Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln's words on living questions : A collection of all the recorded utterances of Abraham Lincoln bearing upon the questions of today ; online

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Mr. Colfax, I want you to take a message from
me to the miners whom you visit. I have very large
ideas of the mineral wealth of our nation. I believe
it is practically inexhaustible. It abounds all over

130 Money y Greenbacks, Silver and Gold

the Western country from the Rocky Mountains to
the Pacific and its development has scarcely com-

During the war while we were adding a couple
million dollars every day to our debt, I did not care
about encouraging the increase in the volume of
our precious metals. We had the country to save
first. But now that the Rebellion is overthrown,
and we know pretty nearly the amount of our na-
tional debt, the more gold and silver we mine, we
make the payment of that debt so much the easier.
Now, I am going to encourage that in every pos-
sible way. We shall have hundreds of thousands
of disbanded soldiers, and many have feared that
their return home in such great numbers might
paralyze industry by furnishing suddenly a greater
supply of labor than there will be demand for. I
am going to try and attract them to the hidden
wealth of our mountain ranges, where there is room
enough for all. Immigration, which even during
the war has not stopped, will land on our shores
hundreds of thousands more, per year, from over-
crowded Europe. I intend to point them to the gold
and silver that wait for them in the West.

Tell the miners for me that I shall promote
their interest to the utmost of my ability, because
their prosperity is the prosperity of the nation, and
we shall prove in a very few years that we are indeed
the treasury of the world.

Money > Greenbacks, Silver and Gold 131


(April 14, 1865, To Schuyler Coif ax Coffin, p. 515.)

You are going to the Pacific coast (said Mr.
Lincoln to Mr. Colfax., just as he started for Ford's
theater). Do not forget to tell the people in the
mining regions what I told you this morning about
their development. Good-bye.


(Conversation with Ward Hill Lamon Recollections by Lamon,
p. 215. Gives description of making greenbacks.)

Yes, I think it is about as the lawyer would
say in the following manner, to-wit : The engraver
strikes off the sheets, passes them over to the regis-
ter of currency, who places his earmarks upon them,
signs them, hands them over to Father Spinner, who
then places his wonderful signature at* the bottom
and turns them over to Mr. Chase, who, as secretary
of the United States treasury, issues them to the
public as money and may the good Lord help any
fellow that doesn't take all he can honestly get of


(December, 1864, Letter to Edmund D. Taylor, of Chicago, 111.
Van Buren, p. 404.)

My Dear Colonel Dick: I have long determined
to make public the origin of the greenback and tell
the world that it is one of Dick Taylor's creations.

132 Money , Greenbacks } Silver and Gold

You have always been friendly to me and when
troublous times fell upon us and my shoulders,
though broad and willing, were weak, and myself
surrounded by such circumstances and such people
that I knew not whom to trust; then I said in my
extremity, "I will send for Col. Taylor, he will
know what to do." I think it was in January, 1862,
on or about the i6th, that I did so. You came and
I said to you " What can we do?" Said you: "Why,
issue treasury notes, bearing no interest, printed on
the best banking paper. Issue enough to pay off the
army expenses and declare it legal tender." Chase
thought it a hazardous thing, but we finally accom-
plished it and gave it to the people of this republic,
the greatest blessing they ever had their own
paper to pay their own debts.

It is due to you, the father of the present green-
back, that the people should know it, and I take
great pleasure in making it known. How many
times have I laughed at you telling me plainly that
I was too lazy to be anything but a lawyer. Yours
truly. A. Lincoln, President.


(November 21, 1864, Wm. F. Elkin Shibley, p. 282.)

Yes, we may all congratulate ourselves that this
cruel war is nearing its close. It has cost a vast
amount of treasure and blood. The best blood of

Money ) Greenbacks > Silver and Gola 133

the flower of American youth has been freely offered
upon our country's altar that the nation might live.
It has been indeed a trying hour for the republic;
but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that
unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety
of my country.

As a result of the war, corporations have been
enthroned and an era of corruption in high places
will follow, and the money power of the country
will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon
the prejudices of the people until all wealth is ag-
gregated in a few hands, and the Republic is de-
stroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for
the safety of my country than ever before, even in
the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may
prove groundless.


