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THE 4th day of March, 1861, was a day of painful suspense to the entire country. It was to determine the future of the Republic to witness the inauguration of a "sectional" President, upon whose words would hang the issues of peace or war, of union or disunion. The fears entertained of violence to prevent the installation, and of danger to the President's person, served to intensify the apprehension of his friends and partisans, while the position he should assume on National affairs rendered the anxiety in the South especially acute.
At a quarter past one the President and President-elect having been ushered into the Senate Chamber-where their appearance was waited for by the Senate, House of Representatives, Foreign Ministers, Judges of the Supreme Court, &c.-the procession immediately formed and passed to the east front of the Capitol. A vast crowd was in attendance, composed of persons gathered from all sections of the country. The President-elect, stepping forward to the prominent position assigned him, delivered his Inaugural Ad
dress. His voice was loud, and very clear; his enunciation deliberate, and his manner impressive. If there was danger of assassination, he did not betray the slightest apprehension. His entire action betokened the man ready for duty. The crowd was remarkably orderly, composed as it was, in a great degree, of those who had "come to see the President safely inaugurated." Though no recognition was given, in the order of exercises, to the Republican "Wide-Awake" societies, as such, it was well understood that at least ten thousand "Wide-Awakes" were present, at the ceremony, armed ready for close conflict, should a resort to arms become necessary. A knowledge of this, together with the imposing disposition of the military, under immediate command of Generals Scott and Wool, served to render the order of the occasion exceedingly satisfactory. The President's voice reached to the outermost rim of the immense assembly, so commanding were its tones. The Address, as pronounced, and sent upon the wings of the telegraph to all parts of the country, was as follows:
UNITED STATES: "In compliance with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President before he enters on the execation of his office. I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement.
'Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration, their property, and their peace and personal security, are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed, and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that 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.' Those who nominated and elected me did so with a full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. And, more than this; they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:
"Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend, and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.'
"I now reiterate these sentiments; and, in doing so, only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause, as cheerfully to one section as to another.
There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:
"No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such
"It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended, by those who made it, for the reclamation of what we call 'fugitive slaves' and the intention of the law-giver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support, to the whole Constitution; to this provision as well as any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause shall be delivered up,' their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort, in good temper, could they not, with nearly equal unanimity, frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath? There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by National or by State authority; but, surely, that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to others, by which authority it is done. Should any one, in any case, be content that his oath shall go unkept on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?
"Again, in any law upon this subject, ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in the civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be not, in any case, surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well, at the same time, to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that 'the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privi leges and immunities of citizens in the several States?' I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations, and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules; and, while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed, than to violate any of them, trusting to find impunity in having them held to be 'unconstitutional.'
It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our National Constitution. During that period fifteen different and very distinguished citizens have in succession administered the Executive branch of the Government. They have conducted it through many perils, and, generally, with great success. Yet, with all this scope for precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief Constitutional term of four years, under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.
"I hold that, in contemplation of universal law
Mr. Lincoln's Inaug.
MR. LINCOLN'S INAUGURAL ADDRESS.
and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all National Governments. It is safe to assert that no Government proper ever had a provision, in its organic law, for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever-it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.
Again, if the United States be not a Government proper, but an association of States in the nature of a contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it, break it, so to speak, but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it? Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that, in legal contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then Thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778; and, finally, in 1787 one of the de clared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was, to form a more perfect Union.' But, if the destruction of the Union, by one or by a part only of the States, be lawfully possible, the Union is less than before the Constitution having lost the vital element of perpetuity.
"It follows, from these views, that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves' and ordinances' to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.
"I, therefore, consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken, and, to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed' in all the States. This I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perfectly perform it, so far as is practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisition, or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary!
"I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union, that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself. In doing this there need be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it is forced upon the
Mr. Lincoln's Inaug ural Address.
National authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and collect the duties and imports; but, beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States shall be so great and so universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people that object. While the strict legal right may exist of the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating, and so nearly impracticable withal, that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices. The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts of the Union. So far as possible, the people everywhere shall have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and reflection.
