|Abraham Lincoln delivering second inaugural address|
Weeks of wet weather preceding Lincoln's second inauguration had caused Pennsylvania Avenue to become a sea of mud and standing water. Thousands of spectators stood in thick mud at the Capitol grounds to hear the President. A burst of sun during his oath of office was interpreted by Mr. Lincoln as a good omen. Lincoln aide John Nicolay later wrote in a letter to his fiancée: "The ceremonies passed off yesterday in as pleasant a manner as was possible. The morning was dark and rainy, and the streets were very muddy; nevertheless large crowds were out in the procession and at the Capitol. I think there were at least twice as many at the [Capitol] as four years ago. Just at the time when the President appeared on the East Portico to be sworn in, the clouds disappeared and the sun shone out beautifully all the rest of the day."
Before the president was sworn in, Vice President-elect Andrew Johnson took his oath. At the ceremony Johnson, who had been drinking to offset the pain of typhoid fever (as he explained later), gave a rambling address in the Senate chamber and appeared obviously intoxicated.
Lincoln's sense that the divine will was unknowable stood in marked contrast to sentiments popular at the time. In the popular mind, both sides of the Civil War assumed that they could read God's will and assumed his favor in their opposing causes. Julia Ward Howe's Battle Hymn of the Repulbic expressed sentiments common among the supporters of the Union cause, that the Union was waging a righteous war that served God's purposes. Similarly, the Confederacy chose "Deo vindice" as its motto, often translated as "God will vindicate us." Lincoln, responding to compliments from Thurlow Weed on the speech, said that "... I believe it is not immediately popular. Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them."
|African American Troops at Lincoln Inaugural |
- this was the first time that African American soldiers marched in an inaugural parade
"The President very quietly rode down to the Capitol in his own carriage by himself, on a sharp trot, about noon, either because he wished to be on hand to sign bills, or to get rid of marching in line with the absurd procession - the muslin temple of liberty and pasteboard monitor.
I saw him on his return, at three o'clock, after the performance was over. He was in his plain two-horse barouche, and looked very much worn and tired; the lines, indeed, of vast responsibilities, intricate questions, and demands of life and death cut deeper than ever upon his dark brown face; yet all the old goodness, tenderness, sadness, and canny shrewdness underneath the furrows. (I never see that man without feeling that he is one to be become personally attached to for his combination of purest, heartiest tenderness, and native Western form of manliness.)
By his side sat his little boy of ten years. There were no soldiers, only a lot of civilians on horseback, with huge yellow scarves over their shoulders, riding around the carriage. (At the inauguration four years ago he rode down and back again surrounded by a dense mass of armed cavalrymen eight deep, with drawn sabres; and there were sharpshooters stationed at every corner on the route.)"
John Wilkes Booth, David Herold, George Atzerodt, Lewis Paine, John Surratt and Edmund Spangler, some of the conspirators involved with his assassination, were present in the crowd at the inauguration. Booth later told a fellow actor: "What a splendid chance I had to kill the President on the 4th of March." On Friday, April 14, 1865, Booth shot and killed Lincoln.
The address is inscribed, along with the Gettysburg Address, in the Lincoln Memorial.
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 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 invokes 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 righteous altogether."
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 nations.