Lincoln on Democracy and the Civil War
July 4, 1861: Address to Congress
Our popular government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it our people have already settled - the successful establishing and the successful administering of it. One still remains - its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it. It is now for them to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided, there can be no successful appeal back to bullets; that there can no be no successful appeal except to ballots themselves, at succeeding elections. Such will be a great lesson of peace; teaching men that what they cannot take by an election neither can they take by a war; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of a war.
Did You Know?
Lincoln insisted on having the 1864 election in the midst of war. "You can not have free government without elections...if the rebellion could force us to forgo a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us." Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois