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Abraham Lincoln on PerseveranceOne of the characteristics we associate with Lincoln is his determination or persistence in the face of difficulty. His long-time friend Joseph Gillespie attributed it to a balanced type of strength, saying, "Mr. Lincoln was capable of immense physical and mental labor. His mind and body were in perfect harmony."
His law partner, William H. Herndon, expressed it this way: "Mr. Lincoln was a peculiar man; he was intensely thoughtful, persistent, fearless, and tireless in thinking. When he got after a thought, fact, principle, question, he ran it down to the fibers of the tap root, dug it out, and held it up before him for an analysis, and when he thus formed an opinion, no man could overthrow it; he was in this particular without an equal."
The quotations shown below are a sample from The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. If we have the full text from the quotation on our website you will see a link to it. For those who are looking for the Lincoln "Failures" list, click here.
You can not fail in any laudable object, unless you allow your mind to be improperly directed.
--July 10, 1848 Letter to William H. Herndon
If you are resolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already.
--November 5, 1855 Letter to Isham Reavis
The fight must go on. The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one, or even one hundred defeats.
--November 19, 1858 Letter to Henry Asbury
I know not how to aid you, save in the assurance of one of mature age, and much severe experience, that you can not fail, if you resolutely determine, that you will not.
--July 22, 1860 Letter to George Latham
Your good mother tells me you are feeling very badly in your new situation. Allow me to assure you it is a perfect certainty that you will, very soon, feel better -- quite happy -- if you only stick to the resolution you have taken to procure a military education.... On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.
--June 28, 1862 Letter to Quintin Campbell
I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsakes me...
--June 28, 1862 Letter to William Seward
I am a patient man -- always willing to forgive on the Christian terms of repentance; and also to give ample time for repentance. Still I must save this government if possible. What I cannot do, of course I will not do; but it may as well be understood, once for all, that I shall not surrender this game leaving any available card unplayed.
--July 26, 1862 Letter to Reveredy Johnson
I shall not do more than I can, and I shall do all I can to save the government, which is my sworn duty as well as my personal inclination. I shall do nothing in malice. What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing.
--July 28, 1862 Letter to Cuthbert Bullitt
The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disentrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
--December 1, 1862 Message to Congress
We accepted this war for an object, a worthy object, and the war will end when that object is attained. Under God, I hope it never will until that time.
--June 16, 1864 Speech in Philadelphia
I have seen your despatch expressing your unwillingness to break your hold where you are. Neither am I willing. Hold on with a bull-dog gripe, and chew & choke, as much as possible.
--August 17, 1864 Telegram to General Grant
Again I admonish you not to be turned from your stern purpose of defending your beloved country and its free institutions by any arguments urged by ambitious and designing men, but stand fast to the Union and the old flag.
--August 31, 1864 Speech to the 148th Ohio Regiment
Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler et al.
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Lincoln's writings are in the public domain; this introduction and quotation collection copyright © 2017 Abraham Lincoln Online.