Page 4151

4151 HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

LINCOLN'S SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS

[Editor's Note: In this immortal document of less than 700 words, President

Lincoln enunciated in his own peculiarly simple and lofty phrase, the high ideal

and the magnanimous sentiment which guided him. "With malice toward none,

with charity for all, with firmness for the right as God gives us to see the right,"

is the clarion and persuasive call he has passed down to future generations,

inspiring to a nobility equal to his own. The London Spectator pronounced this

message "the noblest political document known to history".]

Fellow Countrymen:

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, 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 the 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