Republicans have a hard time reconciling the thought that President Abraham Lincoln, the founder of their party, espoused core liberal values. The real truth is that Lincoln wouldn’t fit in all that well in today’s Grand Old Party. In fact, despite legend of his vampire hunting skills, Lincoln’s liberalism was so pronounced that modern day conservatives either ignore his quotes orthey invent things he never said.
1. All people are created equal:
“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.”
-Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address
2. The low and middle class:
“Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.”
– Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln and the Civil War In the Diaries and Letters of John Hay selected by Tyler Dennett (New York, Da Capo Press, 1988), p. 143.
3. Without workers you have no success:
“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.”
– Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln’s First Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861.
4. Corporate greed will destroy America if we’re not careful:
“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
– Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864 (letter to Col. William F. Elkins)
5. Government is to be used to help those who need it:
“The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves in their separate, and individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere. The desirable things which the individuals of a people can not do, or can not well do, for themselves, fall into two classes: those which have relation to wrongs, and those which have not. Each of these branch off into an infinite variety of subdivisions. The first that in relation to wrongs embraces all crimes, misdemeanors, and nonperformance of contracts. The other embraces all which, in its nature, and without wrong, requires combined action, as public roads and highways, public schools, charities, pauperism, orphanage, estates of the deceased, and the machinery of government itself. From this it appears that if all men were just, there still would be some, though not so much, need for government.”
– Abraham Lincoln, Fragment on government The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, vol. 2, pp.
6. Upward economic and social mobility:
“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! “And this, too, shall pass away.” And yet let us hope it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.”
– Abraham Lincoln, Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, September 30, 1859.
Sarah Burris is the Digital Editor at BNR. Sarah is a pioneer of social media and expert on the Millennial generation with a decade of experience in politics. You can find her on Twitter:@SarahBurris