I was recently interviewed by  of the Washington Post in connection with an article on presidential inaugurations. While many second inaugurations are less emotionally charged than the first, I observed that the exception is President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural:


For many presidential inaugurations, the second time is not the charm

By Published: January 15

…As any historian or schoolchild or Daniel Day-Lewis fan could tell you, the time of Lincoln’s second inauguration was emotionally charged and politically fraught. Lincoln read the mood beautifully.

“His first inaugural was a long, rational address, directed to the Southern states,” who feared what the election of a Republican president meant to them, says Ron White, a historian and author of “A. Lincoln.” “I mean, it’s fine. But it’s not great.”

Lincoln used words like “compliance.” He talked about “conclusive evidence.” He “reiterated” things. He sounded exactly like the lawyer he was.

His second inaugural address was just 701 words, of which 505 were one syllable. “Usually, second inaugurals tend to be longer — everything from fixing the economy to climate change,” White says. “And they’re also much heavier with one word: I.” Lincoln used the personal pronoun only twice. “One of the triumphs of the Union was that an election could still take place in the middle of the war,” says White. “This was special.”

Now whenever a Lincoln inaugural line is quoted, there’s a better than good chance that it came from the second one, embodying the integrity that the nation so often goes looking for, so infinitely craves: “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.”

Please click (here) to read the rest of the article at the Washington Post website.

Abraham Lincoln’s Sermon on the Mount: The Second Inaugural

Below is a speech on gave recently at the Chautauqua Institution on Lincoln’s Second Inaugural: 


Recent Posts