One hundred fifty years ago today, March 4th, 1865. It is a speech that could NEVER be given today, because of the President’s reference to faith, and to God, and the Bible, and scripture. However, it remains one of the most moving and eloquent speeches ever given by an American, astounding in its sentiment, given in the middle of a war that had already claimed two-thirds of a million souls, with no end yet in sight. It is part of American scripture.
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 offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences 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 offence 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 bond-man’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”
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.
Thirty-five days later, the American Civil War would end, at Appomattox Court House. Forty days after his speech, Abraham Lincoln lay dying of a bullet in his skull. After a century and a half, some of those wounds have still not fully healed. And some of the descendants of those whom Lincoln sought to emancipate have re-established racial divisions, to the detriment of our nation and its people. Yet, we do remain One Nation, under God, despite the efforts of the secular progressives on the far-left to render us otherwise.