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ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS (1865)
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
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