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Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: A Look at the Photo and the Document

Explore the photo of Abraham Lincoln delivering his second inaugural address and the original document. Learn about the confrontation between Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth that may have saved Lincoln's life.
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Abraham Lincoln delivers his second inaugural address
Abraham Lincoln delivers his second inaugural address at the US Capitol on March 4, 1865

Abraham Lincoln was sworn in for his second term as president and delivered his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865. There are a couple interesting things we picked out of this photo.

First, when you click on the photo to view it in more detail, you can see just how much taller Lincoln is than everyone else. Though the people in the chairs are sitting, Lincoln still towers over them. He stood 6 feet, four inches.

Second, John Wilkes Booth stands above Lincoln, and five of Booth’s eventual co-conspirators are below Lincoln in this image. Though it is hard to pick out which one Booth is, he is standing behind the iron railing, has a top hat, and a mustache. Can you find him?

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According to Benjamin Brown French, a politician at the time, he and Booth had a confrontation on the day of the inauguration that ultimately, he says, saved Lincoln’s life.

French says, “My theory is that he meant to rush up behind the President & assassinate him, & in the confusion escape into the crowd again & get away. But, by stopping him as we did, the President got out of his reach.” Read more from the Library of Congress.

Here is a link to the address, along with some cool images of the original document. The first page of the address is the image below.

Lincoln Second Inaugural Address
The first page of Lincoln’s handwritten second inaugural address.
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