Lincoln At Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America


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Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America "Fourscore and seven years ago…." These are the first 5 of only two hundred seventy-two words that remade America. In Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, the author, Gary Wills, informed us that Abraham Lincoln wanted equality among us and to unite as one. In Abraham Lincoln's own speech, he would not mention single individuals or even top officers. Everyone was considered as equal importance and was never any different. "Though we call Lincoln's text the Gettysburg Address, that title clearly belongs to Everett." 1 This is very true, which I think is interesting. Everett who was chosen by David Wills to commemorate the National Cemetery of Gettysburg, was supposed to be the speaker while Lincoln was only the dedicatory remarks speaker. Not only did Lincoln have the favorable speech, it was only three minutes while Everett's was two hours long. Lincoln also supposedly was not supposed to be there to speak; he actually just told a correspondent that he would be present. It's amazing to believe that a two hundred seventy-two word speech would say so much to thousands of people.
Wills did a great job in this book by showing the importance of equality, the unity, and freedom that Lincoln had created among the people. "This is the belief of Lincoln--- that the Declaration is a pledge "to all people of all colors everywhere."'2 Slavery is wrong. We cannot own human beings and have them as slaves, and should not be kings over them. If you own certain things, how can you free it? You can't free property; you can't free your clothes. Those are just items, people are not meant to be owned. It is point out to the entire nation and he even pointed it out even further towards both the North and the South.

1Gary Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, 1992.
(New York: Simon Schuster, 1992), 35
2Gary Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, 1992.
(New York: Simon Schuster, 1992), 105

Will somewhat expected us to know basically what had happened during the battle at the time and what to expect from both General Lee and General Meade. Wills focuses on the fact that prejudice is wrong. "They (Lee and Meade) did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity.

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They defined, with tolerable distinctness, in what respects they did consider all men created equal---equal in "certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."'3 This statement Wills makes shows us that we are not going to be the same in looks, our skills, our morals, or where we stand among each other, but it down mean that we are equal in freedom.
What I thought was great about this book is that he would take certain parts from different passages or speeches. It gave more depth to certain meanings of what other people have said. On page 158, he gave two parts of speeches for us to understand the contrast between the two. One was William Seward's and the other was Lincoln's. It showed how just a slight change in Lincoln's speech can add a difference. I thought it was funny that Lincoln had a high pitch Kentucky accent voice. He carried so much power into the words he said that people perceive him as being a low baritone and a heroic voice.
I loved how Wills gave the description of the Battle of Gettysburg as being a brutal and tragic event and he did a great job of describing just little parts. He described the aftermath of both sides saying there was fifty thousand dead or wounded, rotting corpse of not only humans but the horseflesh as well. ‘It would have been hard to predict that Gettysburg, out of all this muddle, these missed chances, all the senseless deaths, would become a symbol of national purpose, pride, and ideals.'4

3Gary Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, 1992.
(New York: Simon Schuster, 1992), 100
4 Gary Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, 1992.
(New York: Simon Schuster, 1992), 20

Wills points out to us that to be an American, you don't have to be the richest, the tallest, or the smartest. He simply states that to be an American, it means to have freedom. Jacqueline Laba sates that Lincoln's revolutionary proposition was that the United States is on people, one nation, rather than a voluntary association of separate states. "Up to the Civil War," Wills says, "the United States' was invariably a plural noun…After Gettysburg, it became a singular… Because of it [The Gettysburg Address], we live in a different America." I felt the Jacqueline Laba's reveiew was very well done and you could tell that she had a love for the book. She describes it saying "That there is, in the end, perhaps more style than substance here cannot detract from the fact that no better book on the Gettysburg Address has ever been written. That a better on can-and should-yet be attempted, is a conclusion some readers will find altogether proper and unavoidable." Seeing what Wills said to Laba I thought was very interesting because you never really think of America that way. Everyone understands what happened in the Civil War, but it is hard to see how a nation that was together became divided. I feel that we create our liberty as not being free from other people but being free with the people. By understanding this you see what Wills is saying and how it relates with our government today. We are as one, like a family, and should stay united as one nation. Justice is the fair treatment to serve both the good and bad people so we can still stay as one.
In this book, I learned that even though we are all different, we all deserve rights and though some people take advantage of the rights given to them, we today need to learn and take a stand for what we believe is right. Wills informed me so much on how just a small amount of words can give the largest impact on people. If it was not for Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, we would still be a nation divided or at least not the nation we are today, but because of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address we are together, united as one country and one nation. "Abraham Lincoln transformed the ugly reality into something rich and strange--- and he did it with 272 words."5 Thanks to Lincoln, we are now a nation as one, with freedom to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

5 Gary Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, 1992.
(New York: Simon Schuster, 1992), 20


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