First Inaugural Address---Final
citizens of the United States: 
compliance with a custom as old as the government itself, I appear before you
to address you briefly, and to take, in your presence, the oath prescribed by
the Constitution of the United States, to be taken by the President ``before he
enters on the execution of his office.''
do not consider it necessary, at present, for me to discuss those matters of
administration about which there is no special anxiety, or excitement. 
seems to exist among the people of the Southern States, that by the accession
of a Republican Administration, their property, and their peace, and personal
security, are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for
such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the
while existed, and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the
published speeches of him who now addresses you.
do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that ``I have no
purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery
in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I
have no inclination to do so.'' Those who nominated and elected me did so with
full knowledge that I had made this, and many similar declarations, and had
never recanted them. And more than this, they placed in the platform, for my
acceptance, and as a law to themselves, and to me, the clear and emphatic
resolution which I now read:
That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the
right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions
according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of
power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and
we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or
Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.''
now reiterate these sentiments: and in doing so, I only press upon the public
attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that
the property, peace and security of no section are to be in anywise endangered
by the now incoming Administration. I add too, that all the protection which,
consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully
given to all the States  when lawfully demanded, for
whatever cause---as cheerfully to one section,  as to another.
is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor.
The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of
person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping
into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be
discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of
the party to whom such service or labor may be due.''
is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it,
for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the
law-giver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole
Constitution---to this provision as much as to any other. To the proposition,
then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause, ``shall be
delivered up,'' their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort
in good temper, could they not, with nearly equal unanimity, frame and pass a
law, by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?
is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by
national or by state authority; but surely that difference is not a very
material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little
consequence to him, or to others, by which authority it is done. And should any
one, in any case, be content that his oath shall go unkept, on a merely
unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?
in any law upon this subject, ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in
civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be not,
in any case, surrendered as a slave? And  might it not be well, at the same
time, to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution
which guarranties that ``The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all
previleges and immunities of citizens in the several States?''
take the official oath to-day, with no mental reservations, and with no purpose
to construe the Constitution or laws, by any hypercritical rules. And while I
do not choose  now to specify particular acts of
Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest,  that it will be much safer for all,
both in official and private stations, to conform to, and abide by, all those
acts which stand unrepealed, than to violate any of them, trusting to find
impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.
is  seventy-two years since the first
inauguration of a President under our national Constitution. During that period
fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens, have, in succession,
administered the executive branch of the government. They have conducted it
through many perils; and, generally,  with great success. Yet, with all
this scope for precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief
constitutional term of four years, under great and peculiar difficulty. A
disruption of the Federal Union  heretofore only menaced, is now
hold, that in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the
Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in
the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no
government proper, ever had a provision in its organic law for its own
termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our national
Constitution, and the Union will endure forever---it being impossible to
destroy it, except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.
if the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States
in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade,
by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate
it---break it, so to speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?
from these general principles, we find the proposition that, in legal
contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union
itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed in fact,
by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the
Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured  and the faith of all the then
thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by
the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the
declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution, was ``to
form a more perfect union.''
if destruction of the Union, by one, or by a part only, of the States, be
lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before  the Constitution,  having lost the vital element of
follows from these views that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully
get out of the Union,---that resolves and ordinances to that
effect are legally void;  and that acts of violence, within
any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are
insurrectionary or revolutionary,  according to circumstances.
I  therefore consider that, in view of
the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken; and, to the extent of my
ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon
me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing
this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part; and I shall perform it, so far
as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold
the requisite means, or, in some authoritative manner,  direct the contrary. I trust this will
not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that
it will  constitutionally defend, and
doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none,
unless it be forced upon the national authority. The  power the confided to me, will be
used to hold, occupy, and possess the property, and places belonging to the
government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be
necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion---no using of force
against, or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States, in
any interior locality, shall be so great and so universal, as to prevent
competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no
attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While
the strict legal right may exist in the government to enforce the exercise of
these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating, and so nearly
impracticable with all, that I deem it better to forego, for the time, the uses
of such offices.
mails, unless repelled,  will continue to be furnished in
all parts of the Union. So far as possible, the people everywhere shall have
that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and
reflection. The  course here indicated will be
followed, unless current events, and experience, shall show a modification, or
change, to be proper; and in every case and exigency, my best discretion will
be exercised, according to circumstances actually existing, and with a view and
a hope of a peaceful solution of the national troubles, and the restoration of
fraternal sympathies and affections.
