The Better Angels of Our Nature

Humility is the fulcrum of a virtuous and civil society. At the far left is envy. At the far right is pride. Envy produces feelings of discontentment or resentfulness where one longs for someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck. Pride produces feelings of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, qualities, or possessions that are widely admired. Neither extreme is healthy nor productive for the common good. Humility lies at the center and provides balanced feelings of contented ambition and perpetual gratitude regardless of circumstances.

As I reflect on this quality of humility, my favorite U.S. president comes to mind, our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln lived his life at the fulcrum of humility. As I reflect on the last five years of his life, it’s hard to deny he was prepared for that moment in history. His purpose, and God’s will for his life, were fulfilled.

To honor him, I wanted to share key milestones in those final five years of his life, as well as his closing remarks of his First Inaugural Address and the full text of his Second Inaugural Address. Thank you President Lincoln for who you were and what you did for this country.

  • March 4, 1861 – First Inaugural Address

  • April 12, 1961 – America’s Civil War Starts

  • November 19, 1863 – Gettysburg Address

  • March 4, 1865 – Second Inaugural Address

  • April 14, 1865 – Assassination by John Wilkes Booth

  • May 26, 1965 – America’s Civil War Ends

Closing of His First Inaugural Address

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Full Text of His Second Inaugural Address

At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it — all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war — seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!” If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond — man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether”

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.

Published by Marc Casciani

Bringing brothers & sisters back to what's important. Author of Craft Your Calling. Host of the Neighborly Love podcast.

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