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The Importance of the Gettysburg Address

The words of Abraham Lincoln delivered at Gettysburg were ones that from the perspective of Gary Wills (89), "remade America." Wills goes on to add that "in the crucible of the occasion, Lincoln distilled the meaning of the war, of the nation's purpose, of the remaining task, in a statement that is straightforward and magical."

In his address at Gettysburg, a succinct, direct 272-word speech, Lincoln successfully connected the cherished principles of the Declaration of Independence with those of the American people; including all men being created equal, all men having the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the goal of government being to protect these rights. Wills maintains that in his speech Lincoln performed a bit of intellectual slight-of-hand by transferring the concept of all men being created equal from reference to no monarch having more of a right to rule than other men to a domestic ideology that gave America a moral mission that implied slavery was immoral and in violation of the Declaration of Independence. As Wills (38) notes of those in attendance in the Gettysburg crowd, "Everyone in that vast throng of thousands was having his or her intellectual pocket picked. The crowd departed with a new thing in its ideological luggage, that new constitution Lincoln had substituted for the one they brought there with them." In doing this, Lincoln not only made the case that the nation was one Union, but also implied that slavery was fundamentally wrong, a concept Wills maintains he would bring home further in his Second Inaugural Address that posited slavery as sinful. In this sense, Lincoln established a new ideological mission of Americans, helped cement the solidarity of the Union while undermining slavery and he left American's with a mission to promote the principle of equality so that those who died in the unfinished business of Civil War would not have died in vain.


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The Importance of the Gettysburg Address. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:40, March 22, 2019, from