With malice toward none….

March 3, 2015 at 2:18 pm (History)

MaliceCharity

Wednesday March 4, tomorrow, is the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. My  brother Richard,  holder of a PhD in American history, has called to remind me.

I am fortunate to live near the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. This museum occupies shared premises with the American Art Museum in the Old Patent Office Building, itself a majestic edifice with a fascinating past. (In this slide show, Temple of Invention brings that past to life.)

Located on the first floor of the Portrait Gallery, The American Origins Exhibition is a repository of art and history that is rich with meaning for all of us.

It is even more meaningful, and deeply moving as well,  to walk the length of the Great Hall, site of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Ball.

GreatHall Patent Office

It takes no great feat of imagination to conjure the crowd of well wishers and celebrants, to hear the animated conversation and the music – and to inhale the aromas emanating from the banquet table.

Inuguralmenu

(Click here for more on the Inaugural Banquet.)

The appearance of the Great Hall today is not exactly the same as it was for the occasion of Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball. In 1877, The Old Patent Office was severely damaged by fire; what we  currently see is the refurbished version of the Great Hall.

In 2000, the entire building was closed for renovation. By 2007, all galleries and other public spaces were reopened.

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Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

March 4, 1865

Fellow-Countrymen:

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, urgent 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 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 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.

Source: Library of Congress

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President Lincoln was felled by an assassin’s bullet on April 14, 1865.

365px-Abraham_Lincoln_head_on_shoulders_photo_portrait

1 Comment

  1. Carol said,

    I remember enjoying a visit to the National Portrait Gallery shortly after it reopened. My daughter Lia and I would ” play tourist” in DC for a week every summer and visited lots of interesting places.

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