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

To Alexander H. Stephens [1]

For your own eye only. Hon. A. H. Stephens --- Springfield, Ills.
My dear Sir Dec. 22, 1860

Your obliging answer to my short note is just received, and for which please accept my thanks. I fully appreciate the present peril the country is in, and the weight of responsibility on me.

Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly, or indirectly, interfere with their slaves, or with them, about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears.

The South would be in no more danger in this respect, than it was in the days of Washington. I suppose, however, this does not meet the case. You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us. Yours very truly A. LINCOLN


[1]   ALS, CSmH. Stephens' reply of December 30 is not in the Lincoln Papers, but a portion of it is given in Recollections of Alexander H. Stephens, edited by Myrta L. Avary (1910), p. 60, as follows: ``Personally, I am not your enemy --- far from it; and however widely we may differ politically, yet I trust we both have an earnest desire to preserve and maintain the Union. . . . When men come under the influence of fanaticism, there is no telling where their impulses or passions may drive them. This is what creates our discontent and apprehensions, not unreasonable when we see . . . such reckless exhibitions of madnessPage  161

as the John Brown raid into Virginia, which has received so much sympathy from many, and no open condemnation from any of the leading members of the dominant party. . . . In addressing you thus, I would have you understand me as being not a personal enemy, but as one who would have you do what you can to save our common country. A word fitly spoken by you now would be like `apples of gold in pictures of silver.' ''