8 Remarkably Logical Quotes From Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is known for being many things. He was a great orator, a jokester, and the first Republican president. He was self-educated, having only attended what he himself estimated to be about a year of schooling. In addition to his humor and political knowledge, Lincoln was also highly judicious about the problems with which he was faced, be it the moral issue of slavery, the art of war or the making and unmaking of laws. Read on to discover eight times Lincoln was at his most rational.

1. “If A. can prove, however conclusively, that he may, of right, enslave B.—why may not B. snatch the same argument, and prove equally, that he may enslave A?—You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own. You do not mean color exactly? You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own. But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest; you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you.” —Fragment on slavery, ~1854, on the logic of slavery

2. “But, slavery is good for some people!!! As a good thing, slavery is strikingly peculiar, in this, that it is the only good thing which no man ever seeks the good of, for himself.  Nonsense! Wolves devouring lambs, not because it is good for their own greedy maws, but because it is good for the lambs!!!” —Fragment on pro-slavery theology, ~1858, on the logic of slavery

3. Physically speaking, we can not separate. We can not remove our respective sections from each other nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country can not do this. They can not but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you can not fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you. —First inaugural address, March 4, 1861, on the futility of the impending war between the North and the South

4. And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man the question whether a constitutional republic, or democracya government of the people by the same people—can or can not maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes. It presents the question whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control administration according to organic law in any case, can always, upon the pretenses made in this case, or on any other pretenses, or arbitrarily without any pretense, break up their government, and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us to ask, Is there in all republics this inherent and fatal weakness? Must a government of necessity be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence? —Special message to Congress, July 4, 1861, on the greater implications of the beginning of the Civil War

5. “You remember my speaking to you of what I called your over-cautiousness. Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess, and act upon the claim?” —Letter to Gen. George B. McClellan, Oct. 13, 1862, on the general’s lack of ambition in the field

6. “Again, a law may be both constitutional and expedient, and yet may be administered in an unjust and unfair way. This law belongs to a class, which class is composed of those laws whose object is to distribute burthens or benefits on the principle of equality. No one of these laws can ever be practically administered with that exactness which can be conceived of in the mind.” —Opinion on the draft, mid-September 1863, on the difficulty of enforcing laws

7. “While I have often said that all men out to be free, yet I would allow those colored persons to be slaves who want to be; and next to them those white persons who argue in favor of making other people slaves. I am in favor of giving an opportunity to such white men to try it on for themselves.” —Speech to the 140th Indiana Regiment, Washington, D.C., March 17, 1865, on the logic of slavery

8. “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.” —Response to serenade, Washington D.C., Nov. 10, 1864, on why it was important to hold elections regardless of the war



Haley is a writer and editor based in Birmingham, Alabama, who specializes in narrative nonfiction. She began writing at age 16 after enrolling in her North Alabama high school's newspaper class. She later studied journalism and history at the University of Alabama. In her spare time, she prepares for her eventual sorting into Slytherin House, has frequent chats with her bust of Abraham Lincoln, and feeds an inordinate amount of lettuce to her pet bunny, Ray Bradbury. To contact her, please shout into the nearest void or talk loudly about Jason Isbell’s discography.