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Abraham Lincoln quotes (124)
Important principles may and must be inflexible.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Principle
Letter to Horace Greeley. August 22 1862 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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: President
When someone asked Abraham Lincoln after he was elected president what he was going to do about his enemies he replied I am going to destroy them. I am going to make them my friends.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Friendship
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own intoxicated with unbroken success we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace too proud to pray to the God that made us!
Abraham Lincoln Category: Thanksgiving
Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first the lesson afterward. And in the end its not the years in your life that count. Its the life in your years.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Experience
The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty and the American people just now are much in want of one. 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 mens 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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Liberty
A woman is the only thing that I am afraid of that I know will not hurt me.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Hurt
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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Death
I claim not to have controlled events but confess plainly that events have controlled me.
Abraham Lincoln Category: History
Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Tact
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 is said against me wont amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference. NOTE: President Richard M. Nixon used similar words about his plan for peace in an address to the nation on the war in Vietnam November 3 1969: If it does succeed what the critics say now wont matter. If it does not succeed anything I say then wont matter. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon 1969 p. 909.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Do
Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Character
I could as easily bail out the Potomac River with a teaspoon as attend to all the details of the army. Attributed to President Abraham Lincoln by General James B. Fry.Allen Thorndike Rice Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln chapter 22 p. 393 (1886). This supposedly had been part of Lincolns response to a young volunteer soldier who had come to Lincolns office asking his help with a grievance. The story has been repeated in numerous books on Lincoln: Alexander K. McClure Abe Lincolns Yarns and Stories p. 162 (1904 Ida M. Tarbell The Life of Abraham Lincoln vol. 2 p. 153 (1917 and Caroline T. Harnsberger The Lincoln Treasury p. 14 (1950).
Abraham Lincoln Category: Army
How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesnt make it a leg.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Dog
We must not promise what we ought not lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Life
No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Civil
The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man wholl get me a book I aint read.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Book
When you have got an elephant by the hind leg and he is trying to run away it is best to let him run.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Elephant
A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Diploma
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 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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Government
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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Administration
Nearly all men can stand adversity but if you want to test a man's character give him power.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Adversity
I could not have slept tonight if I had left that helpless little creature to perish on the ground. (reply to friends who chided him for delaying them by stopping to return a fledgling to its nest.)
Abraham Lincoln Category: Animals
Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried upon him personally.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Slavery
I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Atheism
Don't interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Constitution
If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens you can never regain their respect and esteem. You may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you cant fool all of the people all of the time.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Confidence
Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Time
Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Present
That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Democracy
A jury too often has at least one member who is more ready to hang the panel than the traitor.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Jury
I have got you together to hear what I have written down. I do not wish your advice about the main matter for that I have determined for myself. Attributed to President Abraham Lincoln. Salmon P. Chase diary entry for September 22 1862 Diary and Correspondence of Salmon P Chase p. 88 (1903 reprinted 1971). According to the Chase account Lincoln spoke these words at a cabinet meeting he had called to inform the members of his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. This quotation is also used in Carl Sandburg Abraham Lincoln: The War Years p. 584 (1939). Although these words are not used the same thought is conveyed in the diary of another member of Lincolns cabinet Gideon Welles. See his diary entry for the same date in Diary of Gideon Welles vol. 1 pp. 142-43 (1911).
Abraham Lincoln Category: Opinion
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?
Abraham Lincoln Category: People
It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else owning capital somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers and thus induce them to work by their consent. Having proceeded so far it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. Now there is no such relation between capital and labor as here assumed .... 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. Capital has its rights which are as worthy of protection as any other rights
Abraham Lincoln Category: Labor
If you intend to work there is no better place than right where you are; if you do not intend to go to work you cannot get along anywhere. Squirming and crawling from place to place can do no good.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Work
What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried against the new and untried?
Abraham Lincoln Category: Conservative
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to speak out and remove all doubt.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Better
I will study and prepare and perhaps my chance will come.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Prepare
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. 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?
