A Federal Republic: Lincoln’s First Inaugural and the Nature of the Union
The Constitution establishes a federated republic in which government sovereignty is divided between federal and state institutions. From the outset, this division introduced into American politics an element of ambiguity over the proper relation between the federal and state governments. To properly understand the nature of our republic, we turn for guidance to President Abraham Lincoln’s defense of liberty and Union in his First Inaugural Address. Lincoln vindicated the Constitution by proving secession to be lawless rebellion and affirmed the two central principles of the Union: divided sovereignty and equal citizenship based on the natural rights of individuals. Based on the principles of the nation’s political tradition, the Civil War and Reconstruction were a fulfillment and completion of the Constitution, not a revolution against it.