Lincoln - Message to Congress


[This] issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of men the question whether a constitutional republic or democracy- a government of the people by the same people- can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes. It presents the question whether discontented individuals, too few in number to control administration according to organic laws in any case, can always, upon the pretenses made in this case, or on any other pretenses, or arbitrarily without any pretense, break up their government, and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us to ask: Is there in all republics this inherent and fatal weakness? Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?


This is essentially a people’s contest. On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substances of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men- to lift artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all; to afford all an unfettered start, and a fair chance in the race of life…


Our popular government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it our people have already settled- the successful establishing and the successful administering of it. One still remains- its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it. It is now for them to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided, there can be no successful appeal back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal, except to ballot themselves, at succeeding elections. Such will be a great lesson of peace teaching men that what they cannot take by an election, neither can they take it by war; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of war.