Abraham Lincoln Category: Institutions
As the chief speaker at the dedication of the national cemetery at the Gettysburg Battlefield statesman Edward Everett wrote to Lincoln: I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Speak
Sir my concern is not whether God is on our side My great concern is to be on Gods side for God is always right.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Concern
The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Bad
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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: War
Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Public
To correct the evils great and small which spring from want of sympathy and from positive enmity among strangers as nations or as individuals is one of the highest functions of civilization.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Brotherhood
My great concern is not whether you have failed but whether you are content with your failure.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Content
We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Misfortunes
Force is all-conquering but its victories are short-lived.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Conquer
He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Idea
To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards of men.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Protest
It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Vice
I know there is a God and that He hates injustice and slavery. I see the storm coming and I know that His hand is in it. If he has a place and work for me and I think He has I believe I am ready. This comment was made in a private conversation with Newton Bateman superintendent of public instruction for the state of Illinois a few days before the election of 1860. During the election of 1960 Senator John F. Kennedy used the same words in a speech to the United Steelworkers of America convention Atlantic City New Jersey September 19 1960. Freedom of Communications final report of the Committee on Commerce United States Senate part 1 p. 286 (1961). Senate Report. 87-994. As president he used a variation of these words at the 10th annual presidential prayer breakfast March 1 1962. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F Kennedy 1962 p. 176.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Injustice
People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Crisis
The best gift God has given man is the Bible. It is by all odds the most influential book (or rather collection of books) in existence. The Old and New Testaments have held men together spiritually through the centuries. Three hundred and fifty years ago in 1611 fifty four devoted English scholars and churchmen assigned to the task by King James I gave to the English speaking world a monument of noble prose on which so many of us have been brought up. The Bible has been translated into more than 1150 languages. In short the Bible has had the most dramatic career of any book in the world.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Bible
Human action can be modified to some extent but human nature cannot be changed.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Action
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 Gods 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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: God
Hypocrite: The man who murdered his parents and then pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Hypocrisy
Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences including the vitiation of his temper and loss of self-control. Yield larger things to which you can show no more than equal right; and yield lesser ones though clearly your own. Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by him in contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the bite.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Quarrels
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 Bonaparte 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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Defense
As an individual who undertakes to live by borrowing soon finds his original means devoured by interest and next no one left to borrow from so must it be with a government.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Borrow
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. Fellow-citizens we cannot escape history. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We even we here hold the power and bear the responsibility. 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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Dogma
I had been told I was on the road to hell but I had no idea it was just a mile down the road with a dome on it.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Hell
I care not much for a mans religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Cat
The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Future
Freedom is not the right to do what we want but what we ought. 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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Freedom
Surely God would not have created such a being as man ... to exist only for a day! No no man was made for immortality.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Immortality
I have been driven many times to 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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Praise
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Responsibility
We meet this evening not in sorrow but in gladness of heart.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Happiness
When I hear a man preach I like to see him act as if he were fighting bees.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Bee
If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending we could then better judge what to do and how to do it.
