Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

Films >> Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) >>

0:15:11 Abe’s First Oath of Office
Seth Gale: Looks life we'll have to delay the voting. We haven't got anyone to act as
clerk yet.
Joshua Speed: Here you are stranger.
Abe Lincoln: Oh, thank you.
Speed: What's your name?
Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln.
Speed: My name's Joshua Speed.
Lincoln: Glad to meet you.
Speed: Let me introduce you to our leading citizens. Judge Bowling Green.
Bowling Green: How do you do?
Speed: And Mr. Mentor Graham, our school master.
Lincoln: Glad to meet all of you.
Gale: Good afternoon. Can you write?
Lincoln: I guess I can make a few hen tracks.
Gale: Good, then you can help tabulate votes. Give him the oath Bowling.
Green: Raise your right hand, repeat after me. I, Abraham Lincoln do solemnly swear to
uphold the constitu…
Lincoln: Wait a minute. Mister, what are you getting me into?
Speed: He wants you to work for the government, Mr. Lincoln.
Lincoln: Oh, no you don't. I don't want to be no politician.
Green: Nonsense. All you're going to do is see that we can have an honest vote.
Gale: Go Ahead, Mr. Lincoln. You're the only one those Cleary Grove boys will respect.
Lincoln: Alright, Mister…?
Gale: Gale, Seth Gale.
Lincoln: Howdy.
Gale: Same to you.
Lincoln: I, Abraham Lincoln, do solemnly swear
Green: To uphold the Constitution of the United States of America.
Lincoln: To uphold the Constitution of the United States of…
0:16:22 Shop Keeper and Student
Lincoln: Judge Green and Josh Speed and others I owe money to, they want to get me a job as postmaster, thinking maybe I can handle that, seeing as only one mail comes in a week.
Mentor Graham: Well, Abe, there are always two occupations open to those who have failed at everything. School teaching and politics.
Lincoln: Well, I'll take school teaching, you take politics you may get elected. Then you have to move to the city, and I don't want none a that.
Graham: What did I say about two negatives.
Lincoln: I mean any of that!
Graham: What's your objection to cities Abe? You ever seen one?
Lincoln: Sure, I been down river to New Orleans. Do you know every minute of the time I was there I was scared. I was scared of people.
Graham: Did you imagine they would rob you of all of your gold and all of your jewels?
Lincoln: No, I was scared they'd kill me.
Graham: Why? Why should they want to kill you?
Lincoln: I don't know.
Graham: You're a hopeless mess of inconsistency, Abe Lincoln.
0:27:11 A Proposition
Speed:…best liked man in this district, the very man we want.
Ninian Edwards: Maybe it will correct that public belief that the Whig party is only for the more privileged classes.
Lincoln: Gentlemen?
Green: Abe, I want you to meet Mr. Ninian Edwards, a mighty important member of our political party.
Lincoln: Very happy to meet you, Mr. Edwards.
Edwards: Mr. Lincoln, it's a pleasure.
Green: Sit down Abe, we want to talk to you.
Speed: Abe, how would you like to run for state legislature?
Lincoln: When?
Speed: Now, for election in the fall.
Lincoln: Why?
Edwards: The Whig party needs a candidate from this district. You're the postmaster in this town which gives you important contacts. While delivering mail you can deliver speeches and campaign literature, which our headquarters will provide.
Lincoln: Can you supply me with a suit of store clothes too? A candidate must not look too plain.
Green: And what's more, Abe, in the legislature you get paid. Three whole dollars a day.
Lincoln: Fine money alright, no denying that. I can see what you're getting at. I owe you a considerable sum.
Green: I'm not thinking about the debts, Abe.
Lincoln: I know you ain't, but I got to be.
Edwards: I can see, Mr. Lincoln, that you are the type of man who can handle anyone.
Speed: Even those Cleary Grove boys.
Lincoln: I can handle them cuz I can out wrestle ‘em. But I can't go around Sangamon county throwing all the voters.
Speed: You want an education, don't you, Abe? Here's your chance to do it. In Vandalia you'll be associated with some of the finest lawyers in this state. Important men like Stephen A. Douglas. You'll grow.
Lincoln: Thought I'd grown too much already.
Uncle Ben: Don't listen to it, Abe Lincoln. Don't you let ‘em get you into politics. They'll corrupt you just as they've corrupted the whole dang United States. You're an honest man, Abe Lincoln. You're a good for nothing, debt-ridden loafer, but you're an honest man.
Speed: Is that all you have to say, Ben?
Ben: Yes, and I hope it's enough.
Lincoln: I kind of agree with him.
Edwards: Well, Mr. Lincoln, we don't demand your answer immediately, but think it over.
Now, gentlemen, if you'll excuse me, I have to put in an appearance at the torch light procession in Springfield tonight so I must be moving along. Just consider what it means to be starting up the ladder in a country now expanding Southward to Texas and all the way to California. It's opportunity, Mr. Lincoln. Opportunity unlimited in scope. Goodbye.
Lincoln: Safe journey to you.
1:05:24 Return to the Edwards
Mary Todd: I'm glad to see you again.
Lincoln: Thank you, Miss Todd. I'm sure you wonder why I thrust myself upon your mercy in this manner.
Todd: I am sure you are always welcome in Ninian's house.
Lincoln: After my behavior at our lasting meeting here, I am not welcome company for myself.
Todd: Joshua Speed has kept us informed of your whereabouts. We have been most concerned.
Lincoln: You have been most kind.
Todd: Now you will return to your work. No doubt you'll be running for assembly again, or perhaps you have larger plans.
Lincoln: I have no plans, Mary. I only wish to gain your forgiveness.
Todd: There's no question of that. What happened between us was my own fault. I was blinded by my own self-confidence. I, I loved you. I believed I could make you love me. I believed the fire of my ambition would burn in you. You would become a man, a leader of men. But you didn't want that.
Lincoln: it is true, Mary, you did have faith in me which was far from deserved. A time has come when I wish to strive to deserve it. I believe now our destinies are together, for better or worse. So I again presume to ask you to be my wife. I fully understand taking me back involves humiliation for you.
Todd: I've had humiliation already and survived it.
Lincoln: But I promise you, Mary, if you will have me, I will devote the rest of my days to trying to do what is right, as God gives me power to see what is right.
Todd: Than I shall be your wife. I shall stay by your side til death do us part. Abe, oh Abe. I love you! Whatever becomes of us I will die loving you.
1:20:00 A Great Debate Part II
Judge Douglas has paid tribute to my skill with a dagger. I thank him but I must admit he can do more with that weapon than I can. He can keep ten daggers flashing in the air at the same time. Fortunately, he's too good at it -- none of them knives ever falls and hurts anyone. Now you've heard the judge make illusions to those who advocate voting and eating and marrying and sleeping with Negroes. Whether he meant me specifically, I do not know. If he did, I can only say that just because I do not want a colored woman for a slave, I do not necessarily want her for a wife. I do not need to have of her either; I can just leave her alone. In some respects she is certainly not my equal, just as I am not the judge's equal, in some respects. But in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands without asking leave of somebody else, she is my equal and the equal of all others!

