“When Jefferson opposed the spread of manufacturing, Jackson opposed a centralized financial system, Lincoln criticized wage labor, the Progressives criticized the trusts, and numerous states tried to halt the spread of chain stores, they did so not only for reasons of distributive justice, but even more from a desire to preserve the material conditions of self-rule and civic virtue. To many generations of American democrats, economic growth—our panacea—was morally suspect. Their political economy was meant to produce staunch, self-reliant citizens with deep local roots and commitments, not satisfied consumers or even highly-paid workers. This sets republicans apart from both conservatives and liberals. It was mass production, the factory system, and the concentration of capital and credit—in a word, big business—that vanquished the political economy of citizenship. Big government was a flawed effort to mitigate the worst effects of that triumph. Both forms of bigness confront the individual with impersonal, uncontrollable forces. Both generate large inequalities of wealth and power. Both subordinate the traditional virtues to newer skills of corporate gamesmanship and bureaucratic maneuvering. Both make it difficult, perhaps impossible, to realize the republican ideal. For better or worse, bigness is apparently here to stay. Can the republican ideal be adapted?” – George Scialabba, “Democracy’s Discontent”
Four score 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.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. 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. 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. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
— Abraham Lincoln, President, United States of America, November 19, 1863
“I hold that an attempt to control the Senate on the part of the Executive is subversive of the principles of our Constitution. The Executive department is independent of the Senate, and the Senate is independent of the President. In maters of legislation the President has a veto on the action of the Senate, and in appointments and treaties the Senate has a veto on the President. He has no more right to tell me how I shall vote on his appointments than I have to tell him whether he shall veto or approve a bill that the Senate has passed. Whenever you recognize the right of the Executive to say to a Senator, ‘Do this, or I will take off the heads of your friends,’ you convert this Government from a republic into a despotism. Whenever you recognize the right of a President to say to a member of Congress, ‘Vote as I tell you, or I will bring a power to bear against you at home which will crush you,’ you destroy the independence of the representative, and convert him into a tool of Executive power.” – Stephen A. Douglas, Political Debates Between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas
“It is fair that each man shall pay taxes in exact proportion to the value of his property; but if we should wait before collecting a tax to adjust the taxes upon each man in exact proportion with every other man, we should never collect any tax at all.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Speech to the 164th Ohio Regiment”
“Nothing justifies the suspending of the civil by the military authority, but military necessity, and of the existence of that necessity the military commander, and not a popular vote, is to decide. And whatever is not within such necessity should be left undisturbed.” – Abraham Lincoln, “To Benjamin F. Butler, August 9, 1864″
“We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, Maryland, 1864″ (emphasis in original)
“The advice of a father to his son, ‘Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, bear it that the opposed may beware of thee,’ is good, and yet not the best. Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper and the loss of self-control. Yield larger things to which you can show no more than equal right; and yield lesser ones, though clearly your own. Better give your path to a dog, than be bitten by him in contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the bite.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Letter to James M. Cutts, Jr.”
“It is not always in the power of governments to enlarge or restrict the scope of moral results which follow the policies that they may deem it necessary for the public safety, from time to time, to adopt.” – Abraham Lincoln, “To the Workingmen of Manchester, England”
“That Congress has the power to regulate the currency of the country can hardly admit of doubt; and that a judicious measure to prevent the deterioration of this currency, by a reasonable taxation of bank circulation or otherwise if needed, seems equally clear. Independently of this general consideration, it would be unjust to the people at large to exempt banks, enjoying the special privilege of circulation, from their just proportion of the public burden.” – Abraham Lincoln, “To the Senate and House of Representatives”
“No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty—none less inclined to take, or touch, aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which, if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they, and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them, till all of liberty shall be lost.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Annual Message to Congress,” December 3, 1861
“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital, producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Annual Message to Congress,” December 3, 1861
“The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink, to decide the cases properly brought before them; and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.” – Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address”
“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. Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissable; so that rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.” – Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address”
“To correct the evils, great and small, which spring from want of sympathy and from positive enmity, among strangers, as nations, or as individuals, is one of the highest functions of civilization.” — Abraham Lincoln, “Address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society”
“Writing—the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye—is the great invention of the world. Great in the astonishing range of analysis and combination which necessarily underlies the most crude and general conception of it—great, very great in enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions” (emphasis in original)