Abraham Lincoln served as the 16th president of the United States of America. He is known for being the president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, bringing a long-overdue end to the practice of enslavement. He was inaugurated on March 4, 1861 and re-elected in 1865. His second term was cut short, as he was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth on April 15, 1865. Many memorable Abraham Lincoln quotes serve as reminders of his bravery and service.
Abraham Lincoln Quotes About Life and Hope
The Library of Congress houses an expansive collection of Lincoln's writings, including speeches, letters, memoranda, and other works. Throughout his lifetime, both before and during his time as a statesman, he had quite a bit to say on the subject of life and hope, as evidenced by the opening line of his Gettysburg Address and other writings.
- "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."
- "I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal."
- "Let us at all times remember that all American citizens are brothers of a common country,"
- "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?"
- "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection."
- "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honourable alike in what we give and what we preserve."
- "I am a patient man—always willing to forgive on the Christian terms of repentance; and also to give ample time for repentance."
- "We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last, best hope of earth."
- "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right ..."
- "The better part of one's life consists of his friendships."
- "We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it."
- “All through life be sure you put your feet in the right place, and then stand firm.”
- "The Lord prefers common-looking people. That is the reason he makes so many of them."
- "I was young once, and I am sure I was never ungenerously thrust back."
- "I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life."
- "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."
- "I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God."
- "Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere."
- "Every man is proud of what he does well; and no man is proud of what he does not do well."
- "Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored."
Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Leadership and Success
Abraham Lincoln's views on leadership are reflected in both his words and his actions. His first inaugural address included some telling quotes about his perspective on this topic, which may have something to do with why he was elected to a second term. There are also some great leadership quotes in his second inaugural address.
- "I take the official oath to-day (sic) with no mental reservations and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules."
- "I do not impugn the motives of any one (sic) opposed to me."
- "I freely acknowledge myself the servant of the people, according to the bond of service."
- "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."
- "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.'"
- "I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States."
- "The man does not live who is more devoted to peace than I am. None who would do more to preserve it."
- "My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time."
- "Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves."
- "The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present."
- "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me."
- "I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice."
- "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."
- "Allow me to assure you, that suspicion and jealousy never did help any man in any situation."
- " 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."
- "Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can."
- "I am rather inclined to silence, and whether that be wise or not, it is at least more unusual now-a-days (sic) to find a man who can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot."
- "I shall not surrender this game leaving any available card unplayed.”
- "I have not permitted myself, gentlemen, to conclude that I am the best man in the country."
- "I believe it is an established maxim in morals that he who makes an assertion without knowing whether it is true or false, is guilty of falsehood."
Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Democracy and Government
Lincoln frequently shared his perspective on democracy through speeches, both before and after he was elected to serve as President of the United States. He touched on this topic in his Cooper Union campaign speech, as well as on many other occasions, including his inaugural addresses.
- "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it."
- "Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much."
- "What is the frame of government under which we live? The answer must be: 'The Constitution of the United States.'"
- "Don't interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties."
- "I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle was made."
- "No one who has sworn to support the Constitution can conscientiously vote for what he understands to be an unconstitutional measure, however expedient he may think it; but one may and ought to vote against a measure which he deems constitutional, if, at the same time, he deems it inexpedient."
- "I do not mean to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To do so, would be to discard all the lights of current experience — to reject all progress — all improvement."
- "But no organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can anticipate nor any document of reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions."
- "Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by national or by State authority? The Constitution does not expressly say."
- "May Congress prohibit slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say."
- "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."
- "To give victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary."
- "A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism."
- "There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law."
- "It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination."
- "But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity."
- "No State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union."
- "Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left."
- "Understanding the spirit of our institutions to aim at the elevation of men, I am opposed to whatever tends to degrade them."
- "According to my political education, I am inclined to believe that the people in the various sections of the country should have their own views carried out through their representatives in Congress."
- "While we must, by all available means, prevent the overthrow of the government, we should avoid planting and cultivating too many thorns in the bosom of society."
Abraham Lincoln Quotes Related to the Civil War
The American Civil War loomed large before and during Lincoln's time in office, so some of his most fearless and memorable quotes are related to factors leading up to the Civil War and this difficult period in American history. Such matters were the focus of his widely-known House Divided speech, as well as other writings and speeches during his campaign, inaugural addresses and time in office.
- "I now enter upon the same task for the brief constitutional term of four years under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted."
- "That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events and are glad of any pretext to do it I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them."
- "Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new union as to produce harmony only and prevent renewed secession?"
- "Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy."
- "Thoughtful men must feel that the fate of civilization upon this continent is involved in the issue of our contest."
- "Acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances."
- "There needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority."
- "The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors."
- "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."
- "We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free; and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State."
- "Did we brave all then to falter now? — now — when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered and belligerent? The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail."
- 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."
- "And the war came."
- "Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained."
- "The proportions of this rebellion were not for a long time understood. I saw that it involved the greatest difficulties, and would call forth all the powers of the whole country."
- "I mean simply to say that the war will cease on the part of the government, whenever it shall have ceased on the part of those who began it."
- "The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract."
- "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."
- "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."
- "Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case, is to deny that there is a God governing the world."
Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Self-Reliance
Abraham Lincoln often alluded to the importance of self-reliance. This message resonates in many of his writings and other works. His thoughts on this topic are just as relevant in the modern world as they were during Lincoln's time on Earth.
- "In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity."
- "I have understood well that the duty of self-preservation rests solely with the American people."
- "Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty."
- "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."
- "Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did."
- "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."
- "I think the necessity of being ready increases. Look to it."
- "Fellow-citizens (sic), we cannot escape history."
- "He who does something at the head of one regiment, will eclipse him who does nothing at the head of a hundred."
- "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced."
- "You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm."
- "That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance,"
- "The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence."
- "Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief — resolve to be honest at all events."
- "Leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day."
- "It was not best to swap horses when crossing streams."
- "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher."
- "It is not merely for to-day (sic), but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children's children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives."
- "A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems."
- "Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms."
Learn More About the 16th President
Now that you've had an opportunity to review over 100 of Abraham Lincoln's quotes, chances are you're interested in learning more about him and his life. Start by reviewing a fascinating Abraham Lincoln timeline. Then, explore some interesting facts about Abraham Lincoln. Finally, learn about some of his most notable accomplishments.