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Abraham Lincoln
Letter to George Robertson
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Springfield, Illinois
August 15, 1855

Hon. Geo. Robertson
Lexington, Ky.

My Dear Sir:
The volume you left for me has been received. I am really
grateful for the honor of your kind remembrance, as well
as for the book. The partial reading I have already given it,
has afforded me much of both pleasure and instruction. It
was new to me that the exact question which led to the
Missouri compromise, had arisen before it arose in regard to
Missouri; and that you had taken so prominent a part in it.
Your short, but able and patriotic speech upon that occasion,
has not been improved upon since, by those holding the same
views; and, with all the lights you then had, the views you took
appear to me as very reasonable.

You are not a friend of slavery in the abstract. In that speech
you spoke of "the peaceful extinction of slavery" and used other
expressions indicating your belief that the thing was, at some time,
to have an end. Since then we have had thirty six years of
experience; and this experience has demonstrated, I think, that
there is no peaceful extinction of slavery in prospect for us. The
signal failure of Henry Clay, and other good and great men, in
1849, to effect any thing in favor of gradual emancipation in Kentucky,
together with a thousand other signs, extinguishes that hope utterly.
On the question of liberty, as a principle, we are not what we have
been. When we were the political slaves of King George, and wanted
to be free, we called the maxim that "all men are created equal" a
self evident truth; but now when we have grown fat, and have lost
all dread of being slaves ourselves, we have become so greedy to be
masters that we call the same maxim "a self evident lie." The fourth
of July has not quite dwindled away; it is still a great day-- for burning
fire-crackers!!!

That spirit which desired the peaceful extinction of slavery, has itself
become extinct, with the occasion, and the men of the Revolution.
Under the impulse of that occasion, nearly half the states adopted
systems of emancipation at once; and it is a significant fact, that not
a single state has done the like since. So far as peaceful, voluntary
emancipation is concerned, the condition of the negro slave in America,
scarcely less terrible to the contemplation of a free mind, is now as
fixed, and hopeless of change for the better, as that of the lost souls
of the finally impenitent. The Autocrat of all the Russias will resign his
crown, and proclaim his subjects free republicans sooner than will our
American masters voluntarily give up their slaves.

Our poltical problem now is "Can we, as a nation, continue together
permanently-- forever-- half slave, and half free?" The problem is too
mighty for me. May God, in his mercy, superintend the solution. Your
much obliged friend, and humble servant

A. Lincoln
 

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