One hundred fifty years ago today Abraham Lincoln became the sixteenth President of the United States. After he delivered his Inaugural Address from the central portico of the U.S. Capitol, Chief Justice Roger Taney administered the oath of office. Newspapers throughout the country published Lincoln’s speech and debated what it meant for the future of the country. The New York Times, which supported the Republican party, argued that Lincoln had been “highly conciliatory towards all who have been led to entertain unjust and unfounded apprehensions” about the new administration. Other Republican papers such as the Cleveland (OH) Herald also praised the speech. “The Inaugural of President Lincoln will take its place in history as one of the most remarkable state papers of the present age,” as the Herald explained. In addition, the Herald believed that “the Union men of the South cannot fail to be pleased” since Lincoln had indicated that “the constitutional rights of each section of the Union shall be respected and protected. ” One southern unionist newspaper, the Fayetteville (NC) Observer, noted that “there is much in Mr. Lincoln’s words to assure the South that it need anticipate no violation of its rights from his administration.” The Observer argued that President Lincoln would not “resort to ‘coercion’” because “it would be the maddest of follies.” Some southern editors, however, were accused of distorting the text of the speech in an attempt to support secessionists. While the Republican editor of the Chicago (IL) Tribune knew from experience that “a long document [rarely] is transmitted over the wires without undergoing more or less transformation,” Joseph Medill believed in this case that some editors had deliberately included errors. “Evidently the conductors of the secession press are unwilling that the people whom they have hurried into rebellion without a cause, shall have the opportunity of learning the truth,” as Medill concluded. You can read more about Lincoln’s Inaugural Address in chapter 3 of Douglas L. Wilson’s Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words (2006) and chapter 20 of Michael Burlingame’s Abraham Lincoln: A Life (2008).