Lincoln's Greatest Speech by Ronald C. White Jr.
The Second Inaugural

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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.

About Ronald C. White Jr.

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Ronald C. White Jr. is professor of American Intellectual and Religious History at San Francisco Theological Seminary, as well as the author and editor of five books. He lives in La Cañada, California.
Published June 2, 2002 by Simon & Schuster. 256 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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The New York Times

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Grant and Theodore Roosevelt, were talented writers, but only Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson so far stand out as what Mr. Kaplan calls “canonical writers of American literature.” Unlike many politicians, Mr. Kaplan observes, Lincoln struggled throughout his career to “find effective, accurate lan...

Nov 06 2008 | Read Full Review of Lincoln's Greatest Speech : T...

The New York Times

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(Their similarity of style is actually one key to the surprising partnership of Grant and Lincoln.) Recent historians have pointed to Lincoln's fatalistic, impersonal style as evidence, in David Donald's words, of ''the essential passivity of his nature,'' the trait of character that made him say...

Feb 10 2002 | Read Full Review of Lincoln's Greatest Speech : T...

Christian Science Monitor

[This review from the Monitor's archives originally ran on Feb. 9, 2009.] This month marks the 200th anniversary of our greatest president’s birth.

Feb 07 2010 | Read Full Review of Lincoln's Greatest Speech : T...

Bookmarks Magazine

The Topic: How did Abraham Lincoln rise from backwoods lawyer to the most revered president America has ever known?

Jan 11 2009 | Read Full Review of Lincoln's Greatest Speech : T...

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