Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural speech was delivered on the Saturday of March 4th 1965 at the Capitol grounds during a colorful inaugural ceremony that was attended by the mammoth crowds of his American Republican supporters. The speech came forth shortly after he had taken an oath of the office administered by the then United States Chief Justice Salmon Chase. According to the historic records, it was the most memorable yet a stunning key public address ever made in the history of America. The speech came immediately after the American Civil War- a war that led to massive loss of human life and property.
2.0 Summary of Lincoln’s Message in the Speech
The American President first acknowledged the American electorate that elected him to the most powerful office in the United States of America. Just like any other oath of the office, he pledged his loyalty to the nation and people of America and further vowed that he will protect and safeguard the sovereignty of the Confederacy Union. In plain terms, Lincoln assured the Union that the southern confederacy will not be mandated whatsoever to enlarge its territories into the United States of America through an intended recession.
In the second part of the speech, the President was assertive that public declaration in the Confederacy and Survival of the Union were the two major plans to be realized even if it meant an outbreak of yet another civil war. He also irrationalized the engagement of the Federal Army during the American Civil War in bid to contain the imminent recession of the Confederate States of America from the Union as spearheaded by the revolting insurgent southerners. To Lincoln, military oppression against the southerners was the only sure move to save the Union since talks and other diplomatic attempts collapsed long before the war broke out. Suffice it to say, the President further expressed his future plans to sustain yet another round of the civil war should there be any need.
In the speech, Lincoln recognized the citizenship of the colored slaves whose numbers formed significant part of the American population. The president asserted that slaves restricted in the southern labor farms represented a very powerful and peculiar interest which he vowed to protect using all the state machinery at his disposal. Racial equality formed part of his speech when he declared that the southerners are under legal obligation to observe and respect the human rights of the slave in various states. The speech denounced economic exploitation of the slaves in the strongest terms possible on the grounds that God created all people equally and none should assume authority and total control over the other.
He added that slavery in the southern America was the main cause of the civil war that the nation plunged itself into. In a separate count, Lincoln lamented the regrettable fact that Southerners still hold onto slavery of the black people for economic interests against the constitutional accord of the United States Emancipation Proclamation. Despite the sharp ideological differences between the North and South, Lincoln appealed to all Americans to set aside their differences and economic philosophies, do that which is right before Almighty God, and finally unite for the common good of the greater nation. In his final remark, Lincoln echoed that the re-union of the United States of America is everyone’s responsibility and it is a daunting task that demands Americans forsake malice and in turn show charity for all and hold firm belief in God. To Lincoln, this was the only way to nurture a lasting peace among Americans and with all nations of the world.
3.0 Reconstruction of the United States
The reconstruction of the United States of America took place between the period 1865and 1877- immediately after the historic American Civil War. According to Professor Gary Nash (2004), the head of History Department at the University of Hamburg, the reconstruction efforts began as early as 1863 amidst the raging war that consumed thousands of American lives as well as immeasurable loss of physical property across the nation. This reconstruction exercise led to formulation and subsequent implementation of various economic and political policies to help find a lasting solution to the contentious issues that caused the war.
During the American reconstruction era, both the President and the congress of the United States were always out to “bind up the nation’s wound” though a number of ways as discussed in this following sections of this paper.
3.1 Emancipation Proclamation
Fully aware that the outlawed practice of slavery was the major cause of the American Civil War, the Union and the Federal Army, under the directives of President Abraham Lincoln, liberated all colored from the Southern slave owners. The major states that were worst hit by this move were South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana.
The Union, through reconstruction policies debated in the North, settled the ex-slave men in designated agricultural lands in the said states and they also attracted citizenship recognized by the American constitution. The Lincoln regime counted this move as a great political achievement since it successfully rendered all Americans equal before the law as stipulated in the Union Constitution. The southerners slave owners bitterly opposed emancipation of their labor force since the agricultural southern economies rely solely on slavery to flourish in their businesses of wealth generation. Nevertheless, the emancipation drive came to an abrupt halt during the regime of President Andrew Johnson long after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
3.2 Weakening of the Southern Confederacy
President Lincoln in consultation with the Northern congressmen united to build a stronger Republican Party whose main political agenda was to weaken the Southerners ex-confederates from the U.S. Congress. The subsequent reduction in the numbers of conservative southern whites in the congress led to passage of several other bills that supported abolition of slavery in the United States. Secondly, the prevailing coalition of the Republicans in the southern states strengthened the reinstatement of the Union in the former strongholds of the Confederate States of America.
According to Gary (2004), the1866 Congress elections propelled the Radical Republicans to secure complete control of the Congress since they form two thirds of the congress. This implied that the Northerners could then directly control the Southerners ex-confederates alongside the seating President Andrew Johnson. In bid to drive their radical reconstruction campaigns, the Republicans not only impeached President Johnson who was a moderate Republican but also rejected all newly elected southern members of the congress. As a result, the congress purged the Southern states of its hard line civilian confederacy governments and placed them under the military rule of the United States Army.
Even though many historians believe that Emancipation Proclamation, presidential and congressional reconstruction policies helped re-unite United States of America, the effects of this re-union strategies were significantly short-lived in Southern states. Despite the efforts of the congress and United States Army to suppress the recession of the Confederacy, re-union of the United States was never achieved at this particular stage in the history of America due to another of draw backs.
3.3 Compromise of 1877
Due to the continued resistance and uprising from the entire former confederate Southern America, the Union resolved to reinstate slavery since the white southerners proved they could not do without slaves. The southern states relied on slavery as the singular source of cheap labor for their agricultural plantations, processing and transportation industries. In subsequent series of negotiations, they were willing to rejoin the Union and stop all violent attacks on the freedmen on condition that slavery is restored in the southern states. The compromise was a necessary step because it lured revolting southerners back to the Union.
4.0 Hindrance to the Reconstruction of the United States of America
The much desired re-union of the factional Northern and Southern states immediately after the American Civil War could not be readily attained as anticipated because quite a number of political, economic and social factors were at play. The major hindrances to the American reconstruction included political alienation of the southerners from the congress by Radical Republicans, over-reliance on slavery to generate wealth in the southern states, undying influence of the Redeemers (conservative white southerners), and open hostilities towards the freedmen as executed by the southern confederate army.
As positively identified by the renowned world history scholar, Professor Gary maintains that carefully planned dominion of the southerners in the United States Congress and Emancipation Proclamation were the major factors that prompted the southern ex-confederates to resists the re-union and instead push for the recession. It is evident that the wealthy white conservatives embedded a lot of economic values to the slaves they owned. Therefore slave liberation would translate into great economic loss due to lack of cheap labor in their industries and plantations. This fact explained why reconstruction was not a possibility in the south lest it was restored.