Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address [Fellow Countrymen:] March 4, 1865 At this second appearing to take the oath of the pr esidential 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 prope r. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constant ly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the enerergies [sic] of the nation, little that is new could be pr esented. 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 a ll. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured. On the occasion corresponding to this four years ag o, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil-war. All dreaded it- --all sought to avert it. While the inaugeral address was being delivered from this pla ce, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the cit y seeking to destroy it without war--- seeking to dissol[v]e the Union, and divide effects , by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rath er than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it peris h. And the war came.
One eighth of the whole population were colored sla ves, 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 wa s the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the govern ment 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 at tained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even bef ore, the conflict itself should cease.
Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result les s 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 answer ed; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. ``Woe unt o the world because of offences!
for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!'' If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, havi ng 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 offence ca me, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the be lievers 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 conti nue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequite d 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 wo rk we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the ba ttle, and for his widow, and his orphan---to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations. [Endorsement] Original manuscript of second Inaugeral presented t o Major John Hay. A. LINCOLN April 10. 1865 Source: Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. VIII, pp. 332-333.