Today marks the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s… Second Inaugural Address. Long overshadowed by the brief, yet stirring address at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, the Second Inaugural is Lincoln at his lyrical best. Smoothly flowing from iambic pentameter to religious imagery, Lincoln does his best to explain the horrendous war his government was about to win. The war was our punishment for the wickedness of slavery- words that, today, could never stand the media’s modern sensibilities- with Lincoln’s touch, they stand the test of time. There is no anger or vitriol in his words, he ends the speech with hope of reconciliation and forgiveness.
“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.”
March 4, 1865