The Essential Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln - Abraham Lincoln - ebook

Detailed Biography Also Included at the Start.Abraham Lincoln was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865.Collection of 14 Works of Abraham Lincoln________________________________________First Inaugural AddressLincoln LettersLincoln's Inaugurals, Addresses and LettersLincoln's Second Inaugural AddressState of the UnionThe Emancipation ProclamationThe Life and Public Service of GeneralThe Lincoln Year BookThe Writings of Abraham Lincoln Volume 1The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Volume 2The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Volume 3The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Volume 4The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Volume 5The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Volume 6

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Lincoln's 1st Inaugural Address

Lincoln Letters, by Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln's Inaugurals, Addresses and Letters by Abraham Lincoln

State of the Union

The Emancipation Proclamation, by Abraham

The Life and Public Service of General by Abraham Lincoln

The Lincoln Year Book, by Abraham Lincoln

The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, v1

The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, v2

The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, v3

The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, v4

The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, v5

The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, v6

The Essential Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln

Detailed Biography of Abraham Lincoln

First Inaugural Address

Lincoln Letters

Lincoln's Inaugurals, Addresses and Letters

Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

State of the Union

The Emancipation Proclamation

The Life and Public Service of General

The Lincoln Year Book

The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Volume 1

The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Volume 2

The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Volume 3

The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Volume 4

The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Volume 5

The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Volume 6


Abraham Lincoln was born Sunday, February 12, 1809, in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky. He was the son of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and he was named for his paternal grandfather. Thomas Lincoln was a carpenter and farmer. Both of Abraham's parents were members of a Baptist congregation which had separated from another church due to opposition to slavery.

When Abraham was seven, the family moved to southern Indiana. Abraham had gone to school briefly in Kentucky and did so again in Indiana. He attended school with his older sister, Sarah (his younger brother, Thomas, had died in infancy). In 1818 Nancy Hanks Lincoln died from milk sickness, a disease obtained from drinking the milk of cows which had grazed on poisonous white snakeroot. Thomas Lincoln remarried the next year, and Abraham loved his new stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln. She brought three children of her own into the household. Abraham attended school at irregular intervals. In all he spent less than 12 months going to school, and he didn't attend college at all.

As Abraham grew up, he loved to read and preferred learning to working in the fields. This led to a difficult relationship with his father who was just the opposite. Abraham was constantly borrowing books from the neighbors.

In 1828 Abraham's sister, who had married Aaron Grigsby in 1826, died during childbirth. Later in the year, Abraham made a flatboat trip to New Orleans. In 1830 the Lincolns moved west to Illinois.

The next year Lincoln made a second flatboat trip to New Orleans. Afterwards he moved to New Salem, Illinois, where he lived until 1837. While there he worked at several jobs including operating a store, surveying, and serving as postmaster. He impressed the residents with his character, wrestled the town bully, and earned the nickname "Honest Abe." Lincoln, who stood nearly 6-4 and weighed about 180 pounds, saw brief service in the Black Hawk War, and he made an unsuccessful run for the Illinois legislature in 1832. He ran again in 1834, 1836, 1838, and 1840, and he won all four times. Lincoln was a member of the Whig Party; he remained a Whig until 1856 when he became a Republican. Additionally, he studied law in his spare time and became a lawyer in 1836. Stories that Lincoln had a romance with a pretty girl named Ann Rutledge may well be true. Sadly, Ann died in 1835.

In Springfield in 1839 Lincoln met Mary Todd. Three years later they were married and over the next 11 years had four children: Robert (1843-1926), Edward ("Eddie") 1846-1850, William ("Willie") 1850-1862, and Thomas ("Tad") 1853-1871. Lincoln became a successful attorney, and the family bought a home at the corner of Eighth and Jackson in 1844.

In 1846 Lincoln ran for the United States House of Representatives and won. While in Washington he became known for his opposition to the Mexican War and to slavery. He returned home after his term and resumed his law practice more seriously than ever. Early in 1851 Lincoln's father died.

