Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address at Wilmington, Del.

October 29, 1936

Save for my own home State of New York, this meeting in Wilmington marks the close of my campaign for the Presidency.

It seems appropriate that on this occasion I should make no political speech, because I can better describe the kind of liberty which our Administration has sought and continues to seek by reading to you the simple words of a great President who believed in the kind of liberty that we believe in—the great President who preserved the American Union.

These words are from the speech made by President Abraham Lincoln at the Sanitary Fair in Baltimore in 1864. And I ask that you good people give heed to these words for, although they are three-quarters of a century old, yet I think you will find that they apply to 1936. Abraham Lincoln said this:

"The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only 'different, but incompatible things, called by the same name, liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny."

And then Abraham Lincoln used this homely example. He said:

"The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act, as the destroyer of liberty. . . . Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures . . . and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the process by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty." And, in closing, Lincoln said this:

"Recently, as it seems, the people . . . have been doing something to define liberty, and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf's dictionary has been repudiated."

My friends, today, in 1936, the people have again been doing something to define liberty. And the wolf's dictionary has again been repudiated.

What Abraham Lincoln said three-quarters of a century ago applies today as it did then. The people, men and women, of the City of Wilmington and the State of Delaware will, I think, appreciate their significance in the same measure as men and women in every other part of the Union.

And that is why, my friends, on Tuesday evening next I expect to get a message from the State of Delaware telling me that all is well.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Wilmington, Del. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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