Address At Cooper Union, New York City "Right Makes Might"
by Abraham Lincoln

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"Right Makes Might"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Lincoln refutes the Southern charges against the Republican Party. He denies that his party is sectional: "you will probably soon find that we have ceased to be sectional, for we shall get votes in your section this very year." The Southerners constantly refer to George Washington and Constitutional principles; but Lincoln points out that the Constitution did not condone slavery and that Washington himself condemned it. Thus Lincoln's Republicans are the real conservatives. Lincoln denies the charge that the Republicans "stir up insurrections" among the slaves. The federal government does not have the right to emancipate the slaves, but it does have "the power of restraining the extension of the institution." The nation is turning against slavery, and the Southerners cannot crush this trend by destroying the Republican Party. Refuting a Supreme Court decision, Lincoln says that the Constitution does not provide for the right to hold slaves as property. He castigates the South for threatening to destroy the Union. Then he counsels the Republicans to maintain peace and harmony. But he says the South would not be satisfied unless the Republicans condoned slavery. Republicans must fight the spread of slavery:

. . . Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.