Go back to Address to the New Jersey General Assembly

Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865)
Address to the New Jersey General Assembly

Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen:

I have just enjoyed the honor of a reception by the other branch
of this Legislature, and I return to you and them my thanks for
the reception which the people of New-Jersey have given, through
their chosen representatives, to me, as the representative, for
the time being, of the majesty of the people of the United States.
I appropriate to myself very little of the demonstrations of respect
with which I have been greeted. I think little should be given to
any man, but that it should be a manifestation of adherence to
the Union and the Constitution. I understand myself to be received
here by the representatives of the people of New-Jersey, a
majority of whom differ in opinion from those with whom I have
acted. This manifestation is therefore to be regarded by me as
expressing their devotion to the Union, the Constitution and the
liberties of the people. You, Mr. Speaker, have well said that this
is a time when the bravest and wisest look with doubt and awe
upon the aspect presented by our national affairs. Under these
circumstances, you will readily see why I should not speak in detail
of the course I shall deem it best to pursue. It is proper that I should
avail myself of all the information and all the time at my command,
in order that when the time arrives in which I must speak officially,
I shall be able to take the ground which I deem the best and safest,
and from which I may have no occasion to swerve. I shall endeavor
to take the ground I deem most just to the North, the East, the
West, the South, and the whole country. I take it, I hope, in good
temper-- certainly no malice toward any section. I shall do all that
may be in my power to promote a peaceful settlement of all our
difficulties. The man does not live who is more devoted to peace
than I am. None who would do more to preserve it. But it may be
necessary to put the foot down firmly. And if I do my duty, and do
right, you will sustain me, will you not? Received, as I am, by the
members of a Legislature the majority of whom do not agree with
me in political sentiments, I trust that I may have their assistance
in piloting the ship of State through this voyage, surrounded by
perils as it is; for, if it should suffer attack now, there will be no
pilot ever needed for another voyage.

Gentlemen, I have already spoken longer than I intended, and
must beg leave to stop here.

(Trenton, New Jersey, February 21, 1861)

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