Second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln

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Second presidential inauguration of Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln taking the oath at his second inauguration.jpg
Lincoln taking the oath at his second inauguration. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase administering oath of office.
Date March 4, 1865; 157 years ago (1865-03-04)
Location Washington, D.C.
the Capitol's east front
Participants Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson

The second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as the 16th President of the United States took place on March 4, 1865. The inauguration marked the commencement of the second term of Abraham Lincoln as President and only term of Andrew Johnson as Vice President. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase administered the Oath of office.[1]

Vice Presidential oath and inaugural address

Before the president was sworn in, Vice President-elect Andrew Johnson took his oath. At the ceremony Johnson, who had been drinking to offset the pain of typhoid fever (as he explained later), gave a rambling address in the Senate chamber and appeared obviously intoxicated.[2] Historian Eric Foner has labeled the inauguration "a disaster for Johnson" and his speech "an unfortunate prelude to Lincoln's memorable second inaugural address." At the time Johnson was ridiculed in the press as a "drunken clown".[3]


This was the first inauguration to be extensively photographed, and the pictures have since become iconic. One is widely thought to show John Wilkes Booth, who would later assassinate Lincoln.

Inaugural address

While Lincoln did not believe his address was particularly well received at the time, it is now generally considered one of the finest speeches in American history. Historian Mark Noll has deemed it "among the handful of semisacred texts by which Americans conceive their place in the world."[4]


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 could 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 ventured.

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 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. 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 judgements 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 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.[5]

See also



  1. "Inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln, 1865". Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Retrieved 27 January 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Trefousse p. 198
  3. Brinkley, Alan (2004). The American Presidency. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin. p. 191. ISBN 0-618-38273-9. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Noll, Mark (2002). America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 426. ISBN 0-19-515111-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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