Abraham Lincoln

It is not needed nor fitting here that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions; but there is one point, with its connection, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention.

It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor, is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent. Having proceeded thus far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And, further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life.

Now, there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false and all inferences from them are groundless.

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."

(Annual message to Congress, Dec. 3, 1861)


"The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds."


"If the Almighty had ever made a set of men that should do all the eating and none of the work, He would have made them with mouths only and no hands."