Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inauguration, March 4th 1864

A huge crowd surrounds Abraham Lincoln outside of the US Capitol building. March 1864
Abraham Lincoln (center) delivering his second inaugural address at the East Portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., marking the start to his second term as President of the United States. 4 March 1865. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Black and white is perhaps more of an apt style for this photograph than any other in history. This image depicts a triumphant Abraham Lincoln delivering his 2nd inauguration speech, following his re-election as president of the United States of America in 1865 whereby he formally tried to end slavery. Lasting a mere 6/7 minutes, this speech has gone down as one of the most influential in American politics because of its huge impact on the civil rights movement in America.

It would be 41 days before his eventual assassination, days before Civil War victory and slavery at its very end, that this speech took place. Washington D.C was sodden due to weeks of rain in the lead up to this speech, yet Pennsylvania Avenue remained crowded throughout as the new President took up his second term. Lincoln would successfully retain this title through his perseverance and ultimate victory in the civil war against the Confederacy spearheaded by Jefferson Davis. The speech delivered here remains a central exhibition inscribed on the wall at the Lincoln Memorial due to its important words which aired out an anti-slavery stance and blueprinted Lincolns plan for healing this completely divided nation.

Abraham Lincoln in a suit with paper in his hand delivering his second inaugural speech.
Zoomed in photograph showing President Abraham Lincoln delivering his second inaugural address. 4 March 1865. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The speech itself was delivered in what many saw as a pragmatic manner, appeasing many who he fought during the civil war to avoid any bias about this reconstruction. He would address the fact that all sides had pursued evil at some point and failed to punish the Southern Confederacy, but he made no mistake in recognising the deplorability of slavery in America. Lincoln finished the speech with a momentous ending, exclaiming:

“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”.

It is with these words that this speech holds such a place in history due to its real foresight and innovative notion. Utilising biblical connotations, this speech provided a perfect end to the civil war and a huge step in this broken country becoming ‘the land of the free’.

Known to be one of the most famous and influential speeches in history, it would accompany Lincoln long past his assassination. It took a month into this new America paved by his second term in power before Lincoln was assassinated by a staunch Confederate supporter in a theatre, dying via a gunshot blow to the head.


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