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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1903
AUTHOR: Abraham Lincoln (1809–65)
QUOTATION: To give the victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary.
ATTRIBUTION: ABRAHAM LINCOLN, speech c. May 18, 1858.—Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, vol. 2, p. 454 (1953).

Other uses of his contrast of ballots and bullets can be found in his message to Congress of July 4, 1861, “That ballots are the rightful, and peaceful, successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly, and constitutionally, decided, there can be no successful appeal, back to bullets” (vol. 4, p. 439); and in a letter to James C. Conkling, August 26, 1863, “There can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet” (vol. 6, p. 410).

In The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Arthur Brooks Lapsley (1905), there is a reconstruction, forty years later, of a speech to the first Republican state convention of Illinois, Bloomington, Illinois, May 29, 1856, in which this sentence appears: “Do not mistake that the ballot is stronger than the bullet” (vol. 2, p. 269). This lengthy reconstruction was not “worthy of serious consideration,” in the opinion of Basler (Collected Works, vol. 2, p. 341).
SUBJECTS: Voters and voting