Lincoln on a Constitutional Convention

“While I make no recommendation of amendment, I fully recognize the full authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add, that to me the Convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others, not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish either to accept or refuse.”

First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861


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Lincoln on Declaration of Wars

“The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.”

Letter to William Herndon, February 15, 1848


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Lincoln on Divisiveness Within the Republican Party

“I do not feel justified to enter upon the broad field you present in regard to the political differences between radicals and conservatives.  From time to time I have done and said what appeared to me proper to do and say.  The public knows it all.  It obliges nobody to follow me, and I trust it obliges me to follow nobody.  The radicals and conservatives, each agree with me in some things, and disagree in others.  I could wish both to agree with me in all things; for then they would agree with each other, and would be too strong for any foe from any quarter.  They, however, choose to do otherwise, and I do not question their right.  I too shall do what seems to be my duty.”

Remarks, Washington, D.C., October 5, 1863


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Lincoln on Domestic Terrorism

“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!…

“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. 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 at Springfield, January 27, 1838


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Lincoln on the Duty of Congress

“As a rule, I think it better that Congress should originate as well as perfect its measures without external bias.”

“I should desire the legislation of the country to rest with Congress, uninfluenced by the Executive in its origin of progress, and undisturbed by the veto, unless in very special and clear cases.”

Speech at Pittsburgh, February 15, 1861


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Lincoln on Education

“Education is the most important subject which we as people can be engaged in.” Lincoln, who had less than one year of formal schooling, characterized education as “an object of vital importance.”

Sangamon Announcement, March 9, 1832

In the Morrill Act of 1862, Lincoln and Congress combined to provide land grants to establish a nationwide network of over seventy state run colleges and universities. His national encouragement of locally-controlled schools and policies succeeded for Lincoln and the United States.


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Lincoln on Federal Lands

Lincoln signed the Homestead Act which authorized the transfer of federal acreages to private parties who settled the land and put it to productive use. Over time, 420,000 square miles of territory were transferred to 1,600,000 claimants. Lincoln believed in federal-private partnerships that increased the productivity of federal lands.


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Lincoln on Federalism

“A general government shall do all those things which pertain to it, and all the local governments shall do precisely as they please in respect to those matters which exclusively concern them. I understand that this government of the United States, under which we live, is based upon this principle; and I am misunderstood if it is supposed that I have any war to make upon that principle.”

Speech at Columbus, September 16, 1859


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