The Old Couple Looking at a Portrait of Lincoln, after Harry Roseland, c. 1905. Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Robbins.
“Many of the Democrat newspapers of the time just said it was terrible,” historian Edward Achorn says on this episode of The World in Time, describing the contemporary reaction to Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. “Here’s this guy who’s led us into this bloody war, talking about ‘malice toward none.’ They found it deeply offensive that a politician would be talking about God and God’s will, as if a politician knew anything about that…It’s hard to believe, when you look at this now, the beautiful language of this—and there it is engraved on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial, it’s just considered American scripture, some of the most profound and beautiful language written about our country. And at the time, the press was very divided on it; even the Republican press didn’t understand it, really. They didn’t grasp the message he was trying to get through.”
Lincoln himself expected the speech “to wear as well as—perhaps better than—anything I have produced; but I believe it is not immediately popular.” Listen to the whole episode to hear Lewis H. Lapham and Achorn discuss other scenes from before and after the delivery of Lincoln’s famous speech, as well as the other contexts and characters found in Achorn’s new book, Every Drop of Blood: The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln.
Lewis H. Lapham speaks with Edward Achorn, author of Every Drop of Blood: The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln.
Thanks to our generous donors. Lead support for this podcast has been provided by Elizabeth “Lisette” Prince. Additional support was provided by James J. “Jimmy” Coleman Jr.