Thursday, March 4, 2010

“...The Better Angels of Our Nature.” - President Lincoln Inaugurated

Imagine you are finally elected to the political office to which you’ve always aspired, only to have half the country secede as a result. This was the case when Abraham Lincoln was elected to the presidency in 1860. The country was in a precarious position when Lincoln took the oath of office on March 4, 1861, and Lincoln had already confronted the inherent danger personally. He had taken a long train ride from his home in Springfield, Illinois fearing he might never see his friends again. He even broke from his family to make the last part of the journey alone and in secret, as his security team believed he might face attempts on his life while traveling through Maryland. Despite these risks, Lincoln broke from his security advisors in deciding to ride to the capital in an open carriage with President Buchanan on the morning of his inauguration.
Many southern states had already seceded, and Lincoln was trying to hold on to the border states without placating to southern demands. He was in a position that no other president had ever faced in American history. However, rather than appear bitter or angry, his first inaugural address is cloaked in words of reconciliation. “We are not enemies, but friends,” said Lincoln. “We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
With his inauguration, Abraham Lincoln was taking on arguably the toughest task every faced by an American president - namely, how to reunite and reconcile a nation that was coming apart at the seams. Rather than vilify southerners as enemies, he emphasized their shared ties to the union, a tone he would recall in his second inaugural when the war was coming to a close.

            To read Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address in its entirety, click here.

[Image via unomaha]

No comments:

Post a Comment