Date of this Version
Documentary Editing, Volume 24, Number 2, June 2002.
ISSN 2476-1796 (electronic); ISSN 2167-1451 (print)
Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address is perhaps as familiar and frequently read as any text in American English. Engraved in stone on the North wall of the Lincoln Memorial in 701 words, it is a text that many of Lincoln's countrymen can recite from memory and has often been called "greatest speech." For the other leading candidate for that honor, the Gettysburg Address, there are five known copies in Lincoln's handwriting, none of which is exactly the same. It is said to be a restful day in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress when no one turns up bearing one of the many facsimiles and claiming to have discovered another original. But there is nothing remotely like this in the case of the Second Inaugural, nor has there ever been any serious controversy about its text.