(May 12, 1860, Letter to Dr. Edward Wallace Complete Works,
Vol. I. p. 634.)

I now think the tariff question ought not to be
agitated at the Chicago convention, but that all
should be satisfied on that point with a Presidential
candidate whose antecedents give assurance that
he would neither seek to force a tariff law by execu-
tive influence, nor yet to arrest a reasonable one by_
a veto or otherwise. Just such a candidate I desire
shall be put in nomination.


(October 11, 1859, Letter to Dr. Edward Wallace Complete Works,
Vol. I. p. 584.)

I have not since changed my views. I believe yet,
if we could have a moderate, carefully adjusted pro-
tective tariff, so far acquiesced in as not to be a per-
petual subject of political strife, squabbles, changes,
and uncertainties it would be better for us. Still it
is my opinion that just now the revival of that ques-
tion will not advance the cause itself or the man
who revives it.


I 3 6 Tariff


(February 15, 1861, Speech at Pittsburg, Pa. Complete Works,
Vol. I, p. 679.)

We should do neither more nor less than we
gave the people reason to believe we would when
they gave us their votes. * * * I therefore
would rather recommend to every gentleman who
knows he is to be a member of the next Congress
to take an enlarged view, and post himself thor-
oughly so as to contribute his part to such an
adjustment of the tariff as shall produce a sufficient
revenue, and in its other bearings, so far as possible,
be just and equal to all sections of the country
and classes of the people.


(March 6, 1860, Speech at New Haven, Conn. Complete Works,
Vol. I, p. 617.)

The old question of tariff a matter that will
remain one of the chief affairs of national house-
keeping to all time; the question of the manage-
ment of financial affairs; the question of the dis-
position of the public domain; how shall it be
managed for the purpose of getting it well settled,
and of making there the homes of a free and happy
people these will remain open and require atten-
tion for a great while yet, and these questions will
have to be attended to by whatever party has the
control of the government.

Tariff 137


(February 15, 1861, Speech at Pittsburg, Pa. Van Buren, p. 28.)

Assuming that direct taxation is not to be
adopted, the tariff question must be as durable as
the government itself. It is a question of national
housekeeping. It is to the government what re-
plenishing the meal-tub is to the family. Ever-
varying circumstances will require frequent modi-
fications as to the amount needed and the sources
of supply. So far there is little difference of opinion
among the people. * * * I therefore would
rather recommend to every gentleman who knows
he is to be a member of the next Congress to take
an enlarged view and post himself thoroughly so
as to contribute his part to such an adjustment of
the tariff as shall produce a sufficient revenue, and,
in its other bearings, so far as possible, be just and
equal to all sections of the country and classes of
the people.


(1861, Interview with Senator Maynard Herndon, p. 508.)

I shall go just as fast and only as fast as I
think I'm right and the people are ready for the


(November 20, 1863, In letter to Z. Chandler Complete Works,
Vol. II, p. 440.)

I hope to "stand firm" enough not to go back-
ward, and yet not go forward fast enough to wreck
the country's cau e e.


(July 28, 1859, From letter to S. Galloway Complete Works, Vol.
I, P. 537.)

No party can command respect which sustains
this year what it opposed last.


(Hapgood, p. 351 In regard to political quarrels.)

I am in favor of short statutes of limitations in


(June 6, 1864, Indorsement on Letter Complete Works, Vol. II, p.


I wish not to interfere about vice-president.


Party Policy

Cannot interfere about platform. Convention must
judge for itself.


(September 17, 1858, Answer to friends who advised him not to use
the famous sentence, "A house divided against itself cannot
stand." Herndon, p. 400.)

If it is decreed that I should go down because of
this speech, then let me go down linked to the
truth let me die in the advocacy of what is just
and right.


(June, 1856, Speech at Springfield, 111., in ratification meeting of
the Bloomington Convention two other persons only, being
present. Herndon, p. 386.)

While all seems dead, the age itself is not. It
liveth as sure as our Maker liveth. Under all this
seeming want of life and motion, the world does
move nevertheless. Be hopeful, and now let us
adjourn and appeal to the people.


