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Contents > Author > Abraham Lincoln > Second Inaugural Address, 1865 1809- 1865
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Abraham Lincoln
Second Inaugural Address, 1865
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At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential
office there is less occasion for an extended address than there
was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course
to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of
four years, during which public declarations have been constantly
called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which
still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the
nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our
arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the
public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and
encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction
in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts
were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it,
all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being
delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union
without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it
without war?seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by
negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would
make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would
accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not
distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern
part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest.
All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To
strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for
which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the
Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial
enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude
or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated
that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the
conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and
a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible
and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.
It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's
assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's
faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of
both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered
fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world
because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come,
but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall
suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which,
in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having
continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove,
and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the
woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern
therein any departure from those divine attributes which the
believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope,
fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily
pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth
piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited
toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the
lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said
three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments
of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in
the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish
the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for
him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his
orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and
lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

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