Abraham Lincoln: I could write shorter sermons but when I get started I'm too lazy to stop.
Thaddeus Stevens: Trust? Gentlemen, you seem to have forgotten that our chosen career is politics.
Abraham Lincoln: [to Ulysses S. Grant] Each of us has made it possible for the other to do terrible things.
Abraham Lincoln: Euclid's first common notion is this: Things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other. That's a rule of mathematical reasoning and its true because it works - has done and always will do. In his book Euclid says this is self evident. You see there it is even in that 2000 year old book of mechanical law it is the self evident truth that things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other.
Abraham Lincoln: It was right after the revolution, right after peace had been concluded. And Ethan Allen went to London to help our new country conduct its business with the king. The English sneered at how rough we are and rude and simple-minded and on like that, everywhere he went. Til one day he was invited to the townhouse of a great English lord. Dinner was served, beverages imbibed, time passed as happens and Mr. Allen found he needed the privy. He was grateful to be directed to this. Relieved, you might say. Mr. Allen discovered on entering the water closet that the only decoration therein was a portrait of George Washington. Ethan Allen done what he came to do and returned to the drawing room. His host and the others were disappointed when he didn't mention Washington's portrait. And finally his lordship couldn't resist and asked Mr. Allen had he noticed it. The picture of Washington. He had. Well what did he think of its placement? Did it seem appropriately located to Mr. Allen? And Mr. Allen said it did. The host was astounded. "Appropriate? George Washington's likeness in a water closet?" "Yes," said Mr. Allen, "where it will do good service. The world knows nothing will make an Englishman shit quicker than the sight of George Washington." I love that story.
Abraham Lincoln: Back when I rode the legal circuit in Illinois, I defended a woman from Metmora named Melissa Goings, 77 years-old. They said she murdered her husband, he was 83. He was choking her and she grabbed a-hold of a stick of firewood and fractured his skull and he died. In his will he wrote: 'I suspect she has killed me. If I get over it, I will have revenge.' No one was keen to see her convicted, he was that kind of husband. I asked the prosecuting attorney if I might have a short conference with my client. And she and I went into a room in the courthouse, but I alone emerged. The window in the room was found to be wide open. It was believed the old lady may have climbed out of it. I told the bailiff right before. I left her in the room she asked me where she could get a good drink of water, and I told her Tennessee. Mrs. Goings was seen no more in Metamora. Enough justice had been done; they even forgave the bondsman her bail.
John Usher: I'm afraid I don't see...
Abraham Lincoln: I decided that the Constitution gives me war powers, but no one knows just exactly what those powers are. Some say they don't exist. I don't know. I decided I needed them to exist to uphold my oath to protect the Constitution, which I decided meant that I could take the rebel's slaves from them as property confiscated in war. That might recommend to suspicion that I agree with the rebs that their slaves are property in the first place. Of course I don't, never have, I'm glad to see any man free, and if calling a man property, or war contraband, does the trick... Why I caught at the opportunity. Now here's where it gets truly slippery. I use the law allowing for the seizure of property in a war knowing it applies only to the property of governments and citizens of belligerent nations. But the South ain't a nation, that's why I can't negotiate with'em. If in fact the Negroes are property according to law, have I the right to take the rebels' property from 'em, if I insist they're rebels only, and not citizens of a belligerent country? And slipperier still: I maintain it ain't our actual Southern states in rebellion but only the rebels living in those states, the laws of which states remain in force. The laws of which states remain in force. That means, that since it's states' laws that determine whether Negroes can be sold as slaves, as property - the Federal government doesn't have a say in that, least not yet then Negroes in those states are slaves, hence property, hence my war powers allow me to confiscate'em as such. So I confiscated 'em. But if I'm a respecter of states' laws, how then can I legally free'em with my Proclamation, as I done, unless I'm cancelling states' laws? I felt the war demanded it; my oath demanded it; I felt right with myself; and I hoped it was legal to do it, I'm hoping still. Two years ago I proclaimed these people emancipated - "then, hence forward and forever free."But let's say the courts decide I had no authority to do it. They might well decide that. Say there's no amendment abolishing slavery. Say it's after the war, and I can no longer use my war powers to just ignore the courts' decisions, like I sometimes felt I had to do. Might those people I freed be ordered back into slavery? That's why I'd like to get the Thirteenth Amendment through the House, and on its way to ratification by the states, wrap the whole slavery thing up, forever and aye. As soon as I'm able. Now. End of this month. And I'd like you to stand behind me. Like my cabinet's most always done.
