ABRAHAM LINCOLN : Quotes, Quips, AND Speeches

Abraham Lincoln Quotes Quips and Speeches

ABRAHAM LINCOLN : Quotes, Quips, AND Speeches


       AMERICANS HAVE been fascinated with Abraham Lincoln for more than a century. Our fascination with and respect for Lincoln is rooted in his legacy both as a preserver of the Union and as the Great Emancipator. We also esteem him as an embodiment of integrity, faith, generosity, and determination. He persevered and fought his way up to occupy the highest office of the land, doing so without benefit of wealth, ad- vantage, or formal education. ABRAHAM LINCOLN : Quotes, Quips, AND Speeches

           We value his state papers, speeches, and letters as eloquent testimonies of his statesmanship and striking character. Ever since Lincoln’s death at the hands of an assassin, people have acknowledged that his life is an excellent example of what honesty, determination, and industry can accomplish under a democratic government.

        My interest in Lincoln and the Civil War began during my childhood. I grew up in south- ern Illinois, where Lincoln lore is integral to local  history. In September 1858 Lincoln had honored my hometown of Greenville with a visit in between his famous debate appointments with Stephen A. Douglas at Freeport and Jonesboro. Vandalia, a neighboring community, is the home of the second state capitol and is where Lincoln began his political career as a state representative from Sangamon County. Vandalia has the added distinction of being the city where Lincoln first publicly declared the “injustice” of slavery.

        My task in assembling this book of Lincoln quotations primarily was to wade through mountains of Lincoln material, distinguish the genuine from the proverbial, and select the best of the best. The quotes herein are taken from the sources listed in the notes. I’ve made occasional minor changes in punctuation and corrected misspellings to improve readability.

        Lincoln lived his life with a commitment to honor, and in this book the admirable qualities and virtues he embodied are examined in some detail and through his words. Included in each of the twelve chapters are observations of Lincoln by some of the people who knew him best, validating Lincoln’s association with the discussed virtue.

        My intention is to provide casual readers with short, reliable, and inspirational quotes from America’s sixteenth president as well as a handful of excerpts from his most famous speeches. Think of this book as an inspirational and motivational guide on how to live life today, emulating the best qualities of perhaps our nation’s greatest leader.

-Gordon Leidner


        BEFORE HE WAS ELECTED president in 1860, Lincoln had little formal education, no administrative training, and held only one term in a national office, as a congressman from Illinois. His only military experience had been a few weeks of service in the state militia during the Black Hawk War.

        Many of the North’s most powerful political leaders wanted to let the South secede. Lincoln, however, was committed to preserving the Union and made his every task subservient to this cause. Although it is significant that he successfully led the war effort, including hiring and firing generals and cabinet members until he found the people who could achieve this victory, his most important accomplishment probably was the continuous motivation of the public to support the cause in spite of the terrible losses incurred during the long years of war.

        It was in the oath I took that I would, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. Nor was it my view that I might take an oath to get power, and break the oath in using the power.

       I don’t know but that God has created some one man great enough to comprehend the whole of this stupendous crisis and transaction from be- ginning to end, and endowed him with sufficient wisdom to manage and direct it. I confess I do not fully understand, and foresee it all. But I am placed here where I am obliged to the best of my poor ability to deal with it.

       I am decided; my course is fixed; my path is blazed. The Union and the Constitution shall be preserved and the laws enforced at every and at all hazards. I expect the people to sustain me. They have never yet forsaken any true man.








4.The People



7.Common Sense






The Gettysburg Address

Excerpt from Lincoln’s

First Inaugural Address

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

First Annual Thanksgiving

Day Proclamation

Excerpt from Lincoln’s

First Address to Congress

Excerpt from the Emancipation Proclamation

Lincoln’s Springfield Farewell Speech


An easy and enjoyable introduction to one of America’s greatest presidents and heroes.

-Tom Schwartz

Illinois State Historian

        Gordon Leidner provides readers with a toothsome smorgasboard of Abraham Lincoln’s wit and wisdom. This volume is an excellent introduction to the Great Emancipator’s humanity, philosophy, humor, and eloquence. To supplement Lincoln’s own memorable words, Leidner adds judicious comments by such eminent figures as Frederick Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, and Booker T. Washington.

-Michael Burlingame

Sadowski Professor of History Emeritus Connecticut College

        Abraham Lincoln had the God-given talent to express himself in words that the people felt and understood. [This] book enables readers to sample and touch the greatness of Lincoln through his letters, public papers, and speeches.

-Edwin C. Bearss

Historian Emeritus, National Park Service


About the Author

        GORDON LEIDNER has been a lifelong student of Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War. He has authored three books on Abraham Lincoln, numerous articles, and maintains the popular history Web site www.greatamericanhistory.net. He is a board member of the Abraham Lincoln Institute, and lives near Annapolis, Maryland, with Jean, his wife of thirty years.


ABRAHAM LINCOLN : Quotes, Quips, AND Speeches





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