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

Fragment of Speech Intended for Kentuckians [1]

[c. February 12, 1861]

I am grateful, for the oppertunity your invitation affords me to appear before an audience of my native state. During the present winter it has been greatly pressed upon me by many patriotic citizens, Kentuckians among others, that I could in my position, by a word, restore peace to the country. But what word? I have many words already before the public; and my position was given me on the faith of those words. Is the desired word to be confirmatory of these; or must it be contradictory to them? If the former, it is useless repe[ti]tion; if the latter, it is dishonorable and treacherous.

Again, it is urged as if the word must be spoken before the fourth of March. Why? Is the speaking the word a ``sine qua non'' to the inaugeration? Is there a Bell-man, a Breckinridge-man, or a Douglas man, who would tolerate his own candidate to make such terms, had he been elected? Who amongst you would not die by the proposition, that your candidate, being elected, should be inaugerated, solely on the conditions of the constitution, and laws, or not at all. What Kentuckian, worthy of his birth place, would not do this? Gentlemen, I too, am a Kentuckian.

Nor is this a matter of mere personal honor [2]. No man can be elected President without some opponents, as well as supporters; and if when elected, he can not be installed, till he first appeases his enemies, by breaking his pledges, and and [sic] betraying his friends, this government, and all popular government, is already at an end. Demands for such surrender, once recognized, and yielded to, are without limit, as to nature, extent, or repetition. They break the only bond of faith between public, and public servant; and they distinctly set the minority over the majority. Such demands acquiesced in, would not merely be the ruin of a man, or a party; but as a precedent they would ruin the government itself.

I do not deny the possibility that the people may err in an election; but if they do, the true [remedy] is in the next election, and not in the treachery of the person elected.

During [3] the winter just closed, I have been greatly urged, by many patriotic men, to lend the influence of my position to some compromise, by which I was, to some extent, to shift the groundPage  201 upon which I had been elected. This I steadily refused. I so refused, not from any party wantonness, nor from any indifference to the troubles of the country. I thought such refusal was demanded by the view that if, when a Chief Magistrate is constitutionally elected, he cannot be inaugurated till he betrays those who elected him, by breaking his pledges, and surrendering to those who tried and failed to defeat him at the polls, this government and all popular government is already at an end. Demands for such surrender, once recognized, are without limit, as to nature, extent and repetition. They break the only bond of faith between public and public servant; and they distinctly set the minority over the majority.

I presume there is not a man in America, (and there ought not to be one) who opposed my election, who would, for a moment, tolerate his own candidate in such surrender, had he been successful in the election. In such case they would all see, that such surrender would not be merely the ruin of a man, or a party; but, as a precedent, would be the ruin of the government itself.

I do not deny the possibility that the people may err in an election; but if they do, the true cure is in the next election; and not in the treachery of the party elected.

Annotation

[1]   AD, DLC-RTL. The five small pages of this manuscript and the three pages of manuscript of the Cincinnati speech (supra) in which Lincoln speaks to the Kentuckians, are written on the same lined note paper. On the back of the fifth page is pasted a clipping from the first edition of the First Inaugural Address (vide infra, p.259, n. 77) which was printed in Springfield before Lincoln's departure for Washington. This indicates that Lincoln prepared the fragment prior to February 12, and that he contemplated a brief visit to his native state while at Cincinnati, the nearest point in his itinerary.

[2]   Lincoln revised this sentence to the form given. As first written it read: ``If when a Chief Magistrate is constitutionally elected, he can not be installed, till he betrays those who elected him, by breaking his pledges, and surrendering to his opponents, this government, and all popular government, is already at an end.''

[3]   The remainder of the fragment is a clipping from the First Inaugural as printed in Springfield, pasted on the back of the last page.