Page:Life and Works of Abraham Lincoln, v6.djvu/155

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Presidential Addresses

First Inaugural Address.[1]

Delivered at Washington, D. C. March 4, 1861.

Fellow-citizens of the United States: In compliance with a custom as old as the government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President "before he enters on the execution of his office."

  1. Lincoln wrote and privately printed a tentative draft of the message while at Springfield, Ill. On his way to Washington he gave a copy to his friend O. H. Browning, at Indianapolis, who suggested that the statement therein that Lincoln would "reclaim" the Federal property in the hand of the secessionists should be omitted, as subject to construction as a threat, and as such unnecessarily aggravating to the South. This suggestion the President adopted. On arriving at Washington, Mr. Lincoln gave a copy of the draft to Mr. Seward, his appointee as Secretary of State. Mr. Seward suggested two important changes, one that was virtually Mr. Browning's emendation, and the other, the omission of a statement that the President would follow the principles of the Republican platform. Referring to the latter, he reminded Lincoln that Jefferson, at a similar crisis when the opposing party sought to dismember the Government, "sank the partisan in the patriot in his inaugural address, and propitiated his adversaries by declaring: 'We are all Federalists, all Republicans.'" Most of Seward's other suggestions related to improvements in rhetoric. His "general remarks" were as follows:

    "The argument is strong and conclusive, and ought not to be in any way abridged or modified.

    "But something besides or in addition to argument is