Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Quick Thought on Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Lincoln's Second Inaugural is perhaps one of his most compelling speeches. In the end - it is a reconciliationist know the part - "with malice toward none..."

But as with many Unionists toward the end and after the Civil War (which, at the point of the speech, looked to be winding down in favor of the United States), Lincoln spoke of reconciliation with the understanding that one side had been terribly wrong.

Slavery, he suggested, "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."

And thus my quick thought: Lincoln, like the millions in the loyal states who would discuss and debate the war in the decades to come, embraced reconciliation without dismissing the war's issues - and veterans of the Union cause would perpetuate this theme...essentially enshrining it in their commemorative efforts for decades. This is a point that many have obscured today...reducing reconciliationist themes to the most benign. I believe that the story of reconciliation is incomplete - or at the very least - could stand a little revision. Stay tuned. I am working on it.




  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Keith Harris, Keith Harris. Keith Harris said: A Quick Thought on Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address [...]

  2. It's not just obscured today. I just read "Creating a Confederate Kentucky" and am reading "My Old Confederate Home" and both of these deal at least partially with themes invollving reconciliation, showing how former Union supporters or veterans in Kentucky willingly co-operated with former Confederates and seemed to "forgive and forget" the war and its causes. The state actually provided funding in the early 1900s for several Confederate monuments and passed at least one law in part due to pressure from the United Daughters of the Confederacy regarding the portrayal of slavery.

    I suppose this atmosphere was unique to Kentucky due to various factors, but these books have really opened my eyes to how the "Kentucky joined the Confederacy after the Civil War" line was created and how it may, in fact, be quite accurate.

  3. Thanks for the comment, Richard - yes...there were all kinds of reconciliationist gestures all across the reunited USA. But after about ten years of working against the reconciliation consensus among historians, my evidence proves to me without a doubt that there was much more to reconciliation than forgetting the issues of the war. Stay tuned....I'll have more on that later :)

  4. Great. Reconciliation and "memory" of the war are 2 subjects I've never read much about until I found a few blogs this summer. I look forward to more updates