Abraham Lincoln is a master of statements about freedom, democracy, and philosophy. Use his quotes in history or English class to encourage students to think about what Lincoln stood for and how his remarks are relevant today. These Abraham Lincoln quotes are also good for teaching new vocabulary and how to understand and interpret primary sources, since his quotes are each a primary source in miniature.
Abraham Lincoln Quotes About Slavery and Freedom
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.
This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave must consent to have no slave.
Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.
My faith in the proposition that each man should do precisely as he pleases with all which is exclusively his own lies at the foundation of the sense of justice there is in me.
Towering genius … thirsts and burns for distinction; and, if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves or enslaving freemen.
When the hour comes for dealing with slavery, I trust I will be willing to do my duty though it cost my life.
You may burn my body to ashes, and scatter them to the winds of heaven; you may drag my soul down to the regions of darkness and despair to be tormented forever; but you will never get me to support a measure I believe to be wrong.
Let none falter who thinks he is right, and we may succeed. But if, after all, we shall fail, be it so: we still shall have the proud consolation of saying to our consciences, and to the departed shade of our country’s freedom, that the cause approved of our judgment and adored of our hearts, in disaster, in chains, in torture, in death, we never faltered in defending.
Many free countries have lost their liberty, and ours may lose hers; but, if she shall, be it my proudest plume, not that I was the last to desert, but that I never deserted her.
I believe the declaration that “all men are created equal” is the great fundamental principle upon which our free institutions rest.
In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honourable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last, best hope of earth.
And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.
I think slavery is wrong, morally, and politically. I desire that it should be no further spread in these United States, and I should not object if it should gradually terminate in the whole Union.
An inspection of the Constitution will show that the right of property in a slave is not “distinctly and expressly affirmed” in it.
These men ask for just the same thing—fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have.
I cannot bring myself to believe that any human being lives who would do me any harm.
You dislike the emancipation proclamation; and, perhaps, would have it retracted. You say it is unconstitutional—I think differently.
Abraham Lincoln Quotes About Politics
It is the eternal struggle between these two principles—right and wrong—throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. … It is the same spirit that says, “You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.”
Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.
Thoughtful men must feel that the fate of civilization upon this continent is involved in the issue of our contest. Among the most satisfying proofs of this conviction is the hearty devotion everywhere exhibited by our schools and colleges to the national cause.
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.
It is the man who does not want to express an opinion whose opinion I want.
The people when right and fully trusted will return the trust.
I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise, and industry, shall become much more general than at present.
It is not the qualified voters, but the qualified voters who choose to vote, that constitute political power of the state.
If elected, I shall be thankful; and if not, it will be all the same.
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 is 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.
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.
Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces judicial decisions.
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.
I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.
Abraham Lincoln Quotes About War
I sincerely wish war was a pleasanter and easier business than it is, but it does not admit of holy-days.
I could as easily bail out the Potomac River with a teaspoon as attend to all the details of the army.
A right result, at this time, will be worth more to the world than ten times the men and ten times the money.
We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.
Now, and ever, I shall do all in my power for peace, consistently with the maintenance of government.
Honor to the Soldier and Sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.
But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or to detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man, this race and that race and the other race being inferior and therefore they must be placed in an inferior position. Let us discard all these things, and unite as one people throughout this land, until we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created equal.
Abraham Lincoln Quotes About Law and Government
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.
When I so pressingly urge a strict observance of all the laws, let me not be understood as saying there are no bad laws. … But I do mean to say that, although bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible, still while they continue in force … they should be religiously observed.
You must remember that some things legally right are not morally right.
Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Near eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for SOME men to enslave OTHERS is a sacred right of self-government. These principles can not stand together. They are as opposite as God and mammon; and whoever holds to the one, must despise the other.
The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society.
That our government should have been maintained in its original form from its establishment until now, is not much to be wondered at. It had many props to support it through that period, which now are decayed, and crumbled away. Through that period, it was felt by all to be an undecided experiment; now, it is understood to be a successful one.
Talk to the jury as though your client’s fate depends on every word you utter.
Now, and ever, I shall do all in my power for peace, consistently with the maintenance of government.
Legislation and adjudication must follow, and conform to, the progress of society.
We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.
It may be affirmed, without extravagance, that the free institutions we enjoy have developed the powers, and improved the condition, of our whole people, beyond any example in the world.
I shall not do more than I can, and I shall do all I can to save the government, which is my sworn duty as well as my personal inclination. I shall do nothing in malice. What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing.
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.
Law is nothing else but the best reason of wise men applied for ages to the transactions and business of mankind.
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?
I understand that it is a maxim of law, that a poor plea may be a good plea to a bad declaration.
No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.
We have, as all will agree, a free Government, where every man has a right to be equal with every other man.
The master not only governs the slave without his consent, but he governs him by a set of rules altogether different from those which he prescribes for himself. Allow ALL the governed an equal voice in government, and that, and that only, is self-government.
