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ABRAHAM LINCOLN QUOTES (Including Sources)

"If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference." The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months at the White House by Francis B. Carpenter (Lincoln, Nebraska, University of Nebraska Press, 1995), pp. 258-259.

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, "Letter To Henry L. Pierce and Others" (April 6, 1859), p. 376.

"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, (August 1, 1858?), p. 532.

"Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it." Lincoln's Cooper Institute Address, February 27, 1860.

"I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, "Speech at Chicago, Illinois" (July 10, 1858), p. 502.

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and 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. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume V, "Letter to Horace Greeley" (August 22, 1862), p. 388.

"Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them." Lincoln and the Civil War In the Diaries and Letters of John Hay selected by Tyler Dennett (New York, Da Capo Press, 1988), p. 143.

"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day." Lincoln Observed: The Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks edited by Michael Burlingame (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), p. 210.

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." Lincoln's First Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861.

"Beavers build houses; but they build them in nowise differently, or better now, than they did, five thousand years ago. Ants, and honey-bees, provide food for winter; but just in the same way they did, when Solomon referred the sluggard to them as patterns of prudence. Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one who improves his workmanship." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, "First Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions" (April 6, 1858), p. 437.

"Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume V, "Letter to Quintin Campbell" (June 28, 1862), p. 288.

"I cannot make it better known than it already is that I strongly favor colonization." Lincoln's Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.

"I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, "Letter to Albert G. Hodges" (April 4, 1864), p. 281.

"...I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side." The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months at the White House by Francis B. Carpenter (Lincoln, Nebraska, University of Nebraska Press, 1995), p. 282. Also, Recollections of Abraham Lincoln by Ward Hill Lamon (Lincoln, Nebraska, University of Nebraska Press, 1994), p. 91.

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free - honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just - a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless." Lincoln's Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved - I do not expect the house to fall - but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other." Lincoln's 'House-Divided' Speech in Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858.

"I would rather be defeated with this expression ('house divided against itself cannot stand') in the speech, and uphold and discuss it before the people, than be victorious without it." The Lincoln Reader edited by Paul M. Angle (New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 1947), p. 228. For more details on Lincoln's comment see pp. 324-325 of Herndon's Life of Lincoln by William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik (Da Capo reprint of original 1942 edition published in Cleveland by World Publishing Company).

"Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came." Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865.

"I am rather inclined to silence, and whether that be wise or not, it is at least more unusual nowadays to find a man who can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume IV, "Remarks at the Monogahela House" (February 14, 1861), p. 209.

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863.

"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, "Lincoln-Douglas Debate at Ottawa" (August 21, 1858), p. 27.

"...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.

"I have never studied the art of paying compliments to women; but I must say that if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war. I will close by saying, God bless the women of America!" The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, "Remarks at Closing of Sanitary Fair, Washington D.C." (March 18, 1864), p. 254.

"I have not permitted myself, gentlemen, to conclude that I am the best man in the country; but I am reminded, in this connection, of a story of an old Dutch farmer who remarked to a companion once that 'it was not best to swap horses while crossing streams'." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, "Reply to Delegation from the National Union League" (June 9, 1864), p. 384.

"Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VIII, "Speech to One Hundred Fortieth Indiana Regiment" (March 17, 1865), p. 361.

"Perhaps a man's character was like a tree, and his reputation like its shadow; the shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing." Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln compiled and edited by Don E. Fehrenbacher and Virginia Fehrenbacher (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1996), p. 43.

"The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume I, "Speech on the Sub-Treasury" (in the Illinois House of Representatives, December 26, 1839), p. 178.

"Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, "Notes for a Law Lecture" (July 1, 1850?), p. 81.

"In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, "Reply to Loyal Colored People of Baltimore upon Presentation of a Bible" (September 7, 1864), p. 542.

"Property is the fruit of labor...property is desirable...is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, "Reply to New York Workingmen's Democratic Republican Association" (March 21, 1864), pp. 259-260.

"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country." Lincoln's Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.

