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Little Sermons In Socialism by Abraham Lincoln by Burke McCarty

WE do not claim that Abraham Lincoln was a Socialist, for the word had not been coined in his day. We do not claim that he would, if he had lived, been a Socialist to-day, for we do, not know this. We do claim, and know, however, that Abraham Lincoln was in spirit to the hour of his death, a class conscious working man, that his sympathies were with that class, that he voiced the great principles of the modem constructive Socialism of today, and that had he lived and been loyal and consistent with these principles which he always professed, he would be found within the ranks of the Socialist Party.


Away back in 1847 Abraham Lincoln uttered the following revolutionary language.

In the early days of our race the Almighty said to the first of our race, "In the sweat of thy  face shalt thou eat bread." And since then, if  we except the light and air of heaven, no good thing has been or can be enjoyed by us without  having first cost labor. And in as much as most good things are produced by labor, it follows  that all such things of a right belong to those whose labor has produced them. 

But it so happened, in all ages of the world, that some have labored, and others have without labor enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. 

This is wrong, and should not continue. To secure each laborer the whole product of his labor, or as nearly as possible, is a worthy object of any good government. — (See Lincoln's Complete Works, Nicolay & Hay, vol. 1, P. 92). Isn't it odd that away back in 1847, at about the time Marx and Engels were printing the Manifesto in Europe, Abraham Lincoln, an obscure, self-educated lawyer in swampy Illinois, got hold of this central concept of Socialism? 

Isn't it strange that the "Grand Old Party," which always parades the NAME of Lincoln and rarely quotes the language of Lincoln, has given no attention to this, the greatest thought of Lincoln— THE RIGHT OF THE LABORER TO THE WHOLE PRODUCT OF HIS LABOR! 

We amiably ask Republicans to answer, not US, but to answer ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 

(Capitals used are by Comentator). 


Everyone who reads the capitalist press has noticed how persistently such papers fan international and radical quarrels and urge the necessity of this, or that nation, ARMING ITSELF. 

Socialists are constantly urging the workers of the world to unite. 

Where did Lincoln stand on this subject? In an address to a working men's association, November 21st, 1864, Mr. Lincoln said: 

"The strongest bond of human sympathy outside the family relation should be one uniting all working people of all nations, tongues and kindreds." — ((See Life of Lincoln by Coffin, P. 395). 

When the workers of the world follow this wise advice of Lincoln and the Socialists, there will be no wars, for after all war is nothing more than one set of working men shooting down another set of working men in order to protect the big corporations. How many wars would we have if the CAPITALISTS had to do the fighting? 


Socialists the world over are being condemned for voicing the very sentiments which Abraham Lincoln uttered in his annual message, July 5, 1861: I desire to preserve this government that it may be administered for all as it was administered by the men who made it. On the side of the Union it is a struggle to maintain in the world that form and substance of government whose LEADING OBJECT IS TO ELEVATE THE CONDITION OF MEN, lift artificial burdens from all shoulders and clear the paths of laudable pursuits for all; to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. This is the leading object of the government for which we contend." — (See Life of Lincoln by Barrett, p. 266). No Socialist could put forth our contention more forcibly and concisely than Lincoln does here. TO AFFORD ALL AN UNFETTERED START AND A FAIR CHANCE IN THE RACE OF LIFE! That is what we are demanding and nothing short of that will we accept! 


On June 13, 1836, in announcing his political views, Lincoln went on record for woman suffrage when he said: 

I go for all sharing the privilege of the government who assist in bearing its burdens; consequently I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms, BY NO MEANS EXCLUDING FEMALES! (SeeCoffin, p. 89). Again he said in an interview at Springfield, Ill.: 

"I am opposed to the limitation or LESSENING, of the right of suffrage. If anything I am in favor of its extension or enlargement. I want to lift men up — to broaden, rather than contract their privileges." (See Herndon, p. 625). This was said later, when the question of negro slavery was beginning to stir up the country to a white heat. Abraham Lincoln never deviated nor flinched, when it was a question of human justice. He was ALWAYS WITH THE PEOPLE! 


Abraham Lincoln strongly voices the position of Socialists when he says: 

No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty; none less inclined to take or touch aught which they have not honestly earned. 


(See Annual Message December 3, 1861). It is the constant effort of capitalism to place Labor beneath it, in the structure of the government. Capital preaches, and thousands of workingmen believe it, that the whole bottom of the social system would fall out, if the capitalists, the "men of brains" were to step down and out. And so long as the majority of the working class continue to hold this opinion, just that long will they be enslaved. 

