I thought I would post part of one of the most important speeches given in American history.
Given the tearing down of Confederate statues and Iconoclasm of American history I wanted to turn to the the words of Abraham Lincoln at his second inaugural address.
To put this speech in perspective. The Civil War would end within a few weeks of this speech. The Confederacy had effectively been defeated. The 13th Amendment had been just been passed by Congress. America needed to be healed after four terrible years of war.
Lincoln was known for his rather short speeches. His second inaugural address was no different, it started out with him saying so.
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.
Lincoln then addresses the war and slavery in two paragraphs. He ends with these words.
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.
Lets look at the first part of his closing one more time.
With malice toward none, with charity for all.
He then goes on to say.
[L]et 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 orphans.
Lincoln could have very much celebrated the victory of the Union. He could have chastised the Confederacy, and rubbed their noses in their imminent defeat. He could have been vainglorious in saving the ship of state.
But he didn’t. His speech was modest. He knew that the defeated Confederates would soon enough be his countrymen again and he wanted to end the war with no hard feelings. Only “malice toward none” and “charity for all” would bring lasting peace and not fuel the fires of resentment.
What we are seeing today is the antithesis of Lincoln’s desires. The quote of the zeitgeist might as well be “with malice toward all, with charity for none.”
How sad it is that when we fail to teach the facts of history we forget the lessons of it.