, for the high imperishable
honor they have conferred on our common

But the distinction between the cause of the
President in beginning the war, and the cause
of the country after it was begun, is a distinc-
tion which you cannot perceive. To you the
President and the country seem to be all one.
You are interested to see no distinction between
them ; and I venture to suggest that probably
your interest blinds you a little. • We see the
distinction, as we think, clearly enough ; and
our friends who have fought in the war have

Abraham Lincoln

no difficulty in seeing it also. What those who
have fallen would say, were they alive and
here, oE course we can never know ; but with
those who have returned there is no difficulty.
Colonel Haskell and Major Gaines, members
here, both fought in the war, and one of them
underwent extraordinary perils and hardships ;
still they, like all other Whigs here, vote, on
the record, that the war was unnecessarily and
unconstitutionally commenced by the Presi-
dent. And even General Taylor himself, the
noblest Roman of them all, has declared that
as a citizen, and particularly as a soldier, it is
sufficient for him to know that his country is at
war with a foreign nation, to do all in his power
to bring it to a speedy and honorable termina-
tion by the most vigorous and energetic opera-
tions, without inquiry about its justice, or any-
thing else connected with it.

Mr. Speaker, let our Democratic friends be
comforted with the assurance that we are con-
tent with our position, content with our com-
pany, and content with our candidate ; and
that although they, in their generous sympathy,
think we ought to be miserable, we really are
not, and that they may dismiss the great anx-
iety they have on our account.

Notes for a Law Lecture

July I, 1850

[Thesenotesshow Lincoln's power of straight-
forward statement and his good sense. They
are of additional interest as indicating his atti-
tude toward professional success.]

I AM not an accomplished lawyer. I find
quite as much material for a lecture in those
points wherein I have failed as in those wherein
I have been moderately successful. The lead-
ing rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every
other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for
to-morrow which can be done to-day. Never
let your correspondence fall behind. Whatever
piece of business you have in hand, before stop-
ping, do all the labor pertaining to it which can
then be done. When you bring a common-law
suit, if you have the facts for doing so, write
the declaration at once. If a law point be in-
volved, examine the books, and note the au-
thority you rely on upon the declaration itself,
where you are sure to find it when wanted.
The same of defenses and pleas. In business
not likely to be litigated, — ordinary collection
cases, foreclosures, partitions, and the like, —

Abraham Lincoln

make all examinations of titles, and note them,
and even draft orders and decrees in advance.
Phis course has a triple advantage ; it avoids
omissions and neglect, saves your labor when
once done, performs the labor out of court when
you have leisure, rather than in court when you
have not. Extemporaneous speaking should
be practised and cultivated. It is the lawyer's
avenue to the public. However able and faith-
ful he may be in other respects, people are slow
to bring him business if he cannot make a
speech. And yet there is not a more fatal error
to young lawyers than relying too much on
speech-making. If any one, upon his rare
powers of speaking, shall claim an exemption
from the drudgery of the law, his case is a fail-
ure in advance.

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neigh-
bors 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 op-
portunity of being a good man. There will
still be business enough.

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 habit-
ually overhauls the register of deeds in search
of defects in titles, whereon to stir up strife,
and put money in his pocket ? A moral tone
ought to be infused into the profession which
should drive such men out of it.

Notes for a Law Lecture

The matter of fees is important, far beyond
the mere question of bread and butter involved.
Properl}^ attended to. fuller 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 mor-
tal if you can feel the same interest in the case,
as if something was still in prospect for you, as
well as for your client. And when you lack in-
terest 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
faithfully and well. Never sell a fee note — at.
least not before the consideration service is per-
formed. It leads to negligence and dishonesty
— negligence by losing interest in the case, and
dishonesty in refusing to refund when you have
allowed the consideration to fail.

