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Rhetorical Analysis of Lincoln's Speech

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This essay is the analysis of one of the most prominent speeches in the US history – Lincoln’s “The Gettysburg Address” (McPherson 185). Lincoln delivered it during times of the  Civil War in 1863. The speech was dedicated to the soldiers buried at the Gettysburg National Cemetery, Pennsylvania.

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By starting with the phrase “Four score and seven years ago,” Lincoln made the Independence Declaration be the main reference of the American Revolution’s beginning. The President examined the creation of the United States in the Civil War context by memorializing the woes of those who died at Gettysburg. He also glorified their righteousness to ensure the survival of American democracy stating, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” (Boot 34).

It is important to note that, despite the speech was very prominent, its exact location and wording is still disputed. There are five manuscripts of “The Address,” which are different in a details number and from its contemporary reprints in the newspaper. Although Lincoln’s speech was only a few minutes long, ten sentences were enough to summarize the whole war (Murphy105).

The parts of speech are logically connected, and combination of simple and complex sentences adds the effectiveness of each thought pronounced. Lincoln’s phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is also called “of/by/for the people” formula. This appeals to ethos and draws a parallel with the “division” of the creators of the Constitution, and, at the same time, ability to put their minds together to write it. 

It is believed that this version was adapted by the President from Parker’s dictum: “Democracy is direct self-government over all the people, for all the people, by all the people” and Lincoln used those words for writing “The Gettysburg Address” (Boot 34). Theodore Parker was an abolitionist preacher.

The expression “under God” possesses some connotative meaning in “The Address,” which some skeptics believe that Lincoln did not pronounce (Walker 1). However, the report was telegraphed stating that the “under God” phrase was given in “The Address.”

Lincoln uses ethos, pathos and logos in order to make his argument more strong and convincing. Another moment that helps him to be more influential is his general position in the country – the presidency. The words that he chooses give him more credibility.

Pathos and the way he uses it connects the reader to the “Address” a lot. For example, one of the emotional parts, especially for the families that lost relatives or friends in the war is “… a final resting place for those who have gave their lives . . .” (Boot 34). These words will help to remember those who gave their lives for that “great task,” which can be considered a new beginning of freedom.

Lincoln’s speech has also many “we” and “us” accosts. Such approach brings the feeling of unification of the nation. Additionally, we see, there are no such words as “I“or “you,” because the speaker’s audience are people of both South and North origins. The 16thUS President utilizes the pronouns “we”, “our” and “us” with the aim to group the whole nation and does it very efficiently.  The word “dedicated” also appears a couple of times. Its primary function is not to connect the paragraphs logically, but to appeal to pathos.

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Since logos is an important part of any argument, Lincoln supports his speech with many facts, which provoke the readers to be more active in the society. His “new birth of freedom” persuades the audience regarding the result of soldiers fights describing that as “the great task”.

To conclude, Lincoln, when writing this speech used ethos, pathos, and logos, to demonstrate his belief that people who made a sacrifice for their country must be honored. Thus, such speeches have to be a great example of how to persuade others to be active citizens of their society. Lincoln’s “The Gettysburg Address” is the best evidence of such prominent speech.

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