↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The golden trumpet No inaugural address has so thoroughly rejected the political philosophy and legislative record of the previous administration

Until very recently, the pretence was kept up that these speeches were the original work of the president-elect, scribbling alone up in his den or - in JFK's case - the locked cabin of a private yacht, surrounded by blunted pencils and scumbled pages from a yellow legal pad. But this has always been a polite fiction.

When Lincoln showed the first draft of his 1861 inaugural to William Seward, his chief rival for the Republican nomination and his designated secretary of state (yes, history does sometimes repeat itself), Seward returned it with a sheaf of corrections to almost every sentence ("Strike out the whole paragraph", "For 'treasonable' write 'revolutionary'") and a drastically changed ending. Lincoln adopted almost all of Seward's suggestions, including the most important one, where Seward insisted that the speech end not on a challenge to the South (Lincoln had written "Shall it be peace, or a sword?") but on an appeal to what he called "the mystic chords" of shared historical memory. Seward's mystic chords went in, as did his hearts and hearths, his patriot graves and battlefields, his bonds of affection, his angels and ancient music, but as Lincoln rewrote Seward he sharpened every idea and phrase, giving the new ending a poignancy and intimacy of tone that hugely improved on Seward's original.....


Post a Comment

<< Home