Abraham Lincoln on Labor and Capital

from  Meltzer, Milton and Stephen Alcorn, Lincoln in His Own Words. (London: Sandpiper, 2009). 60. “Thinking about the value of labor, Lincoln set down this note:”

And, inasmuch [as] most good things are produced by labor, it follows that [all] such things of right belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has so happened in all ages of the world that some have labored, and others have, without labor, enjoyed a large portion of the fruits. This is wrong and should not continue. To [secure] to each laborer the whole product of his labor, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government

The following quotation is from Lincoln’s first annual message to Congress.

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worth of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital, producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation.

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