March 4, 1865
By Gerald Matacotta
“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 a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
These are the powerful words spoken 150 years ago by our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address. The true test of the outcome of the Civil War would be how we treated those who have been defeated. Lincoln knew that in order for America to be great, we must be united, not divided. A united nation would be strong against any threat to our freedoms and liberties. Also we must follow through in support of our brave warriors so that we never forget how much they gave so we can remain free.
Lincoln spoke about the malignancy of slavery and the ethical behavior of a nation. Slavery was an evil for both the North and the South and had to be ended so that America could fulfill its goal of becoming the “last great hope of the world.” He knew that all men and women are entitled to the fruits of their labor in a free society.
Today the Second Inaugural Address is as important to the United States as it was on March 4, 1865. Some provocateurs and politicians are working to divide us by race, gender and politics. In a dangerous world, it is important to understand the significance of political leadership we can rally behind in order for us to defend our democracy.
New leaders in the mold of Lincoln need to lead the nation in this time of danger. In this speech, Lincoln set up the basis for the greatest era in the history of this country by his profound words in the Second Inaugural.
March is also the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John at Runnymede in England. This charter of English political and civil liberties is the basic document of a free society, for it stated that no one person should have complete power over the people and that the rule of law is supreme over the whims of men. The foundation of a free society is based on the ideas set forth in the Magna Carta on March 21, 1215. It is as true today as it was 800 years ago.
Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, one of the most famous speeches in the history of America, and the signing of the Magna Carta, are the two epic events with a March anniversary, which form the bedrock of our civilization. Together these two documents provide the ideas which a great country can build its future upon.
Gerald Matacotta, MA. Founder of the acclaimed History Seminar Series at Queensborough Community College Continuing Education Dept.
“The Greatest Knight” by Thomas Asbridge
“Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural” by Jr. Ronald C. White Jr.