With the release of the film, Lincoln, I wanted to repost my essay on Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Adress, which is used as the ending for this remarkable movie.
No American president ever employed the power of words as well as Abraham Lincoln. In his skillful hands, they were as mighty as any weapon in the Union Army’s arsenal and he used them to consistently and clearly state the nation’s goals, its purposes and war aims, and his own vision for the country’s future path. Moreover, he was able to demonstrate this ability, this precious gift, in both the written and spoken word, and historians have long paid especially close attention to the latter. From his 1858 debates with Stephen Douglas to his speech at Cooper Union, the first inaugural address, the Gettysburg Address, and his second inaugural address, they have studied his texts with great care, seeking all they reveal about his mind and his positions on the issues of the time, as well as their often powerful beauty.
Some historians consider the speech he delivered on the…
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