"My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell." Lincoln's Farewell Address at the Great Western Depot in Springfield, Illinois, February 11, 1861.

"Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors 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 opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, "Notes for a Law Lecture" (July 1, 1850?), p. 81.

"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, "Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, Illinois" (September 18, 1858), pp. 145-146.

"I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects---certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man. " The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, "First Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Ottawa, Illinois" (August 21, 1858), p. 16.

"I have stepped out upon this platform that I may see you and that you may see me, and in the arrangement I have the best of the bargain." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume IV, "Remarks at Painesville, Ohio" (February 16, 1861), p. 218.

"The demon of intemperance ever seems to have delighted in sucking the blood of genius and of generosity." Lincoln's Temperance Address, Springfield, Illinois, February 22, 1842.

"The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party - and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume V, "Meditation on the Divine Will" (September 2, 1862?), pp. 403-404.

"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's First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.

"What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?" Lincoln's Cooper Institute Address, February 27, 1860.

"We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name - liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names - liberty and tyranny." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, "Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, Maryland" (April 18, 1864), p. 301-302.

"There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume I, "Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois (January 27, 1838), p. 113.

"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'." Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.

"I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father's child has." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, "Speech to One Hundred Sixty-sixth Ohio Regiment (August 22, 1864), p. 512.

"At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume I, "Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois (January 27, 1838), p. 109.

"I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VI, "Proclamation of Thanksgiving" (October 3, 1863), p. 497.

"I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VIII, "Letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby" (November 21, 1864), pp. 116-117.

"It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: 'And this, too, shall pass away.' How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!" The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, "Address Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin" (September 30, 1859), pp. 481-482.

"If all do not join now to save the good old ship of the Union this voyage nobody will have a chance to pilot her on another voyage." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume IV, "Speech at Cleveland, Ohio" (February 15, 1861), p. 216.

"Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes." Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865.

"I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except Negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, "Letter to Joshua F. Speed" (August 24, 1855), p. 323.

"You think slavery is right and should be extended; while we think slavery is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume IV, "Letter to Alexander H. Stephens" (December 22, 1860), p. 160. (Stephens was the future Confederate vice-president.)

"Stand with anybody that stands RIGHT. Stand with him while he is right and PART with him when he goes wrong." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, "Speech at Peoria, Illinois" (October 16, 1854), p. 273.

"To state the question more directly, are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated? Even in such a case, would not the official oath be broken, if the government should be overthrown, when it was believed that disregarding the single law, would tend to preserve it? But it was not believed that this question was presented. It was not believed that any law was violated. The provision of the Constitution that 'The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, shall not be suspended unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it,' is equivalent to a provision---is a provision---that such privilege may be suspended when, in cases of rebellion, or invasion, the public safety does require it. It was decided that we have a case of rebellion, and that the public safety does require the qualified suspension of the privilege of the writ which was authorized to be made." Lincoln's Message to Congress in Special Session, July 4, 1861.

"There are no accidents in my philosophy. Every effect must have its cause. The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future. All these are links in the endless chain stretching from the finite to the infinite." Herndon's Life of Lincoln by William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik (New York, Da Capo Press, 1983), p. 354.

"The legitimate object of government is 'to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they can not, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves'." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, "Fragment on Government" (July 1, 1854?), p. 221.

NOTE: All page references to The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln refer to the 1953 edition published by the Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Several good single volume sources of Lincoln quotes are: (1) Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln compiled and edited by Don E. Fehrenbacher and Virginia Fehrenbacher. (2) A Treasury of Lincoln Quotations edited by Fred Kerner. (3) Of the People, By the People, For the People and other Quotations from Abraham Lincoln edited by Gabor S. Boritt. (4) Abe Lincoln Laughing: Humorous Anecdotes from Original Sources by and about Abraham Lincoln edited by P.M. Zall.

Many incorrect Lincoln quotations are in circulation. I will try to help if you have a
question about the authenticity of a Lincoln quote.

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Abraham Lincoln Quotes About Slavery

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Unproven Quotations Attributed to Abraham Lincoln


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