Lincoln's declining interest in politics was renewed by the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. He made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate but received some support for the Republican vice-presidential nomination in 1856. Also, in 1856 Lincoln gave his Lost Speech. He opposed the Dred Scott decision in 1857 and gave his famous "House Divided" Speech on June 16, 1858. Additionally, he engaged in a series of debates with Stephen A. Douglas in 1858. Lincoln was against the spread of slavery into the territories but was not an abolitionist. Douglas won the Senatorial race, but Lincoln gained national recognition. In 1860 he furthered his national reputation with a successful speech at the Cooper Institute in New York.

Although William Seward was the pre-convention favorite for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860, Lincoln won on the third ballot. With Hannibal Hamlin as his running mate, Lincoln was elected the 16th president on November 6, 1860, defeating Douglas, John Bell, and John C. Breckinridge.

In February of 1861 the Lincolns left by train for Washington, D.C. The president-elect was now wearing a beard at the suggestion of an 11-year-old girl. Lincoln was sworn in on March 4, 1861.

After Lincoln's election, many Southern states, fearing Republican control in the government, seceded from the Union. Lincoln faced the greatest internal crisis of any U.S. president. After the fall of Ft. Sumter, Lincoln raised an army and decided to fight to save the Union from falling apart. Initially, Lincoln anticipated a short conflict; he called for 75,000 volunteers to serve for three months. Despite enormous pressures, loss of life, battlefield setbacks, bickering among his Cabinet members, generals who weren't ready to fight, assassination threats, etc., Lincoln stuck with this pro-Union policy for four long years of Civil War. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. This was Lincoln's declaration of freedom for all slaves in the areas of the Confederacy not under Union control. Also, on November 19, 1863, Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address which dedicated the battlefield there to the soldiers who had perished. He called on the living to finish the task the dead soldiers had begun.

Lincoln's domestic policies included support for the Homestead Act. This act allowed poor people in the East to obtain land in the West. Also, Lincoln signed legislation entitled the National Banking Act which established a national currency and provided for the creation of a network of national banks. In addition, he signed tariff legislation that offered protection to American industry and signed a bill that chartered the first transcontinental railroad. Lincoln's foreign policy was geared toward preventing foreign intervention in the Civil War.

In 1864 Ulysses S. Grant was named general-in-chief of the armies of the United States. The South was slowly being worn down. Lincoln was reelected president with Andrew Johnson as his running mate. Lincoln defeated the Democrat George McClellan on November 8, 1864. On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant. Two days later Lincoln addressed a crowd outside the White House. Among other things, he suggested he would support voting rights for certain blacks. This infuriated a racist and Southern sympathizer who was in the audience: the actor John Wilkes Booth who hated everything the president stood for.

On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, the Lincolns attended a play entitled Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre. During the performance Booth arrived at the theater, entered the State Box from the rear, and shot the president in the back of his head at about 10:15 P.M. Lincoln was carried across the street to the Petersen House where he passed away the next day at 7:22 A.M. This was the first presidential assassination in American history, and the nation mourned its leader. His death was the result of the deep divisions and hatreds of the times. Lincoln's body was taken to Springfield by train, and he was buried in the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery on May 4, 1865. Because of the assassination, Reconstruction took place without Lincoln's guidance and leadership.

Abraham Lincoln is remembered for his vital role as the leader in preserving the Union during the Civil War and beginning the process that led to the end of slavery in the United States. He is also remembered for his character, his speeches and letters, and as a man of humble origins whose determination and perseverance led him to the nation's highest office.

Lincoln's 1st Inaugural Address

Lincoln's First Inaugural Address March 4, 1861

Fellow citizens of the United States: in compliance with a custom as old as the government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly and to take, in your presence, the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, to be taken by the President "before he enters on the execution of his office."

I do not consider it necessary, at present, for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety, or excitement.

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. And, more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

"Resolved: that the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend, and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes."

I now reiterate these sentiments; and, in doing so, I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause-- as cheerfully to one section as to another.

