How Lincoln Won The War With Metaphors

How Lincoln Won The War With Metaphors

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Abraham Lincoln's ability to speak with eloquence and force is what won the Civil War; there can be no doubt about it. His role as a motivator and often an inspiring teacher to all had more of an effect on the troops and the American people than a loss or a victory of any battle ever did. Lincoln's speeches are some of the most celebrated in history for many good reasons. He was always aware of his audience and never failed to impress with his use of logic and knowledge. However, what are most remembered about Lincoln's speeches are his metaphors and imagery used to provoke emotions or ideas from the reader. Lincoln spoke with such depth and power that any who heard him could not help but be awestruck. Many wonder if the outcome of the Civil war would have changed if Davis could have employed Lincoln's profound metaphors on the Confederacy.
The American people have always had a fascination with presidents of common or lowly backgrounds. Like Jackson before him, Lincoln spent most of his childhood working to support his family. Lincoln's highly informal education could not compare to Davis' academic accomplishments, which include graduation from West Point. But what Lincoln learned working on the farm or in the store was far more valuable that anything Davis was taught in school. Through these experiences Lincoln gained the ability to speak with the ordinary man, a quality that helped him' get elected or gather support for an undesirable, yet seemingly imminent war. His communication skills came in large part from his understanding of exactly what the average man wanted to hear.
Lincoln learned the other important component of speech, not what to say, but how to say it, from his favorite books as a young man: The Bible, Aesop's Fables, Pilgrim's Progress, and Shakespeare's plays. These books and stories taught Lincoln the power of a metaphor. He fell in love with the idea of the meaning behind the stories or plays and the implied moral of each Bible verse. Metaphors can be found frequently throughout all his speeches. Although some may be dead metaphors, or metaphors so common that they fail strike us in any way, Lincoln had the unique talent of rephrasing it just so that it became a live metaphor with more strength behind it than imaginable.
Although he could never speak as expressively as Lincoln, Davis certainly tried.

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His uninspiring metaphors fell on deaf ears and failed to effect any emotion from a crowd. It seems that Davis was too consumed with visions of victory and anger toward the Union to bother trying to write anything powerful or moving. Most of his writings had an ineffectual, emotionless tone without any images or metaphors to catch the listener's interest. He was undoubtedly an excellent writer, which could be expected given his remarkable academic background. But he lacked imagination and creativity to fully indulge his reader and make him feel any excitement for what Davis was saying. This fault cost Davis and the Confederacy the Civil war.
James M. McPherson states that had Lincoln and Davis switched sides, the Confederacy would most likely have won the war. He supports this idea with numerous quotes from Lincoln, detailing his well thought out use of metaphors in a variety of different situations. The examples McPherson chose were definitely some of the best, really showcasing just how brilliant Lincoln was. I would definitely have to say that I find his argument convincing, due in large part to the number and variety of quotes he used. He really makes you stop and think about what Lincoln was saying and take an interest in how he said it. My only critique is that I would have liked to have seen more examples of Davis' work. It seemed like he wanted the essay to be a comparison between the two presidents, but he only showed the talents of Lincoln's work. It would have really solidified his position that Lincoln could have won the war, regardless of which side he led, if he had added some examples of Davis' writing, showing that Lincoln was the truly superior communicator.
In the history of the American Civil war, Lincoln did a number of things that Davis never would or could do. He was undeniably the better leader, communicator, and man. These qualities came into play when dealing with the generals. Where Davis could merely say "go here" or "attack from this side", Lincoln was prepared to answer any of his generals' questions with a meaningful metaphor whose point was never misunderstood. His wise advice in the form of stories or fables proved valuable in communicating with the generals. Lincoln could more effectively inspire and motivate with a tale about a monkey than Davis ever could. If Lincoln had been directing Lee at the battle of Vicksburg, the South might have won after all.
The American Civil war can definitely be described as the second American Revolution. Both wars began over the freedom of an oppressed people, although in the Revolution the colonists defend themselves whereas in the Civil war the North stands up for the slaves. They both pitted a strong leader who had the love and support of his country against a futile man who could never quite measure up. But the post-war atmosphere is what was the most similar. Lincoln calls winning the Civil war a "new birth of freedom", just like the American Revolution gave freedom to the colonists. The entire economy changed after both these wars, forming new national banks to rely on capitalism instead of plantation agriculture. New taxes were created and enforced in different way from before. The American Revolution and the Civil war had a multitude of similarities, so the Civil war could absolutely be the second American Revolution.
Abraham Lincoln communication genius gave him the upper hand in leading his people during the Civil war. He used his common background to his advantage, learning how to speak plainly yet eloquently with ordinary people. He could always get his point across, especially with his elaborate use of metaphors. He learned to use imagery and figurative language from his favorite authors like Aesop or Shakespeare. Jefferson Davis could never speak quite as well or with as much depth as Lincoln and subsequently he was unable to inspire his troops or his people to win the war. Many believe that if Lincoln had been president of the Confederacy, the South would have won this so-called second American Revolution.
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