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Rhetorical Comparison of Lincoln and King

Lincoln and King: A Rhetorical Comparison

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) and Martin Luther King (1929-1968) wrote with an astounding historical importance extending well beyond their own time. As a young lawyer Lincoln was concerned with the high degree of lawlessness surrounding him. Leery of the growing rage of the mob rising in mid-nineteenth century America Lincoln penned "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions" arguing for the importance of civil law and the necessity of civil obedience. Nearly a century later the unjust and racially prejudicial society framing King forced him to dissent and compose the now justly famous essay "Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963." Choosing to center an antisegregration drive in Birmingham, Alabama, King wrote this piece as a rallying cry to join the nonviolent movement beginning to stir in the racially divided deep South. Lincoln and King stand as two of America's greatest political writers, combining passion with eloquence, commitment with inspiration and demanding that compassion and honesty never be sidestepped.

A comparison between Lincoln's "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions" (1837) with King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963" is a bit unfair to Lincoln's legacy. Although neither essay is considered to be the best of these two authors, Lincoln's essay dates to a period when historians have named him as a hack, a not fully evolved statesman (Burlingame, 1). Scrutiny of Lincoln's development suggests that he emerged as a new man after his hiatus, his withdrawal from public life in the years between 1849-1957 (Burlingame, 1). No longer focusing on the most petty aspects of politics or those most advantageous to furthering his own political stands, Lincoln learned in these austere years of private study that a larger sense of vision was needed. Casting off personal concerns Lincoln could now begin to shape himself not only as a strong orator but as a leader....

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Rhetorical Comparison of Lincoln and King. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:39, November 30, 2021, from