With but a handful of exceptions, all the 140 Lincoln texts presented on the following pages—speeches, letters, remarks, greetings, replies, drafts, and fragments—come from texts published in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, eight volumes issued by Rutgers Univer- sity Press (1953–1955) and ably edited by a team headed by Roy P. Basier, who died while Lincoln on Democracy was in preparation. We are grateful to the Press for granting us permission to adapt these definitive versions.
When relevant to the theme of democracy, we present the full texts of speeches and letters. In other cases, we present appropriate ex- tracts—especially of some of the very lengthy pre-presidential ad- dresses. We identify each such selection as “from a speech” or “from a letter,” and to indicate missing sections of text, use a series of dots. Ellipses are avoided whenever possible—except for those cases in which an extract begins in the middle of a paragraph. Excerpting can be a difficult task, and in the case of a writer as cogent as Lincoln, a pre- sumptuous one. All our consulting scholars, together with the editors, have tried to ensure that the texts flow naturally, while focusing on the issues of liberty, equality, and self-determination.
Whenever possible, Basler’s texts followed Lincoln’s own manuscript copies of his letters and speeches. But none of Lincoln’s pre-presidential addresses survive in his own hand. Typically, such manuscripts would be taken to newspaper offices to be set in type for the next day’s editions, and then simply thrown away. In such cases we are compelled to rely on these newspaper reprints.