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Great Western Railroad Depot, Springfield, Illinois
Great Western Depot
© Abraham Lincoln Online

Farewell Address

Springfield, Illinois
February 11, 1861

When Abraham Lincoln left Springfield, Illinois, to start his inaugural journey for Washington, D.C., he paid an unforgettable tribute to his friends and neighbors in what is known today as the Farewell Address. Lincoln spoke these famous, emotion-charged words as he boarded a special presidential train at the Great Western Railroad station, now a restored private office with a public exhibit area.

The day Lincoln saw this depot for the last time he recognized most of the people in the huge crowd gathered outside. Ahead of him was war, death, and enduring fame; behind him were the warm-hearted people who elicited the following remarks. The text is an self-edited version of what Lincoln actually said. Reporters at the scene published other variations of his language; to see three versions of the speech, click here.

My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler and others.

Related Link
Original Manuscript of Farewell Address (Library of Congress)

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