“We are not enemies, but friends. 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.” –Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March,1861
There was a four-month gap between the time Lincoln was elected in November and when he was eventually sworn in as the 16th president the following March. During that time, he traveled on a long train trip from Springfield, Illinois to Washington D.C., stopping at many towns and cities along the way giving speeches to adoring crowds. Between stops he worked on his inaugural address, allowing others, including his former adversaries, to edit it and suggest revisions.
It was a troubled time. The nation was on the brink of war. Lincoln was warned of an assassination plot, which necessitated him sneaking into Washington ahead of schedule in the dead of night. Jefferson Davis, newly elected president of the Confederacy, also took a train ride throughout the South during this time. He espoused the right of states to succeed, the right to own slaves, and believed he would garner support from foreign countries that relied on Southern cotton. He claimed he didn’t want war but swore to uphold the honor of Southerners.
Against this backdrop, Lincoln tried to strike a conciliatory tone. This tone can be seen in his first inaugural address, quoted above. Most of all he wanted to hold together the Union, which he believed to be sacrosanct. Thus, the mystic chords of memory from former patriots.
We live in troubled times. The current occupant of the White House refuses to concede the election to the incoming President Elect. He refuses to share vital information while the killer virus rages on. He and his sycophants are throwing spaghetti against the wall in a desperate attempt to reverse the will of the people. It won’t work. Come January 20 he’ll be gone. But in the meantime, he is burning down the house trying to convince his supporters that Biden was not legitimately elected, which is undermining the transition.
We have survived worse, including a civil war that nearly tore us apart. We have recovered from pandemics, depressions, and wars. America lives on. Biden will inherit a stinking mess but will try to unify the country. Good luck with that. Time will tell whether or not our mystic chords hold and whether or not we can conjure up the better angels of our nature.