Analysis of Lincoln's First Inaugural Address

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Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address
When Abraham Lincoln won the presidency in 1860 the Union was divided. He accepted his presidential duties knowing that he was working with a nation that no longer remained united. Seven of the southern states had already seceded from the Union and were beginning to refer to themselves as the Confederates. What he had now were free states and slave states. When Lincoln gave his Inaugural Address he attempted to do so in a way that would not dissuade his chances of gaining support in the southern states, especially when it involved the institution of slavery. However, he also made it clear in his address that he believed a secure and united nation was of utmost importance and he rejected the ideas of secession and minority rule, and he did not endorse the separation of his nation.

Abraham Lincoln was elected without the support of a single southern state. The states in the south were fearful that Lincoln, who openly discouraged slavery, would establish anti-slavery laws and equality for all citizens, including blacks. However, in his address Lincoln did the opposite. Lincoln knew the southern states were apprehensive of him being the man in charge and assumed their rights may be endangered and he wanted to ease their mind. He let those in the South know that he had no purpose to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states it currently exists, and that he had no lawful right to do so (669). Lincoln had said this repeatedly in many speeches he made before this address, and he never intended to change his position on this. He believed each state had the right to control their domestic affairs, and the federal government will do its best not to interfere with state sovereignty. That balance of power is what makes the political system in the United States so successful and Lincoln really attempts to respect that. Lincoln then addresses the controversy about the delivering up of slaves after they have escaped. He refers directly to a passage in the Constitution that says any person who is held to a service or labor in one State and escapes to another cannot by law by pardoned from said job, but must be returned to whoever the service or labor is due (670). Lincoln does question if this was only put in the Constitution by those who hoped to reclaim fugitive slaves who have escaped, but he does acknowledge the fact that because it is in the Constitution himself and members of Congress support it. Although it is not clear who will enforce this policy, the national or State authorities, Lincoln suggests that it is in all States best interest to abide by the laws in the Constitution that have yet to be repealed. Although Lincoln was very tolerant of the institution of slavery in the Southern States even though he did not fully support it, he did not stand for a nation divided. As the southern states continued to remove themselves from the Union, Lincoln feared they were attempting to disrupt the order of things in the nation. The Union of States is considered to be perpetual. It is the fundamental law of all national governments; no government would allow provisions in its constitution that would allow for it to be terminated. He states that since the beginning of the Union there has been progression only towards strengthening the Union and the establishment of the Constitution was to “form a more perfect Union” (671). As States continue to secede the nation is becoming less perfect because the vital element of perpetuity is lost. States are legally bound to remain a part of the Union, and those who attempt to work against the national authority are insurrectionary (671). As the president of the United States Lincoln believes he has an important duty in taking whatever means necessary to keep the Union in place. He makes it very clear though, that in his attempt to defend and maintain the Union he plans to do so without bloodshed or the use of violence unless he is forced to...
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