- You have lost a child, a dear, dear child. I have lost the only earthly object of my affection.... I have now one request to make,... deny me not. Afford me the melancholy pleasure of seeing her body before internment.
- I shall not again be a candidate for the Presidency...I shall be 65 on the 23rd April next, and I had determined upon my line of life from the remnant of days with which a kind Providence might bless me, discarding every idea of the Presidency...I can now leave public life, I trust, with credit. Should I become President, the case may be very different, after I shall have worn myself out with the toil and anxiety of the office.
- All agree that under the Constitution slavery in the States is beyond the reach of any human power except that of the respective States themselves wherein it exists. May we not, then, hope that the long agitation on this subject is approaching its end, and that the geographical parties to which it has given birth, so much dreaded by the Father of his Country, will speedily become extinct? Most happy will it be for the country when the public mind shall be diverted from this question to others of more pressing and practical importance. Throughout the whole progress of this agitation, which has scarcely known any intermission for more than twenty years, whilst it has been productive of no positive good to any human being it has been the prolific source of great evils to the master, to the slave, and to the whole country. It has alienated and estranged the people of the sister States from each other, and has even seriously endangered the very existence of the Union. Nor has the danger yet entirely ceased. Under our system there is a remedy for all mere political evils in the sound sense and sober judgment of the people. Time is a great corrective. Political subjects which but a few years ago excited and exasperated the public mind have passed away and are now nearly forgotten. But this question of domestic slavery is of far graver importance than any mere political question, because should the agitation continue it may eventually endanger the personal safety of a large portion of our countrymen where the institution exists. In that event no form of government, however admirable in itself and however productive of material benefits, can compensate for the loss of peace and domestic security around the family altar. Let every Union-loving man, therefore, exert his best influence to suppress this agitation, which since the recent legislation of Congress is without any legitimate object.
- I am the last President of the United States!
- The course of events is so rapidly hastening forward that the emergency may soon arise when you may be called upon to decide the momentous question whether you possess the power by force of arms to compel a State to remain in the Union. I should feel myself recreant to my duty were I not to express an opinion on this important subject. The question fairly stated is, Has the Constitution delegated to Congress the power to coerce a State into submission which is attempting to withdraw or has actually withdrawn from the Confederacy? If answered in the affirmative, it must be on the principle that the power has been conferred upon Congress to declare and to make war against a State. After much serious reflection I have arrived at the conclusion that no such power has been delegated to Congress or to any other department of the Federal Government. It is manifest upon an inspection of the Constitution that this is not among the specific and enumerated powers granted to Congress, and it is equally apparent that its exercise is not 'necessary and proper for carrying into execution' any one of these powers. So far from this power having been delegated to Congress, it was expressly refused by the Convention which framed the Constitution.
- It is said that serious apprehensions are to some extent entertained (in which I do not share) that the peace of this District may be disturbed before the 4th of March next. In any event, it will be my duty to preserve it, and this duty shall be performed. In conclusion it may be permitted to me to remark that I have often warned my countrymen of the dangers which now surround us. This may be the last time I shall refer to the subject officially. I feel that my duty has been faithfully, though it may be imperfectly, performed, and, whatever the result may be, I shall carry to my grave the consciousness that I at least meant well for my country.
- Sir, if you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland, you are a happy man indeed.
- Liberty must be allowed to work out its natural results; and these will, ere long, astonish the world.
- What is right and what is practicable are two different things.
- Abstract propositions should never be discussed by a legislative body.
- I have no regret for any public act of my life, and history will vindicate my memory.
- I like the noise of democracy.
- Prevent the American people from crossing the Rocky Mountains? You might as well command Niagara not to flow. We must fulfill our destiny.
- The ballot box is the surest arbiter of disputes among free men.
- The distribution of patronage of the Government is by far the most disagreeable duty of the President.
- The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.
- There is nothing stable but Heaven and the Constitution.
- To avoid entangling alliances has been a maxim of our policy ever since the days of Washington, and its wisdom no one will attempt to dispute.