On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln gave one of his most memorable speeches: his first inaugural address. In this speech, Lincoln sought to alleviate the tug-of-war amongst the Southern States. He pleaded for the Confederate states to reconcile with the North and sent a clear message that he would not let the Union be dissolved. In the famous concluding paragraph, Lincoln’s address proposed a question to the South, “Shall it be peace or the sword?” He then proceeded to end on a memorable note of conciliation saying, “… We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies…The mystic chords of memory… will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

In Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865, Lincoln was seeking to achieve a “just and lasting peace” between the North and the South, and a smooth transition back into the Union. He said that the North and the South “… read the same Bible, and pray to the same God,” in an attempt to relate the opposing sides. The ending paragraph brought the short but powerful address to a close when he said, “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 do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

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Both of Lincoln’s addresses have transcended time and are still read and quoted often because of the powerful messaging: by finding a common ground between differing groups, we can bring the country together in peace and create a better world.

From the Mercury One historical collection. Photo courtesy of Mercury One.

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Republished with permission from MercuryOne.org.

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