Abraham Lincoln: First Inaugural Address

(1861)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

Lincoln begins his First Inaugural Address by noting that he is following a custom as old as the government itself by addressing his fellow citizens with brief remarks before taking the oath of office and beginning his term as president. Setting aside routine matters of governmental administration that do not deserve comment, Lincoln in paragraph 3 addresses the southern states, assuring them they should have no concerns about their property, peace, and personal security. He does not believe there ever has been a reason for such concerns, since he has made his pacific intentions clear in a number of speeches, one of which he quotes to the effect that he does not intend to interfere with slavery and that such interference would be unlawful.

Lincoln notes in paragraph 5 that he has campaigned consistently on this pledge not to hinder slavery and that this was part of the Republican Party platform he accepted as a presidential candidate....

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The final printed version of Lincoln's first inaugural address is shown here with an earlier draft by him (Library of Congress)

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