Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
The Manipulation of Language
The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize a gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation "a new birth of freedom". By tracing its first birth to the Declaration of Independence (which called all men equal) rather than to the Constitution (which tolerated slavery). In the space of a mere 272 words, Lincoln brought to bear the rhetoric of the Greek Revival, the categories of Transcendentalism, and the imagery of the "rural cemetery" movement.
In his book, Gary wills, by examining both, the Address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, breathes new life into words we thought we knew and reveals much about a President so mythologized, but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln came to change the world, to effect an intellectual revolution, how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns.
The Civil War is, to most Americans, what Lincoln wanted it to mean. In this book Garry Wills brilliantly explains how Lincoln wove a spell that has not, yet, been broken.
Lincoln at Gettysburg's book is a tribute not just to the genius of Lincoln, but also to the power of language itself, which sometimes compromises the mind in order to save the soul. For Example, depending on the state he was giving a speech, Lincoln would advocate or reject slavery in order to capture the audience's attention, therefore, compromising his thought process with his beliefs.
To extract the original context and relevance of an American institution, Lincoln, in his account of the Battle of Gettysburg, nearly five months later, a cemetery was erected on the site. Against all odds, Lincoln not only brought dignity to this hellish battleground, but ensured forever that Americans would interpret the Constitution and the Civil War fought to preserve the principles of advocating equal rights for all human beings of the Declaration of Independence. He revolutionized the Revolution, giving people the insight and motivation that would change their future indefinitely.
Wills's brilliance is proven with his insights in to how Lincoln's speech reflected the Unionist empty words of Daniel Webster, transcendentalism, and the imagery of the rural cemetery movement, and especially, the section in which Lincoln set a new standard for American prose style with 272 carefully chosen words.