President Lincoln’s Speeches & Proclamations

As the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln had made a name for himself as a gifted writer, speaker, and thinker before he took office. His eloquent arguments during his debates with Stephen Douglas during their 1858 Senate campaigns brought him national attention. He subsequently won the 1860 presidential election.

After taking office, Lincoln issued the most famous executive order in American history, the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862. This eloquent proclamation allowed for emancipation, or the freeing of those enslaved in the rebelling states. While these states weren’t about to follow Lincoln’s order, however, in doing so, Lincoln lessened the chances France and England would recognize the Confederacy. This also helped establish a moral cause for the war: ending slavery in America. However, it be two years later, on June 19, 1865 (also known as Jnueteenth) that many of the last men, women, and children still held in slavery in the United States would be freed.

Months later, on November 19, 1863, President Lincoln gave a speech at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This cemetery paid homage to the fallen soldiers who had lost their lives four months prior at the Battle of Gettysburg. Though the speech itself was quite short, it is nevertheless powerful, and today it is remembered as the Gettysburg Address.

After four years of strife and success, Lincoln was elected to a second term as President, prompting his 2nd Inaugural Address. Given on March 4, 1865, his speech came nearly one month before the official end of the Civil War, and only weeks before his tragic assassination on April 15 of that year. During his 2nd Inaugural Address, he encouraged the people to heal the nation’s wounds and to take care of one another in order to preserve a lasting peace throughout the country. He stressed that as a country, there should be no malice (or harsh feelings) toward anyone, as the nation had entered a time of rebuilding.