President Lincoln Speaks

Monday, March 4, 1861. President Abraham Lincoln makes his First Inaugural Address

With civil war on the horizon, Lincoln addresses a divided nation. He tries to reassure the population and invokes the wisdom of the Almighty in the determination of whether the North or the South will prevail. He speaks of the rights of the states and of the people to hold the federal government in check, assuring the people that, in the brief period of four years, little significant damage can be done.

President Lincoln said:

“By the frame of the Government under which we live this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief, and have with equal wisdom provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance no Administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years.”

Perhaps politics moved much more slowly then. Maybe, lacking the influence of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, the people made wiser, more measured decisions. Regardless, I only hope that Lincoln’s words hold promise for today. That the Almighty will, in the end, decide the issues that divide us, and that the control of the government will remain, as it must, with the people.