Abraham Lincoln: Abolishing slavery by constitutional provisions settles the fate for all coming time. Not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come. Two votes stand in its way. These votes must be procured.
William Seward: We need two yeses. Three abstentions. Four yeses and one more abstention and the amendment will pass.
Abraham Lincoln: You've got a night and a day and a night; several perfectly good hours! Now get the hell out of here and get them!
James Ashley: Yes. But how?
Abraham Lincoln: Buzzard's guts, man! I am the President of the United States of America! Clothed in immense power! You will procure me these votes.
Clerk - Edward McPherson: Roll call concludes. Voting is completed. Now...
Schuyler Colfax: Mr. clerk? Please call my name. I want to cast a vote.
George Pendleton: I object! The Speaker doesn't vote.
Clerk - Edward McPherson: The Speaker may vote if he so chooses.
George Pendleton: It is highly unusual, sir.
Schuyler Colfax: This isn't usual, Mr. Pendleton. This is history.
Thaddeus Stevens: I don't hold with equality in all things, just equality before the law, nothing more.
Clerk - Edward McPherson: And Mr. George Yeaman, how say you?
George Yeaman: [indistinguishable mutter]
Clerk - Edward McPherson: Sorry Mr. Yeaman, I didn't hear your vote.
George Yeaman: I said aye, Mr. McPherson. AYYYYYYEEEEEE!
Abraham Lincoln: A compass, I learned when I was surveying, it'll... it'll point you True North from where you're standing, but it's got no advice about the swamps and deserts and chasms that you'll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp... What's the use of knowing True North?
Ulysses S. Grant: [to Lincoln] By outward appearance, you're 10 years older than you were a year ago.
Abraham Lincoln: I must make my decision, Bob must make his, you yours. And bear what we must. Hold and carry what we must. What I carry within me, you must allow me to do it. Alone, as I must. And you alone, Mary, you alone may lighten the burden. Or render it intolerable. As you choose.
Mary Todd Lincoln: No one is loved as much as you by the people. Don't waste that power.
Abraham Lincoln: [on General Grant] My trust in him is marrow deep.
Abraham Lincoln: With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Edwin Stanton: [seeing Lincoln begin to address the room as news comes in from Wilmington] You're going to tell one of your stories! I can't stand to hear another one of your stories!
Mary Todd Lincoln: Seward can't do it; you must. Because if you fail to acquire the necessary votes, woe unto you, sir. You will answer to me.
Mary Todd Lincoln: You think I'm ignorant of what you're up to because you haven't discussed this scheme with me as you ought to have done? When have I ever been so easily bamboozled? I believe you when you insist that amending the Constitution and abolishing slavery will end this war. And since you're sending my son into the war, woe to you if you fail to pass the amendment.
Mary Todd Lincoln: No one has ever lived who knows better than you the proper placement of footfalls on treacherous paths.
[Lincoln's late-night cabinet meeting is interrupted by a call to drive with Mary to Ford's Theater]
Abraham Lincoln: It's time for me to go. But I would rather stay.
Abraham Lincoln: Do you think we choose the times into which we are born? Or do we fit the times we are born into?
Thaddeus Stevens: The greatest measure of the Nineteenth Century. Passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America.
Thaddeus Stevens: You are a democrat. What's the matter with you? Are you wicked?
