Friday, March 4, 2011

Lincoln's Inauguration

The Inauguration
On March 4th Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated President of the divided United States. He rode with the outgoing president to the Capital, and right before his swearing in, Lincoln gave the customary inaugural address. In that speech he gave his views on the issues that were stirring the country and stated what policies he intended to follow.


He began by saying that the South had no reason to secede because he never intended to interfere with slavery. He quoted a speech in which he said,
I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.
While it was true that he did say that he would not fight slavery, Lincoln could not always be trusted. Even though he is know as "Honest Abe", at times he said contradictory things. Just a few months before he said,
‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.
We can not know for certain which he intended to do, but the South certainly had good reason to believe that he would attempt to interfere with slavery.


Lincoln continued by stating his argument as to why the South had no right to attempt to leave the Union. He said that the Union was intended to be perpetual and therefore there was no way to leave it. However, this perpetuity was only implied and was nowhere stated expressly. The South would reply that the Union can end if the compact and covenant of the Constitution is broken by some parties or the states believe that it would be more beneficial for them to be independent.

Future Plans

The new President said that he would enforce the laws of the United States in the Southern seceded states, and hoped that bloodshed would not result. He opposed the proposed Constitutional Amendments regarding slavery, and had already stopped some of them. While he did not state it, he knew that the South would likely resist his actions. He wanted them to fire the first shot so the blame would fall on them. As his speech drew to a close, he said,
In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend it.’

The South

On the same day, hundreds of miles away in Montgomery, Alabama, the new Confederacy adopted the "Stars and Bars" as its new flag. They largely ignored his speech. The Confederate States had chosen their course and were prepared to defend it.

"Stars and Bars" first flag of the Confederacy


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