Abraham Lincoln rose from his chair and advanced toward the podium. He was now at the height of his power, with the Civil War nearly won. In one hand he held a single sheet of paper, typeset and printed in double columns. The foreboding clouds threatened another downpour. Then, reported Noah Brooks, journalist and friend of the president, the strangest thing happened: “Just at that moment the sun, which had been obscured all day, burst forth in its unclouded meridian splendor and flooded the spectacle with glory and light. Every heart beat quicker at the unexpected omen…so might the darkness which had obscured the past four years be now dissipated.” The president’s text was brief – just 701 words.
“Fondly do we hope – fervently do we pray – that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away… With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, 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, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”