(1855, Advice to Free-Soilers of Springfield, 111., who talked of
using force. Herndon, p. 380.)

You can better succeed with the ballot. You
can peaceably then redeem the government and pre-
serve the liberties of mankind through your votes
and voice and moral influence. * * * Let there
be peace. Revolutionize through the ballot-box,
and restore the government once more to the affec-
tions and hearts of men by making it express, as it

Party Policy

was in

was intended to do, the highest spirit of justice and


(May 29, 1856, Speech at Bloomington Convention Life of Lincoln.
Tarbell, Vol. I, p. 298.)

In grave emergencies moderation is generally
safer than radicalism. * * * As it now stands
we must appeal to the sober sense and patriotism
of the people. We will make converts day by day;
we will grow stronger by calmness and moderation;
we will grow strong by the violence and injustice of
our adversaries; and unless truth be a mockery
and justice a hollow lie we will be in the majority
after awhile, and then the revolution which we will
accomplish will be none the less radical from
being the result of pacific measures.


(March 6, 1860, Speech at New Haven, Conn. Complete Works,
Vol. I. p. 620.)

If I saw a venomous snake crawling in the road,
any man would say I might seize the nearest stick
and kill it; but if I found that snake in bed with
my children, that would be another question. I
might hurt the children more than the snake, and
it might bite them. Much more, if I found it in
bed with my neighbor's children, and I had bound
myself by a solemn compact not to meddle with his
children under any circumstances, it would become

1 42 Party Policy

me to let that particular mode of getting rid of the
gentleman alone. But if there was a bed newly
made up, to which the children were to be taken,
and it was proposed to take a batch of young snakes
and put them there with them, I take it no man
would say there was any question how I ought to


(In Regard to Appointments Hapgood, p. 349.)

I suppose that if the twelve apostles were to be
chosen nowadays, the shrieks of locality would
have to be heeded.


(March 1, 1859, Speech at Chicago, 111. Complete Works, Vol. I,
p. 528.)

I am afraid of the result upon organized action
where great results are in view, if any of us allow
ourselves to seek out minor or separate points, on
which there may be difference of views as to policy
and right, and let them keep us from uniting in
action upon a great principle in a cause on which
we all agree; or are deluded into the belief that
all can be brought to consider alike and agree upon
every minor point before we unite and press for-
ward in organization, asking the co-operation of all
good men in that resistance to slavery upon which
we all agree. I am afraid that such methods would

Patty Policy j^

result in keeping the friends of liberty waiting long-
er than we ought to. I say this for the purpose of
suggesting that we consider whether it would not be
better and wiser, so long as we all agree that this
matter of slavery is a moral, political and social
wrong, and ought to be treated as a wrong, not to
let anything minor or subsidiary to that main prin-
ciple and purpose make us fail to co-operate.


(February 27, 1860, Speech at Cooper Institute, New York How-
ells, p. 213.)

Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical
contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied
and belabored contrivances such as groping for
some middle ground between the right and the
wrong; vain as the search for a man who should
be neither a living man nor a dead man; such as a
policy of 'don't care' on a question about which all
true men do care; such as union appeals beseeching
true men to yield to disunionists, reversing the
divine rule, and calling not the sinners but the
righteous to repentance; such as invocations to
Washington, imploring men to unsay what Wash-
ington said, and undo what Washington did.
Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false
accusations against us, nor frightened from it by
menaces of destruction to the government, nor of
dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right

144 Party Policy

makes might and in that faith let us to the end dare
to do our duty as we understand it.


(June 9, 1864, From Reply to a Delegation from the National
Union League Hapgood, p. 352.)

I do not allow myself to suppose that either the
convention or the League have concluded to decide
that I am either the greatest or best man in America,
but rather they have concluded that it is not best
to swap horses while crossing the river, and have
further concluded that I am not so poor a horse
that they might not make a botch of it in trying to


(November 19, 1858, From Letter to A. G. Henry Complete Works,
Vol. I, p. 521.)