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


Abraham Lincoln

events ; and if in your own judgment you can-
not be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest
without being a lawyer. Choose some other
occupation, rather than one in the choosing of
which you do, in advance, consent to be a


Fragment on Slavery

July I, 1S54

[From early manhood Lincoln's sympathies
had been strongly enlisted on behalf of the
slaves. The contrast between slave labor and
free labor has never been stated more tersely
and vividly than here. The sentence, ' ' Twenty-
five years ago I was a hired laborer," should be
noted. J

Equality in society alike beats inequality,
whether the latter be of the British aristocratic
sort or of the domestic slavery sort. We know
Southern men declare that their slaves are bet-
ter off than hired laborers amongst us. How
little they know whereof they speak I There is
no permanent class of hired laborers amongst
us. Twenty-five years ago I was a hired la-
borer. The hired laborer of yesterday labors
on his own account to-day, and 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 effort of some to shift
their share of the burden onto the shoulders of
others is the great durable curse of the race.

Abraham Lincoln

Originally a curse for transgression upon the
whole race, when, as by slavery, it is concen-
trated on a part only, it becomes the double-
refined curse of God upon his creatures.

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 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 hundred and fifty. You have sub-
stituted 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 adopted the free system of labor.


The Dred Scott Decision and the Dec-
laration of Independence

June 26, 1857

[This is an extract from a speech deHvered
in Springfield, 111. It was intended as a reply
to a speech of Stephen A. Douglas two weeks
earlier upon the subject of slavery in the Terri-
tories. Douglas was the author of the Kansas-
Nebraska bill, passed in 1854, which gave the
Territories the right to decide whether they
would have slavery. The Dred Scott decision
was published by the Supreme Court of the
United States in 1857, and was ^ the effect that
a slave or the descendant of . slave could not
be a citizen of the United States or have any
standing in the Federal courts. Lincoln con-
trasts the spirit of this decision with that of the
Declaration of Independence, with a skill and
force that will be apparent to every reader.
He repeated the substance of the argument
over and over again in his joint debates with
Douglas in the following year.]

I HAVE said, in substance, that the Dred Scott
decision was in part based on assumed histori-
cal facts which were not really true, and I ought
not to leave the subject without giving some
reasons for saying this ; I therefore give an in-
stance or two, which I think fully sustain me.
Chief Justice Taney, in delivering the opinion

Abraham Lincoln

of the majority of the court, insists at great
length that negroes were no part of the people
who made, or for whom was made, the Declara-
tion of Independence, or the Constitution of
the United States.

On the contrary. Judge Curtis, in his dissent-
ing opinion, shows that in five of the then thir-
teen States— to wit, New Hampshire, Massa-
chusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North
Carolina — free negroes were voters, and in pro-
portion to their numbers had the same part in
making the Constitution that the white people
had. He shows this with so much particularity
as to leave no doubt of its truth ; and as a sort
of conlusion on that point, holds the following
language :

" The Constitution was ordained and estab-
lished by the people of the United States,
through the action, in each State, of those per-
sons who were qualified by its laws to act there-
on in behalf of themselves and all other citizens
of the State. In some of the States, as we have
seen, colored persons were among those quali-
fied by law to act on the subject. These col-
ored persons were not only included in the body
of ' the people of the United States ' by whom
the Constitution was ordained and established ;
but in at least five of the States they had the
power to act, and doubtless did act, by their
suffrages, upon the question of its adoption."

Again, Chief Justice Taney says :

" It is difficult at this day to realize the state
of public opinion, in relation to that unfortunate
race, which prevailed in the civilized and en-


Dred Scott Decision

lightened portions of the world at the time of
the Declaration of Independence, and when the
Constitution of the United States was framed
and adopted."

And again, after quoting from the Declara-
tion, he says :

" The general words above quoted would
seem to include the whole human family, and
if they were used in a similar instrument at this
day, would be so understood."

In these the Chief Justice does not directly
assert but plainly assumes, as a fact, that the
public estimate of the black man is more favor-
able now than it was in the days of the Revo-

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Online LibraryAbraham Lincoln...Early speeches, Springfield speech, Cooper union speech, inaugural addresses, Gettysburg address, selected letters, Lincoln's lost speech → online text (page 1 of 10)