150 Years Ago Today: Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1989

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Weeks of wet weather preceding Lincoln’s second inauguration had caused Pennsylvania Avenue to become a sea of mud and standing water. Thousands of spectators stood in thick mud at the Capitol grounds to hear the President. As he stood on the East Portico to take the executive oath, the completed Capitol dome over the President’s head was a physical reminder of the resolve of his Administration throughout the years of civil war. Chief Justice Salmon Chase administered the oath of office. In little more than a month, the President would be assassinated.

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 lincolndeclarations 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, insurgent 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.”  Read the rest of this entry »


Why the Millennials are Doing So Poorly

For mindingthecampus.com, Mark Bauerlein writes: The thesis of my 2008 book, “The Dumbest Generation”, was that digital tools and media have become so prominent in teens’ and 20-somethings’ thoughts and acts that their intellectual and civic capacities are bound to deteriorate.  While devices and social networks allow the possibility of dunce-thumb-200x312-994intellectual and civic engagement, I argued, they mean something else entirely for the young, in a word, contact with one another, anywhere and anytime.  Because of the anti-intellectual nature of peer pressure, the more they communicate with one another, the less they acquire historical knowledge and cultural literacy (of the non-youth culture kind), both of which are essential to responsible citizenship.

[Order Mark Bauerlein’s book “The Dumbest Generation” from Amazon.com]

Moreover, I said, the lessons in school that might counteract digital youth culture were happening less and less.  In colleges, for instance, U.S. history general 51SvoCcfxiL._SL110_education requirements have given way to some version of a “History, Society, Culture” umbrella which covers copious identity and diversity offerings, in part because my colleagues have lost faith in American greatness and feel that it would be chauvinistic and authoritarian to impose a core tradition of events, figures, texts, and values upon the rising generation.  In high school, too, instruction in the Puritans, the Founding and Founders, natural rights, World War II, the Cold War, and other accomplishments of the nation has diminished, and when they are taught, the manner of presentation is often skeptical and critical, highlighting the sins and victims of the past.  Students leave school feeling little pride in their country.  The Gettysburg Address is just a syllabus assignment, that’s all.  Youths complete their homework as quickly as possible, then get back to reading and writing the 3,500 text messages they rack up each month.

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Gettywho? Some Students Don’t Know About The Gettysburg Address

Tuesday was the 150th Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The Civil War era speech is held up as one of the most important pieces of oratory ever written and cemented the legacy of Abraham Lincoln as one of our greatest Presidents.It used to be that every child learned about the Address in elementary school. Apparently, that’s changed. Because when Dan Joseph went to a college campus to find out what students knew about the speech, he realized that it wasn’t as widely celebrated among younger Americans as it used to be.

MediaResearchCenter – YouTube


Gettysburg: Where’s President Obama?

Gettysburg: Where's President Obama?

Because this no-show is so atypical–and contrary to my uniformly negative view of  Obama’s presidency–I’m tempted to give him the benefit of the doubt, and imagine there’s a good reason he’s not giving a speech in Gettysburg today.

Why? Because this is an example of what he’s good at. Giving speeches. Obama may be a failure at governing and managing, but his strength as an orator is legendary, it’s a potential safe zone to return to. Linking himself with history and destiny is his natural habit of rhetorical stagecraft.

I’d think he’d welcome an opportunity to change the subject. If anyone one needs a chance to change the conversation, it’s Obama. He could remind people of how special he is, why his presidency is important. What’s behind the decision not to appear in Gettysburg today?

Update: Ed Morrissey covers this in some detail at Hot Air:

WH adviser: Obama too busy for 150th anniversary of Gettysburg because of ObamaCare, or something

 This gem comes from Dan Pfeiffer, Senior Advisor to the President for Strategy and Communications, who most recently compared Republicans to suicide bombers for trying to derail ObamaCare through the budget process. Suddenly, though, the ObamaCare debacle seems to be a lot more critical than Pfeiffer admitted in September.  Today, National Journal’s George Condon openly wondered what was so important on Barack Obama’s schedule that precluded him from attending the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address:

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5 things to know about the Gettysburg Address

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So where was Lincoln, exactly?

Where in Gettysburg, exactly, did Lincoln actually deliver his Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, 1863? A prominent, 1912 monument to the speech by the entrance of the town’s National Cemetery leads casual observers to believe it happened there. But look closely: A nearby, vintage plaque says the speech occurred 300 yards away on the spot of another cemetery monument (to fallen soldiers). Except . . . that’s not right, either, modern research has found. The true spot, according to research backed by the National Park Service, lies along the crest of a hill just outside the gates of the cemetery, on the grounds of an older, private cemetery.

Lincoln wasn’t the keynote speaker

The dignitary who spoke before Lincoln, Edward Everett, delivered what was scheduled as the main speech of the day. The former Massachusetts governor and onetime Secretary of State took two hours navigating its 13,607 words.

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The speech was really, really short

Lincoln’s speech, a mere 271 words if you use the version that’s attributed to Lincoln, took only two minutes. The New York Times reported of the Gettysburg Address: “It was delivered (or rather read from a sheet of paper which the speaker held in his hand) in a very deliberate manner, with strong emphasis, and with a most business-like air.”

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Government: ‘We Know What’s Good for You. We Just Don’t Know How To Do It’

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This morning on ABC News ‘This Week’, panelist Gwen Ifill summarizes Obama’s Press Conference admission thusly: ‘We Know What’s Good for You. We Just Don’t Know How To Do It’. I laughed out loud. It was an unexpectedly insightful indictment.

Gwen nailed the reality of of modern Big-Government incompetence. The doomed vision of liberal-progressive do-gooder-expert government solutions couldn’t have been crystalized better.

The multiple face-kicks and tabloid-style analysis of the president “falling on his sword’ at last week’s press conference made the Nov. 16th edition of  ‘This Week’ unusually rich viewing.

I don’t have the video and the transcript isn’t up yet, but if you get a chance to see the next airing of ‘This Week’: Presidency in Crisis – ABC News, it’s time well spent. Also featured is a memorable segment about the Gettysburg address, with Ken Burns, and an interview with Governor Scott Walker.