How many railroads would be built? How many deserts would be made to blossom? How many sky scrapers would be erected? How much coal would be mined? How much manufacturing would be done, think you, IF LABOR stepped down and out? 

If labor does all these things, why should it surrender its political power, for it HAS POLITICAL POWER, to its enemy? 


At Cincinnati, O., Sept. 17, 1859, in a speech Mr. Lincoln said: 

I hold that if there is any one thing that can be proved to be the will of Heaven by external nature around us, without reference to revelation, it is the proposition, THAT WHATEVER ANY ONE MAN EARNS WITH HIS HANDS AND BY THE SWEAT OF HIS BROW, HE SHALL ENJOY IN PEACE. 

I say that, whereas God Almighty has given every man one mouth to be fed and one pair of hands adapted to furnish food for that mouth, if anything can be proved to be the will of Heaven, it is proved by the fact that, that mouth is to be fed by those hands, without being interfered with by any other man, WHO ALSO . HAS HIS MOUTH TO FEED AND HIS HANDS TO LABOR WITH! 

I hold that if the Almighty had ever made a set of men that should do all of the eating and none of the work. He would have made them WITH MOUTHS ONLY, and no hands; and if He had ever made another class that He intended should do all the work, and none of the eating. He would have made them WITHOUT MOUTHS, and with ALL HANDS! 

Inasmuch, as He has NOT CHOSEN to make man in that way, if anything is proved, it is THAT THOSE HANDS AND MOUTHS are to be co-operative through life and NOT TO BE INTERFERED WITH! (See Howell's p. 148). Here is Lincoln voicing the Socialist position in the class struggle! The inherent right of every man to the product of his labor, WITHOUT HANDING OVER TO ANY OTHER MAN ALL OF IT EXCEPT THAT WHICH IS NECESSARY TO SUSTAIN HIS MISERABLE EXISTENCE! 


Note the stinging rebuke in the words of Lincoln, to our Latter Day Political Saints, who are advocating a centralized government to be in charge of a few leaders TRAINED for the job! 

"If the MAJORITY should not rule, WHO WOULD BE THE JUDGE? We shall be bound by the MAJORITY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE; if not, then the MINORITY, must control! Would that be right? Would it be just or generous? Assuredly not! I reiterate, that the MAJORITY SHOULD RULE! At present we are ruled by a small Oligarchy of money despots, any three of whom could tie up the wheels of industry of this country in forty-eight hours. Think of it! Ninety millions of people who do all the useful work, owned and controlled by half dozen capitalists! 

CRAZY SYSTEM, is it not? 



In his annual message of July 5th, 1861, Abraham Lincoln expressed the stand held by Socialists when he said: 

"WHATEVER CONCERNS THE WHOLE, SHOULD BE CONFIDED TO THE WHOLE— the GENERAL GOVERNMENT." (See Life by Raymond, p. 186). Socialism means that everything which is used in common should be owned in common. Socialism means that all the tools of industry should be OWNED AND OPERATED BY THE WORKING CLASS. 

Socialism demands, with Lincoln, that the necessities of life, mines, forests, fisheries, railroads, telegraphs, street cars, telephones, in fact ALL PUBLIC UTILITIES, shall be owned and operated by ALL OF THE PEOPLE! 


It is a remarkable coincidence, that over fifty years ago the city of Milwaukee listened to what was probably its first lesson in international sympathy, co-operation and brotherhood, and that its teacher was not ,an "undesirable foreigner" nor "dangerous Socialist" — a Marx or an Eagle, but a simon pure American, who ought to pass muster with our most ultra American critics, who however taboo all such radical utterances of the great emancipator, who said on this occasion in a speech: 

To correct evils great and small, which spring from want of sympathy and from a positive enmity among strangers, as nations or individuals, is one of the highest functions of civilization." (See Complete Works, Vol. 1, p. 576). Socialism is the great, grand principle which is today rapidly uniting the working class of every nation and pointing out its goal — this same cooperative sympathy which Abraham Lincoln advocated. 


Again in his Milwaukee speech we hear the gentle Lincoln wax satirical and lash the classconscious exploiters of the toilers of his day, when he said: 

"By the 'mud-sill' theory, it is assumed that labor and education are incompatible, and any practical combination of them is impossible. According to that theory, a blind horse upon a treadmill is a perfect illustration of what a LABORER should be—all the better for being blind, that HE COULD NOT KICK UNDERSTANDINGLY! 

