The meaning of Lincolns speech at Gettysburg: "Lincoln at Gettysburg" by Garry Wills

Essay by jmoneylawUniversity, Bachelor'sA, February 2007

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Garry Wills' argues in his book "Lincoln at Gettysburg" that Abraham Lincoln was largely influenced by the classic funeral oratories of Athens, Daniel Webster, and the Transcendentalists. Wills' asserts that Lincoln redefined the interpretation of the "Declaration of Independence", which gave new meaning to the constitution without destroying the sacred document. Wills phrases this enlightenment as a new founding of the nation. Moreover, Lincoln essentially changed the meaning of the civil war, declaration of independence, and the U.S. constitution in a skillfully crafted three-minute speech at Gettysburg. Lincoln interprets the intent of the Declaration of independence as a founding document created by a people who believed that all men had a right to be free and equal before the eyes of government.

Wills' properly asserts that for the majority of Americans the Declaration of independence means what Lincoln told us it means. Essentially, Lincoln altered our nation's documents without a single stroke pen; by giving new meaning to "all men", Lincoln for the first time actually included all men and he meant all men are created equal.

This in turn gave new meaning to the civil war itself. The war was no longer being fought to prevent the Southern secessionists from withdrawing from the union it was being fought to give a people the freedom that our founding fathers had granted to all men according to Lincoln's wise interpretation. Lincoln's depiction of the Constitution forever changed Americans understanding of the document; by appealing the spirit of the document, he established rights to all Americans regardless of gender, color, religion, or creed.

Many Americans who had felt the heavy hands of oppression latter embraced Lincoln's interpretation of the "Declaration of independence" as the original meaning. Women suffragists, civil right activists, abolitionists, as well as the long overdue enfranchisement...