-- Lincoln`s Inaugural Address --


Indianapolis Daily Journal, January 17, 1861

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There was a time before South Carolina had placed herself in open hostility to the Union, when we, and we believe a large majority of the North, would have consented to part with her, if she had consulted the other States, and requested permission to try a peaceful experiment as a separate nation. Her turbulence, and avowed maintenance of doctrines at war with the existence of the nation, made her, at the best, a useless member of the confederacy, and very many would have been glad to give her a chance to test the wisdom of her theories in a solitary existence. So with those States that sympathized with her, and were preparing to follow in her lead. But the case now is widely and fearfully changed. These States do not ask, or care to consult their associates, and learn whether it may not be possible to arrange our difficulties so as to move on in harmony as heretofore. They have put it out of our power to consent to anything. They have met us, not with a request for peaceful consultation, but with war. If we concede their demands now it is the surrender of a nation conquered by rebel members. If we make no effort to resist the wrong we submit at once to disunion and national degradation. There is no course left, either for honor or patriotism, but to reclaim by the strong hand, if it must be so, all that the seceding States have taken, enforce the laws, and learn the traitors the wisdom of the maxim that it takes two to make a bargain. All questions of expediency were thrust out of reach by the act which took Fort Moultrie as a hostile fortress, and hauled down the national flag as a sign of the conquest. They have all been decided without our help. We have had no opportunity to say a word. The seceding States have raised the issue, argued it to their own satisfaction, and decided it by war. We have been left no alternative but to resist or submit. We deplore this state of things. We had earnestly hoped that the Gulf States would give all shades of sentiment a fair opportunity of expression in the election of their Conventions, discuss their grievances calmly, request a consultation with the nation, and if they firmly and deliberately refused to abide in the Union as it is, we were willing to let them drop out, still holding our government unchanged over ourselves. In this way it was possible to get rid of the rebellious States, by simply diminishing, instead of dissolving the Union, which the London Times says is impossible. It is now, but it was not, and need not have been, if the seceding States had been willing to meet the Union fairly and come to an understanding. Such a course would have been in accordance with the enlightenment of the age, the dictates of Christianity, and the best interests of both sections. But the hope of such an adjustment is all past, at least till the seceding States restore the government property, submits to the laws, and return to their former position of peaceful members of the Union. There can be no conciliation with them till they do. The government must be preserved. It is ours as well as theirs, and when they attempt to overturn it by force, we must preserve it by force. A government kicked aside at the will of any State, is nothing. The right of secession would make the government a mere accident, subsisting because thirty or forty members happened to agree in regard to it. We insist that our government is neither an accident or a trifle. It is the best yet devised by the wit of man, and is worth a dozen wars to keep. And we mean to keep it. To allow a State to rebel against it, and give way to the rebellion, is to consent to its destruction. We cannot claim that it exists even for those still remaining in it, when it is set at naught and defied by any other member. It must be whole or it cannot be at all. The people may let a member out of it, but no member can break it down to get out without breaking it to pieces. We are therefore for the most determined measures of resistance to the rebellion in the Gulf States. We insist that the Union shall be preserved till those who made it shall consent to change it. No refractory State or combination of traitors must be permitted to peril it in the pursuit of insane vengeance or impracticable theories. And if their madness leads them to open war let them suffer the doom of traitors.