“Now He Belongs to the Ages”

150 years ago this morning, as the Civil War was drawing to a close, America suffered one of its greatest national tragedies. In the early hours of April 15th, 1865, Abraham Lincoln died in the Petersen House across the street from Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC. The night before, while viewing Our American Cousin from his box seat, Lincoln was shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth. The president was taken to the red-brick townhome of William A. Petersen, a German tailor, where he spent his final hours before passing away in the early morning of the 15th.

Mourning of Lincoln’s death began almost immediately. In Milwaukee, for instance, the mayor proclaimed “that all the dwellings and business places of our City forthwith be clad in mourning, as a token of the deep and common sorrow that prevails; and that the people, abstaining from all excitement improper for such solemn occasion, postpone their ordinary business duties to-day, and that in all the Churches to-morrow such services be performed as will duly express the great and general grief.” In Buffalo, NY, it was reported that once the news had spread, “from the dwelling of the humblest colored family to the mansion of the most opulent citizen, fluttered the half-mast flag, and there were few localities where some manifestations of sorrow were not apparent.” As the Civil War drew to its end, grief over the loss of Lincoln cut across racial lines. Martin R. Delaney, a high-ranking black officer in the United States Colored Troops, wrote a letter to the Anglo-African paper in New York. He described Lincoln’s assassination as “a calamity such as the world never before witnessed” and he recommended that a massive monument be built, one that would be made possible by the contributions of all black people in the United States. For blacks across the North and South, the untimely death of Lincoln, the President whom Delaney described as “the Father of American Liberty,” was deeply saddening.

When Lincoln passed away that April morning, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton reportedly remarked, “Now he belongs to the ages.” Indeed, Lincoln entered history as one of America’s greatest presidents, with the memorial in Washington D.C. serving as just one reminder of his tireless work for the Union. Now, 150 years after his death, his legacy remains as we work to honor his pledge that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

CLAW Commemorates Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

On March 11, 2015, the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program joined with the Bully Pulpit Series and Friends of the Addlestone Library to present, through the generous support of Wells Fargo, the Wells Fargo Distinguished Public Lecture for this semester. In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, Dr. Richard Carwardine presented a lecture entitled “The Religion and Politics of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.” Carwardine is the President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, where he studied as an undergraduate. He has written prolifically on American political and religious life in the nineteenth century, and his work includes a biography of Lincoln that won the Lincoln Book Prize in 2004 and was published in the U.S. as Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power (2006). Carwardine was introduced by the Dr. Orville Vernon Burton, the executive director of the CLAW program. Burton is Creativity Professor of Humanities, Professor of History and Computer Science at Clemson University, and he is also the director of the Clemson Cyber Institute. Burton is also a prolific scholar, having authored and edited twenty books, including The Age of Lincoln (2007), which won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Literary Award for Nonfiction and was nominated for a Pulitzer.

In his lecture, Carwardine argued that the address provides a view into the connected world of politics and religion in nineteenth-century America. While the opening paragraph of the speech is rather matter-of-fact about the war situation, the remaining paragraphs are amazingly nuanced. Carwardine pointed out that Lincoln chose to be even-handed, as he did not lay the blame for the fighting on one side or the other. Lincoln continued by stating that it was American slavery, allowed by both North and South to continue, that was the cause of the war. Then Lincoln’s address took a turn towards the religious. Scholars have long debated Lincoln’s exact religious beliefs, beginning shortly after his death. Carwardine believes while Lincoln exhibited what could be termed “rational religion” in his earlier life, it seems that during his presidency he turned toward a more spiritual piety. This shift is evident in the second inaugural, for Lincoln states that a living God may be using the war as a judgment on North and South for perpetuating slavery so long. Carwardine noted that Lincoln’s intensely religious language shows how interconnected religion and politics could be in the period. The last paragraph, beginning with the famous lines “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” made clear the political purpose of Lincoln’s address. He asked for an end to the war that would put aside bitterness and focus on a reconciliation that would be just. In his conclusion Carwardine pointed out that Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address was clearly a masterpiece of rhetoric and even American writing.

