President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address Essay

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In 1863 President Lincoln was asked to convey a few appropriate comments at the devotion of the cemetery on the remorse of bloody Gettysburg battlefield. Speaking for only a short period of time, Lincoln used his address to redefine the nature and purpose of the Civil War. Throughout his presidency Lincoln had insisted that the tenacity of the war was merely to preserve the Union; conversely, at Gettysburg he said the purpose of the war was to vindicate the Declaration of Independence 's proposition about the equality of men. He thus redefined the cause of the Civil War—as one of opposing slavery rather than of defending union—and therefore also the task facing the nation once the union had been restored. Lincoln was able to give transcendent…show more content…
Lincoln could thus transcend the historical specificity of the moment while imbuing it with greater meaning. Although the question of whether Thomas Jefferson had meant to include African Americans in his proposition about equality had long been debated, Lincoln throughout his career had always argued that the proposition included all men, including Africans, because in his philosophical view all men were entitled to the natural rights of life, liberty, and property. Thus, the war had, against Lincoln 's wishes, given rise to a "new birth of freedom." To some, Lincoln 's words are disingenuous since when he spoke them he was not committed politically to the full emancipation or freedom of the enslaved African and certainly not to their equality. However, in this instance the words of Lincoln came to have more significance historically than his deeds, because they became a part of the rhetoric of freedom and in doing so helped to make it a reality. Thus the Gettysburg Address, unlike the Emancipation Proclamation, should be read and understood as a philosophical rather than a political
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