This photo of President Abraham Lincoln, provided by the Library of Congress, was taken on Feb. 5, 1865. (AP Photo/Library of Congress/Alexander Gardner)
Photo: ap
Photo: ap

Quotes from Abraham Lincoln on his birthday 

Today is the 209th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln, born near Hodgenville, Kentucky on Feb. 12, 1809, had anything but a privileged upbringing. 

Through his early life he worked as a rail splitter, a shopkeeper and a general store manager. Lincoln, who had almost no formal education as a youngster, became a lawyer, later was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and, in 1860, was elected the 16th president of the United States. He was re-elected in 1864 having guided the country through the Civil War. 

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Lincoln served only about six weeks after his second inauguration. He was assassinated on April 14, 1865 by John Wilkes Booth as he and his wife, Mary, watched a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Lincoln was known as a great storyteller in life, and his oratory skills have been studied, and copied for decades.  

Here are some of Lincoln’s most famous quotes:

  • “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”
  • “No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”
  • “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”
  • “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.”
  • “Whatever you are, be a good one.”
  • “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”
  • “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
  • “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”
  • “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
  • “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
  • “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” 
  • “No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.”
  • “Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory.“
  • “Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.”
  • “A woman is the only thing I am afraid of that I know will not hurt me.”
  • “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.”
  • “Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.”
  • “I am humble Abraham Lincoln. I have been solicited by my friends to become a candidate for the Legislature. My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman's dance.”

Perhaps Lincoln’s most remembered words came from the speech he gave at Gettysburg, Pa. A few months after the battle that sealed the fate of the Civil War, Lincoln was asked to speak at the dedication of a cemetery on the grounds of the battlefield. 

He was asked to speak after Edward Everett, a former senator and secretary of state. Everett’s speech lasted more than two hours. Lincoln’s speech consisted of 10 sentences – 271 words – and lasted about 2 minutes. 

This is that speech:

The Gettysburg Address

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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