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Famous Lincoln Quotes

While quotability is not a pre-requisite for being a leader, it also follows that few non-leaders get quoted. Based on that context alone, Lincoln is one of our all-time great leaders, because he is arguably the most quoted personality in American history. Following is a collection of some famous quotes from his speeches, proclamations, and letters which have made their way into the modern lexicon despite being more than 130 years old:

"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." (House Divided Speech, June 16, 1858)

"I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." (1st Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861)

"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." (2nd Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865)

"It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service." (Order of Retaliation, July 30, 1863)

"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 beneficient Father who dwelleth in Heaven." (Proclamation of Thanksgiving, October 3, 1863)

"If General McClellan isn't going to use his army, I'd like to borrow it for a time." (Commenting on General McClellan's lack of aggression, 1862)

"We think slavery a great moral wrong, and while we do not claim the right to touch it where it exists, we wish to treat it as a wrong in the Territories, where our votes will reach it." (Speech at New Haven, March 6, 1860)

"They are just what we would be in their situation. If slavery did not exist among them, they would not introduce it. If it did now exist among us, we should not instantly give it up." (Speaking of Southerners, Springfield, Illinois in October, 1854)

"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." (2nd Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865)

"I hold that, in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination." (1st Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861)

"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." (Lyceum Address, January 27, 1838)

"You can not fail if you resolutely determine that you will not." (Letter to George Latham, July 22, 1862)

"When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than self-government - that is despotism. If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith tells me that 'all men are created equal' and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man's making a slave of another." (Springfield, Illinois, October, 1854)

"The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere." (1st Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861)

"I want every man to have the chance - and I believe a black man is entitled to it - in which he can better his condition, when he may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him. That is the true system." (Speech at New Haven, March 6, 1860)

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and under a just God, can not long retain it." (Letter to Henry Pierce, et. al., August 6, 1859)

"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." (1st Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861)

"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master." (August 1, 1858)

"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." (1st Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861)

"Towering genius distains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored." (Lyceum Address, January 27, 1838)

"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." (Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862)

"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." (Speech at New Haven, March 6, 1860)

"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." (1st Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861)

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing." (Letter to Isham Reavis, November 5, 1855)

"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed." (Lincoln-Douglas Debate at Ottawa, Illinois, August 21, 1858)

"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 invoked 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." (2nd Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865)

"Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally." (Speech to 140th Indiana Volunteers, March 17, 1865)

"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." (Opening remarks at Painesville, Ohio, February 16, 1861)

" . . . for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed; and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war." (Order of Retaliation, July 30, 1863)

"As a general rule, I abstain from reading the reports of attacks upon myself, wishing not to be provoked by that to which I can not properly offer an answer." (Speech on Reconstruction, his last public speech, Washington, DC, April 11, 1865)

"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 Civi 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." (Meditation on the Divine Will, September 2, 1862)

"I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government; and to redress wrongs already long enough endured." (Proclamation Calling Militia and Convening Congress, April 15, 1861)

" . . . all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; . . . " (Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863)

"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." (Lyceum Address, January 27, 1838)