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Fragment of a Speech by Abraham Lincoln on the Conflict between Slavery and Republican Government
Digital History ID 381

Author:   Abraham Lincoln


In the following fragment from a longer speech, Abraham Lincoln reflects on the conflict between slavery and the nature of republican government and expresses his faith in improvement and progress and his vision of the American dream: that all people are entitled to the fruits of their own labor.


The ant, who has toiled and dragged a crumb to his nest, will furiously defend the fruit of his labor, against whatever robber assails him. So plain, that the most dumb and stupid slave that ever toiled for a master, does constantly know that he is wronged. So plain that no one, high or low, ever does mistake it, except in a plainly selfish way; for although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself.

Most governments have been based practically, on the denial of the equal rights of men, as I have, in part, stated them; ours began, by affirming those rights. They said, some men are too ignorant, and vicious, to share in government. Possibly so, said we; and by your system, you would always keep them ignorant and vicious. We propose to give all a chance, and we expect the weak to grow stronger, the ignorant, wiser; and all better, and happier together.

We made the experiment; and the fruit is before us. Look at it. Think of it. Look at it, in all its aggregate grandeur, of extent of country, and numbers of population, of ship, and steamboat, and rail[road.]

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: Abraham Lincoln, Fragment of a Speech on the Conflict between Slavery and Republican Government

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