Tuesday, June 24, 2014

President Lincoln's First Inaugural Address

My favorite speech in American History is President Lincoln's First Inaugural Address. The country was divided, citizens could feel war, and the South had already left the Union.  After John Brown's failed attempt at a slave revolt in Harper's Ferry, the South said if the country elects a Republican in the Election of 1860 they were leaving the Union.  The South truly thought a Republican president would get rid of slavery.  On the eve of the Civil War slavery was worth $1.2 Billion.  The South had to protect their investment.
From 1800 to this moment the South threatened this anytime they were upset, but there was always a compromise to cool them down.  Usually Henry Clay wrote the compromises, and got the nickname "The Great Compromiser." 
South Carolina was true to their word.  The next day after Lincoln won the election, South Carolina held a state convention to vote on leaving the Union.  Now Lincoln was not President yet.  Buchanan was President, and when they came to tell him that Southern States began leaving the union.  His response was, "It is not my problem - it is Lincoln's problem."   It was December 1860, and Lincoln was not coming till March 1861.  Buchanan just sat back, and let it happen.  That would not happen today!  I truly believe the United States government would fight tooth and nail to keep a state!
So on March 4, 1861 Lincoln was sworn in as President.  I cannot imagine walking into that.  Lincoln is my favorite President in a big part due to how he handled the Civil War.  He was the right man for the job.  So for his address to the nation he talked directly to the South, and it was brilliant.  When I teach in US History class, I have that class read the whole speech.  What he says to the South is so good!  President Lincoln's argument is very convincing.  Here are a few highlights:
1.  He consistently refers to them as countryman.  Throughout the war he never changes his perception of them.  They were not treasonous, but disgruntled countryman.
2. He directly mentions war, but assures them that if war happens - it will be because of their actions.  He tells them that the North has no intention to invade the South.
3. My favorite analogy he gives is he compares the Southern states that left to divorce.  He said when two people get divorced they can move far away from each other.  But if the North and South separate they cannot move away from each other.  They would always be next to each other.
4. President Lincoln addresses the South's defense to leave.  They used the Social Contract theory as a reason why they had the right to break away.  President Lincoln said he agreed, but for it to work every one has to break away and start over.
I have read this at least 7 times, and I love it!  Here is the text to the speech.  Please Read!

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