The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 5 by Abraham Lincoln
Intentions Toward the South
ADDRESS TO THE MAYOR AND CITIZENS OF CINCINNATI, OHIO, FEBRUARY 12, 1861
Mr. MAYOR, AND GENTLEMEN:--Twenty-four hours ago, at the capital of Indiana, I said to myself, "I have never seen so many people assembled together in winter weather." I am no longer able to say that. But it is what might reasonably have been expected--that this great city of Cincinnati would thus acquit herself on such an occasion. My friends, I am entirely overwhelmed by the magnificence of the reception which has been given, I will not say to me, but to the President-elect of the United States of America. Most heartily do I thank you, one and all, for it.
I have spoken but once before this in Cincinnati. That was a year previous to the late Presidential election. On that occasion, in a playful manner, but with sincere words, I addressed much of what I said to the Kentuckians. I gave my opinion that we, as Republicans, would ultimately beat them as Democrats, but that they could postpone that result longer by nominating Senator Douglas for the Presidency than they could by any other way. They did not, in any true sense of the word, nominate Mr. Douglas, and the result has come certainly as soon as ever I expected. I also told them how I expected they would be treated after they should have been beaten, and I now wish to call their attention to what I then said upon that subject. I then said:
"When we do as we say, beat you, you perhaps want to know what we will do with you. I will tell you, as far as I am authorized to speak for the Opposition, what we mean to do with you. We mean to treat you, as near as we possibly can, as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison treated you. We mean to leave you alone, and in no way to interfere with your institutions; to abide by all and every compromise of the Constitution, and, in a word, coming back to the original proposition, to treat you so far as degenerate men, if we have degenerated, may, according to the example of those noble fathers, Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.
"We mean to remember that you are as good as we; that there is no difference between us other than the difference of circumstances. We mean to recognize and bear in mind always that you have as good hearts in your bosoms as other people, or as we claim to have, and treat you accordingly."
Fellow-citizens of Kentucky--friends and brethren, may I call you in my new position?--I see no occasion and feel no inclination to retract a word of this. If it shall not be made good, be assured the fault shall not be mine.