There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:

"No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."

It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution-- to this provision as much as to any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause "shall be delivered up", their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not with nearly equal unanimity frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?

There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by national or by State authority; but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to others by which authority it is done. And should any one in any case be content that his oath shall go unkept on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to HOW it shall be kept?

Again, in any law upon this subject, ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be not, in any case, surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well at the same time to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that "the citizen of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States?"

I take the official oath today with no mental reservations, and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules. And while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed, than to violate any of them, trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unConstitutional.

It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our national Constitution. During that period fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens have, in succession, administered the executive branch of the government. They have conducted it through many perils, and generally with great success. Yet, with all this scope of precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief Constitutional term of four years under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.

I hold that, in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever--it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

Again, if the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it--break it, so to speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And, finally, in 1787 one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was "TO FORM A MORE PERFECT UNION."

But if the destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is LESS perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that Resolves and Ordinances to that effect are legally void; and that acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

I therefore consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken; and to the extent of my ability I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part; and I shall perform it so far as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means, or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it WILL Constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States, in any interior locality, shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating, and so nearly impracticable withal, that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices.

The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts of the Union. So far as possible, the people everywhere shall have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and reflection. The course here indicated will be followed unless current events and experience shall show a modification or change to be proper, and in every case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised according to circumstances actually existing, and with a view and a hope of a peaceful solution of the national troubles and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and affections.

That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events, and are glad of any pretext to do it, I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the Union may I not speak?

Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from--will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?

All profess to be content in the Union if all Constitutional rights can be maintained. Is it true, then, that any right, plainly written in the Constitution, has been denied? I think not. Happily the human mind is so constituted that no party can reach to the audacity of doing this. Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied. If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written Constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution--certainly would if such a right were a vital one. But such is not our case. All the vital rights of minorities and of individuals are so plainly assured to them by affirmations and negations, guaranties and prohibitions, in the Constitution, that controversies never arise concerning them. But no organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can anticipate, nor any document of reasonable length contain, express provisions for all possible questions. Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by national or State authority? The Constitution does not expressly say. May Congress prohibit slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. MUST Congress protect slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.

From questions of this class spring all our constitutional controversies, and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the government must cease. There is no other alternative; for continuing the government is acquiescence on one side or the other.

If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them; for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. For instance, why may not any portion of a new confederacy a year or two hence arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it? All who cherish disunion sentiments are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this.

Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new Union, as to produce harmony only, and prevent renewed secession?

Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does, of necessity, fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.

I do not forget the position, assumed by some, that Constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding, in any case, upon the parties to a suit, as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.

One section of our country believes slavery is RIGHT, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is WRONG, and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive-slave clause of the Constitution, and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave-trade, are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports the law itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, cannot be perfectly cured; and it would be worse in both cases AFTER the separation of the sections than BEFORE. The foreign slave-trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived, without restriction, in one section, while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at all by the other.

Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides, an no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you.

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their CONSTITUTIONAL right of amending it, or their REVOLUTIONARY right to dismember or overthrow it. I cannot be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the national Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add that to me the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution--which amendment, however, I have not seen--has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied Constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.

The chief magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have conferred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the states. The people themselves can do this also if they choose; but the executive, as such, has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present government, as it came to his hands, and to transmit it, unimpaired by him, to his successor.

Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail, by the judgment of this great tribunal, the American people.

By the frame of the government under which we live, this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief; and have, with equal wisdom, provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years.

My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and WELL upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to HURRY any of you in hot haste to a step which you would never take DELIBERATELY, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied, still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.

In YOUR hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in MINE, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail YOU. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. YOU have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."

I am loathe to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Lincoln Letters, by Abraham Lincoln

Washington, Dec. 24th, 1848.

