Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

March 4, 1865

In his 701-word Second Inaugural Address, President Lincoln reflected on the causes and purpose of the war. Lincoln asserted that the “scourge of war” could be understood as divine punishment for the long national sin of slavery, in which both North and South had been complicit. “Both parties deprecated war,” Lincoln said, “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.” He urged Americans to “bind up the nations wounds” but not before reaffirming that the war was now not just over disunity but over slavery itself, promising that “every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.”

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