Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 4.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Speech at Buffalo, New York [1]

February 16, 1861

Mr. Mayor, and Fellow Citizens of Buffalo and the State of New York:---I am here to thank you briefly for this grand reception given to me, not personally, but as the representative of our great and beloved country. (Cheers.) Your worthy Mayor has been pleased to mention in his address to me, the fortunate and agreeable journey which I have had from home, on my rather circuitous route to the Federal Capital. I am very happy that he was enabled in truth to congratulate myself and companions [company] on that fact. It is true we have had nothing, thus far, to mar the pleasure of the trip. We have not been met alone by those who assisted in giving the election to me---I say not alone---but by the whole population of the country through which we have passed. This is as it should be.

Had the election fallen to any other of the distinguished candidates instead of myself, under the peculiar circumstances, to say the least, it would have been proper for all citizens to have greeted him as you now greet me. It is evidence of the devotion of the whole people to the Constitution, the Union, and the perpetuity of the liberties of this country. (Cheers.) I am unwilling, on any occasion, that I should be so meanly thought of, as to have it supposed for a moment that I regard these demonstrations as tendered to me personally. They should be tendered to no individual man. They are tendered to the country, to the institutions of the country, and to the perpetuity of the [liberties of the] country for which these institutions were made and created.

Your worthy Mayor has thought fit to express the hope that I may be able to relieve the country from its present---or I should say, its threatened difficulties. I am sure I bring a heart true to the work. (Tremendous applause.) For the ability to perform it, I must trust in that Supreme Being who has never forsaken thisPage  221 favored land, through the instrumentality of this great and intelligent people. Without that assistance I shall surely fail. With it I cannot fail.

When we speak of threatened difficulties to the country, it is natural that there should be expected from me something with regard to particular measures. Upon more mature reflection, however, others will agree with me that when it is considered that these difficulties are without precedent, and have never been acted upon by any individual situated as I am, it is most proper I should wait, see the developments, and get all the light I can, so that when I do speak authoritatively I may be as near right as possible. (Cheers.) When I shall speak authoritatively, I hope to say nothing inconsistent with the Constitution, the Union, the rights of all the States, of each State, and of each section of the country, and not to disappoint the reasonable expectations of those who have confided to me their votes.

In this connection allow me to say that you, as a portion of the great American people, need only to maintain your composure. Stand up to your sober convictions of right, to your obligations to the Constitution, act in accordance with those sober convictions, and the clouds which now arise in the horizon will be dispelled, and we shall have a bright and glorious future; and when this generation has passed away, tens of thousands will inhabit this country where only thousands inhabit [it] now.

I do not propose to address you at length---I have no voice for it. Allow me again to thank you for this magnificent reception, and bid you farewell.

Annotation

[1]   Buffalo Morning Express, February 18, 1861; New York Herald, February 17, 1861. The Express and Herald texts are substantially the same. At a few points important variations in the Herald are given in brackets.