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Abraham Lincoln

Many people remember President Abraham Lincoln as being a very gifted orator as well as a dignified leader of our country. Through his many speeches and writings, Abraham Lincoln captivated American minds and gained millions of followers. In Lincoln’s “Perpetuation speech,” given before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, in 1838, Lincoln himself stated that our country was in great danger. He speaks of people such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Napoleon and then asks, “Is it unreasonable to expect , that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us?” (Grafton, page 7). In this, he shares his fear that some man with great ambition and power could exist in this country who is not satisfied with just the power of the presidency and strive for more than that. I believe that Lincoln had the power to be one of those people. When Lincoln’s orations and writings are carefully analyzed, one can see how he used his wit and intelligence to manipulate the American people. With his intelligence and immense popularity, Lincoln could have easily been one of the men that he spoke of. He used his gift as an orator to get ahead and that, I believe, made him a threat to American society.

Abraham Lincoln was a very popular man among the American people. He was there for the country through the Civil War, whether good or bad times. In the North he was the great emancipationist. Lincoln was loved by many, and he could have used this to his advantage. One reason that he was so loved was because he had the ability to draw people’s attention with his speeches. After his assassination and the reaction of the American people, the fact that he was so loved was a surprise to some people in Washington. There was a three week funeral procession where Lincoln’s body was taken to the big cities by a special train so that the people could mourn him. “Democrat Charles Mason of Iowa thought the whole affair a political trick, like the ‘crafty skill of Mark Antony in displaying to the Roman people the bloody mantle of Caesar’,” (Donald, page 5). This analogy was made as an argument between political parties, but I think that it just shows how important Lincoln really was, being compared to the great Julius Caesar. It is widely believed that popular Presidents of our country have been able to do many things, undisputed. “Our great Presidents have joyously played the political piano by ear, making up the melody as they went, ” (Donald, page 18). This can be seen as a threat. Some presidents, Lincoln specifically, could use their power to do whatever they wanted. This power can be used to different degrees. A modern day example of the Presidential misuse of power is the Bill Clinton scandal. Lincoln, in the people’s eyes, was known as “Honest Abe,” and was trusted not to use his power to his advantage, although he very easily could have.

Lincoln had the ambition and the talent to be a very powerful man. Abraham Lincoln was a great orator as well. Lincoln had a talent for expression and he was by nature a literary artist. He was greater than an orator. He had a gift with his pen, and that was the tool that he used to gain tremendous support from the people. He spoke to people, just throughout his daily activities, and one can see that he had very great confidence in himself and wanted to spread his ideals out into the American public. “In 1838 he carried his enthusiasm with him on his visits to the office of the county clerk. ‘He would come into the clerk’s office where I and some young men were writing and staying,’ the unnamed friend recalled,’ and would bring the Bible with him; would read a chapter and argue against it, ‘ ” (Current {The Lincoln…}, page 58). This shows how Lincoln liked to spread his ideals. It also shows how Lincoln is trying to undermine the most cherished and followed book of more than half of the Americans. He must have thought very highly of his opinions to be arguing against the most important book of the American people.
Lincoln argues his rights as president and makes excuses for his actions, and he was very good at it. During the Civil War, it was argued that Lincoln, as President, was not allowed under the Constitution to suspend the Writ of Habeaus Corpus, which he did during that time. “Or if, as has happened, the executive should suspend the writ, without ruinous waste of time, in instances as arresting innocent persons might occur, as are always likely to occur in such cases; and then a clamor could be raised in regard to this, which might be, at least, of some service to the insurgent cause,” (Current {The Political…}, page 251). Lincoln could have been impeached for his actions during the Civil War. Through this statement, he is trying to justify his actions, although they were unconstitutional. As the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln should be protecting the Constitution. However, he makes an exception for himself, and he tries to justify it later through his speeches.

