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Anticipating the South's political and individual hostilities toward the North at the end of the Civil War, Lincoln encouraged leniency toward the South. He opposed the punitive measures advocated by congressional radicals, and he told victorious Union generals “to let the enemy up easy.” He continued to believe, as he had throughout the war, that the rebel states had never really been out of the Union. Thus, in the face of considerable public and congressional opposition, he advocated early elections by loyal minorities to reconstitute the governments of the Southern states.

If Lincoln had completed his second presidential term, it is hard to imagine that he could have deflected the retribution inflicted on the South. He was more successful in his attempts to reach out to Union veterans and the widows and orphans of the fallen. However, many Southerners were well aware that the assassination of President Lincoln was a loss for the entire nation.

Campaign Buttons from 1864

The National Union Party, a temporary coalition of Republicans and War Democrats met in convention at Baltimore in early June 1864. They nominated Abraham Lincoln for a second term as president and Andrew Johnson, a Democrat and military governor of Tennessee, for the vice-presidency. Portraits of the two candidates appear on the front and back of the campaign buttons shown here.

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The Blind Memo

President Lincoln drafted this unusual document under the conviction that public sentiment, moved by heavy Union casualties and lack of definitive Union victories, would weigh heavily against him and result in his defeat in the 1864 presidential election. Lincoln folded and sealed this memorandum, often called the “Blind Memo,” without revealing its contents to the members of his cabinet and asked them to sign their names on the verso. After the election, an exultant President Lincoln ceremoniously opened the memorandum and read it to his cabinet, explaining it as his pledge to place country above party.

Abraham Lincoln. Memorandum, August 23, 1864. Holograph document. Robert Todd Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (204) Digital ID # al0204, al0204p1

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Nightmare of Election Defeat

In this cartoon, the artist portrays President Lincoln as tormented by nightmares of defeat in the election of 1864. There is ample evidence that Lincoln believed in the prophetic importance of dreams. Here Columbia, wielding the severed head of an African American man, sends Lincoln away with a kick. The cap and cloak here allude to the disguise he reportedly wore when he arrived in Washington for his first inauguration.

Currier & Ives. Abraham’s Dream!—“Coming Events Cast Their Shadow Before.” New York: Currier & Ives, ca. 1864. Lithograph. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (205) Digital ID # ppmsca-19400

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Last Photograph of Lincoln

This photograph of President Lincoln was taken on the south balcony of the White House in the late afternoon of March 6, 1865. It is believed to be Lincoln’s last “living” picture. Warren apparently used Thomas (Tad) Lincoln to lure the president out onto the White House balcony for the sitting. Lincoln appears not only preoccupied but more than a little annoyed at Warren’s brash tactics.

Henry F. Warren. The Latest Photograph of Abraham Lincoln, March 6, 1865. Albumen print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (207) Digital ID # ppmsca-19192

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Lincoln’s Silver Inkwell

This inkwell, designed and cast by Tiffany & Co. of New York, was presented to President Lincoln in early 1865 by Charles D. Poston, the first delegate from the Arizona Territory to serve in Congress. Made from more than 400 ounces of Arizona silver, the calling bell in the center represents the newly completed dome of the United States Capitol. The bell is flanked by finely executed representations of a Comanche Indian and a pioneer.

Tiffany & Co., New York. Inkwell given to Abraham Lincoln by Charles Poston, 1865. Given to the Library of Congress by Lincoln’s granddaughter, Mary Lincoln Isham, 1937. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (218) Digital ID # scsm1300

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Grand Reception at the White House

On the evening of the second inauguration, President and Mrs. Lincoln held a reception at the White House that was attended by generals, cabinet members and their wives, and other dignitaries. Although this lithograph shows General Grant and his wife being greeted by the Lincolns, they were actually not present at the reception. Later in the evening, as was customary, the doors were opened to the public, and it is estimated that Lincoln shook hands with between five and six thousand people during the course of the event.

Anton Hohenstein. Lincoln’s Last Reception, 1865. Hand-colored lithograph. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (214) Digital ID # ppmsca-07593

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Crowd at President Lincoln’s Second Inauguration

In this photograph taken at Lincoln’s second inauguration, most of the spectators in the picture have turned their attention to a military procession that has just reached the Capitol grounds. The sky is overcast, and it appears to have been raining. Contemporary accounts report that the sun broke out of the clouds just as Lincoln rose to speak.

Crowd at Lincoln’s Second Inauguration, March 4, 1865. Albumen print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (210) Digital ID # ppmsca-02927

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Inauguration Program

The Chronicle Junior, a special edition of the Washington paper Daily Morning Chronicle, published this poem and program for Lincoln’s second inauguration. The program was reportedly printed on a press mounted in a wagon, which traveled from the U.S. Capitol to the White House during Lincoln’s inaugural parade.

Inauguration Program, March 4, 1865. Robert Todd Lincoln Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (209.00.01) Digital ID # al0209_01, al0209_02, al0209_03

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President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

In 1864, Lincoln was reelected, carrying fifty-four percent of the popular vote and all but three northern states—New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky. The president delivered his Second Inaugural Address from the east portico of the Capitol with its newly completed iron dome on March 4, 1865. The power of the sentiment in the Second Inaugural Address is deepened by its conciseness and brevity, particularly when it is read in counterpoint with Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address. In his second address he concludes with his customary eloquence.

Abraham Lincoln. Inaugural Address, 1865. Holograph manuscript. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (206.00.00) Digital ID # al0206_01, al0206_02, al0206_03, al0206_04, al0206_05

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“With Malice Toward None”

In a letter to Thurlow Weed written shortly after delivering his Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln wrote: “I expect the latter [the inaugural address] to wear as well as—perhaps better than—anything I have produced; but I believe it is not immediately popular.” Lincoln reprised the closing paragraph of his address in this autograph book belonging to Caroline R. Wright, wife of former Indiana Governor Joseph Albert Wright.

“With Malice Toward None. . . .” Autograph book, ca. 1865. On loan from the Benjamin Shapell Family Manuscript Foundation (208) Digital ID # al0208

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