In his first inaugural address in 1801, after a bitter election that Jefferson himself called a “revolution,” Thomas Jefferson made a plea for national unity and social harmony that we all should strive to adopt in 2024.
So rent was the country by partisan strife, as Republican Jefferson faced Federalist John Adams for the right to succeed George Washington, that many feared that an armed conflict, a civil war, might break out.
Friends on opposite sides of the partisan divide stopped speaking to one another, families broke apart, neighbors fought with a savage intensity.
The words of the poet William Butler Yeats seem to be more and more applicable:
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
Into this maelstrom, Jefferson delivered a message from his inaugural platform we all need to heed today, especially this year:
“Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.”
In his inaugural address, even as he was scheming to try to impeach Trump even on his way out of office, Biden called for a unity that proved the exact opposite of his real intentions.
But now, when the issue of the election is still unresolved, let’s all really work to restore the “social harmony” of which Jefferson spoke.
Let’s do it in our own homes, our entertainment, our social events, when we go out for dinner or have couples over. Ban politics for the night. We will never be able to convince each other, and the dinner table makes a bad rostrum.
By restoring social harmony or, as Jefferson put it “social intercourse,” we can make a start at healing America.
Remember also, what Lincoln said in his first inaugural as Civil War loomed:
“Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. 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.”
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