Lincoln on Democracy
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: Fordham University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Preface to the Fordham University Press Edition
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Fifteen years ago, when we launched the New York State Lincoln on Democracy project to provide readers in Poland with access to the words of America’s greatest and most eloquent president, we had little reason to imagine that the idea would blossom into something of an...
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In July of 1989-months before democracy blossomed in the capitals
of Eastern Europe-the seed for this book on democracy was planted
halfway around the world, in the capital of New York State.
I had the privilege of welcoming to Albany a delegation of leading educators from Poland, a nation with a long history of yearning and...
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The Civil War had been over for twenty years, five postwar presidents had come and gone, and one of them had fallen victim to another assassin's bullet by the time poet Walt Whitman looked back, took the measure of history, and pronounced Abraham Lincoln still "the grandest...
A Note on the Lincoln Texts . ..
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With but a handful of exceptions, all the 140 Lincoln texts presented on the following pages-speeches, letters, remarks, greetings, replies, drafts, and fragments-come from texts published in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, eight volumes issued by Rutgers University...
"Not Much of Me": Lincoln's ''Autobiography,'' Age 50
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Abraham Lincoln wrote this "little sketch" of his first fifty years just jive months before his nomination to the presidency. He composed it as a research tool for a newspaper feature designed to introduce the still largely unknown western politician to the East. "There is not much of it," Lincoln apologized in a cover letter, "for the reason, I suppose, that there is...
I. "The People's Business": Lincoln and the American Dream
Abraham Lincoln as he appeared around 1846, the year of his election to Congress. This is the earliest known photograph of Lincoln, a daguerreotype probably made by Nicholas H. Shepherd of Springfield, Illinois. Observing him as he spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives...
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It was planting time in the Kentucky valley where the Lincoln clan made its home. Children had to learn work very young. Little Abraham was starting his lessons, walking behind his father, dropping pumpkin seeds into the hills made by Thomas Lincoln's crude hoe. Two seeds...
"No Wealthy... Relations to Recommend Me": From a Message to the People of Sangamo County
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This campaign statement-one of Lincoln's first-was published in his local newspaper, and possibly also as a handbill for distribution to voters. His focus on economic matters reflects his early belief that opportunity was an essential element of democracy. Lincoln lost the ensuing election for...
"I Shall Be Governed By Their Will": Announcement in the Sangamo Journal
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Lincoln won a seat in the Illinois legislature on his second try, in 1834. As a candidate for another term he wrote this letter setting out his platform for reelection. His interest in internal improvements was standard Whig Party policy of the day. So was his belief in the "doctrine of instructions...
"The People Know Their Rights": From a Speech to the Illinois Legislature
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Whig Representative Lincoln backed the charter of the Illinois State Bank, and remained its steadfast supporter even when it came dangerously close to insolvency. Here he defends its management, with what historian Gabor S. Boritt has pointed out was rather "overblown oratory" for a...
"Injustice and Bad Policy": Protest in the Illinois Legislature on Slavery
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Lincoln's earliest recorded statement on slavery includes a mild rebuke of abolitionists, but was actually intended as a measured response to a far tougher attack on abolitionism by Democrats. Earlier, the House had considered a resolution strongly condemning abolitionism and asserting...
"The Political Religion of the Nation": Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois
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One of the most intensely analyzed of Lincoln's speeches, the Lyceum address was a response both to recent lynchings in the South and to the 1837 murder of the Illinois abolitionist editor, Elijah P. Lovejoy. It contains Lincoln's most impassioned plea against mob violence. But historians have focused on it chiefly...
"The Wealthy Can Not Justly Complain": Letter to William S. Wait
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Lincoln's letter to an influential Democrat from a neighboring Illinois county defended increased taxation, pointing out breezily that even if the wealthy objected to such a policy, there weren't enough of them to vote it down...
"Many Free Countries Have Lost Their Liberty": From a Speech on the Subtreasury, Springfield, Illinois
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A local pro-Whig newspaper published the full text of this attack on the Democrats' scheme for replacing the national bank, praising it as "a speech which no man can answer." It was later reprinted in pamphlet form for the 1840 election campaign. The speech tied together the ideas...
"'God Tempers the Wind'": From a Letter to Mary Speed
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Mary Speed was the half sister of Lincoln's closest friend, Joshua Speed. Judging from the playful tone with which this letter began, Mary and Lincoln became friendly as well during his long 1841 visit to...
"The Sorrow Quenching Draughts of Perfect Liberty": From an Address Before Springfield's Washington Temperance Society
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In this address, which he delivered on George Washington's 110th birthday, Lincoln did not condemn drinkers, but suggested that they sip only the nectar of liberty. The speech was published in the local press. The conclusion, presented here, eloquently stated Lincoln's reverence for...
"By the Fruit the Tree is to be Known": Letter to Williamson Durley
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Lincoln's letter to a fellow Illinois Whig blamed the Liberty men, members of a small antislavery political party, for the defeat for president of his political hero, Henry Clay. But it also presented one of Lincoln's most persuasive early arguments against the extension of slavery...
