Abraham Lincoln delivered many famous speeches.
Which speech or phrase from an address is your favorite? Why?
“Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward til it shall become alike lawful in all the States — old as well as new, North as well as South.”
Uttered at Alton, Illinois, the last of the Lincoln – Douglas Debates conducted during 1858. At issue were the Kansas – Nebraska problem; the ramifications of the Dred Scott decision; and “to whom was referred in the Declaration of Independence: ALL MEN… as in ‘All men are created equal.'”
Oh, and the above passage begins: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I can’t spare the man, he fights! … Lincoln outlines the tactical & strategic imperative to ultimately win the war.
I love his House Divided speech, which almost seems apropos for today. “A House divided against itself cannot stand”, which is a reference to a verse in the Bible (Mark 3:25)
“…that from these dead we take increased devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion;…”
From his Gettysburg Address
“And the War came”. Second Inaugural. Lincoln in 4 words expressed all the efforts to appease the South prior to the Civil War with no success. Then, the war came. And there they stood in March of 1865. And the War came.
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
That passage still gives me goose bumps!!
” I am loath 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 they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”……………final lines of Lincoln’s First Inaugural
How incredibly poignant and sad…..620,000 deaths later.
In Lincoln’s second inaugural address he mentions God’s retribution against the nation – North and South – because of the terrible sin of slavery. It’s not a well known line, but it’s my favorite. Lincoln implies – correctly – that the horrors of slavery were not simply a Southern sin. The North too often had aided and abetted.
“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 by 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.'”
Both the Second Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address are my personal favorites. The Second Inaugural gives me shivers each time I read it.
Only because there are quite a few, I’ll add the farewell speech at Springfield in 1861. It’s similar to that he gave at Gettysburg, because it’s short and in that brief span captures much. Vintage Lincoln. The excerpt:
“I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. “
My favorite phrase is “mighty scourge of war.” I guess that is because of the word “scourge” and how it strikes me as a perfect description of the war. “Scourge” – it just sticks in my mind more than any other of his words.
Going longer, I like his “meditation on the divine will,” and, especially, the closing to his 2nd Inaugural. Every time I read those few lines, I find myself saying “amen,” as though I was saying a prayer.
“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.”
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