Following the lecture there was just enough time for Carwardine to answer a few questions. When quizzed about Lincoln’s view of American exceptionalism, Carwardine pointed out that at the time the United States was indeed a special case among nations. He added that Lincoln indeed saw the American struggle in international terms as a major part of the international struggle for freedom and human dignity. On a more hypothetical note, one audience member asked Carwardine what Lincoln’s reconstruction would have been like had he lived to carry it out. While there is no way to say for sure, Carwardine himself believes that while it would have been much different from Andrew Johnson’s, Lincoln’s effort would still have run against opposition in Congress. Thanks to all who came for making this commemorative event a rousing success!

Tomorrow, March 11, 2015: “The Religion and Politics of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address”

The Bully Pulpit Series, the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program, and the Friends of the Library present a commemorative lecture of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address as a part of the Wells Fargo Distinguished Public Lecture Series. On March 11 2015, at 2 PM in room 202 of the College of Charleston’s Tate Center, Dr. Richard Carwardine, the president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, will give a lecture on the politics and religion of the famous 1865 address. Carwardine specializes in American politics and religion in the nineteenth century, and one of his many works is an analytical biography of Abraham Lincoln that won the Lincoln Prize in 2004 and was republished in the U.S. as Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power (2006). He will be introduced by CLAW Executive Director and Lincoln scholar Dr. O. Vernon Burton, Creativity Professor of Humanities, Professor of History and Computer Science at Clemson University, and the Director of the Clemson CyberInstitute. Burton is also a prolific writer, and his book The Age of Lincoln (2007) won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Literary Award for Nonfiction. All are invited to join us as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s historic address.

Lincoln’s Second Inauguration: 150 years later

150 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln stood before a crowd gathered in Washington D.C. and was inaugurated as President of the United States for a second time. A reporter for the New York Daily Tribune described the rushing crowds, writing in the March 6th issue that “at an early hour…unbroken lines of people were moving towards the capitol, and but for the presence and prompt action of the Marshal’s forces, the halls, galleries, and passage ways of the building would have been crowded in advance of the arrival of any of the public officers.”

Before the oath was taken Lincoln addressed the many gathered that March day. As the Civil War finally appeared to be drawing to a close and American slavery near its final end, Lincoln chose not to lay full blame for the destructive conflict on one side or the other. However, he did point that “all knew that this interest [slavery] was somehow the cause of the war” and suggested that the prolonged conflict may be God’s judgement for the horrors of slavery. Nonetheless, he concluded his speech with these conciliatory lines:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

With these concluding words, Lincoln expressed a hope that once the war was finished that forgiveness and reconciliation would triumph over bitterness and revenge. Sadly he would not live to guide the country through the difficult time following the war. Still, his words echo across the years as a reminder in our commemoration of the Civil War to lay aside hatred and take up understanding and goodwill instead.

Republicans Retain the White House!*

The election of 1864 is over, the results are in, and Abraham Lincoln has won a second term as President of the United States. Lincoln is therefore the first president since Andrew Jackson to win a second term.  The New York Tribune commends the process of this election, reporting that despite it being a wartime election “it has been conducted peaceably and according to all the forms of law.”1  Lincoln managed to stave off the challenge of Democratic candidate George B. McClellan, who carried only New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky, gaining twenty-one electoral votes compared to Lincoln’s 212 electoral votes.  Lincoln also swept the popular vote, gaining fifty-five percent of the vote.  News of Lincoln’s re-election has begun to spread to the Union troops, and a New York Times reporter with the Union Army in Virginia writes that “people can have but little conception of the rejoicing here among Union men over the success of Mr. Lincoln.”2  Yet not everyone is thrilled with Lincoln’s re-election, as made evident by an article in the pro-Confederate Richmond Daily Dispatch, which described the election as a time when people assembled at the voting places “on the purpose of making a formal surrender of their liberties…to a vulgar tyrant.”3  Interestingly, the London Times also criticized Lincoln’s re-election, describing it as “an avowed step towards the foundation of a military despotism.”4 Like it or not, Lincoln has now joined the small number of presidents, including Washington and Jefferson, who have had the chance to serve for two terms.

















*This blog post is meant to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s re-election in 1864.

1The New York Daily Tribune, 16 November 1864.

2The New York Times, 16 November 1864.

3The Richmond Daily Dispatch, 9 November 1864.

4London Times, 22 November 1864.