On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln delivered his first inauguration address. Seven southern states had seceded and four more border states were waiting to hear what the new President had to say before they eventually seceded. This lesson plan focuses on important excerpts of Lincoln's speech.
A Bit of History
Abraham Lincoln began his first term as president of a country that was quickly coming apart. On the day he gave his inauguration speech, seven states of the deep South had already passed ordinances of secession. The remaining four border states (Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee) were ready to secede, but wanted to hear what the new president would say. Lincoln's speech did not sway those states, even though Lincoln urged restraint and reconciliation and argued that secession was illogical, unconstitutional and against the best interests of both the North and South.
Abraham Lincoln's first inauguration speech focuses closely on the Unionist view of secession and begs the South to reconsider tearing apart a country rich in common traditions and history. Lincoln's passion for the Union and his lawyer's precise reasoning are apparent throughout the speech. He states his case clearly and warns that the blame for civil war will fall on the South should war come. Southerners were not swayed and four years of bloody civil war followed.
After completing this lesson plan, students should be able to understand Abraham Lincoln's views that the federal union was:
♦ permanent and perpetual;
♦ implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all nations "No government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination";
♦ in the vital and continuing interests of both North and South.
Print the annotated excerpt of Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Speech for use either as:
an in-class handout and discussion,
A homework reading and short-answer writing assignment.