Gettysburg Address Revealed

Gettysburg Address Revealed


A more in-depth look into the genius behind one of the most important documents in U.S. history.

Garry Wills Interpretation

  • Provo, UT

I recently read a book entitled "Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America," by historian Garry Wills.  This is a very interesting intrepretation of the importance of the address.  Most importantly, Wills explains the purpose of the speech as not just a memorium to the soldiers who died, but to the future of the nation, though struggling at the time.

A very interesting portion of the book talks of the lack of formal education that Lincoln had.  Growing up in the backwoods of the then American frontier, Lincoln was only briefly exposed to education and literature.  This would affect his quiet, reserved demeanor in later public life, though he devoted a great deal of care to his careful penmanship.  Such analysis is important in disecting the hidden meanings of his famed address.

Wills makes an interesting statement of Lincoln as the leader of a new intellectual revolution.  Lincoln always carefully selected his words and phrases, showing his desire for public acceptance.  An expert of ancient rhetoric, Hugh Blair, theorizes the following:

"Logic and rhetoric have here, as in many other cases, a strict connection; and he that is learning to arrange his sentences with accuracy and order is learning, at the same time, to think with accuracy and order..."

One could theorize that Lincoln hid a great deal of his capability so as to prepare his rhetoric for this very important speech, which appropriately lasted only a few minutes.  Compared to the mammoth two hour speech that preceded Lincoln, these few words embodied a man whose intellect and careful personality appeared unprecedented to many.  A careful look into these few important words will support such an accusation.

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