ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS:
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 would 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, insurgent 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 invoked 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
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.
Prepared by Nancy Troutman (The Cleveland Free-Net - aa345) Distributed by the Cybercasting Services Division of the
National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN).
Permission is hereby granted to download, reprint, and/or otherwise redistribute this file, provided appropriate point of origin credit is given to the preparer(s) and the National Public Telecomputing Network.