By Michael E. Ruane
The Washington Post
He first wrote out his speech in longhand. He had it printed and then cut the text into 27 snippets that he pasted on a sheet of paper. He changed three words and added 15 commas and semicolons.
Then the author, Abraham Lincoln, took the paper to the East Front of the U.S. Capitol and, on March 4, 1865, delivered one of the greatest speeches in American history: his majestic second inaugural address.
“With malice toward none; with charity for all,” he said that day near the close of the Civil War. “. . . let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle...”
Those words are now carved in stone at the Lincoln Memorial.
No other second inaugural address — and there have been 15 others — has achieved the renown that Lincoln’s has, though they have touched on serious events of state: war, economic crisis and disaster.
President Barack Obama is slated to deliver his on Monday.
Can he — did the others — come close to matching Lincoln?
How about President Andrew Jackson?
Angered by South Carolina’s efforts to nullify federal laws, he delivered an impassioned defense of the Union on March 4, 1833 — almost three decades before the Civil War.
With disunion, “we shall see . . . our sons made soldiers to deluge with blood the fields they now till in peace,” he warned. “The loss of liberty, of all good government, of peace, plenty, and happiness, must inevitably follow a dissolution of the Union.”
Or Ulysses S. Grant?
The cigar-smoking general who had led the Union to victory over the Confederacy spoke of civil rights at his second inaugural in 1873 — nearly a century before it became a rallying cry in the 1950s and ‘60s.