My dear father:--

Your letter of the 7th was received night before last. I very cheerfully send you the twenty dollars, which sum you say is necessary to save your land from sale. It is singular that you should have forgotten a judgment against you; and it is more singular that the plaintiff should have let you forget it so long, particularly as I suppose you have always had property enough to satisfy a judgment of that amount. Before you pay it, it would be well to be sure you have not paid it; or, at least, that you can not prove you have paid it. Give my love to Mother, and all the connections.

Affectionately your son,


[Written on same page with above.]

Dear Johnston:--

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

You are now in need of some ready money; and what I propose is, that you shall go to work, "tooth and nail," for somebody who will give you money for it. Let father and your boys take charge of things at home--prepare for a crop, and make the crop; and you go to work for the best money wages, or in discharge of any debt you owe, that you can get. And to secure you a fair reward for your labor, I now promise you that for every dollar you will, between this and the first of next May, get for your own labor either in money or in your own indebtedness, I will then give you one other dollar. By this, if you hire yourself at ten dollars a month, from me you will get ten more, making twenty dollars a month for your work. In this, I do not mean you shall go off to St. Louis, or the lead mines, or the gold mines, in California, but I mean for you to go at it for the best wages you can get close to home, in Coles County. Now if you will do this, you will soon be out of debt, and what is better, you will have a habit that will keep you from getting in debt again. But if I should now clear you out, next year you will be just as deep in as ever. You say you would almost give your place in Heaven for $70 or $80. Then you value your place in Heaven very cheaply, for I am sure you can with the offer I make you get the seventy or eighty dollars for four or five months' work. You say if I furnish you the money you will deed me the land, and if you don't pay the money back, you will deliver possession-- Nonsense! If you can't now live with the land, how will you then live without it? You have always been kind to me, and I do not now mean to be unkind to you. On the contrary, if you will but follow my advice, you will find it worth more than eight times eighty dollars to you.

Affectionately your brother,


[Transcriber's Note: The following letter to General Grant is contained in file linc04.jpg]

Executive Mansion, Washington, April 30, 1864.

Lieutenant-General Grant,--

Not expecting to see you again before the spring campaign opens, I wish to express, in this way, my entire satisfaction with what you have done up to this time, so far as I understand it. The particulars of your plans I neither know, or seek to know. You are vigilant and self reliant; and, pleased with this, I wish not to obtrude any constraints or restraints upon you. While I am very anxious that any great disaster, or the capture of our men in great numbers, shall be avoided, I know these points are less likely to escape your attention than they would be mine. If there is anything wanting which is within my power to give, do not fail to let me know it.

And now with a brave Army, and a just cause, may God sustain you.

Yours very truly,


[Transcriber's Note: The letter from Austin A. King, requesting a pardon for John B. Corner is contained in files linc005.jpg and linc006.jpg. Lincoln's note approving the pardon is contained in file linc007.jpg. As these letters were not transcribed in the print book, I have not transcribed them here.]

Lincoln Letters, by Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln's Inaugurals, Addresses and Letters by Abraham Lincoln






Address to the People of Sangamon County, March 9, 1832 The Perpetuation of our Political Institutions, January 27, 1837 Speech at Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858 Second Joint Debate at Freeport, August 27, 1858 The Cooper Institute Address, Monday, February 27, 1860 Farewell Address at Springfield, Illinois, February 12, 1861 Farewell Address at Springfield, Illinois, February 11, 1861 Address in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, February 22, 1861 First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861 Response to Serenade, March 4, 1861 Letter to Colonel Ellsworth's Parents, May 25, 1861 Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862 Extract from the Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862 The Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation, July 15, 1863 Letter to J. C. Conkling, August 26, 1863 Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863 Letter to Mrs. Bixby, November 21, 1864 Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865 Last Public Address, April 11, 1865

