4 March 1865
|View Original Document|
On March 4, 1865, in his second inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of mutual forgiveness, North and South, asserting that the true mettle of a nation lies in its capacity for charity.
Lincoln presided over the nation’s most terrible crisis. The Civil War began 1 month after he took office and ended 5 days before he died. It was more bitter and protracted than anyone had predicted, costing more than 600,000 lives. In Lincoln’s second inaugural address, delivered just over a month before his death, he spoke about the war as he had come to understand it. The unspeakable savagery that had already lasted 4 years, he believed, was nothing short of God’s own punishment for the sins of human slavery. [Library of Congress]
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 enerergies 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 inaugeral 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 dissole 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
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 --
[Endorsed by Lincoln:]
Original manuscript of second Inaugural presented to Major John Hay.