Lincoln’s First State of the Union Address

THIS is way off topic, but the President is giving his first State of the Union address tonight, and the country somewhat divided. I seems appropriate to remind ourselves of a time when things were far worse.

We’ll give you a few excerpts from Abraham Lincoln’s first State of the Union address, which can be found here: First Annual Message: December 3, 1861.

Some of this is the old familiar Lincoln you learned about in school. But some of it sounds strange indeed. Nevertheless, it’s Lincoln. He was complicated.

In the midst of unprecedented political troubles we have cause of great gratitude to God for unusual good health and most abundant harvests.

[…]

A disloyal portion of the American people have during the whole year been engaged in an attempt to divide and destroy the Union. A nation which endures factious domestic division is exposed to disrespect abroad, and one party, if not both, is sure sooner or later to invoke foreign intervention.

[…]

Since, however, it is apparent that here, as in every other state, foreign dangers necessarily attend domestic difficulties, I recommend that adequate and ample measures be adopted for maintaining the public defenses on every side.

[…]

Under and by virtue of the act of Congress entitled “An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes,” approved August 6, 1861, the legal claims of certain persons to the labor and service of certain other persons have become forfeited, and numbers of the latter thus liberated are already dependent on the United States and must be provided for in some way. … In such case I recommend that Congress provide for accepting such persons … that such persons, on such acceptance by the General Government, be at once deemed free, and that in any event steps be taken for colonizing … at some place or places in a climate congenial to them. It might be well to consider, too, whether the free colored people already in the United States could not, so far as individuals may desire, be included in such colonization.

To carry out the plan of colonization may involve the acquiring of territory, and also the appropriation of money beyond that to be expended in the territorial acquisition. …

On this whole proposition, including the appropriation of money with the acquisition of territory, does not the expediency amount to absolute necessity — that without which the Government itself can not be perpetuated?

The war continues. In considering the policy to be adopted for suppressing the insurrection I have been anxious and careful that the inevitable conflict for this purpose shall not degenerate into a violent and remorseless revolutionary struggle. …

[…]

The last ray of hope for preserving the Union peaceably expired at the assault upon Fort Sumter, and a general review of what has occurred since may not be unprofitable. What was painfully uncertain then is much better defined and more distinct now, and the progress of events is plainly in the right direction.

[…]

With the retirement of General Scott came the Executive duty of appointing in his stead a General in Chief of the Army. It is a fortunate circumstance that neither in council nor country was there, so far as I know, any difference of opinion as to the proper person to be selected. The retiring chief repeatedly expressed his judgment in favor of General McClellan for the position, and in this the nation seemed to give a unanimous concurrence.

[…]

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital hire or buy another few to labor for them.

[…]

The struggle of to-day is not altogether for to-day; it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

One response to “Lincoln’s First State of the Union Address

  1. Thanks. Very thoughtful post.