APPENDIX. Autobiography, December 20, 1859



The facts of Lincoln's early life are best stated in his own words, communicated in 1859[see Appendix] to Mr. J. W. Fell, of Bloomington, Illinois. Unlike many men who have risen from humble surroundings, Lincoln never boasted of his wonderful struggle with poverty. His nature had no room for the false pride of a Mr. Bounderby, even though the facts warranted the claim. Indeed, he seldom mentioned his early life at all. On one occasion he referred to it as "the short and simple annals of the poor." Lincoln himself did not in any way base his claims to public recognition upon the fact that he was born in a log cabin and that he had split rails in his youth, although, on the other hand, he was not ashamed of the facts. More, perhaps, than any other man of his time he believed and by his actions realized the truth of Burns' saying, "The man's the goud, for a' that." The real lesson to be drawn from Lincoln's life is that under any conditions real success is to be won by intelligent, unwavering effort, the degree of success being determined by the ability and character of the individual. Still less profitable is the attempt to contrast the success of Lincoln with that of Washington, or Jefferson or of any other American whose early circumstances were more favorable than Lincoln's. In each case success has been worthily won, and we Americans of the present generation should rejoice that our country has produced so many great men. True patriotism does not consist in the recognition of only one type of Americanism, but rather in the grateful acceptance of every service that advances the fortunes and raises the reputation of the republic. Peculiar interest attaches to the character of Lincoln's early reading and especially to the small number of books that were accessible to him. In these days of cheap and plentiful literature it is hard for us to realize the conditions in pioneer Kentucky and Indiana, where half a dozen volumes formed a family library and even newspapers were few and far between. There was no room for mental dissipation, and the few precious volumes that could be obtained were read and re-read until their contents were fully mastered. When Sir Henry Irving was asked to prepare a list of the hundred best books he replied, "Before a hundred books, commend me to the reading of two, the Bible and Shakespeare." Fortunately these two classics came at an early age within the reach of Lincoln and the frequency with which he quotes from both at all periods of his career, both in his writings and in his conversation, shows that he had made good use of them. The boy Lincoln not only read books, he made copious extracts from them, often using a smooth shingle in the absence of paper and depending upon the uncertain light of the log fire in his father's cabin. Such use of books makes for intellectual growth, and much of Lincoln's later success as a writer can be referred back to this careful method of reading.

Lincoln's later reading shows considerable variety within certain limits. He himself once remarked that he liked "little sad songs." Among, his special favorites in this class of poetry were "Ben Bolt," "The Lament of the Irish Emigrant," Holmes' "The Last Leaf," and Charles Mackay's "The Enquiry." The poem from which he most frequently quoted and which seems to have impressed him most was, "Oh, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal be Proud?" His own marked tendency to melancholy, which is reflected in his face, seemed to respond to appeals of this sort. Among his favorite poets besides Shakespeare were Burns, Longfellow, Hood, and Lowell. Many of the poems in his personal anthology were picked from the poets' corner of newspapers, and it was in this way that he became acquainted with Longfellow. Lincoln was especially fond of humorous writings, both in prose and verse, a taste that is closely connected with his lifelong fondness for funny stories. His favorite humorous writer during the presidential period was Petroleum V. Nasby (David P. Locke), from whose letters he frequently read to more or less sympathetic listeners. It was eminently characteristic of Lincoln that the presentation to the Cabinet of the Emancipation Proclamation was prefaced by the reading of the latest Nasby letter.

Lincoln's statement in the Autobiography that he had picked up the little advance he had made upon his early education, or rather lack of education, is altogether too modest. It is known that after his term in Congress he studied and mastered geometry; and, like Washington, he early became a successful surveyor. His study of the law, too, was characteristically thorough, and his skill in debate, in which he had no superior, was the result of careful preparation. During the presidential period Lincoln gave evidence of critical ability that is little short of marvellous in a man whose schooling amounted to less than a year. In a letter to the actor Hackett and in several conversations he analyzed passages from "Hamlet," "Macbeth," and other plays with an insight and sympathy that have rarely been surpassed even by eminent literary critics.

