|ABRAHAM LINCOLNS 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 predication 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 Gods assistance in wringing
their bread from the sweat of other mens 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 will that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsmans
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
nations 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
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