From Higher Intellect Documents
Jump to navigation Jump to search


        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 would 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
        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 invoked 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 
        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