Lincoln at Gettysburg
The Words That Remade AmericaBook - 1992
An account of Lincoln's revolutionary speech describes how, in the space of 272 words, the President brought to bear the rhetoric of the Greek Revival, the categories of transcendentalism, and the imagery of the Rural Cemetary Movement
Blackwell North Amer
The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation "a new birth of freedom"--by tracing its first birth to the Declaration of Independence (which called all men equal) rather than to the Constitution (which tolerated slavery). In the space of a mere 272 words, Lincoln brought to bear the rhetoric of the Greek Revival, the categories of Transcendentalism, and the imagery of the "rural cemetery" movement. His entire life and previous training, his deep political experience, went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece.
As Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel has been restored to its bold colors and forgotten details, Garry Wills restores the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln at Gettysburg combines the same extraordinary quality of observation that defines Wills's previous best-selling portraits of modern presidents, such as Reagan's America and Nixon Agonistes, with the iconoclastic scholarship of his studies of our founding documents, such as Inventing America. By examining both the Address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew and reveals much about a President so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln came to change the world, to effect an intellectual revolution, how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns.
The Civil War is, to most Americans, what Lincoln wanted it to mean. Now Garry Wills explains how Lincoln wove a spell that has not, yet, been broken.
An account of Lincoln's revolutionary speech describes how, in the space of a mere 272 words, the President brought to bear the rhetoric of the Greek Revival, the categories of transcendentalism, and the imagery of the Rural Cemetary Movement. 25,000 first printing.
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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. Abraham Lincoln transformed the ugly reality into something rich and strange—and he did it with 272 words. The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration.
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