Monday, April 28, 2008

Lincoln's First Inaugural Speech In 1861

Yes, I realize there is a presidential campaign going on today that is supposedly a grand epic contest. However, I continue to be engrossed in reading the archives recently provided to subscribers of the New York Times. As noted in my previous post, the New York Times has made available to their subscribers online access to articles dating back to 1851. Below is an excerpt from their March 4th, 1861 edition reporting about Abraham Lincoln's upcoming inaugural speech.
"The Inaugural will be found to treat the political crisis in a very positive, matter-of-fact manner. While the President will endeavor to conciliate the Slave States by the most positive assurances of the honesty and firmness of purpose of his Administration, he will in no manner evade the issue nor blink his policy.

He will in insist on the preservation of the Government in all its integrity. So decided is he in this connection that some of his friends have attempted to persuade him to tone it down. He replied that he had canvassed the subject throughly, and had matured his policy in accordance with his best judgment. The bold frankness of the document, which, by the way, is briefer than would be expected, will challenge the respect and confidence of the South, as well as the admiration of the North.

Mr. Lincoln stated this evening that the inaugural could not be printed, as some points might require modifying or extending, according to the action of the Senate tonight. His son is now writing copies of what is finished, one of which will be given to the Associated Press when he commences reading it.

Mr. Lincoln says nobody is authorized to speak for him as to the station assigned members of his Cabinet. He has not and will not give any one data on the subject."
Click here (subscription required) to read the entire article in PDF format. The article referenced how President Lincoln sent for Senator Seward, his former rival and future Secretary of State, who reviewed the speech and made suggestions.

How humorous to read about Lincoln's son drafting copies and only providing one draft for the Associated Press. Hardly the rapid news cycle we've become so accustomed to. It's also especially haunting to read this article knowing the bloody turmoil ahead. The gathering storm is certainly present in the excerpt above. Also referenced in the article was how a gentleman traveled incognito to Washington to present his credentials as Ambassador of the Southern Confederacy. And yet the tone of this article has a curious detachment from the metastasizing crisis that became the Civil War.

Assuming our planet and civilization survives, I wonder if 100 years from now people will review coverage of our current presidential campaign and find the emphasis oddly detached from reality. Global warming, predatory capitalism run amok and civilization itself in peril. A century from now will someone review the media's 2008 emphasis on celebrity hype and shallow symbolism and wonder how we could have been so detached from the perils confronting us?

Whatever. I just hope Barack Obama starts wearing flag pins and learns to bowl.

1 comment:

Collin Williams said...

Thanks for posting that. I have problems with Lincoln's presidency, but It's cool to read his old speeches.