Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

Viewed by many as Lincoln’s greatest speech, this address declared that slavery was the war’s essential cause and that the war was an expiation of the national sin of slavery. Speaking transcendently to history, President Lincoln explained the Civil War—its cause, its character, and its immediate consequences. Though he wanted to be clear that slavery caused “this mighty scourge of war,” he ended on a hopeful note of binding up the nation’s wounds. His message of “charity for all” diverted some Republican desires for harsh retribution against the South.

This broadside is in blue ink and was printed between the inauguration and the assassination. Copies printed after 15 April were in black ink.