Now you've heard the judge speak about our own labor conditions. As an American I cannot be proud that these conditions exist, but as an American I can ask: Would any worker in the north elect to change positions with a slave in the south? Will they not rather say they'd remove his own hand? And as an American, I can say thank God we live in a system in which men have the right to strike!

I am not preaching rebellion. I do not have to. This country belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they exercise their constitutional right to amend it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. If the founding fathers gave us anything, they gave us that!

The purpose of the Dred Scott decision is to make property and nothing but property of the Negroes in every state of the Union. It is the old issue of human rights versus property rights. It is the eternal struggle between two principles, the one common right of humans, the other the divine right of kings. It is the same spirit that says you earn the bread and I'll eat it.

As a nation we began by declaring, "All men are created equal." There was no mention of any exception to that rule in the Declaration of Independence. But we now practically read it "All men are created equal except negroes." If we are to accept this doctrine of race or class discrimination, what is to stop us from declaring in the future, "All men are created equal except negroes, foreigners, Catholics, Jews, or just poor people?" This is the conclusion towards which the advocates of slavery are driving us.

Let each state mind its own business, says Judge Douglas, why stir up trouble? This is the complacent politics of indifference to evil. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republic of its just influence in the world, enables the enemies of the free institution everywhere to taunt us as hypocrites, causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity and especially because it forces so many good men among ourselves into an open war with our very own fundamental civil liberties, undermining the good faith of the Declaration of Independence and insisting there is no right principles of action of self interest.

In his final words tonight the judge said that we can be the terror in the world. I don't think we want to be that. I think we'd prefer to be the encouragement of the world. The proof that at last man is worthy to be free. But we shall provide no such encouragement unless we can prove our ability as a nation to live and grow. And we shall do neither if these states fail to remain united. There can be no distinction between one and another, one class and another, and one race and another. A house divided against itself cannot stand. This government cannot continue to endure half slave and half free.