The true rule, in determining to embrace or reject anything, is not whether it have any evil in it, but whether it have more of evil than of good.
There are few things wholly evil, or wholly good. Almost every thing, especially of governmental policy, is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded.
May our children and our children’s children to a thousand generations, continue to enjoy the benefits conferred upon us by a united country, and have cause yet to rejoice under those glorious institutions bequeathed us by Washington and his compeers.
The assertion that “all men are created equal” was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain and it was placed in the Declaration not for that, but for future use.
The man who stands by and says nothing, when the peril of his government is discussed, can not be misunderstood. If not hindered, he is sure to help the enemy.
Property is the fruit of labor; property is desirable; it is a positive good.
The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not so well do, for themselves—in their separate and individual capacities.
A jury too often have at least one member more ready to hang the panel than to hang the traitor.
Abraham Lincoln Quotes About Work
Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed.
There is no America without labor, and to fleece the one is to rob the other.
Wanting to work is so rare a merit that it should be encouraged.
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.
When you lack interest in the case, the job will very likely lack skill and diligence in the performance.
I hold the value of life is to improve one’s condition. Whatever is calculated to advance the condition of the honest, struggling laboring man, so far as my judgment will enable me to judge of a correct thing, I am for that thing.
Abraham Lincoln Philosophical Quotes
I am for those means which will give the greatest good to the greatest numbers.
A man has not the time to spend half his life in quarrels. If any man ceases to attack me, I never remember the past against him.
You are young, and I am older; / You are hopeful, I am not. / Enjoy life, ere it grow colder. / Pluck the roses ere they rot.
We cannot ask a man what he will do, and if we should, and he should answer us, we should despise him for it. Therefore we must take a man whose opinions are known.
What is to be will be, and no prayers of ours can arrest the decree.
Great distance in either time or space has wonderful power to lull and render quiescent the human mind.
The way for a young man to rise, is to improve himself every way he can, never suspecting that any body wishes to hinder him.
I never encourage deceit, and falsehood, especially if you have got a bad memory, is the worst enemy a fellow can have. The fact is truth is your truest friend, no matter what the circumstances are.
We shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it.
Perhaps a man’s character is like a tree and his reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
When you have got an elephant by the hind leg, and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run.
Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them.
I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.
If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.
You can not fail in any laudable object, unless you allow your mind to be improperly directed.
The human mind is impelled to action, or held in rest by some power, over which the mind itself has no control.
There may sometimes be ungenerous attempts to keep a young man down; and they will succeed too, if he allows his mind to be diverted from its true channel to brood over the attempted injury. Cast about, and see if this feeling has not injured every person you have ever known to fall into it.
I find quite as much material for a lecture in those points where I have failed, as in those wherein I have been moderately successful.
Allow me to assure you, that suspicion and jealousy never did help any man in any situation.
If a man will stand up and assert, and repeat and re-assert, that two and two do not make four, I know nothing in the power of argument that can stop him.
We should avoid planting and cultivating too many thorns in the bosom of society.
But let the past as nothing be. For the future my view is that the fight must go on.
In this troublesome world, we are never quite satisfied. When you were here, I thought you hindered me some in attending to business; but now, having nothing but business—no variety—it has grown exceedingly tasteless to me.
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.
Abraham Lincoln Quotes About Life
Broken eggs cannot be mended.
Let bygones be bygones; let past differences as nothing be.
Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.
The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.
I am slow to learn and slow to forget that which I have learned. My mind is like a piece of steel—very hard to scratch anything on it, and almost impossible after you get it there to rub it out.
Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves.
You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm.
Do not worry; eat three square meals a day; say your prayers; be courteous to your creditors; keep your digestion good; exercise; go slow and easy. Maybe there are other things your special case requires to make you happy; but, my friend, these I reckon will give you a good life.
A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, cannot be safely disregarded.
In law it is good policy to never plead what you need not, lest you oblige yourself to prove what you can not.
I have always believed that a good laugh was good for both the mental and physical digestion.
I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.
It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.
Abraham Lincoln Quotes About Himself
I am not a very sentimental man; and the best sentiment I can think of is, that if you collect the signatures of all persons who are no less distinguished than I, you will have a very undistinguishing mass of names.
You have more of a feeling of personal resentment than I. Perhaps I may have too little of it, but I never thought it paid.
If I have one vice and I can call it nothing else it is not able to say “no.”
I have simply tried to do what seemed best each day, as each day came.
The man does not live who is more devoted to peace than I am. None who would do more to preserve it.
I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it.
If you liked these Abraham Lincoln quotes, check out these fascinating facts about Abraham Lincoln for kids.
For more articles like this, subscribe to our newsletters to find out when they’re posted!
Rebecca Bell is a news writer for the Bloomfield Free Press, specializing in sports, education, and technology. She has been writing about these topics for years, and she's passionate about helping people understand what's going on in their world. Rebecca loves to write about things that matter to people—whether it's a new education initiative or an innovative way to increase your child's athletic performance.