Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 5.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Meditation on the Divine Will [1]

[September 2, 1862?]

The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one mustPage  404 be wrong. God can not be for, and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party---and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say this is probably true---that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere quiet power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.


[1]   AD-P, ISLA. The bracketed date September [30?], 1862, is given to the meditation by Nicolay and Hay in the Complete Works (VIII, 52). According to their account, however, the fragment was written ``in September, 1862, while his mind was burdened with the weightiest question of his life. . . . It was not written to be seen of men. . . .'' (Abraham Lincoln: A History, VI, 341-42). If this comment means anything, September 30 is too late for the meditation. The ``weightiest question'' must be understood to refer to the issuing of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, and it is evident that Lincoln's mind was made up on this question some time before the proclamation was actually issued. Quite possibly the meditation was written as early as September 2, at which time, following the Second Battle of Bull Run, Lincoln seems to have plumbed his lowest depths, and was reported by Attorney General Bates to have ``seemed wrung by the bitterest anguish---said he felt almost ready to hang himself.'' (See note to Lincoln's order to Halleck dismissing McClellan, November 5, infra). In choosing an approximate date of September 2, rather than September 30, the editors have been prompted by these considerations of milieu.