The Final Struggles: September 1864 to April 1865

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

What was the thickest, or most dense, part of Lincoln’s second inaugural address?

In his third paragraph, Lincoln turned to the matter of slavery. He did so in the most deft of ways, speaking of it in the third person, and not casting blame. Some abolitionists in the crowd doubtless were disappointed by the calm way in which Lincoln approached the subject: “These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war.”

Even at this late date, four years into the war, there were still plenty of Southerners who would choose to disagree with Lincoln’s second sentence. To them, the war had always been about the right of the states to determine their own future. But to Lincoln’s overwhelmingly Northern audience, the wording was just right. He did not blame the slaveholders for what had taken place: he merely observed that slavery itself was the root cause of the war.


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