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Lincoln and LeadershipMilitary, Political, and Religious Decision Making$
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Randall M. Miller

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823243440

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823243440.001.0001

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Abraham Lincoln Moral Leader

Abraham Lincoln Moral Leader

The Second Inaugural as America's Sermon to the World

(p.78) 4 Abraham Lincoln Moral Leader
Lincoln and Leadership

Harry S. Stout

Fordham University Press

This chapter by Harry S. Stout addresses Lincoln’s place as a moral leader by emphasizing the significance of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address as a reflection of his evolving understanding of Providential history and as a moral commentary on the war. It argues that the Address is best regarded as a sermon, which Lincoln and such contemporaries as Frederick Douglass understood it to be, and as such ranks with Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” as America’s greatest sermon on divine punishment for the collective sins of the people, which Lincoln identified as slavery and for which Americans North and South were complicit. It analyzes the speech in the context of Lincoln’s growing Providentialism and as an example of the Puritan jeremiad in style and substance. It concludes that the Address calls America to account for the suffering of the slaves and what slavery wrought in a civil war that was but one measure of an angry God demanding that America, as a chosen nation like Israel of old, must confess its sins and pay for them. Only then might America have peace with itself and all nations and realize its promise.

Keywords:   Second Inaugural Address, Presidential inauguration of 1865, Providential history, Jeremiad sermon, Slavery as sin, Civil War

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