Abraham Lincoln's Speeches
Read the excerpts of Lincoln's speeches and answer the questions on your own paper using complete sentences.
House Divided Speech
Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858
Abraham Lincoln's House Divided speech was delivered on June 16, 1858 in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln had been selected to run for the U.S. Senate from Illinois against Stephen Douglas. The speech was delivered to the Republican convention.
‘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.
Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new – North as well as South
1. What do you think Lincoln means by "a house divided against itself cannot stand"?
2. What is Lincoln saying has to happen with the issue of slavery?
First Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln
Monday, March 4, 1861
The following excerpt comes from Lincoln's First Inaugural Address. All presidents give an inaugural address to explain to the American people what their goals are.
"In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.... 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.' " I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
3. Who are the "dissatisfied fellow-countryman" that Lincoln is speaking to?
4. What does Lincoln say his fellow countrymen are trying to do? What is he trying to do?
5. What is Lincoln talking about when he says "mystic chords of memory"?
Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address (1865)
President Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address before the end of the Civil War. In it, he speaks about the causes of the war and how to bring peace to the country.
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war... 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 bondsman'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."
6. What fraction of the country was slave and where did most of them live?
7. What does Lincoln say the cause of the war was?
8. What does Lincoln pray for?
9. Who is Lincoln referring to when he says "bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil?"
With malice (ill will; the intention or desire to do evil) 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.
10. What "work we are in" do you think Lincoln is referring to?
11. Why does the nation have wounds?
The Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863)
"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free;"
12. What does the Emancipation Proclamation do?
"and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom."
13. Who are "such persons?"
14. What does the government promise they will do?
"And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons."
15. So, were any slaves actually freed? Explain why or why not.
Read the four quotes below and write a paragraph on what you think Lincoln really felt about slavery. Site evidence from the quotes that explains your opinion.
"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." Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861
"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause." -- August 22, 1862 - Letter to Horace Greeley
"Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VIII, "Speech to One Hundred Fortieth Indiana Regiment" (March 17, 1865), p. 361.
"I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel. And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling." -- From the April 4, 1864 Letter to Albert Hodges