Reply to Governor Andrew J. Curtin at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
February 22, 1861
Gov. Curtin and citizens of the State of Pennsylvania: Perhaps the best thing that I could do would be simply to endorse the patriotic and eloquent speech which your Governor has just made in your hearing. [Applause.] I am quite sure that I am unable to address to you anything so appropriate as that which he has uttered.
Reference has been made by him to the distraction of the public mind at this time and to the great task that lies before me in entering upon the administration of the General Government. With all the eloquence and ability that your Governor brings to this theme, I am quite sure he does not---in his situation he cannot---appreciate as I do the weight of that great responsibility. I feel that, under God, in the strength of the arms and wisdom of the heads of these masses, after all, must be my support. [Immense cheering.] As I have often had occasion to say, I repeat to you---I am quite sure I do not deceive myself when I tell you I bring to the work an honest heart; I dare not tell you that I bring a head sufficient for it. [A voice---``we are sure of that.''] If my own strength should fail, I shall at least fall back upon these masses, who, I think, under any circumstances will not fail.
Allusion has been made to the peaceful principles upon which this great Commonwealth was originally settled. Allow me to add my meed of praise to those peaceful principles. I hope no one of the Friends who originally settled here, or who lived here since that time, or who live here now, has been or is a more devoted lover of peace, harmony and concord than my humble self.
While I have been proud to see to-day the finest military array, I think, that I have ever seen, allow me to say in regard to those men that they give hope of what may be done when war is inevitable. But, at the same time, allow me to express the hope that in the shedding of blood their services may never be needed, especially in the shedding of fraternal blood. It shall be my endeavor to preserve the peace of this country so far as it can possibly be done, consistently with the maintenance of the institutions of the country. With my consent, or without my great displeasure, this country shall never witness the shedding of one drop of blood in fraternal strife.
And now, my fellow-citizens, as I have made many speeches, will you allow me to bid you farewell?