there are persons in one section, or another  who seek to destroy the Union at
all events, and are glad of any pretext to do it, I will neither affirm or
deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however,
who really love the Union, may I not speak?
entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric,  with all its benefits, its
memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do
it? Will you hazard so desperate a step, while there is any possibility that
any portion of the ills you fly from, have no real existence? Will you, while the
certain ills you fly to, are greater than all the real ones you fly from? Will
you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?
profess to be content in the Union, if all constitutional rights can be
maintained. Is it true, then, that any  right, plainly written in the
Constitution, has been denied? I think not. Happily the human mind is so
constituted,  that no party can reach to the
audacity of doing this. Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a
plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied. If, by the
mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly
written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify
revolution---certainly would, if such right were a vital one.  But such is not our case. All the
vital rights of minorities, and of individuals, are so plainly assured to them,
by affirmations and negations, guarranties and prohibitions,  in the Constitution, that
controversies never arise concerning them. But no organic law can ever be
framed with a provision specifically applicable to every  question which may occur in
practical administration. No foresight can anticipate, nor any document of
reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions. Shall
fugitives from labor be surrendered by national or by State authority? The
Constitution does not expressly say. May Congress prohibit slavery in
the territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress
protect slavery in the territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.
questions of this class spring all our constitutional controversies, and we
divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the minority will not
acquiesce,  the majority must, or the
government must cease. There is no other alternative; for continuing the
government, is acquiescence  on one side or the other. If a
minority, in such case, will secede rather than acquiesce,  they make a precedent which, in
turn, will divide and ruin them; for a minority of their own  will secede from them, whenever a
majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. For instance,  why may not any portion of a new
confederacy, a year or two hence, arbitrarily secede again, precisely as
portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it. All who cherish
disunion sentiments, are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this.
Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new  Union, as to produce harmony only,
and prevent renewed secession?
the central idea of secession, is the essence of anarchy. A  majority, held in restraint by
constitutional checks, and limitations, and always changing easily, with
deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true
sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it, does, of necessity, fly to
anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a
permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissable; so that, rejecting the majority
principle, anarchy, or despotism in some form, is all that is left.
do not forget the position assumed by some, that constitutional questions are
to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decisions must be
binding in any case, upon the parties to a suit, as to the object of that  suit, while  they are also entitled to very high
respect and consideration, in all paralel cases, by all other departments of
the government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be
erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited
to that particular case, with the chance that it may be over-ruled, and never
become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than  could the evils of a different
practice. At the same time the candid citizen must confess that if the policy
of the government, upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be
irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made,
in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will
have ceased, to be their own rulers, having, to that extent, practically
resigned their government, into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is
there, in this view, any assault upon the court, or the judges. It is a duty,
from which they may not shrink, to decide cases properly brought before them;
and it is no fault of theirs, if others seek to turn their decisions to
section of our country  believes slavery is right,
and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and
ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive
slave clause of the Constitution, and the law for the suppression of the foreign
slave trade, are each as well enforced, perhaps,  as any law can ever be in a
community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports  the law itself. The great body of
the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break
over in each. This, I think, cannot be perfectly cured; and it would be worse
in both cases after the separation of the sections, than before. The
foreign slave trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately  revived without restriction, in one
section; while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be
surrendered at all, by the other.
speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from
each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may
be divorced, and go out of the presence, and beyond the reach of each other;
but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain
face to face; and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue
between them. Is it possible then  to make that intercourse more
advantageous, or more  satisfactory, after
separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can
make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens, than laws
can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when,
after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the
identical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you.
country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever
they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional
right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember, or
overthrow it. I  can not be ignorant of the fact
that many worthy, and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the national
constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully
recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be
exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I
should, under existing circumstances, favor, rather than oppose, a fair
oppertunity being afforded the people to act upon it.
will venture to add that, to me, the convention mode seems preferable, in that
it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only
permitting them to take, or reject, propositions, originated by others, not
especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such, as
they would wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment
to the Constitution---which amendment, however, I have not seen, has passed
Congress, to the effect that the federal government, shall never interfere with
the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to
service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose
not to speak of particular amendments, so far as to say that, holding such a
provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its
being made express, and irrevocable.
Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have
conferred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the States. The
people themselves can do this also  if they choose; but the executive,
as such, has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present
government, as it came to his hands, and to transmit it, unimpaired by him, to
should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people?