Abraham Lincoln: [pounds his hand on a table as his cabinet squabbles] I can't listen to this anymore. I can't accomplish a goddamn thing of any worth until we cure ourselves of slavery and end this pestilential war! I wonder if any of you or anyone else knows it. I know! I need this! This amendment is that cure! We've stepped out upon the world stage now. Now! With the fate of human dignity in our hands. Blood's been spilled to afford us this moment now! Now! Now! And you grouse so and heckle and dodge about like pettifogging Tammany Hall hucksters!
Abraham Lincoln: [giving a speech at a dedication raising the flag] The part assigned to me is to raise the flag which, if there be no fault in the machinery, I will do. And, when up, it shall be for the people to keep it up. That's my speech.
Abraham Lincoln: [greeting a pair of visitors from Jefferson City] I heard tell once of a Jefferson City lawyer who had a parrot that would wake him each morning crying out 'today's the day the world shall end as scripture has foretold'. And one day, the lawyer shot him for the sake of peace and quiet I presume, thus fulfilling, for the bird at least, his prophecy.
[the guests don't laugh]
Thaddeus Stevens: White people cannot bear the thought of sharing this country's infinite abundance with Negroes.
Thaddeus Stevens: This is the face of someone who has fought long and hard for the good of the people without caring much for any of 'em. And I look a lot worse without the wig.
Tad Lincoln: When you were a slave, Mr. Slade, did they beat you?
William Slade: I was born a free man. Nobody beat me except I beat them right back.
[Mrs. Keckley enters]
William Slade: Mrs. Keckley was a slave. Ask her if she was beaten.
Elizabeth Keckley: I was beaten with a fire shovel when I was younger than you.
Fernando Wood: Estimable colleagues, two bloody years ago this month, his Highness, King Abraham Africanus the First, our Great Usurping Caesar, violator of habeas corpus and freedom of the press, abuser of states' rights.
Abraham Lincoln: Liberality all around. No punishment, I don't want that. And the leaders - Jeff and the rest of 'em - if they escape, leave the country while my back's turned, that wouldn't upset me none. When peace comes it mustn't just be hangings.
Montgomery Blair: They'll vote for this rash and dangerous amendment only if every other possibility is exhausted.
Thaddeus Stevens: Lincoln the inveterate dawdler, Lincoln the Southerner, Lincoln the capitulating compromiser, our adversary, and leader of the God forsaken Republican Party, our party.
Ulysses S. Grant: If you want to discuss peace with President Lincoln, consider revisions.
Alexander Stephens: If we're not to discuss a truce between warring nations, what in heaven's name can we discuss?
Ulysses S. Grant: Terms of surrender.
W.N. Bilbo: The kind that hates niggers, hates God for making niggers.
Mary Todd Lincoln: Smile, Senator Wade.
Senator Bluff Wade: I believe I am smiling, Mrs. Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln: Old Neptune!
[paraphrasing Shakespeare's "Macbeth"]
Abraham Lincoln: Shake thy hoary locks!
Senator Bluff Wade: Whalers?
James Ashley: That's what he said.
Senator Bluff Wade: The man's never been near a whale ship in his life!
Abraham Lincoln: When the people disagree, bringing them together requires going slow until they're ready to...
Thaddeus Stevens: Shit on the people and what they want and what they're ready for. I don't give a goddamn about the people and what they want. This is the face of someone who has fought long and hard for the *good* of the people without caring much for any of 'em. And now I look a lot worse without my wig.
Abraham Lincoln: All we've done is show the world that democracy isn't chaos. That there is a great, invisible strength in a people's union. Say we've shown that a people can endure awful sacrifice and yet cohere. Mightn't that save at least the idea of democracy to aspire to? Eventually to become worthy of?
Thaddeus Stevens: It's late, I'm old and I'm going home.
John Hay: Do you need company?
Abraham Lincoln: In times like these, I'm best alone.