"Useless Labour Is... The Same as Idleness": Fragments on Labor and the Tariff Issue
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Lincoln was a doctrinaire Whig on the tariff issue. He believed that protection would spur the young nation's economic growth, and that encouraging opportunity would validate and perpetuate the American experiment in democracy. In these extensive fragments he equated tariffs...
‘‘The Right to Rise Up’’: From a Speech in the U.S. House of Representatives on the Mexican War
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Along with his fellow Whigs in Congress, Lincoln opposed the Mexican War, arguing it was ‘‘unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President.’’ The war was waged over control of the huge province of Texas, and Democrats who supported it cited Manifest Destiny to justify...
‘‘No One Man Should Hold the Power’’: Letter to William H. Herndon
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Herndon, Lincoln’s junior law partner and later his biographer, gratuitously took credit for warning Lincoln that his opposition to the Mexican War meant ‘‘political suicide.’’ In truth, most fellow Whigs supported Lincoln’s antiwar stand. In this letter, he continued to assail President...
"There Are Few Things Wholly Evil, or Wholly Good": From a Speech in the u.s. House of Representatives on Internal Improvements
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Continuing his defense of internal improvements, Lincoln used both logic and humor to deflate the argument that public projects were objectionable because they might not benefit all sections of the country equally. He claimed that such opposition represented a policy of " 'Do nothing at all...
"Leaving the People's Business in Their Hands": From a Speech in the u.s. House of Representatives on the Presidential Question
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Whigs believed a president should avoid the veto whenever possible, and in this speech before Congress, Lincoln voiced the party view. During his own presidency, Lincoln would veto only six bills, as compared with his successor, Andrew Johnson, who rejected twenty-eight, most of which...
"Go to Work, 'Tooth and Nails'": Letter to His Stepbrother
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Lincoln believed from the beginning of his political career in full opportunity. But while he believed "every poor man should have a chance, " he was less than patient with poor men who lacked ambition-including his own stepbrother, who was thirty-seven when Lincoln wrote this letter...
"Valuable to His Adopted Country": Resolution and Letter on Napoleon Koscialowski
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Koscialowski had served as an engineer and architect at the Illinois state capitol. Lincoln was one of twenty-two to sign the following resolution supporting the Polish national for a military commission. He also wrote a letter of reference for Koscialowski to carry to Washington. There is no...
"Resolve to be Honest": Notes for a Law Lecture
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As a lawyer, Lincoln specialized in persuading juries--a skill he also used to persuade audiences at political meetings and debates. There is disagreement over the date of this revealing advice on how to practice law; some scholars contend it was written after 1850. Nor is there any evidence that...
"The Presidency... Is No Bed of Roses": From a Eulogy of Zachary Taylor, Chicago, Illinois
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In 1848, Lincoln abandoned his idol, Henry Clay, to support the Mexican War hero Zachary Taylor for president. Lincoln believed only Taylor could defeat the Democrats, and the general went on to do so. Once elected, however, Taylor disappointed Lincoln by denying him a federal appointment...
"Principles Held Dear": Resolutions Supporting Hungarian Freedom, Springfield, Illinois
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These resolutions were inspired by Hungarian freedom fighter Lajos Kossuth's visit to America. They were adopted by a Springfield meeting that Lincoln addressed. They not only endorsed Kossuth's efforts but also expressed sympathy with the fights for freedom in Germany, France, and...
"A Deep Devotion to the Cause of Human Liberty": From a Eulogy of Henry Clay, Springfield, Illinois
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In years to come, his arch-rival Stephen A. Douglas enjoyed reminding audiences that Lincoln had deserted Henry Clay in 1848, but Lincoln insisted that the Great Compromiser remained his "beau ideal" of a statesman. As president, he told his hero's son: "I recognize his voice..
II. "All We Have Ever Held Sacred": Lincoln and Slavery
Lincoln's "lantern jaws" are particularly pronounced in this rustic pose, a daguerreotype made by 10han Carl Frederic Poly carpus Von Schneidau in Chicago, Illinois, in late October 1854-around the time of his major address on the Kansas-Nebraska Act in Peoria. A journalist who saw him...
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"I have always hated slavery," Abraham Lincoln affirmed on one occasion, "I think as much as any Abolitionist." Be that as it may, slavery was not initially a major concern for him, and while he publicly condemned the institution as early as 1837, he firmly opposed the abolitionist...
"We Proposed to Give All A Chance": Fragments on Slavery
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Passage in 1854 of the Kansas-Nebraska Act gave slavery new life north of the cutoff line established thirty-four years earlier under the Missouri Compromise. It also brought Lincoln back into politics as an outspoken opponent of the extension of slavery. Lincoln's private secretary arbitrarily...
"To Do for the People What Needs to Be Done": Fragments on Government
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These famous expressions of political philosophy demonstrated Lincoln's belief that "joint effort" or "combined action" by government was required to help the weakest members of society. Five years later he would admit that "government is not charged with the duty of redressing or...
"THOSE WHO SHALL HAVE TASTEDACTUAL FREEDOM... CAN NEVER BE SLAVES"
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Lincoln, the Nation, andthe World: A Chronology
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Biographies of theEditors and Contributors
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Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2004