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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1638
AUTHOR: Abraham Lincoln (1809–65)
QUOTATION: You may burn my body to ashes, and scatter them to the winds of heaven; you may drag my soul down to the regions of darkness and despair to be tormented forever; but you will never get me to support a measure which I believe to be wrong, although by doing so I may accomplish that which I believe to be right.
ATTRIBUTION: Attributed to ABRAHAM LINCOLN.—Ida M. Tarbell, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 1, p. 139 (1900).

This book is based on the reminiscences of contemporaries of Lincoln’s. General T. H. Henderson of Illinois related this story—told by his father, who had served with Lincoln in the Illinois legislature—which “illustrates his character for integrity and his firmness in maintaining what he regarded as right in his public acts.”

This incident is supposed to have occurred during the session of 1836–1837, when efforts were made to move the capital of Illinois to Springfield; a bill to that effect was coupled with another measure that Lincoln did not approve of. “Finally, after midnight … Mr. Lincoln rose amid the silence and solemnity which prevailed, and, my father said, made one of the most eloquent and powerful speeches to which he had ever listened. He concluded his remarks” with the words above (pp. 138–39).
SUBJECTS: Right and wrong