Question of the Week: 3/25-3/31/19

Last week’s anniversary of Stephen’s Cornerstone Speech sparked conversation on the blog.

So let’s continue talking about speeches – in your opinion, what is the best Antebellum or Civil War speech focused on war causes and/or outcomes?

5 Responses to Question of the Week: 3/25-3/31/19

  1. Gosh, are there any NOT delivered by Lincoln? But that said, I will go with LINCOLN’S “House Divided” speech.

  2. His second inaugural address, where he strongly implies that the Civil War is God’s judgment on both the South and North for the sin of slavery is my favorite.

    “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 bonds-man’s 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as was said 3,000 years go, so still it must be said ‘ the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous together.”

    Just a tad better than Alexander Stephens’ racist rant, in my humble opinion.

  3. I’m using the term “speech” to include the State of the Union, which in Lincoln’s time was submitted in writing. I’ve always liked his December 1864 expression of firm commitment, both to finishing the War and to Emancipation, as the War was plainly winding to a close but still not ended:

    “A year ago general pardon and amnesty, upon specified terms, were offered to all except certain designated classes, and it was at the same time made known that the excepted classes were still within contemplation of special clemency. During the year many availed themselves of the general provision, and many more would, only that the signs of bad faith in some led to such precautionary measures as rendered the practical process less easy and certain. During the same time also special pardons have been granted to individuals of the excepted classes, and no voluntary application has been denied. Thus practically the door has been for a full year open to all except such as were not in condition to make free choice; that is, such as were in custody or under constraint. It is still so open to all. But the time may come, probably will come, when public duty shall demand that it be closed and that in lieu more rigorous measures than heretofore shall be adopted. In presenting the abandonment of armed resistance to the national authority on the part of the insurgents as the only indispensable condition to ending the war on the part of the Government, I retract nothing heretofore said as to slavery. I repeat the declaration made a year a ago, that “while I remain in my present position I shall not attempt to retract or modify the emancipation proclamation, nor shall I return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation or by any of the acts of Congress.” If the people should, by whatever mode or means, make it an Executive duty to reenslave such persons, another, and not I, must be their instrument to perform it. In stating a single condition of peace I mean simply to say that the war will cease on the part of the Government whenever it shall have ceased on the part of those who began it.”

  4. On the morning of 19 May 1856 Charles Sumner, Senator from Massachusetts, addressed a packed Senate Chamber. His speech, “The Crimes Against Kansas,” contains many incendiary lines, including: “But the wickedness which I now begin to expose is immeasurably aggravated by the motive which prompted it. Not in any common lust for power did this uncommon tragedy have its origin. It is the rape of a virgin Territory, compelling it to the hateful embrace of Slavery…”
    One Member of the House of Representatives, Preston Brooks of South Carolina, became so enraged by elements of Sumner’s Speech that he crept up behind Senator Sumner a few days later and beat the man senseless with a cane.

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