Browse our archive of original historical documents on the themes of this book:

- Founding Principles

- Slavery

- Property Rights

- Women and the Right to Vote

- Women and the Family

- Was the Founding Undemocratic? The Property Requirement for Voting

- Poverty and Welfare

- Immigration and the Moral Conditions of Citizenship

- Afterword: Liberals and Conservatives Abandon the Principles of the Founding

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Home > Document Library > Property Rights > Speech in New Haven, Connecticut


Speech in New Haven, Connecticut

Abraham Lincoln
March 6, 1860


[Slavery is a denial of the right to property, because the slave is not permitted to keep the fruits of his own labor, and he is not allowed to strike or quit his job. — TGW]

 

…Let us talk about the shoe strike…. I 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! I like the system which lets a man quit when he wants to, and wish it might prevail everywhere.

One of the reasons why I am opposed to Slavery is just here. What is the true condition of the laborer? I take it that it is best for all to leave each man free to acquire property as fast as he can. Some will get wealthy. I donít believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good. So while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.

When one starts poor, as most do in the race of life, free society is such that he knows he can better his condition; he knows that there is no fixed condition of labor, for his whole life. I am not ashamed to confess that twenty five years ago I was a hired laborer, mauling rails, at work on a flat-boat—just what might happen to any poor manís son! I want every man to have the chance—and I believe a black man is entitled to itóin which he can better his condition—when he may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him! That is the true systemÖ.

[From Speech in New Haven, in Lincoln, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. IV, ed. Roy P. Basler (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 24.]





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