Lincoln’s Eyes

There are some historical figures who are recognizable because of physical characteristics, especially eyes.  Abraham Lincoln is one of those whose face is recognizable because it shows the unimaginable stress of the Civil War and the effort it took to hold the Nation together.  But Lincoln was one who recognized that putting the pieces back together required compassion and compromise, and had he lived we might imagine that Reconstruction would have become more of a healing process rather than a retaliation.

Lincoln fought to preserve and rebuild the Nation and better than anyone Lincoln knew the price of war.  It is important to look back at several of Lincoln’s quotes of the time so we can get a sense of why he fought so hard.  No one cared more or sacrificed more than Lincoln and that also shows in his eyes.

When we read Lincoln’s thoughts today it is easy to understand his commitment to the Nation and his insight into the future.  There are thousands of meaningful quotes that seem prophetic when we read them today.  We should all hope for his commitment, vision, and clarity of thought.


“A nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.”

“Great men are ordinary men with extraordinary determination.”

“Nations do not die from invasion; they die from internal rottenness.”

“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution.”

“America will never be destroyed from outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country… corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

“The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

“You must remember that some things legally right are not morally right.”

“Any society that takes away from those most capable and gives to the least capable will perish.”

“Sir, 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.”

“You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.  You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.”

“It is a sin to be silent when it is your duty to protest.”

“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.”

“You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence.  You cannot help people permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle.”

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Matthew 12:25)

“Commitment is what transforms a promise into a reality… Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things.  It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.”

“If there is anything that links the human to the divine, it is the courage to stand by a principle when everybody else rejects it.”

“It often requires more courage to dare to do right than to fear to do wrong.”

“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” 

“A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others.”


Lincoln was a man who could often say a lot in just a few words.  Evidence of his command of language and thought is evident in the Gettysburg Address.  But Lincoln had such a great command of language because he read and wrote daily.  It is obvious that he did not spend precious time on trivia and wrote with purpose.  A look into Lincoln’s eyes gives one the feeling that you are looking into the eyes of a person of character and deep thought.

Red Divider

These Lincoln quotes are not meaningfully citable other to say that thousands of sources verify their attribution as Lincoln’s words.