Abraham Lincoln Category: If
Moral principle is a looser bond than pecuniary interest.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Morality
And in the end its not the years in your life that count. Its the life in your years.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Age
Seriously I do not think I am fit for the Presidency.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Alcohol
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 that 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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Farewell
If there is anything that a man can do well I say let him do it. Give him a chance.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Talent
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 whats said against me wont amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Against
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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Easy
Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other one thing.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Resolution
I am not bound to win but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed but I am bound to live the best life that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right and part from him when he goes wrong.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Right
The way for a young man to rise is to improve himself in every way he can never suspecting that anybody wishes to hinder him.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Youth
God must love the common man he made so many of them.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Common
Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
Abraham Lincoln Category: Enemy
The fiery trials through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Generation
He who does something at the head of one regiment will eclipse him who does nothing at the head of a hundred.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Military
I am for those means which will give the greatest good to the greatest number.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Good
There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Mob
I do not think much of a man who does not know more today than he did yesterday.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Conceit
I agree with you Mr. Chairman that the working men are the basis of all governments for the plain reason that they are the more numerous and as you added that those were the sentiments of the gentlemen present representing not only the working class but citizens of other callings than those of the mechanic I am happy to concur with you in these sentiments not only of the native born citizens but also of the Germans and foreigners from other countries.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Argument
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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Lawyers
My father taught me to work; he did not teach me to love it.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Father
I destroy my enemy when I make him my friend.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Friendship
I don't know who my grandfather was; Im much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Ancestors
I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Wisdom
When Im getting ready to reason with a man I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Reason
You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time but you can not fool all the people all of the time. Attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Alexander K. McClure Abe Lincolns Yarns and Stories p. 184 (1904). Many quotation books have also attributed this to Lincoln with a variety of sources given. According to Roy R Basler ed. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln vol. 3 p. 81 (1953) Tradition has come to attribute to the Clinton [Illinois] speeches [September 2 1858] one of Lincolns most famous utterances 'You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time. But he goes on to say that the epigram and any references to it have not been located in Surviving Lincoln documents. This remark has also been attributed to P. T. Barnum.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Writing
The demon of intemperance ever seems to have delighted in sucking the blood of genius and of generosity.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Temperance
Property is desirable is a positive good in the world.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Industry
A man watches his pear tree day after day impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the process and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him patiently wait and the ripe fruit at length falls into his lap.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Tree
... peace is a thing which a person must be willing to fight for ...
Abraham Lincoln Category: Peace
Am I not destroying my enemies when I make them my friends?
Abraham Lincoln Category: Children
In the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates Lincoln did not hesitate to dispel the notion that he was a champion of racial equality: I will say then that I am not nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way 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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Africa
I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.
Abraham Lincoln Category: German
It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Worthy
It is not best to swap horses while crossing the river.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Persecution
To ease anothers heartache is to forget ones own.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Forget
The ballot is stronger than the bullet.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Ballots
People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Mind
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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Best
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 depth of affliction! Many versions of this story exist. Another one is: The Sultan asked for a Signet motto that should hold good for Adversity or Prosperity. Solomon gave him This also shall pass away.' Edward Fitzgerald Polonius: A Collection of Wise Saws and Modern Instances item 112 p. 80 (1901). The words In neez bogzarad which can be translated This also shall pass appear in the Diven of the twelfth century Persian poet and philosopher SanaI of Ghaznl ed. Mazahir Musaffa p. 92 (1957).
Abraham Lincoln Category: Change
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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Property
I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives and to so live that the place he lives is proud of him.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Home
If all men were just there still would be some though not so much need of government.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Just
I think the necessity of being ready increases. Look to it.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Ready
Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his arent very new after all.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Original
Avoid popularity if you would have peace.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Popular
I think very much of the people as an old friend said he thought of woman. He said when he lost his first wife who had been a great help to him in his business he thought he was ruined that he could never find another to fill her place. At length however he married another who he found did quite as well as the first and that his opinion now was that any woman would do well who was well done by. So I think of the whole people of this nation they will ever do well if well done by. We will try to do well by them in all parts of the country North and South with entire confidence that all will be well with all of us.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Ambition
We know nothing of what will happen in future but by the analogy of experience.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Analogy
If I were two-faced would I be wearing this one?
Abraham Lincoln Category: Face
As the problems are new we must disenthrall ourselves from the past.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Past
I have never had a policy. I have simply tried to do what seemed best each day as each day came.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Policy
All that I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother. Josiah G. Holland The Life of Abraham Lincoln p. 23 (1866) and George Alfred Townsend The Real Life of Abraham Lincoln p. 6 (1867). According to the latter Lincoln made this remark to his law p
Abraham Lincoln Category: Mother
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.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Cause
I laugh because I must not cry.
Abraham Lincoln Category: Laugh