The weather was awful: it had been raining for weeks. Riding down Pennsylvania Avenue at noon to the Capitol, Lincoln’s carriage churned through a foot of mud and standing water. A crowd, waiting for hours at the east front of the Capitol, now stood sodden, deep in sludge. Above the Inaugural platform, dark clouds scudded across the horizon, but as President Lincoln stood to take the Oath of Office, the sun suddenly burst through the clouds and flooded the scene with brilliant light. Standing in front of a reading desk, the new Capitol dome high behind him, Lincoln gave his second Inaugural Address. It was short, the shortest in history: seven hundred and three words. The last paragraph is comprised of about ten per cent of them and they are, in American memory, indelible. For Caroline R. Wright, the wife of the Civil War Governor of Indiana, then visiting Washington for the Inauguration, Lincoln wrote in her autograph album the words he had so recently spoken:
With malice 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
Lincoln felt that his Second Inaugural Address was the best speech he ever made. More than any other, it reflected his deep compassion for the suffering of all involved in the scourge of war. But listening in the crowd that day, unmoved, was John Wilkes Booth, and six weeks later, he would kill the President.
Autograph Quotation Signed, as President, 1 page, octavo, being the last paragraph of his Second Inaugural Address, beginning “With malice toward none”; 1 page, octavo, no place, no date (c. March 1865). Written inside the inside cover of an album belonging to the Wright family.
Used with the permission of Shapell legacy partnership.