Richard Nisley


Lincoln's symphony
History - American Released - Mar 27, 2021
It was Russian author Leo Tolstoy who said it: Lincoln's "peculiar moral powers and greatness of character made him to government what Beethoven was to music."

That being the case, Lincoln's "house divided" speech was his "Eroica" Symphony, a precedent shattering statement that alerted America to a new force in politics.

The Emancipation Proclamation is his "Fidelio", a non-operatic unchaining of the shackles and a celebration of freedom.

The Gettysburg Address, Lincoln's quintessential work, is his Fifth Symphony. "Four score and seven years ago" is as memorable in government as the four-note opening motif of the Fifth is in symphonic music.

Finally, the Second Inaugural Address is Lincoln's Ninth Symphony, his most substantial creation, which pulls together the great issues of Lincoln's public life: slavery, the union, freedom. His plea to "bind up the nation's wounds" to "achieve a just and lasting peace" echoes the spirit of Beethoven's chorus singing, "All men become brothers."

For Lincoln, the Second Inaugural Address' "deep music" stilled the waters he had stirred seven years earlier when he told Illinois Republicans: "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I do not believe this nation can permanently endure half-slave and half-free."

In the speech that began his second term in office, Lincoln saw the divided house as becoming whole again.

(note, in writing this piece, I am indebted to an article by attorney Richard Rothschild.)

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