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Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (1865)

When President Abraham Lincoln gave his second inaugural address, it was clear that the Confederacy was going to fall. In this speech, Lincoln identified slavery as the cause of the Civil War. He described the War as God’s punishment to a people—both Northerners and Southerners alike—who would “wring their bread from other men’s faces.”

Lincoln, whose goal it had always been to unify the country, sought to heal the nation’s wounds and encourage perseverance and moderation. “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.”

Lincoln was assassinated one month after giving this speech. Many historians argue that the Reconstruction period would have been more successful had Lincoln lived beyond the end of the war.