Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural

White, Jr. Ronald C.

Published by U.S.A.: Simon & Schuster, 2002
ISBN 10: 0743212983 / ISBN 13: 9780743212984
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Fine paper over board hardback, gilt lettering, Fine DJ. Cover and DJ with minimal shelf wear. Tight binding. Owner's small tag inside front cover. Author's inscription on title page. End papers and pp look unused, as new. 8vo, 254 pp with b/w illustrations, appendices, notes, biblio and index. Bookseller Inventory #

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After four years of unspeakable horror and sacrifice on both sides, the Civil War was about to end. On March 4, 1865, at his Second Inaugural, President Lincoln did not offer the North the victory speech it yearned for, nor did he blame the South solely for the sin of slavery. Calling the whole nation to account, Lincoln offered a moral framework for peace and reconciliation. The speech was greeted with indifference, misunderstanding, and hostility by many in the Union. But it was a great work, the victorious culmination of Lincoln's own lifelong struggle with the issue of slavery, and he well understood it to be his most profound speech. Eventually this "with malice toward none" address would be accepted and revered as one of the greatest in the nation's history.

In 703 words, delivered slowly, Lincoln transformed the meaning of the suffering brought about by the Civil War. He offered reunification, not revenge. Among those present were black soldiers and confederate deserters, ordinary citizens from all over, the black leader Frederick Douglass, the Cabinet, and other notables. John Wilkes Booth is visible in the crowd behind the president as he addresses posterity.

Ronald C. White's compelling description of Lincoln's articulation of the nation's struggle and of the suffering of all -- North, South, soldier, slave -- offers new insight into Lincoln's own hard-won victory over doubt, and his promise of redemption and hope. White demonstrates with authority and passion how these words, delivered only weeks before his assassination, were the culmination of Lincoln's moral and rhetorical genius.

Review: In the tradition of Garry Wills's modern classic Lincoln at Gettysburg, Ronald C. White Jr. offers a close reading of the speech Abraham Lincoln gave in 1865 at his second inauguration and declares it the man's finest and most important effort. It contains one of Lincoln's best-known lines ("With malice toward none; with charity for all"), which White admires as "a timeless promise of reconciliation." At the same time, White reminds readers that rather than yanking such brilliant rhetorical nuggets from their context, "We need to understand Lincoln's strategy for the complete speech." He provides this in some detail, describing the political environment in which Lincoln found himself, having recently won a presidential election that he nearly lost and also seeing the Confederacy begin to collapse for good. It was not a long speech, containing only 701 words of mostly one syllable each and requiring merely six or seven minutes to deliver, compared to about 35 minutes for the inaugural address he had given four years earlier. White calls these words Lincoln's "last will and testament to America." John Wilkes Booth, who attended the inaugural ceremony, would murder him the next month. Lincoln buffs in particular will appreciate this book, as will fans of Jay Winik's April 1865. --John Miller

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Title: Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second ...
Publisher: U.S.A.: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Fine

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