Is there any better, or equal hope, in the world? In our present differences,
is either party without faith of being  in the right? If the Almighty Ruler
of nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North,
or on yours of the South,  that truth, and that justice, will
surely prevail, by the judgment of this great tribunal, the American people.
the frame of the government under which we live, this same people have wisely
given their public servants but little power for mischief; and have, with equal
wisdom, provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short
the people  retain their virtue, and vigilence,
no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously
injure the government, in the short space of four years.
countrymen, one and all,  think calmly and well, upon
this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.  If there be an object to hurry
any of you, in hot haste, to a step which you would never take deliberately,
that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be
frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied, still have the old
Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own
framing under it; while the new administration will have no immediate power, if
it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied,
hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for
precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance
on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to
adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.
your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine,
is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you.  You can have no conflict, without
being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in Heaven
to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to
``preserve, protect and defend'' it. 
am loth to close. 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, streching from every battle-field, 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.
 D and AD, DLC-RTL.
The text is reproduced from Lincoln's final copy. All insertions and revised
passages in Lincoln's handwriting are indicated in footnotes. Lincoln's
capitalization and use of the apostrophe have been made to conform, in
Lincoln's insertions, with the usage in the printed portions, otherwise
Lincoln's usage is preserved.
 The salutation does
not appear in Lincoln's final copy, but was written in by Nicolay on the press
 Paragraph in
Lincoln's handwriting, replacing paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 of the preceding
 ``When lawfully
demanded, for whatever cause'' inserted.
 Comma inserted.
 The rest of this
 ``Think proper''
deleted, ``choose'' inserted.
 Comma inserted.
 ``Now'' deleted.
 ``On the whole''
deleted, ``generally'' inserted.
 ``Is menaced, and,
so far as can be on paper, is already effected. The particulars of what has
been done are so familiar, and so fresh, that I need not to waste any time in
recounting them.'' deleted, and revision inserted as above.
 ``And expressly
declared and pledged, to be'' deleted, ``and the faith of all the then thirteen
States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be'' inserted.
 ``And therefore is
absurd'' deleted, ``having lost the vital element of perpetuity'' inserted.
deleted, ``void'' inserted.
deleted, ``revolutionary'' inserted.
 This sentence
written on a slip pasted on the verso, replaces the sentence in preceding
 ``Tangible way''
deleted, ``authoritative manner'' inserted.
 ``Have its own, and
defend itself'' deleted, ``constitutionally defend, and maintain
 This sentence
inserted on a slip replacing the sentence in the preceding drafts.
deleted, ``repelled'' inserted.
 The rest of this
paragraph is inserted, replacing the sentence in preceding drafts.
 ``In one section,
or another'' inserted.
 ``Union'' deleted,
``fabric, with all its benefits, it's memories, and it's hopes,'' inserted.
inserted and deleted.
deleted, ``constituted'' inserted.
 Punctuation and
capital inserted to begin a new sentence.
 ``Guarranties and
 ``Possible'' inserted
 ``Submit'' deleted,
deleted, ``acquiescence'' inserted.
 ``Submit'' deleted,
 ``Number'' deleted.
 This sentence and
the next are inserted on a slip replacing two sentences in the preceding
deleted, ``new'' inserted.
 This sentence
inserted in place of the sentence in preceding drafts.
 ``The'' deleted,
 The rest of this
sentence is inserted.
 The rest of this
paragraph is written on a slip laid over the remainder of the paragraph and the
next short paragraph [The Republican party, as I understand . . . ] in the
 ``Of our country''
 ``Is against''
deleted, ``imperfectly supports'' inserted.
 ``Then'' inserted.
 ``More'' inserted.
 The rest of this
paragraph and the next two paragraphs are written on slips replacing the
remainder of the paragraph in the preceding drafts.
 ``Also'' inserted.
 ``Of being''
 ``Our side, or on
yours'' deleted, ``your side of the North, or on yours of the South'' inserted.
 ``Remain patient,
and true to themselves, no man, even in the presidential chair'' deleted,
``retain their virtue, and vigilence, no administration'' inserted.
 ``Take time
and think'' deleted, ``think calmly and'' inserted.
 ``Nothing worth
preserving is either breaking or burning'' deleted.
 ``Unless you first
assail it'' deleted.
 Last two sentences
of preceding drafts deleted, and the final paragraph written on the bottom of
the page. See Seward's suggestion for the final paragraph (note 99) of the revisions
of the first edition supra, which furnished the basis for Lincoln's
final paragraph. See also note 41 of the revisions of the first edition, for
the sentence which Lincoln jotted down on the back of Browning's letter of
February 17, 1861.
Source: Basler, Collected
Works, Vol. IV, pp. 262-271. [Downloaded
5/3/15 from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/]