William Seward: Gentleman, you have a visitor.
W.N. Bilbo: [checking his friend cards] Oh my God, goddamn...
W.N. Bilbo: [President Lincoln walks in] I'll be fucked.
Abraham Lincoln: I wouldn't bet against it, Mr...?
W.N. Bilbo: W.N.Bilbo.
Abraham Lincoln: Yeah, Mr. Bilbo. Gentlemen...
Robert Latham: Sir.
W.N. Bilbo: Why are you here? No offense, but Mr. Seward's banished the very mention of your name, he won't even let us use fifty-cent pieces 'cause they got your face on 'em.
Abraham Lincoln: The Secretary of State here tells me that, uh... you got eleven Democrats in the bag. That's encouraging.
Richard Schell: Oh, you've got no cause to be encouraged. Sir. Uh...
Robert Latham: Are we being... fired?
Abraham Lincoln: [quoting Shakespeare] 'We have heard the chimes of midnight, Master Shallow.' I'm here to alert you boys that the great day of reckoning is nigh upon us.
Thaddeus Stevens: Slave is the only insult to the natural law, you fatuous nincompoop.
Abraham Lincoln: I ought to have done it, I ought have done for Tad's sake! For everybody goddamned sake! I should've clapped you in the madhouse!
Mary Todd Lincoln: Then do it! Do it! Don't you threaten me,you do it this time! Lock me away! You'll have to, I swear if Robert is killed!
Abraham Lincoln: I am the president of the United States of America, clothed in immense power! You will procure me those votes!
Abraham Lincoln: I wish He had chosen an instrument more wieldy than the House of Representatives.
Abraham Lincoln: [Lincoln quoting Falstaff from Shakespeare's "King Henry the Fourth"] We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow.
Thaddeus Stevens: Retain, even in opposition, your capacity for astonishment.
[last lines, from Second Inaugural speech]
Abraham Lincoln: Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Thaddeus Stevens: I haven't noticed you. I'm a Republican, and you, Coughdrop, are a Democrat?
Preston Blair: I went to Richmond to talk to traitors, to smile at and plead with traitors, because it'll be spring in two months, the roads'll be passable, the spring slaughter commences.
Abraham Lincoln: A compass I learnt when I was surveying, it'll... it'll point you true north from where your standing, but it's got no advice about the swamps, deserts and chasms that you'll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp, what's the use of knowing true north?
George Pendleton: I appeal to my fellow Democrats, to all Republican representatives who give a fig for peace!
Abraham Lincoln: It's nighttime. Ship's move by some terrible power at terrific speed. And though it's imperceptible in the darkness, I have an intuition that we're headed towards a shore. No one else seems to be aboard the vessel. I'm keenly aware of my aloneness.
Abraham Lincoln: [quoting Hamlet] "I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."
Abraham Lincoln: Hmm. I reckon it's the speed that's strange to me. I'm used to going at a deliberate pace. I should space you, Molly. I shouldn't tell you my dreams.
Mary Todd Lincoln: I don't want to be spared if you aren't And you spare me nothing.
Thaddeus Stevens: Nothing surprises you, Asa, therefore nothing about you is surprising. Perhaps that is why your constituents did not re-elect you to the coming term.
James Ashley: All they heard was the first time any president has ever made mention of Negro voting.
Abraham Lincoln: Still, I wish I'd mentioned it in a better speech.
John Usher: Mr. Stevens also wants to know why you didn't make a better speech.
Richard Schell: Over in Pennsylvania, who's the sweaty man eating his thumb?
Robert Latham: Unknown to me. Seems jumpy.
Richard Schell: Perhaps he'll jump.
W.N. Bilbo: [on Fernando Wood making his speech] Jesus. When's this son of liberty, sum-a-bitch gonna sit down?
Thaddeus Stevens: What violates natural law? Slavery and you! Pendleton, you insult God. You unnatural noise.