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(1865) Abraham Lincoln, “Second Inaugural Address”

On Saturday March 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated and began his second term as President.  His address to the audience of thousands of spectators was brief, one of the shortest inaugural addresses on record.  The Civil War was drawing to a close as Union Armies were bearing down on Confederate forces all over the South.  In 35 days General Robert E. Lee would surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant and in 40 days President Lincoln would be assassinated.  On this day however, Lincoln used the speech to blame slavery for causing the war and to argue that the destruction of the Confederacy by the Unions superior military might was punishment for the 250 years that blacks had to endure enslavement.  Yet, Lincolns last brief paragraph of reconciliation is most remembered as he calls for malice toward none, and charity for all.  

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, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war; seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties

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