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".]
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