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Editor In Chief

March 2024
1min read

Abraham Lincoln was unquestionably the best writer among American Presidents. More than one participant in Harold Holzer’s interesting symposium “How I Met Lincoln” (July/August) cites the “mystic chords of memory” passage at the end of the First Inaugural as an example of his mastery.

But in the interests of full disclosure, one must note that William H. Seward, the Secretary of State—designate, provided Lincoln with a speech draft that concluded: “The mystic chords which proceeding from so many battlefields and so many patriot graves pass through all the hearts and all the hearths in this broad continent of ours will yet again harmonize in the ancient music when breathed upon by the guardian angel of the nation.” Lincoln condensed this orotund sentence into the marvelous: “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Lincoln was not only a great writer. He was a great editor.

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