Abraham Lincoln Quotes: Inspirational Quotes from Honest Abe

Abraham Lincoln Quotes: Inspirational Quotes from Honest Abe

Abraham Lincoln was an exceptional orator. In compiling the below collection of famous Abraham Lincoln quotes I spent weeks scouring the internet, as well as my own collection of Lincoln biographies, to find the most inspirational quotes that ever left old Abe’s lips.

What emerged is a collection of quotes that have been broken down into categories that look specifically at Lincoln’s thoughts on slavery, leadership, democracy, education, success, and the great freedoms of life, love, and friendship.

In my article on Abraham Lincoln’s speeches I noted how speeches by the sixteenth president of the United States are as quotable as they are important.

The reason for this is that Lincoln had a certain way with words—a wit—that made it impossible to not gain insight, wisdom, or in the case of a number of his quotes (“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”) a good chuckle every time he opened his mouth.

Famous Abraham Lincoln Quotes

I’ve broken the below quotes by Abraham Lincoln into six sections which represent key areas in which Lincoln spoke on frequently. Click any of the links below to be taken to that section, or simply scroll down this page to read each quote one-by-one.

  1. Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Slavery
  2. Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Leadership
  3. Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Democracy
  4. Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Education
  5. Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Success
  6. Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Life

Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Slavery

The Civil War was a time that produced some of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous writings, including Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, in which the newly sworn-in president noted that “We are not enemies, but friends,” of his southern rivals, as well as his speech at Gettysburg.

The below Abraham Lincoln quotes on slavery give some of his most famous views on the issue:

Collection of Abraham Lincoln’s Quotes on Slavery

“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”
“In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”
“No man is good enough to govern another man, without that other’s consent. I say this is the leading principle–the sheet anchor of American republicanism.”
“You think slavery is right and should be extended; while we think slavery is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us.”
“This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.”
“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”
“I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.”
“The one victory we can ever call complete will be that one which proclaims that there is not one slave or one drunkard on the face of God’s green earth.”
“All I ask for the negro is that if you do not like him, let him alone. If God gave him but little, that little let him enjoy.”
“Let us remember that all American citizens are brothers of a common country, and should dwell together in the bonds of fraternal feeling.”
“If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”

Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Leadership

Few presidents are hailed for their leadership skills as much and as often as Abraham Lincoln. The historian Doris Kearns Goodwin even wrote a book (aptly titled Team of Rivals) about Lincoln’s ability to lead a team of strong characters who were all vying for his position.

The below Abraham Lincoln quotes on leadership are as relevant today as they were over 150 years ago:

Collection of Abraham Lincoln’s Quotes on Leadership

“I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.”
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
“Tact: the ability to describe others as they see themselves.”
“Be with a leader when he is right, stay with him when he is still right, but leave him when he is wrong.”
“You can tell the greatness of a man by what makes him angry.”
“You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.”
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
“I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.”
“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”
“When I’m getting ready to reason with a man I spend one third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say—and two thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.”
“You can’t make a weak man strong by making a strong man weak.”
“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
“I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.”

Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Democracy

Lincoln had strong views on the virtues of democracy (“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves”).

The below Abraham Lincoln quotes on democracy show his thinking in this area, as do many of his earlier speeches prior to him occupying the office of the presidency:

Collection of Abraham Lincoln’s Quotes on Democracy

“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.”
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
“I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has.”
“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
“I desire to so conduct the affairs of the administration that if, at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall have at least one friend left—and that friend shall be down inside of me.”
“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.”
“The legitimate object of government is to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they cannot, by individual effort, for at all, or do so well, for themselves.”
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”

Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Education

Education was an area of great intrigue for the sixteenth president of the United States. Friends and rivals alike often referred to him as the Railsplitter, a mocking phrase making reference to his growing up poor—Lincoln was famously born in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky.

Despite this, Lincoln prevailed, arguably due to his personal love of learning, an admirable character trait to work toward.

The below Abraham Lincoln quotes on education show just how important lifelong learning was to him:

Collection of Abraham Lincoln’s Quotes on Education

“Those who write clearly have readers, those who write obscurely have commentators.”
“Every head should be cultivated.”
“You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence.”
“Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.”
“Education does not mean teaching people what they do not know. It means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.”
“My mind is like a piece of steel, very hard to scratch anything on it and almost impossible after you get it there to rub it out.”
“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.”
“A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others.”
“Get books, sit yourself down anywhere, and go to reading them yourself.”
“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”
“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.”
“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”
“All I have learned, I learned from books.”
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
“My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.”
“I am slow to learn and slow to forget that which I have learned.”

Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Success

Following on from his views on education, Lincoln was a true believer in the power of self-reliance to get ahead in this world, with hard work and dedication viewed as the key to success in almost all walks of life.

The below Abraham Lincoln quotes on success give a view into Lincoln’s thought process where it comes to getting ahead:

Collection of Abraham Lincoln’s Quotes on Success

“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
“You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.”
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”
“That some achieve great success is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.”
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.”
“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.”
“The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me.”
“If you would win a man to your cause first convince him that you are his sincere friend.”
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other thing.”
“I have a congenital aversion to failure.”
“The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.”
“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

Abraham Lincoln Quotes on Life

Like all of us, presidents have a life outside of work. Abraham Lincoln was no exception (his daily routine is testament to the quiet time he allowed himself in the mornings). For this reason, throughout his life Lincoln amassed quite a collection of pithy quotes and sayings on topics far and wide.

The below Abraham Lincoln quotes on life show us that despite how far removed his job must have felt from that of his fellow countrymen and women, Lincoln was as human as the rest of us:

Collection of Abraham Lincoln’s Quotes on Life

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”
“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.”
“I laugh because I must not cry, that is all, that is all.”
“The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.”
“It’s not me who can’t keep a secret. It’s the people I tell that can’t.”
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”
“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”
“Those who look for the bad in people will surely find it.”
“Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.”
“What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.”
“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
“It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”
“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”
“I am rather inclined to silence, and whether that be wise or not, it is at least more unusual nowadays to find a man who can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot.”
“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion.”
“Whatever you are, be a good one.”

I hope you enjoyed this collection of famous Abraham Lincoln quotes on the internet. If I’ve missed any of your favorite Lincoln quotes, reach out to me here and I’ll be sure to add them in.

If you’re interested in hearing more from me, be sure to subscribe to my free email newsletter, and if you enjoyed this article, please share it on social media, link to it from your website, or bookmark it so you can come back to it often. ∎

Benjamin Spall

Benjamin Spall

Benjamin Spall is the co-author of My Morning Routine (Portfolio). He has written for outlets including the New York Times, New York Observer, Quartz, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, CNBC, and more.