The Great Speeches of Araham Lincoln

The Great Speeches of Araham Lincoln

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Since the time of the Ancient Greeks mastery of oratory has been a defining quality of esteemed statesmen. Countless examples exist of occupants of the Oval Office successfully using rhetoric to assuage the volatile sentiments of the people during times of crisis. In the wake of the Challenger Shuttle Disaster President Reagan comforted a grieving America with his “Touch the face of God” speech. In the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Perl Harbor President Roosevelt gave an “infamous” address. Abraham Lincoln’s tenure as captain of the ship of state saw our country whether through the hostile currents of a Civil War that threatened to break the ship in two. In many ways the Civil War was a crisis unlike any our nation has faced. President Lincoln’s response to the cataclysm of the war varies throughout his speeches. I argue that he altered his message from one speech to another to best achieve his political aims at the moment. I aim to prove that Lincoln acting like a typical politician, used his speeches as an opportunity to further his own political agenda and that it is only at his second inaugural address that he effectively responds to the tensions and tragedies of the Civil War.
The subject of Abraham Lincoln’s “Cooper Union Address” ostensibly concerns the Republican position on the question of weather the federal government has the power to prohibit slavery in federal territories (Lincoln, Cooper Union Address). However he also uses the speech to carry out several other partisan goals. In Lincoln’s introduction he states, “The facts with which I shall deal this evening are mainly old and familiar” (Lincoln, Cooper Union Address). Additionally, the first part of his speech is given in a highly legalistic and logical f...


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...s it sound like an absolute and final judgment on the question of responsibility for the war. Lincoln contends that both directions on the compass shared guilt for the sin of slavery and both where justly punished so it is better to hold “malice toward none” (Lincoln, Second Inaugural).
Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be the greatest President in American History. I think one of the many reasons for this are the great speeches he gave. Great political speeches are timeless; they manage to transcend the politics of the time and while still a part of history, move forward with us into the future. Despite being an iconic figure, Abraham Lincoln was still a politician with his own self-interested goals. While great speeches transcend the politics of their time, we still need to understand those politics to understand the context in which he speech was given.

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