Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

Last week’s blog (https://cskjar.com/2019/03/thoughts-on-representation/) mentioned President Lincoln’s second inaugural address given on March 4, 1865. At that time, the Civil War was nearing its end. General Sherman had taken Atlanta and retaken most of South Carolina. General Grant was closing in on Richmond, the Confederate capital. Lincoln could have used his inaugural speech to crow about his army’s victories. He could have congratulated himself for saving the Union. He could have declared victory over his enemies. Being an humble man, all he said was, “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.”

The art of compromise was also lost before and during his tenure as president. Also from his second inaugural: “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.” Lincoln stated the conditions in Washington before the war. Sound familiar? Both parties wanting their way without giving in? Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

Lincoln clearly stated that the slavery issue was the reason for the Civil War. He quoted Bible verses in his speech, talking about how offenses would come into the world. He saw God’s hand in the war as a way to remove the offense of slavery from the nation. “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.” He didn’t point fingers or condemn. He recognized the common beliefs of both the North and South.

I admire Lincoln’s leadership style. He didn’t call people names or gloat over his own successes. He reached out to draw people together. He encouraged compassion, even for those who fought against him. He loved his enemies and prayed for those who cursed him, just as Jesus said to do. After listening to increasingly egotistical rhetoric from Washington, it’s refreshing to read about a man who placed more credence on wisdom than being right and above error.

In the audience that cold day in March 1865, was John Wilkes Boothe. He had a seat in the balcony above the podium where Lincoln gave his speech. He later remarked to an actor friend that he had the opportunity to kill the president that day. He was already plotting to kidnap Lincoln and exchange him for Confederate prisoners.

On April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered to Grand at Appomattox in Virginia. The war was over. Five days later, Boothe killed Lincoln while he enjoyed a play. Our nation lost one of its greatest leaders at the hand of a lunatic who thought he was going everyone a great favor. He expected others to rise up and follow him, but none did. Boothe became the traitor and Lincoln became one of our most revered leaders.

Our current president is no Lincoln. He’s the antithesis of the humble, but very wise Lincoln. A lot of people want to take our president out, thinking they would be doing the rest of us a big favor. In their minds, others would follow them and praise them for their so-called victory over the president. A look back a history will show what would happen.

Quoting the Bible like Lincoln did: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God…Render therefore to all their due taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, and honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:1, 7 NKJV). It’s as simple as that.

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