Sunday, March 1, 2015

Civil War Sunday - With Malice Towards None

On March 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as President for his second term.

The nation had been at war with itself for almost four years.  Four long years, and the end was finally in sight.  The atmosphere at the inauguration, it is said, was joyous.

In Washington DC, the weather had been rainy, and Pennsylvania Avenue was described as a "sea of mud".  But, it is said, the sun broke through the clouds as the inauguration commenced.  The crowd's size was estimated at between 30,000 and 40,000 people.


This is the speech that Lincoln gave that day.  It isn't quite as short as the Gettysburg Address, one of the shortest (and well remembered) speeches in United States history.  This speech, instead, is mostly remembered for its last line, and for the deep religious belief it expressed.

Imagine yourself hearing this speech at the end of almost four years of terrible war, the cliche of brother against brother that was not a cliche. "With malice towards none, with charity for all...."

Lincoln would be assassinated some five weeks later.

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, 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.

8 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this - as a Canadian, I don't know a lot about those times, but am always interested in learning more.

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    1. Thank you, and I'll respond that Canadian history is seriously under taught in the United States - at least, when I was growing up.

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  2. So sad that Lincoln was assassinated! I am sure it was much like it is today, with so many from the south against him at that time. Sentiments can get so high. I have to skip all the posts about Obama because otherwise I become discouraged by the negativity. But I love your focus! I don't remember that last line but I'm going to copy it and use it to motivate me. This part especially encourages me: "With malice toward none, with charity for all ... let us strive on to finish the work we are in ... " Thanks, Alana!
    Amy

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    1. Lincoln was a deeply religious man and his speeches reflect that. He was an excellent writer, too.

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  3. Isn't it funny how some words stand the test of time so truly?

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    1. Many of Lincoln's words, indeed, have withstood the test of time. It's also amazing to note that Lincoln wrote his own speeches, and wrote them with great care.

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  4. It's never good news to hear such horrible things. But thank you for sharing this.

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    1. The story of man and womankind is full of brutality - but also the most inspiring of happenings.

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