The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 5 by Abraham Lincoln
Address to the German Club of Cincinnati, Ohio, February 12, 1861
Mr. CHAIRMAN:--I thank you and those whom you represent for the compliment you have paid me by tendering me this address. In so far as there is an allusion to our present national difficulties, which expresses, as you have said, the views of the gentlemen present, I shall have to beg pardon for not entering fully upon the questions which the address you have now read suggests.
I deem it my duty--a duty which I owe to my constituents--to you, gentlemen, that I should wait until the last moment for a development of the present national difficulties before I express myself decidedly as to what course I shall pursue. I hope, then, not to be false to anything that you have expected of me.
I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, that the working men are the basis of all governments, for the plain reason that they are all the more numerous, and as you added that those were the sentiments of the gentlemen present, representing not only the working class, but citizens of other callings than those of the mechanic, I am happy to concur with you in these sentiments, not only of the native-born citizens, but also of the Germans and foreigners from other countries.
Mr. Chairman, I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating the condition of mankind; and therefore, without entering upon the details of the question, I will simply say that I am for those means which will give the greatest good to the greatest number.
In regard to the Homestead law, I have to say that, in so far as the government lands can be disposed of, I am in favor of cutting up the wild lands into parcels, so that every poor man may have a home.
In regard to the Germans and foreigners, I esteem them no better than other people, nor any worse. It is not my nature, when I see a people borne down by the weight of their shackles--the oppression of tyranny--to make their life more bitter by heaping upon them greater burdens; but rather would I do all in my power to raise the yoke than to add anything that would tend to crush them.
Inasmuch as our own country is extensive and new, and the countries of Europe are densely populated, if there are any abroad who desire to make this the land of their adoption, it is not in my heart to throw aught in their way to prevent them from coming to the United States.
Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I will bid you an affectionate farewell.