The Final Struggles: September 1864 to April 1865

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

Why did Lincoln, who had once been such a skeptic, invoke God so many times in his second inaugural address?

Let us count the ways he did it: “Both read the same Bible, and prayed to the same God.” “It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance.…” “If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God.…” “Yet, if God wills that it continue.…” This was a very different Lincoln from the one who delivered the first inaugural address in 1861.

Those who trace Lincoln’s religious or spiritual development are often convinced that he was a profound skeptic in youth and still something of a doubter in middle age. Sometime before he became president, however, Lincoln went through a long self-examination, and with the help of a Springfield, Illinois, pastor, he became a self-professed Christian. Even then, it must be admitted that his Christianity was not of a linear or conventional type. Four years in the White House had changed Lincoln in many ways, however, and if it was true what he said to the crowd in Springfield as he departed (see page 62), it was much more true in 1865.


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