I consider the central idea pervading this struggle is the necessity that is upon us, of proving that popular government is not an absurdity. We must settle this question now, whether in a free government the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose. If we fail it will go far to prove the incapability of the people to govern themselves.
Abraham Lincoln, May 1861
(quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln)