Essay on The Rhetoric of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Essay on The Rhetoric of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

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Advertisements on television, newspaper and magazine articles, websites, conversations, speeches, songs—we are bombarded daily with rhetoric vying for our attention. Whether we realize it or not, within these daily situations lie the three proofs of rhetoric: the appeal to emotion, the use of character, and the appeal to reason (pathos, ethos, and logos, respectively). On the other hand, sometimes we can immediately know that a piece of rhetoric contains each of the proofs. One well-known speech that readily incorporates each of them is the address President Abraham Lincoln gave at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863, commonly known as the "Gettysburg Address."

In Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Charmichael suggests, “Greatness in a speech, like greatness in men, or in events, is usually recognized only when seen through the haze of distance which the passing years bring” (67-68). It is often only in retrospect that great speeches are recognized as just that. Though the "Gettysburg Address" is already commonly—and quite deservedly—held in high regard, the analysis of its rhetorical proofs will only speak further to its importance.

Although the situation was itself emotional, Lincoln did appeal to the audience’s emotion in his address. At two years into the war that caused the greatest number of American servicemen deaths (more than the world wars and the Vietnam War combined), the audience was already filled with grief—perhaps even anger—at the devastating loss of so many people. They were perhaps weary of this long and trying war. Lincoln first acknowledges this emotional state by referencing the difficulty even a nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” might have in enduring ...


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... logos is an evidence of Lincoln’s persuasiveness. And unlike some of the rhetoric that we see every day in which we must search for the three proofs, they can be easily identified and analyzed in Lincoln’s address. Though his original audience was limited to those gathered on the battlefield at Gettysburg that day in 1863 and though Lincoln predicted that no one would remember his simple address, the "Gettysburg Address" remains one of the most powerful speeches in history.

Works Cited

Carmichael, Orton. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. New York: Abingdon Press, 1917.

Crowley, Sharon, and Debra Hawhee. Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students. Boston: Pearson Longman, 2004.

Kunhardt, Philip Jr. A New Birth of Freedom: Lincoln at Gettysburg. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1983.

Lincoln, Abraham. Gettysburg Address, at Gettysburg, PA. 19 Nov. 1863.

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