THE MYSTIC CHORDS OF UNION
As a rising young attorney in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln ( 1809-1865) followed the Whig party line on banking, the tariff, and internal improvements. He once called Henry Clay "my beau ideal of a statesman." Lincoln became Whig minority leader in the lower house of the state legislature, and during a brief term in Congress from 1846 to 1848, he vigorously denounced the Mexican War. He remained a faithful Whig until the party disintegrated; then in 1856 he joined the Republicans. In 1858 Lincoln called America "a house divided against itself"; the same year William H. Seward foresaw "an irrepressible conflict" that would make the country either all slave or all free. They proved right -- within three years the crisis had arrived.
Lincoln's first inaugural address shows how strongly Whig political ideas continued to influence him after he became president. Under circumstances of impending civil war, it must have seemed almost impossible to combine an appeal for social harmony with dedication to moral principle; but these were two of the highest values of Whiggery and Lincoln was committed to both. Here he joins firmness of principle with conciliatory rhetoric, resolving the two in his dedication to maintain the Union. Lincoln's position is a logical development from Seward's in the preceding selection. The resemblance, indeed, is no accident: Secretary of State-designate Seward had gone over the draft of the speech with his new chief. Seward's emendations (notably in the last paragraph) gave an especially Whiggish tone to Lincoln's text.
Fellow-Citizens of the United States:
In compliance with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be