Abraham Lincoln (1809–65), who presided over the successful prosecution of the Civil War, also gave deep thought to the war’s cause, meaning, and purpose, and also to what would be required to heal the nation after the war was over. In the Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863), Lincoln had summoned Americans to rededicate themselves to the cause of freedom and equality. Here, in his Second Inaugural Address (March 4, 1865), invoking theological speculation and quoting Scripture, Lincoln offers an interpretation of the meaning of the war and summons all Americans to a new and more difficult public purpose.
“On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil-war. All dreaded it—all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.”
Dr. Harry Ballan
The Tikvah Fund
Dr. Harry Ballan is Senior Director of the Tikvah Fund and Founding Dean of both the Tikvah Online Academy and the Abraham Lincoln Teachers Fellowship. Dr. Ballan holds a BA, MA, MPhil, and PhD from Yale University and a JD from Columbia Law School.. He clerked for Chief Judge Wilfred Feinberg of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and was for many years a Partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, a leading international law firm where he is currently Senior Counsel. He has taught at several leading universities on subjects ranging from law and intellectual history to neuroscience, and was Dean of Touro Law School before joining Tikvah.