Lincoln, Political Writings and Speeches


This topic had almost no interest to me. Then, when I was walking home the other day from a friends house, I found a copy of Cambridge’s Political Writings and Speeches in one of those free book boxes, and I was laughing to myself when I grabbed it that I have the worst taste in books.

I thought because of the topic and because it was a textbook, it was going to be boring, but it really drew me in. Some facts: I knew Lincoln was born in a log cabin, but didn’t realize he had only a combined 1 year of schooling in total. I thought it was going to be one of those situations where the rumor was that he was born in a log cabin, but he actually had had an illustrious childhood.

Some thoughts: I was expecting the topic of slavery to represent a smaller majority of the things he talked about, but that subject dominated his speeches. It makes sense when you think about the broader historical context: this debate was literally ripping the country apart. But just based on the other political writers I’ve read, usually the topic they are most famous for ends up being a very small part of the grand total of their writings.

Some of the things Lincoln writes about feel so prescient, a modern politician could copy his speech word for word in today’s climate. I’m going to include some quotes below.

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! 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. 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 out lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide. I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the crowing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts’ and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation of truth, an insult to our intelligence to deny. Accounts of outrages committed by mobs, form the every-day news of the times. They have pervaded the country, from New England to Louisiana; … – Address to the Young Men’s Lyceum