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By George Clack

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First Inaugural Address (1861) March 4, 1861, dawned windy and cool. S. Capitol, hoping for places from which they could hear Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address. No president had ever been inaugurated in such turbulent times. Lincoln’s election had raised the all too real possibility of southern secession from the Union. Rumors of threats to Lincoln’s life were racing through the capital city. In his inaugural address Lincoln sought to balance conciliation with strength. After speaking for nearly 30 minutes, the president reached his concluding paragraph.

Grant not excepted. From the start, Lincoln recognized the value of the North’s overwhelming naval power, and he employed it relentlessly to choke the Confederacy, closing southern ports to prevent the export of its only commodity of international value — cotton — and to prevent the import of badly needed arms and other war supplies from Europe. He also understood the importance of seizing the Mississippi River to cut the South in half, as well as the need to maintain pressure on the whole strategic line of the Confederacy, something his generals proved singularly incapable of doing until General Grant assumed the role of general-in-chief in February 1864.

A comparison illustrates how Lincoln transformed Seward’s words into his own remarkable prose poetry. t4FXBSEI close. Lincoln: I am loath to close. t4FXBSEWe are not, we must not be, aliens or enemies, but fellow countrymen and brethren. Lincoln: We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. 54 ˆ ABRAHAM LINCOLN: A LEGACY OF FREEDOM t4FXBSEAlthough passion has strained our bonds of affection too hardly, they must not, I am sure they will not, be broken. Lincoln: Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

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Abraham Lincoln: A Legacy of Freedom by George Clack


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