The last time our Nation was so divided we had passed the tipping point where we hang
today into a civil war. In his two Inaugural Addresses that provided the bookends to that great conflict, President Abraham Lincoln gave two of the most important speeches in the canon of American political rhetoric.
President Lincoln, in First Inaugural Address, began his administration by offering the olive branch to his opponents:
I am loath to close. 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.
We looked for it, but we found no appeal to the better angels of our nature in Mr. Biden’s address, no appeal to friendship and certainly to commitment that the constitutional rights of conservatives who opposed Mr. Biden would be respected.
Instead, there was admonition after admonition that we “must” do this or that – sometimes those hectoring demands were for Americans to reject the policies of his predecessor, sometimes those hectoring demands were for his opponents to put aside their principles and embrace his.
Lincoln said, “Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension.”
Critics of this article will no doubt seize on the fact that Lincoln was speaking of the abhorrent practice of slavery, but the principle of his commitment to respect the constitutional rights of his opponents still holds. Slavery was abhorrent, but it was constitutional.
Where was Joe Biden’s commitment to respect the constitutional rights today’s Democrats find abhorrent?
The right to keep and bear arms.
The right to religious liberty.
Freedom of speech and the press.
Lincoln pled his case for unity and a peaceful resolution of sectional differences by referring to his previous speeches:
Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you.
Joe Biden could not make a similar commitment, because his speeches are full of threats and commitments to deprive gun owners, landowners and businessowners of their rights, property, and livelihoods.
At the close of the Civil War Lincoln delivered an Inaugural Address of astonishing power that molded our politics for generations. One of the unnoticed gems in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address was this:
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph and a result less fundamental and astounding.
And Lincoln was right – when he offered the olive branch to his opponents in 1861, no one foresaw that the rejection of his fair and conciliatory words would precipitate a civil war of four-years duration and as many as 750,000 casualties.
And we see in the smug “elections have consequences” attitude that Mr. Biden and his team display that they have no idea where their plans could lead and no idea their plans may result in a conflict more fundamental and astounding than it appears to them today.
Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address closed with these immortal words:
With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Joe Biden’s Inaugural Address included no commitment to bind-up the Nation’s wounds or to strive for a lasting peace among ourselves. Instead, Mr. Biden studiously avoided any commitment to turndown the heat of today’s politics in favor of a demand that we all come together on his terms. Such a start to the Biden administration can only bode ill for the future.
Biden inaugural address