Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Honestly, did Abraham Lincoln really say that?

150 years ago Abraham Lincoln signed the bill that made Idaho a territory. To celebrate that anniversary (a sesquicentennial) the Senate auditorium in the State Capitol was renamed after Lincoln. A plaque containing the following brief quote attributed to him was mounted outside the entrance:

“There is both a power and a magic in public opinion. To that let us now appeal.”

An Associated Press story noted that quote is somewhat suspicious since it came from the 1856 Lost Speech (about slavery), so called because it wasn’t written down at the time. A disputed account of it emerged much later. The story noted that only half the phrases allegedly from Lincoln can be substantiated.

I found an 1897 booklet of that speech with slightly different wording for its conclusion (on page 55). When you include the rest, it sounds much more crusading:  

“There is both a power and a magic in popular opinion. To that let us now appeal; and while, in all probability, no resort to force will be needed, our moderation and forbearance will stand us in good stead when, if ever, WE MUST MAKE AN APPEAL TO BATTLE AND TO THE GOD OF HOSTS!!”

Earlier in his speech (on page 23) Lincoln reportedly also said that:

“We live in the midst of alarms; anxiety beclouds the future; we expect some new disaster with each newspaper we read. Are we in a healthy political state? Are not the tendencies plain? Do not the signs of the times point plainly the way in which we are going?”

The March 1865 photo of Lincoln came from the Library of Congress.  

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