On March 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln took time to scribble a thank you note to Thurlow Weed. A political fixer of the first order and a political powerhouse in New York, Weed had been critical of Lincoln after the Emancipation Proclamation and had only grudgingly supported him for re-election. Interestingly enough, there is no record of Weed sending a letter to Lincoln complimenting him on the Second Inaugural. Thus Lincoln was either mistaken, or the letter from Weed has vanished along with most correspondence written in the 19th century. However, that fact is secondary to what Lincoln said in the note:
MARCH 15, 1865
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON
DEAR MR. WEED:
Every one likes a compliment. Thank you for yours on my little notification speech and on the recent inaugural address. I expect the latter to wear as well as–perhaps better than–anything I have produced; but I believe it is not immediately popular. Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case, is to deny that there is a God governing the world. It is a truth which I thought needed to be told, and, as whatever of humiliation there is in it falls most directly on myself, I thought others might afford for me to tell it.
Lincoln underlines in this note the passage in the Second Inaugural in which he thought the War might be a punishment from God inflicted on both North and South:
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
This note indicates that Lincoln believed passionately in what he said in the Second Inaugural. At the moment of Union triumph, Lincoln felt no exultation but merely an acknowledgment that in tolerating slavery, both the warring parts of the nation were playing out God’s punishment for this sin. On the day he wrote this, Lincoln had one more month to live.