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Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865) Speech fragment on slavery and American government

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03251 Author/Creator: Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865) Place Written: [Springfield?] Type: Autograph manuscript Date: 1857-1858 ca. Pagination: 1 p. ; 24.8 x 19.3 cm

Summary of Content: Probably part of a speech, beginning in the middle of a word. Lincoln emphasizes how America's affirmation of natural rights has made the nation into a wiser, stronger, happier and more progressive country.

Background Information: In the following fragment from a longer speech, Abraham Lincoln reflects on the conflict between slavery and the nature of republican government and expresses his faith in improvement and progress ...and his vision of the American dream: that all people are entitled to the fruits of their own labor.

Notes: Basler 2: 222 dates the manuscript July 1854, an arbitrary date from Nicolay-Hay, at the time of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Basler suggests a more probable date of 1858-1859, when Lincoln re-entered politics. That these words are fundamental to Lincoln's opposition to slavery is underscored by his use of them again when signing an autograph book in March 1864 (Basler 7: 260) and once more when speaking to the 140th Indiana Volunteers in March 1865 (Basler 8: 361).
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Full Transcript: [The beginning is lacking]
dent truth. Made so plain by our good Father in Heaven, that all feel and understand it, even down to brutes and creeping insects. The ant, ...who has toiled and dragged a crumb to his nest, will furiously defend the fruit of his labor, against whatever robber assails him. So plain, that the most dumb and stupid slave that ever toiled for a master, does constantly know that he is wronged. So plain that no one, high or low, ever does mistake it, except in a plainly selfish way; for although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself.
Most governments have been based, practically, on the denial of the equal rights of men, as I have, in part, stated them; ours began, by affirming those rights. They said, some men are too ignorant, and vicious, to share in government. Possibly so, said we; and, by your system, you would always keep them ignorant and vicious. We proposed to give all a chance; and we expected the weak to grow stronger, the ignorant, wiser; and all better, and happier together.
We made the experiment; and the fruit is before us. Look at it. Think of it. Look at it, in its aggregate grandeur, of extent of country, and numbers of population, of ship, and steamboat, and rail
[The end is lacking]


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People: Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: PresidentPoliticsGovernment and CivicsSlaveryCivil RightsAfrican American History

Sub Era: Age of Jackson

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