At an early age Lincoln's interest was aroused in public speaking and he soon began to exercise himself in this direction and to attend meetings addressed by those skilled in the art of oratory. Many stories are told of his local reputation as a speaker and story-teller even before he moved to Illinois, much of his success then as in later life being due to the singular charm of his personality. Lincoln never overcame a certain awkwardness, almost uncouthness of appearance, and he never acquired the finer arts of oratory for which his rival Douglas was so conspicuous. But in spite of these physical difficulties he was acknowledged by Douglas to be the man whom he most feared in debate; and Lincoln was able to sway the critical, unfamiliar audience assembled in Cooper Union as readily as the ruder crowds gathered about the Illinois stump.

On the subject of Lincoln's religious belief, about which such varying opinions have been held, it is sufficient to state that, although he was not a member of any religious body, he had a firm conviction of the protecting power of Providence and the efficacy of special prayer. This latter characteristic seems to have been especially developed during the presidential period. Both in his proclamations and in many private interviews and communications he expresses himself clearly and emphatically upon this subject. It is probable, too, that Lincoln read more deeply and more frequently in the Bible during the storm and stress of the Civil War than at any other period of his life. There seems to be no authority for the statement sometimes made that after the death of his son Willie, Lincoln showed a tendency to believe in the doctrines of spiritualism. He was not free, however, from a belief in the significance of dreams as portending important events. He was also not a little of a fatalist, as he himself once stated to his friend Arnold.

Perhaps the most striking characteristic of Lincoln's personality apart from his honesty and sincerity was his perfect simplicity and naturalness. Frederick A. Douglass, the great leader of the colored race, once remarked that President Lincoln was the only white man that he had ever met who never suggested by his manner a sense of superiority. Not that Lincoln was lacking in personal dignity. Neither as a practising lawyer nor as President of the United States, would he permit anyone to take what he regarded as liberties with him. But, on the other hand, he did not allow his elevated position to change his personal relations. His old Illinois friends found in the White House the same cordial welcome and simple manners to which they had been accustomed in the pleasant home at Springfield.

During the first few weeks of the administration it was believed by many persons, including Mr. Seward himself, that President Lincoln would be greatly influenced in his policy by the superior experience in public affairs of his Secretary of State. Mr. Seward even went so far as to draw up a plan of action, which he submitted to his chief. Lincoln soon showed, however, that he was not a follower, but a leader of men, beneath whose good nature and kindly spirit was a power of initiative that has rarely been equalled among the statesmen of the world. Even the dictatorial Secretary of War found it necessary to yield to the President on all points that the latter regarded as being fundamental. Few other presidents have been so bitterly attacked and so cruelly misrepresented as Lincoln, but nothing could turn him from his purpose when that was once formed. Like the wise man that he was, Lincoln was always ready to listen to the suggestions of others, but the conclusion finally reached by him was always his own. He applied to questions of state the same methods of careful, impartial inquiry that had served him so well as a lawyer on the Illinois circuit, and if, being human, he did not always avoid committing errors, he never acted from impulse or prejudice. Lincoln was a strong leader, but he was at the same time a wise leader.

Turning now from the man to his works, we note first that the development of Lincoln's style was slow. One might almost be tempted to say that Lincoln developed several different styles in succession. This, however, is hardly true, for in spite of the numerous marked changes and improvements in Lincoln's manner of writing, certain fundamental qualities remained, the real expression of his personality, that is, the real style of Lincoln. From the beginning to the end we find an effort to say something and to say it in as clear a manner as possible, an effort without which there can be no real success in writing. After a practice in public speaking of over thirty years Lincoln as President could still say: "I believe I shall never be old enough to speak without embarrassment when I have nothing to talk about."

