Tag Archives: inauguration

The historical keynote of the war

Charles Francis Adams was one of many Americans who stood in front of the Capitol 150 years ago to hear Lincoln deliver his second inaugural address.  “That railsplitting lawyer is one of the wonders of the day,” Adams wrote a few days later.  “Once at Gettysburg and now again on a greater occasion he has shown a capacity for rising to the demands of the hour.”  He believed the speech would be “for all time the historical keynote of this war.”

Lincoln himself expected his speech to “wear as well as —perhaps better than—any thing I have produced,” even though it was “not immediately popular.”

Here are a few links to help you commemorate the sesquicentennial of what historian Ronald C. White has called Lincoln’s greatest speech:

Library of Congress

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Commemorating Lincoln’s second inaugural in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Capitol will host a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s second inaugural on March 4.  Stephen Lang will deliver the same speech Lincoln wrote for his 1865 swearing-in, and the event will also feature remarks from Congressman Ray LaHood, historian Edna Greene Medford, and prominent Lincoln authority Frank J. Williams.

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Obama will use Lincoln’s inaugural Bible again

Barack Obama will use two historic Bibles during his second inauguration this month.  One of them is the Bible used during Lincoln’s first swearing-in, and is the same volume on which Obama took his first presidential oath.  The other belonged to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lincoln’s first inaugural Bible was an edition that was widely available at the time, provided by a clerk of the Supreme Court.  The widow of Lincoln’s son Robert gave the book to the Library of Congress in 1928.

Ironically, the man who administered the oath to Lincoln in 1861 was Roger Taney, who issued the controversial Dred Scott decision and challenged Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus.

Photo by Michaela McNichol (Library of Congress)

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