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The “homespun” language of President Lincoln. Was it bad Grammar or Not?

The “homespun” language of President Lincoln.  Was it bad Grammar or Not?

Today we are remembering the birth of President Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of United States. And a great President of All times. But was his language “homespun?”

Although Mr. Seward wrote the closing, President Lincoln wrote his own now famous closing for his inauguration speech.

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We
must not be enemies. 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.”

” Mr. Lincoln read his inaugural,” says Mr. Harlan in his unpublished ” Recollections of Abraham Lincoln,”

Below was what Mr. Seward originally wrote. He presented two closings this was one of them which President Lincoln made few changes and made it his famous closing speech.

I close. We are not, we must not be, aliens or enemies,
but fellow-countrymen and brethren. Although passion has
strained our bonds of affection too hardly, they must not, I
am sure they will not be broken. The mystic chords which,
proceeding from so many battlefields and so many patriotic
graves, pass through all the hearts and all hearths in this
broad continent of ours, will yet again harmonize in their
ancient music when breathed upon by the guardian angel of
the nation.

I looked at these two paragraphs and thought President Lincoln’s closing convey the message much more stronger and precisely than the one was written for him.

This “literary form of document” came across as a shock to many.

” The style of the address is as characteristic as its temper,”
said the Boston ” Transcript.” ” It has not one fawning
expression in the whole course of its firm and explicit
statements. The language is level to the popular mind—the
plain, homespun language of a man accustomed to talk
with ‘ the folks ‘ and ‘ the neighbors; ‘ the language of a man of vital common-sense, whose words exactly fit in his facts and thoughts.”

This “homespun language ” was a shock to many. Clearly to the Boston snobs it was a slap on face of their high maintained literacy vocabulary.

I know today we have come a long way from that language and use a very light language. And grammar of course a factor in our writing whether we are writing business letters or any other business document.

But I don’t see that much of admiration for the literacy as we used to during President Lincoln’s time.

And ex-President Tyler complained to Francis Lieber of its grammar. Lieber replied:

” You complain of the bad grammar of President Lincoln’s
message. We have to look at other things, just now than grammar…

Let us leave grammar alone in these days of shame, and
rather ask whether people act according to the first and
simplest rules of morals and of honor.”

I think this was a great statement that we could and should live by even today.

The country was waiting to see if President Lincoln will live up to his words and use the power and means to achieve the good he talked about.

I think you would agree with me if I say he did indeed live above and beyond his promises.

Reading this, made me realize what it is desired from a business. Yes check your grammar, horn your networking skills but most importantly do as you say and keep your word and be honest with your clients. Simple as that.

Take that extra effort to fulfill your clients need. And individualize work within and outside the organization for innovation. That collective use of individual endowments could bring you the attainment you’re dreading to discover in your business.

And you are more susceptible to criticism rather than praise. Even a great President like Abraham Lincoln had to face it. Take both ends as an opportunity to grow.

So what is your grammar snob story or client fulfillment story of lurid? Share with us and alleviate that tension you’ve being experiencing lately. Start it all over again and you would accomplish your goal.

When I was writing this I realized there are days I wanted to be highly literate and there are days I like to use ordinary language. Is it wrong? As long as I say what my heart desires. What are your thoughts?

P.S. My thanks to LoC and the writer Ida M. Tarbell.


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