Abraham Lincoln - "Mystic Chords of Memory"

America elected Abraham Lincoln as their 16th President on the 6th of November, 1860.  The United States was on the verge of Civil War, at the time, and his election put Lincoln into the White House when the country was deeply divided between North and South.

Lincoln, who was President from the start to the end of the War between the States, already had a beard when he and his family moved into the White House. This image depicts what is believed to be his first official portrait as President.

The document, at the top of the page, contains some of the most memorable phrases from Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural.  It is the last page of that address.  The edits are in the President's own handwriting.

The Library of Congress, where this important document is maintained, provides background information regarding its creation:

Until the final draft, Lincoln's address had ended with a question for the South: "Shall it be peace or sword?"

[But] in the famous concluding paragraph, Lincoln, following the suggestion of [William] Seward, moderated his tone dramatically and ended on a memorable note of conciliation:

I am loth 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, stre[t]ching from every battle-field, 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.

Click on the document image for a much better view.

Media Credits

Document image and quoted passage from the Library of Congress - American Treasures of the Library of Congress.


Image of President Lincoln:  Salt print. Ostendorf O-55. It is believed to be the earliest presidential portrait of Lincoln, taken sometime between 1 March 1860 and 30 June 1860.  Online via Library of Congress.


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