The Collected Wisdom Of A. Lincoln
The first is boyish doggerel, while the second is the last thing the great president wrote -- at precisely 8:10 p.m. on April 14, 1865 just minutes before he left the White House for Ford's Theater, where John Wilkes Booth waited.
In between those entries are virtually everything Lincoln wrote, some 4,452 pages comprising The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, a rare nine-volume compendium published in 1953 by the Abraham Lincoln Association. A mere 3,300 sets were published and were quickly snapped up. At a mere $115 (or about $1,000 in today's dollars) it was a bargain.
Today used sets occasionally come on the market for upwards of $300, depending on the condition, and the price probably is not higher because the contents are widely available online.
The Collected Works includes thousands of letters, speeches, business notes and miscellaneous jottings, is said to contain about 99 percent of Lincoln's works, the missing 1 percent were items owned by holdouts who refused to cooperate with the association, which disbanded after publication.
A few of the great man's musings:
The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me. (Remarks to the Illinois House of Representatives, December 1839)
The demon of intemperance ever seems to have delighted in sucking the blood of genius and of generosity. (Address, Springfield, Illinois, February 1842)
Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today. (Notes for a law lecture, July 1850)
I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except Negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy. (Letter, August 1855)
Beavers build houses; but they build them in nowise differently, or better now, than they did, five thousand years ago. Ants, and honey-bees, provide food for winter; but just in the same way they did, when Solomon referred the sluggard to them as patterns of prudence. Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one who improves his workmanship. (Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions, April 1858)
Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. (Lincoln-Douglas debate, Ottawa, Illinois, August 1858)
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! (Address, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, September 1859)
Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it. (Cooper Union address, February 1860)
My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell. (Address, Springfield, Illinois, February 1861)
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. (1st Inaugural Address, March 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. (1st annual address to Congress, December 1861)
My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. (Letter, August 1862)
Fourscore 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. (Gettysburg Address, November 1863)
I have not permitted myself, gentlemen, to conclude that I am the best man in the country; but I am reminded, in this connection, of a story of an old Dutch farmer who remarked to a companion once that "it was not best to swap horses while crossing streams." (Remarks to National Union League delegation, June 1864)
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. (Letter, November 1864)
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations. (2nd Inaugural Address, March 1865)