As a general rule, out of Sangamon as well as
in it, much of the plain old Democracy is with us,
while nearly all the old exclusive silk-stocking whig-
gery is against us. I don't mean nearly all the Old
Whig party, but nearly all of the nice exclusive sort.


(June 12, 1848, From Letter to Archibald Williams -Complete
Works, Vol. I, p. 122.)

In my opinion we shall have a most overwhelm-
ing, glorious triumph. One unmistakable sign is
that all the odds and ends are with us barnburners,

Parly Policy I45

native Americans, Tyler men, disappointed office-
seeking locofocos, and the Lord knows what.


(July 6, 1859, Prom Letter to Schuyler Colfax Complete Works,
Vol. I, p. 535.)

In a word, in every locality we should look be-
yond our noses; and at least say nothing on points
where it is probable we shall disagree.


(February 27, 1860, Cooper Institute Speech, New York Howells,
p. 201.)

The fact that we get no votes in your section is
a fact of your making, and not of ours. And if
there be fault in that fact, that fault is primarily
yours, and remains so until you show that we repel
you by some wrong principle or practice. If we do
repel you by any wrong principle or practice, the'
fault is ours; but this brings you to where you
ought to have started to a discussion of the right
or wrong of our principle.


(June 22, 1848, From Letter to William H. Herndon Herndon,
p. 284.)

Now, as to the young men. You must not wait
to be brought forward by the older men. For in-
stance, do you suppose that I should ever have got
into notice if I had waited to be hunted up and

146 Patty Policy

pushed forward by older men? You young men
get together and form a "Rough and Ready Club/'
and have regular meetings and speeches. Take in
everybody you can get. * * * As you go along
gather up all the shrewd, wild boys about town,
whether just of age or a little under age. * * *
Let every one play the part he can play best some
speak, some sing and all halloo.


(February 22, 1842, Speech at Springfield, 111. Complete Works,
Vol. I, p. 59.)

When the conduct of men is designed to be in-
fluenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion
should ever be adopted. It is an old and a true
maxim, That a drop of honey catches more flies
than a gallon of gall.' So with men. If you would
.win a man to your cause, first convince him that
you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of
honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will,
is the great high road to his reason and which when
once gained, you will find but little trouble in con-
vincing his judgment of the justice of your cause,
if indeed that cause really be a just one.


(May 14, 1859, Letter to M. W. Delahay Herndon, p. 451.)

You will probably adopt resolutions in the nature
of a platform. I think the only temptation will be
to lower the Republican standard in order to gather

Party Policy 147

recruits. In my judgment such a step would be
a serious mistake, and open a gap through which
more would pass out than pass in. And this would
be the same whether the letting down should be in
deference to Douglasism or to the Southern oppo-
sition element; either would surrender the object '
of the Republican organization the preventing of
the spread and nationalization of slavery. This ob-
ject surrendered, the organization would go to
pieces. I do not mean by this that no Southern man
must be placed upon our national ticket in 1860.
There are many men in the slave States for any one
of whom I could cheerfully vote to be either Presi-
dent or Vice-President, provided he would enable
me to do so with safety to the Republican cause,
without lowering the Republican standard. This
is the indispensable condition of a union with us;
it is idle to talk of any other. Any other would be
as fruitless to the South as distasteful to the North,
the whole ending in common defeat. Let a union
be attempted on the basis of ignoring the slavery
question, and magnifying other questions, which
the people are just now not caring about, and it
will result in gaining no single electoral vote in the
South and losing every one in the North.


(August 22, 1862, Letter to Horace Greeley Hanaford, p. 241.)

My paramount object is to save the Union and

148 Party Policy

not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could
save the Union without freeing any slaves I would
do it, if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I
would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some
and leaving others alone I would also do that. * *
I shall try to correct errors when shown to be
errors, and I shall adopt new views so fast as they
shall appear to be true views. I have here stated
my purpose according to my views of official duty,
and I intend no modification of my oft expressed
personal wish that all men everywhere could be


(To a Delegation of Ministers Hapgood, p. 216.)

