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

Address to the Legislature at Albany, New York [1]

February 18, 1861

MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN OF THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK: It is with feelings of great diffidence, and I may say with feelings of awe, perhaps greater than I have recently experienced, that I meet you here in this place. The history of this great State, the renown of those great men who have stood here, and spoke here, and been heard here, all crowd around my fancy, and incline me to shrink from any attempt to address you.

Page  226Yet I have some confidence given me by the generous manner in which you have invited me, and by the still more generous manner in which you have received me to speak further. You have invited and received me without distinction of party. I cannot for a moment suppose that this has been done in any considerable degree with reference to my personal services, but that it is done in so far as I am regarded at this time as the representative of the majesty [majority] of this great nation. I doubt not this is the truth and the whole truth of the case, and this is as it should be. It is much more gratifying to me that this reception has been given to me as the representative of a free people than it could possibly be if tendered me [merely] as an evidence of devotion to me, or to any one man personally, and now I think it were more fitting that I should close these hasty remarks. It is true that while I hold myself without mock modesty, the humblest of all individuals that have ever been elevated to the Presidency, I have a more difficult task to perform than any one of them. You have generously tendered me the united support of the great Empire State. For this, in behalf of the nation, in behalf of the present and future of the nation, in behalf of the civil and religious liberty for all time to come, most gratefully do I thank you. I do not propose to enter into an explanation of any particular line of policy as to our present difficulties to be adopted by the incoming administration. I deem it just to you, to myself and to all that I should see everything, that I should hear everything, that I should have every light that can be brought within my reach, in order that when I do so speak, I shall have enjoyed every opportunity to take correct and true ground; and for this reason I don't propose to speak at this time of the policy of the Government; but when the time comes I shall speak as well as I am able for the good of the present and future of this country---for the good both of the North and the South of this country---for the good of the one and the other, and of all sections of the country. [Rounds of applause.] In the mean time, if we have patience; if we restrain ourselves; if we allow ourselves not to run off in a passion, I still have confidence that the Almighty, the Maker of the Universe will, through the instrumentality of this great and intelligent people, bring us through this as He has through all the other difficulties of our country. Relying on this, I again thank you for this generous reception. [Applause and cheers.]

Annotation

[1]   New York Times, Herald, and Tribune, February 19, 1861. The Times and Herald have practically the same text. Bracketed words are variants in the Herald or Tribune.