19th Century US History

An Analysis of Abraham Lincolns first Inaugural Address



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Looming powerfully above a torm and shaky nation, Abraham Lincoln stood to give his inaugural speech after taking the oath and accepting the position of president in 1861. Lincoln took office seventy-two years after George Washington did, and inherited from his predecessor's a country close to erupting into one of the most gruesome and terrible of wars, fought on our very own soil. Abe Lincoln was a staunch and vocal opponent of slavery, and made it known throughout his entire career. In his first inaugural address, Lincoln made a futile attempt to assure to his fellow citizens that he did not take office solely for the purpose of abolishing it. In his address he states "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." With what ensued within weeks, this would have made 'Honest Abe' out to be far from his well known nickname.

This country was nearly ripped apart with the argument over slavery. The Civil War began when the Confederacy opened fire upon Fort Sumpter in Charleston. This was about a month and a half after Lincoln's address, where he proclaimed to the Southern States that "The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict, without yourselves the aggressors." This suggested to the hot-headed Southerners more than Lincoln admitted in his address. The States to the South were full of idea's of glory, with few aspirations to failure. Even if they had not initiated the fight, they would have still fought to the death as they ended up doing. A prime reason that he gave in the need to keep peace within the nation was that the States were of close physical proximity. A Civil War would prove to be more than destructive of everything that we then held so dear to our hearts.

After the open fire, President Lincoln called for over 75,000 troops to defend the Union, and immediately limited the trade and supplies of the Southern territories. In the speech, Lincoln made it clear that any State that succeeded from the Union would be made immediately into an enemy. His plan was genius; insult the intelligience and the pride of the Southernors so that they would be the war instigators and therefore the reason for the fall of our country. If instead Lincoln had proclaimed in his speech that he had every intention of working with his own cabinet to eventually abolish slavery, a war would still have ensued, but instead of it being the fault of the hot-headed South, it would have been his fault.

Lincoln also stated in the third paragraph of the inaugural address "Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of the Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security security are to be endangered." It seems that the Southernors had absolutely every right to know that they would be in a position to defend themselves in time. Lincoln's words suggest that he has no intention of endangering any lifestyle of any human being. This was not so, though, and seemed to be no intention of Mr. Lincoln to begin with. He went on to state, "There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension." In this it suggests that the Confederacy and the Union had known no qualms in the past, which was compeletely untrue.

The statement "The power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere." While this is an ideal thought, it did not ring true, making the President sound as if he lied. Indeed, he did lie- to a certain extent. He used his brilliance to abolish slavery, and to do so in a way where he himself would not be at any fault, yet remain a saviour.

The end of the speech, though was beautiful, and I think speaks for itself, and a bit about Lincoln's character, and so I too will close with the melodic thoughts that Abe intended for the nation to behold. "I am loathe to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely as they will be, by the better angels of our natures."

works cited;
~'Presidents; All You Need to Know', by Carter Smith.

More about this author: Shawna Blake

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