Abraham Lincoln.

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bereaved of the war.

"November 21, 1864.

"Dear Madam, — I have been shown in the files of the War
Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts,
that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on
the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any
words of mine Avhich should attempt to beguile you from a loss
so overwhelming. But I can not refrain from tendering to you
the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic .
they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage


the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished
memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be
yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the Altar of Freedom,


Makch 4, 1865.

"Fellow-Countrymen: At this second appearing to take the
oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an ex-
tended 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

"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 in-
terest. 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 enlararement of it.


"Neither party exj)ected for the Avar the magnitude or tlie
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 oflFenses! 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 con-
tinued 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 dis-
cern 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 bondman's two hundred and fifty years
of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn
by 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
judgments 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 1
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."






Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln → online text (page 2 of 2)