"The course here indicated will be followed, unless current events and experience shall show a modification or change to be proper; and, in every case and exigency, my best discretion will be exercised according to the circumstances actually exist ing, and with a view and hope of a peaceful solution of the National troubles and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and affections.
"That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events, and are glad of any pretext to do it, I will neither affirm nor deny But, if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the Union, may I not speak? Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our National fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be well to ascertain why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step while any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from? Will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?
"All profess to be content in the Union, if all Constitutional rights can be maintained. Is it true, then, that any right plainly written in the Constitution has been denied? I think not. Happily, the human mind is so constituted that no Party can reach to the audacity of doing this. Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied? If, by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly-written Constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution; certainly would, if such right were a vital
Mr. Lincoln's Inaug. ural Address.
case, still, the evil effect follow-
"No organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can anticipate, nor any document of reasonable length contain, express provisions for all possible questions. Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by National or by State authority? The Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress protect Slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. From questions of this class spring all our Constitutional controversies, and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the Government must cease. There is no alternative for continuing the Government but acquiescence on the one side or the other. If a minority, in such a case, will secede' rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which in turn will ruin and divide them, for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such a minority. For instance, why may not any portion of a new Confederacy, a year or two hence, arbitrarily secede again, pre-perfectly supports the law itself. The great body of cisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it? All who cherish disunion sentiments are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this. Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new Union as to produce harmony only and prevent renewed
"Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it, does, of necessity, fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.
"I do not forget the position assumed by some, that Constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decision must be binding, in any case upon the parties to a suit, as to the object of that suit, while the decisions are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases, by all other Departments of the Government; and, while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous, in any given
"One section of our country believes Slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other be lieves it wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute; and the Fugitive Slave clause of the Constitution, and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave-trade, are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law ever can be in a community where the moral sense of the people im
the people abide by the dry legal obligation, in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, cannot be perfectly cured; and it would be worse in both cases, after the separation of the sections, than before. The foreign slave-trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived, without restriction in one section, while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at all by the other.
"Physically speaking, we cannot separate-we cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They can but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws among friends? Suppose you go to war. You cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you!
Mr. Lincoln's Inaug
MR. LINCOLN'S INAUGURAL ADDRESS.
tion, by any extreme wicked-
Mr Lincoln's Inaug ural Address.
"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their Constitutional right of amending, 'My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and or their revolutionary right to dismember or over- well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable car throw it. I cannot be ignorant of the fact that many be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having any of you, in hot haste, to a step which you would the National Constitution amended. While I make no never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated recommendation of amendment, I fully recognize the by taking time-but, no good object can be frustratfull authority of the people over the whole subject, to ed by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied, still be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the instrument itself; and I should, under existing cirsensitive point, the laws of your own framing under cumstances, favor, rather than oppose, a fair opporit; while the new Administration will have no imtunity being afforded the people to act upon it. I mediate power, if it would, to change either. If it will venture to add, that, to me, the Convention were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments right side in the dispute, there is still no single to originate with the people themselves, instead of reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotonly permitting them to take or reject propositions ism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who originated by others not especially chosen for the pur- has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still pose, and which might not be precisely such as they competent to adjust, in the best way, all our preswould wish either to accept or refuse. I understand ent difficulties. that a proposed amendment to the Constitution (which amendment, however, I have not seen,) has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose, not to speak of particular amendments, so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied Constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express
"The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have conferred none upon him to fix the terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves, also, can do this if they choose; but the Executive, as such, has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present Government as it came to his hands, and to transmit it unimpaired by him to his successor.
'Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail by the judgment of this great tribunal, the American people. By the frame
of the Government under which we live, this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief, and have, with equal wisdom, provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no Administra
"In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. 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 loth 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 battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearth-stone 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."
The President was visited during the evening and the succeeding day, by various delegations, and congratulations were freely extended. But one voice prevailed among his party friends, relative to the Inaugural. It gave the most hearty Reception of the Insatisfaction to them, as, indeed, it did to the large majority of people in the still loyal States. The complainants were among those of the opposition whose praise it was scarcely possible to obtain. With such, fault-finding was a chronic disorder.
augural by the People.
The reception of the Message throughout the Northern States was enthusiastic in the extreme. Its calmness, kindness, firmness, and devotion to the Constitution, diffused a