Gentlemen : Suppose all the property you possess
were in gold and you had placed it in the hands of
Blondin to carry across the Niagara River on a
rope. With slow, cautious, steady step he walks
the rope bearing your all. Would you shake the
cable and keep shouting to him, "Blondin, stand
up a little straighter;" "Blondin, stoop a little more;
go a little faster; lean more to the south, now lean
a little more to the north," would that be your
behavior in such an emergency? No. You would
hold your breath, every one of you, as well as your
tongues. You would keep your hands off until he
was safe on the other side. This government, gen-

Patty Policy i^g

tlemen, is carrying an immense weight, untold treas-
ures are in its hands. The persons managing the
Ship of State in this storm are doing the best they
can. Don't worry them with needless warnings and
complaints. Keep silence, be patient, and we will
get you safe across.


(February 27, 1860, Speech at Cooper Institute, New York How-
ells, p. 202.)

But you say you are conservative eminently con-
servative while we are revolutionary, destructive,
or something of the sort. What is conservatism?
Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the
new and untried? We stick to, contend for, the
identical old policy on the point in controversy,
which was adopted by "our fathers who framed the
government under which we live," while you with
one accord reject, and scout, and spit upon that old
policy, and insist upon substituting something new.


(March 6, 1860, Speech at New Haven, Conn. Complete Works,
Vol. I, p. 622.)

You say you think slavery a wrong, but you re-
nounce all attempts to restrain it. Is there anything
else that you think wrong, that you are not willing
to deal with as a wrong? Why are you so careful,
so tender of this one wrong and no other? You
will not let us do a single thing as if it was a wrong;

150 Party Policy

there is no place where you will allow it to be even
called wrong. We must not call it wrong in the
free States, because it is not there, and we must not
call it wrong in the slave States, because it is there ;
we must not call it wrong in politics, because that is
bringing morality into politics, and we must not
call it wrong in the pulpit, because that is bringing
politics into religion; we must not bring it into
the Tract Society, or other societies, because those
are such unsuitable places, and there "is no single
place, according to you, where this wrong thing can
properly be called wrong.


(February 27, 1860, Speech at Cooper Institute, New York How-
ells, p. 203.)

Again you say we have made the slavery ques-
tion more prominent than it formerly was. We
deny it. We admit that it is more prominent, but
we deny that we made it so. It was not "we but you,
who discarded the old policy of the fathers. We
resisted, and still resist your innovation ; and thence
comes the greater prominence of the question.
Would you have that question reduced to its former
proportions? Go back to that old policy. What
has been will be again, under the same conditions.
If you would have the peace of the old times, re-
adopt the precepts and policy of the old time.

Party Policy x - r


(July 10, 1858, Speech at Chicago, 111. Debates, p. 22.)

You have done the labor; maintain it keep it.
If men choose to serve you, go with them; but as
you have made up your organization upon principle,
stand by it; for as surely as God reigns over you
and has inspired your mind, and given you a sense
of propriety, and continues to give you hope, so
surely will you still cling to these ideas, and you
will at last come back again after your wanderings,
merely to do your work over again.


(December 1-5, 1859, Speeches in Kansas Complete Works, Vol.
I, p. 593.)

To effect our main object we have to employ
auxiliary means. We must hold conventions, adopt
platforms, select candidates and carry elections. At
every step we must be true to the main purpose. If
we adopt a platform falling short of our principle,
or elect a man rejecting our principle, we not only
take nothing affirmative by our success, but we
draw upon us the positive embarrassment of seem-
ing ourselves to have abandoned our principle.

That our principle, however baffled or delayed,
will finally triumph, I do not permit myself to doubt.
Men will pass away die, die politically and natur-
ally; but the principle will live and live forever.

152 Party Policy

Organizations rallied around that principle may, by
their own dereliction, go to pieces, thereby losing
all their time and labor; but the principle will re-
main, and will reproduce another, and another till
the final triumph will come. But to bring it soon
we must save our labor already performed our
organization, which has cost us so much time and
toil to create.

We must keep our principle constantly in view,
and never be false to it.

And as to men for leaders, we must remember
that, 'He that is not for us is against us, and he
that gathereth not with us scattereth.'


(September 17, 1859, Speech at Cincinnati, O. Debates, p. 268.)

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