Joe Biden Invokes Lincoln in Plea for Unity, an End to 'Uncivil War'

President Joe Biden invoked President Abraham Lincoln in his inaugural address, asking people to come together and end the "uncivil war."

Biden's swearing in came against the backdrop of a tumultuous 10 weeks since the election, filled with a divisiveness that drew comparisons to the Civil War and Great Depression.

During his speech, Biden turned the clock back more than 150 years to Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln said it would be the act that put his name in history books, adding "my whole soul is in it."

"On this January Day my whole soul is in this. Bringing America together. Uniting our people. Uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause," Biden said. "We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility and if we're willing to stand in the other person's shoes."

On the eve of the Civil War, Lincoln addressed the nation as president for the first time, choosing to tackle the topic of succession head-on. He acknowledged the frustration and anger in the south and the heightened emotions occurring across the union. However, he urged people to come together because the United States was indestructible except by "some action not provided for in the instrument itself."

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection," Lincoln said. "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, 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."

joe biden inauguration lincoln speech unity
President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty

Biden also must lead a divided nation as Lincoln did, and just two weeks the country ago saw rioters break into the Capitol. After a weeks-long legal battle to overturn the election results in President Donald Trump's favor, Congress convened on January 6 to certify the electoral votes.

As the House and Senate debated the validity of Arizona's electoral votes, a mob breached Capitol security, with some members making their way to the congressional chambers and legislators' offices. At least 300 people have been identified as suspects and more than 90 people were arrested, many of whom were charged federally.

Biden acknowledged the attack multiple times in his speech. He contrasted the violence seen at the Capitol with the Inauguration Day where "we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible to carry out the peaceful transfer of power."

Aware of the heightened emotions over the election, Biden attempted to sow confidence in him from those who didn't support him during the campaign. Leading up to his inauguration, he said he would be a president for all Americans, regardless of their political party. He never mentioned Trump by name but reiterated the message that he wasn't interested in pitting one side against the other.

"For all those who did not support us, hear me out as we move forward take a measure of me and my heart and if you still disagree so be it, that's democracy, that's America—the right to dissent peacefully," Biden said. "I will be a president for all Americans."

Outside of the divisiveness stemming from the election, Biden's taking over as the leader of millions of people experiencing increased pain from the economic fallout of the pandemic and frustration over the restrictions in place to help curb the spread of the outbreak.

FDR took over the presidency at the height of the Great Depression and in his first inaugural address, coined the phrase, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Biden's taking over the White House amid a pandemic that drove unemployment to levels not seen since the Great Depression.

Biden acknowledged that many people viewed the future with "fear and trepidation" because they were worried about jobs and how they'd pay their bills. But, he encouraged people to go forward with the gusto and courage at the heart of the American way.

"The American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us but on all of us. This is a great nation. We are good people," Biden said. "Our better angels will prevail ... We will master this rare and difficult hour ... When we do we'll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America."