"According to that theory, the education of laborers, is not only useless, but pernicious and dangerous! In fact, it is in some sort, DEEMED A MISFORTUNE THAT LABORERS SHOULD HAVE HEADS AT ALL! Those same heads are regarded as explosive materials, only to be safely kept in damp places as far as possible, from that peculiar sort of fire which ignites them. 

A YANKEE WHO COULD INVENT A STRONG HANDED MAN WITHOUT A HEAD, would receive the everlasting gratitude of the mud-sill advocates." 

The capitalistic papers, prelates and other henchmen of the money power, who give gratuitous advice to the working class, to be "obedient and faithful to their employers, to be religious and restrain them selves" were evidently busy in Lincoln's day and were understood by the keen, far-seeing, class-conscious, working man, as he was, to his dying day, and who hit them hard in his own quaint way! 


More than fifty years ago Abraham Lincoln stood on truly Socialistic ground when he addressed the striking shoe makers at New Haven, Conn., when he said: 

'T am glad to see that a system of labor prevails in New England, under which laborers can strike when they want to; where they are not obliged to work under all circumstances, and are not tied down and obliged to labor whether you pay them or not. When one starts poor, as most do in the race of life, free society is such that he knows that he can better his condition; he knows that there is no fixed condition of labor for his whole life. 

'T am not ashamed to confess that twenty-five years ago, I was a hired laborer, mauling rails, at work on a fiat boat — just what might happen to any poor man's son. 

"I WANT EVERY MAN TO HAVE THE CHANCE — and I believe the black man is entitled to it— IN WHICH HE CAN BETTER HIS CONDITION." The above utterance of Lincoln, is the ethical basis of the strike and it is the end for which Socialists are striving. A system which will allow every boy and every girl an equal chance to rise in the world and to better his or her condition! 


At Alton, Ill., in 1858, in a speech, we again hear Abraham Lincoln voicing a Socialist principle in the following: 

"That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles — right and wrong — throughout the world. "They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time and will ever continue to struggle. 

"The one is the common right of humanity, and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit which says 'You work and toil and earn bread and I'll eat it'. 

"No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle!" (Debates, p. 234). If Abraham Lincoln would give expression to these same words from a soap-box in many places in America today he would be likely to be arrested and jailed. That is what is happening to many of the Socialist speakers who are preaching the identical precepts! 


Away back in 1837 in a speech in the Illinois Legislature, Mr. Lincoln in speaking of the brazeness of the capitalists of his day said: 

"These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel." (See Tarbell, 2 vol., p. 28). 

The above shows that Mr. Lincoln had a very clear conception of the characteristics of the capitalist class and had no sympathy with them. He was astounded at their nerve. How much more so would he have been, could he have foretold that "Jack-potting legislators" in that same Illinois Assembly some 63 years later would have the gall to band themselves together under the caption of "Lincoln Leaguers" going through the great Commonwealth of Illinois exhorting the people to vote against the Initiative, Referendum and Recall, as did U. S. Senator "Billy" Lorimer and his "bathroom" conspirators! 

Perish the thought! 


On Nov. 1864, President Lincoln gave voice to this prophesy: 

As a result of the war, 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! 

I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. GOD GRANT THAT MY SUSPICIONS MAY PROVE GROUNDLESS! (See Shibley, p. 282). 

The dark clouds of threatening Capitalism, wrung the very soul of Lincoln whose clairvoyant eye saw the great class-struggle which we are in the midst of today. The weight of it saddened his heart. He was planning to avert the awful financial depression which was sure to follow the war by opening up the inexhaustible mineral wealth of the West to the men who had fought the rebellion. The last message he sent just as he was leaving for Ford's Theatre the night of his assisination, as he bade Schuyler Colfax goodbye, was "You are going to the Pacific coast. Do not forget to tell the people in the mining regions what I told you this morning about their development. Good-bye." (Apr. 14, 1865, see Coffin, p. 515.) 

(The message was, "Tell the miners for me that I shall promote their interest to the utmost of my ability, because THEIR prosperity is the PROSPERITY OF THE NATION, and we shall prove in a very few years that we are indeed the treasury of the world.") 

Burke McCarty, Little Sermons In Socialism by Abraham Lincoln (Chicago Daily Socialist, 1910).


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