The first specimen of Lincoln's writings that has been preserved is a communication to the voters of Sangamon County in 1832, when Lincoln was for the first time a candidate for the State legislature. It is significant of Lincoln's imperfect command of English at that time that "some of the grammatical errors" were corrected by a friend before the circular was issued. Although this circumstance makes it impossible for us to judge exactly what his style was at this period, we may be sure that the changes were comparatively slight and that the general form at least was Lincoln's. The question naturally arises whether there is anything in this first specimen of Lincoln's writing that suggests, however remotely, the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural. A little study will discover suggestions at least of the later manner, just as in the uncouth and awkward young candidate for the Illinois State Legislature, we can note many traits, intellectual and moral, that distinguish the mature and well-poised statesman of thirty years later. It is the same man, but developed and strengthened, it is the same style, strengthened and refined. If Nicolay and Hay go too far when they say of the address: "This is almost precisely the style of his later years," it would be quite as wrong to deny any likeness between the two. In the first place, we have the same severely logical treatment of the subject matter, from which Lincoln, a lawyer and public speaker, never departed. Lincoln's grammar may not have been impeccable at this time, but his thinking powers were already little short of masterly. This, then, is the first element in the makeup of Lincoln's style, the ability to think straight and consequently to write straight. His legal training, which was then very meagre, cannot account for his logical thinking; it is more correct to say that he later became a successful lawyer because of the logical bent of his mind.

Closely connected with this early development of the form of thinking was Lincoln's interest in words, and his desire always to use words with a perfect understanding of their meaning. Even in his boyhood he found pleasure in discovering the exact meaning of a new word and in later life he was constantly adding to his verbal stores. Shortly before his inauguration Lincoln remarked to a clergyman, who had asked him how he had acquired his remarkable power of "putting things": "I can say this, that among my earliest recollections I remember how, when a mere child, I used to get irritated when anybody talked to me in a way I could not understand. I don't think I ever got angry at anything else in my life. But that always disturbed my temper, and has ever since. I can remember going to my little bedroom, after hearing the neighbors talk of an evening with my father, and spending no small part of the night walking up and down, trying to make out what was the exact meaning of their, to me, dark sayings."

In this first address we find no loose use of words. The character of the address does not of course admit of ornament or figurative language, but any subject, however simple, admits of digressions and mental excursions by the illogical and careless writer. Of these there is not a trace. Even in the most informal letters and telegrams, written at post haste and at times under the most extreme pressure of business and anxiety, Lincoln shows a natural feeling for the appropriate expression that is found only in the masters of language.

Five years later, in 1837, the interval being represented by only a few unimportant letters, Lincoln entered upon a period distinguished by qualities that are not usually associated with his name, a tendency to fine writing that we should look for earlier than at the age of twenty-eight. The subject of the address is "The Perpetuation of our Political Institutions," and the complete text is given in this volume. Here for once Lincoln speaks of an Alexander, a Buonoparte, a Washington. The influence of Webster is apparent, in this first purely oratorical attempt of Lincoln's. It could hardly have been otherwise at a time when the great Whig orator was making the whole country ring with his wonderful speeches. It is almost certain, too, that Henry Clay, to whom Lincoln later referred as beau ideal of an orator, had a part in moulding this early manner, though this is probably less apparent here than in the later soberer addresses.

But it must not be supposed that this speech consists merely of what Hamlet would call "words, words, words." Neither are all the figures inferior and commonplace. Although it is more ornate than anything in the later period, the following description of the passing away of the heroes of the Revolution is a fine example of the Websterian style: "They were a forest of giant oaks; but the all-resistless hurricane has swept over them, and left only here and there a lonely trunk, despoiled of its verdure, shorn of its foliage, unshading and unshaded, to murmur in a few more ruder storms, then to sink and be no more." The closing sentence of the address is almost wholly, in the later style and might have served for the close of the First Inaugural, which, in its original form, did actually contain a Biblical quotation.

That the rhetorical manner had not gained entire possession of Lincoln at that time, but was simply used by him on what seemed to be appropriate occasions, is sufficiently shown by a speech delivered in the legislature early in 1839, in which we find the strictly logical discussion of the first address. This speech is especially interesting because of the fact that it is the earliest encounter of Lincoln and Douglas that has been preserved. In a way, therefore, it may be regarded as the first Lincoln-Douglas debate.

One other rhetorical effort was made, in 1842, and then we find no more specimens of this class of speaking until the so-called Lost Speech of 1856. This address of 1842 was delivered before the Springfield Washingtonian Temperance Society, on Washington's Birthday, and it is even more inflated than the first specimen. Combined with the rhetoric, however, there is a mass of sober argument that again suggests the later Lincoln. The arguments, too, are characterized by a sound common sense that is no less characteristic of the speaker. The peroration deserves quotation as being one of the finest and at the same time one of the least familiar passages in Lincoln's writings: "This is the one hundredth and tenth anniversary of the birthday of Washington. We are met to celebrate this day. Washington is the mightiest name of earth: long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty, still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name a eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun or glory to the name of Washington is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked, deathless splendor leave it shining on." This approaches very closely the beauty and strength of the presidential period.

In 1844 Lincoln wrote several poems, which are not without merit. As a boy he was famous among his companions for his skill in writing humorous verses, but these later specimens of his muse are serious, even melancholy in their tone.

We next come to the congressional period, from 1847 to 1849. The best-known speech from this period, Lincoln's introduction to a national public, is that of July 27, 1848, on General Taylor and the veto, Taylor being then the Whig candidate for the presidency. This speech, which was received with immense applause, owes its special prominence to the fact that it is the only purely humorous speech by Lincoln that has been preserved. The subject of the attack is General Cass, Taylor's Democratic opponent, whom Lincoln treats in a manner that somewhat suggests Douglas' later treatment of Lincoln on the stump. Its peroration is of peculiar interest, since it consists of a funny story.

To anyone familiar with Lincoln's habit of story-telling the introduction of a story at the end of a speech may not seem strange. But, as a matter of fact, this is the only case of the kind that has been noted, and a careful reading of the speeches shows either that they were not fully reported or that as a rule he confined his story-telling to conversation. Even in the debates with Douglas, when he was addressing Illinois crowds from the stump at a time when stories were even more popular than they are now, Lincoln seldom used this device to rouse interest or to strengthen his argument. A partial explanation of this curious contrast between his conversation and his writing, so far as the debates are concerned, may be found in a remark made by Lincoln to a friend who had urged him to treat the subject more popularly. Lincoln said; "The occasion is too serious, the issues are too grave. I do not seek applause, or to amuse the people, but to convince them." With Lincoln the desire to prove his proposition, whatever it might be, was always uppermost. In the earliest speeches were noted the severe logic and the strict adherence to the subject in hand. To the end Lincoln never changed this principle of his public speaking.

Although the stories, then, have but little direct bearing upon Lincoln's writings, they are so characteristic a feature of the man that they cannot be wholly disregarded. In the two cases already noted the stories were illustrative, and this appears to be true of all of Lincoln's anecdotes, whether they occur in his conversation or in his writings. He apparently never dragged in stories for their own sake, as so many conversational bores are in the habit of doing, but the story was suggested by or served to illustrate some incident or principle. Indeed, in aptness of illustration Lincoln has never been surpassed. Emerson said of him: "I am sure if this man had ruled in a period of less facility of printing, he would have become mythological in a very few years, like Aesop or Pilpay, or one of the Seven Wise Masters, by his fables and proverbs." Many of the anecdotes attributed to Lincoln are undoubtedly to be referred to other sources, but the number of authentic stories noted, especially during the presidency, is very large.

The question has often been raised whether Lincoln originated the stories he told so well. Fortunately we have his own words in this matter. To Noah Brooks he said: "I do generally remember a good story when I hear it, but I never did invent anything original. I am only a retail dealer." Slightly differing from this, though probably not contradicting it, is Lincoln's statement to Mr. Chauncey M. Depew: "I have originated but two stories in my life, but I tell tolerably well other people's stories."

During the Civil War Lincoln's stories served a special purpose as a sort of safety valve. To a Congressman, who had remonstrated with him for his apparent frivolity in combining funny stories with serious discussion, he said: "If it were not for these stories I should die." The addresses of the presidential period, however, with the exception of a few responses to serenades, are entirely without humorous anecdotes. Although Lincoln never hesitated to clear the discussion of the most momentous questions through the medium of a funny story, his sense of official and literary propriety made him confine them to informal occasions.