1865 | Washington, DC

Hidden Wealth

Abraham Lincoln imagines a mineral-based recovery act.

I want you to take a message from me to the miners whom you visit. I have very large ideas of the mineral wealth of our nation. I believe it practically inexhaustible. It abounds all over the western country, from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, and its development has scarcely commenced.

During the war, when we were adding a couple of millions of dollars every day to our national debt, I did not care about encouraging the increase in the volume of our precious metals. We had the country to save first. But now that the rebellion is overthrown, and we know pretty nearly the amount of our national debt, the more gold and silver we mine, we make the payment of that debt so much the easier.

Now I am going to encourage that in every possible way. We shall have hundreds of thousands of disbanded soldiers, and many have feared that their return in such great numbers might paralyze industry by furnishing suddenly a greater supply of labor than there will be demand for. I am going to try to attract them to the hidden wealth of our mountain ranges, where there is room enough for all. Immigration, which even the war has not stopped, will land upon our shores hundreds of thousands more per year from overcrowded Europe. I intend to point them to the gold and silver that wait for them in the West.

Tell the miners for me that I shall promote their interests to the utmost of my ability, because their prosperity is the prosperity of the nation, and we shall prove in a very few years that we are indeed the treasury of the world.

Contributor

Abraham Lincoln

A message spoken to House Speaker Schuyler Colfax. Lincoln was said to have uttered these words on the morning of his assassination, as Colfax was departing for western mining regions. A Nevada newspaper reprinted it in 1913, adding, “This was the last message, almost the last public utterance, that came from the inspired lips of Mr. Lincoln. Those prophetic words, uttered nearly half a century ago, still make the heart of a miner glow.”