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Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

Posted by Don Borchelt on Tuesday, January 20, 2009

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.

                               -  President Abraham Lincoln, from his Second Inaugural Address

9 comments on “Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address”

clio Says:
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 @10:20:12 AM

What's this? Did old Abe play banjo?

BrittDLD1 Says:
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 @10:56:47 AM

Lincoln was pictured playing the banjo several times. But the cartoons (and doctored photos) were intended to be derrogatory, regarding the salvery issue.

Lincold DID like banjo and Minstrel music -- and claimed "Dixie" was one of his favorite tunes... BEFORE the Civil War. (Dan Emmett first performed it in 1859)

see:

http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/img/Lincoln_singing.gif

http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/Library/newsletter.asp?ID=29&CRLI=109

clio Says:
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 @12:33:25 PM

thanks my friend, but the Dixie lyrics sung in the South were written in 1858 by William Shakespeare Hays of Louisville, KY, not Emmett. Google William Shalespeard Hsys for his bo and sounds of his music. Hays and Emmett wrote different lyrics to the same music composed By Sir Henry Bishop, an English muscian who wrote the stong about 1830l, based on an old Scottish or Celtic tune. The Bishop song was named Dashing White Sergeant, but is better know for its line, "For a soldier I would go," and this is why the song is played for every West Point graduation. Oc course, most folks think the band is playing Dixie at West Point, but it is not. Hays version of the lyrics was carried south by the band of the KY National Gurad when it marched south to join the Confederate army, which is how the song spread through the army during the war.

gkuchan Says:
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 @2:30:13 PM

Best address until the one I saw a few hours ago...thank you for the post.

FretlessinTexas Says:
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 @2:33:28 PM

With malice toward none ....

Yes, Father Abraham was one for the ages. Thank you for reminding us of him, especially on this day when it would appear that we are moving to a more perfect union, as our forefathers originally intended.

I am truly proud to be an American knowing full well the difficulties ahead.

edavidt Says:
Wednesday, January 21, 2009 @8:22:53 PM

nice blog and comments. 

JCushman Says:
Thursday, January 22, 2009 @8:43:51 PM

Don, There will be some big Lincoln celebrations this year. Clearly a deeply spiritual man, yet undefined by superficial religious categories. I had planned to use portions of the Second Inaugural in my sermon this Sunday. I'll check back on your blog a few times for good interpretative comments, and maybe some of them will make it into my text. The last paragraph could not be more true of the times in which we live. I hope that Barack is up to it. Difficult times can produce great leaders. Best to you, Don. I think I can guess why you posted this, although I won't. John

Don Borchelt Says:
Friday, January 23, 2009 @7:26:38 PM

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.

TopCat Says:
Sunday, January 25, 2009 @1:49:12 AM

It's sobering to see how terribly relevant those words still are in this day and age.

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