When looking at many of his speeches, one can see how Lincoln subtly drops hints about the extent of his power and he manipulates the people through his words. In Lincoln’s “Perpetuation Speech”, Lincoln’s tells of his idea of the “political religion”. He wants the laws to be followed religiously. He states, “Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap – let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; – let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in the courts of justice,” (Grafton, page 5). This statement, when first looked at, just seems to be reiterating the point that Lincoln believes that the political religion should be taught and practiced all over. However, after careful examination, one can see that there is a part to that phrase that doesn’t quite fit. Lincoln uses two out of the three branches of government, the legislative and the judicial. In the place where the executive branch would be expected to fit, he says “pulpit”. This analogy that Lincoln subtly slips into this speech shows his opinion of the superiority of the executive branch of the government.
In the end of that speech Lincoln refers to something religious again. He talks about how at that point in time old pillars that the country had been standing on were crumbling and they needed to be replaced by the “Rock of Reason”. He believed that he was the one who could replace what the founding fathers had set up. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” (Grafton, page 8). This is a reference to the Bible. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus was telling Peter that his teachings would be the foundation for the church. In this he is referring to his political religion and compares himself to Jesus Christ, a very powerful and respected man in our history. The fact that Lincoln’s immense confidence in himself allows him to compare himself to such a legend is frightening. If he can compare himself to Jesus Christ, he must believe that he has the power to do whatever he wants with our country. Also, by comparing himself to Jesus, he is trying to gain the people’s trust and dedication. The people worship Jesus, and Lincoln would like the same kind of support for himself.
Also in his “Perpetuation Speech,” Lincoln slips another small thing in there. He speaks about an African American (actually mulatto) man named McIntosh, a slave that had escaped. When he first tells his story, he sounds sympathetic towards the man. He describes the scene of his death as “tragic,” and he makes us think that he feels bad for the guy, who, “was seized in the street, dragged to the suburbs of the city, chained to a tree, and actually burned to death; and all within a single hour from the time he had been a freeman, attending to his own business, and at peace with the world,” (Grafton, page 3). He seems to feel sorry for the man that escaped his servitude only to be dragged back and killed. Later in his speech, he refers to McIntosh again, but his view about the man seems to be different. He was talking about gambling and he says that it would be a step in the right direction if they were to be just swept right off of the planet. He believes that good men would actually be profited from this. Then he states, “Similar to, is the correct reasoning, in regard to the burning of the negro at St. Louis……….As to him alone, it was as well the way it was, as it could otherwise have been,” (Grafton, pages 3-4). When he mentions McIntosh this time he doesn’t go right out and announce his name. At a quick glance, it almost seems as if he is talking about a totally different person. Lincoln changes the words around. At first, when he has the peoples’ attention, he tactfully describes the incident and refers to McIntosh respectfully as a mulatto. Later he calls him a negro. He subtly slips this part in and not many people would normally catch it. This was just a way for Lincoln to get his real feelings out. He gains the people’s support who are anti-slavery when making the first statement, and the people’s support who are pro-slavery with the second one. It is hard to catch the fact that he is really talking about the same person. This is just another example of how Lincoln manipulates the people to gain more supporters.
In Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in 1863, he quotes the Declaration of Independence, but he changes the words around very slightly for the times to fit his own purposes.”Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” (Grafton, page 103). Lincoln introduces the idea that our founding fathers brought forth a new nation. The word “nation” in this phrase is being used purposely at that time. During the Civil War the South did not think of themselves as part of the nation, but Lincoln would not recognize them as having seceded from the United States and being a separate nation, thus, using the word nation when referring to all of the states being bound together still.He also talks about the fact that we were, “dedicated to the proposition,” when in the real document, it said that those truths were to be held, “self-evident”. This is in a way trying to undermine the founders by saying that they had an idea to make everyone equal, but it would have never worked. This reflected the situation that they were now in, with the Civil War. It was something that the founding fathers had the chance to take care of long ago, but were never able to. Now Lincoln faced the same problem and was better equipped with the times to handle it. In the days of the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the idea of abolishing slavery was thought to be impossible because of the situation. There were too many people in those days whose lives were dependent on slavery. Through Lincoln’s speech, he makes it seem as if all that the country needed was someone who could make things happen. This person would be himself. He does not mention the fact that the times had changed. He makes himself look better than the founding fathers with his change in the wording of the Declaration of Independence. This speech was given in front of 15,000 to 20,000 people. This was a very large audience and a huge opportunity for Lincoln to gain even more support.
Lincoln uses many tactics in his speeches to get ahead, for his own personal uses. In his Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln uses the Bible for his own personal means. He refers to God and to the Bible and prayers an awful lot in this speech. “. . .with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in” (Grafton, pages 107-108). By doing this, he is trying to justify his actions and gain supporters. I examining this speech, it does not sound like it is meant for an inaugural address. Lincoln sounds as if he should be standing up in front of a congregation. Many people look up to their pastor for spiritual guidance. A pastor is respected and loved by the members of his congregation, just as Lincoln would like to be respected and loved by the people of the United States. By structuring his speech like this, Lincoln creates a different type of atmosphere that many people would feel comfortable in. He befriends the people and gets himself a little closer to them.Lincoln uses his power of manipulation yet another time in his “Temperance Speech”. He is saying that the tactics in this movement are unjust, or their means to an end are unjust and therefore the whole movement is wrong. Lincoln, however, when giving this speech doesn’t come right out and say that he believes that they are wrong. In this way he gains more supporters by befriending them and not telling them straight out that they are wrong.At that point in time, Lincoln needed those votes. However, he got them by dishonest means. That really doesn’t sound like the “Honest Abe” that all of the people knew and trusted.

I believe that President Abraham Lincoln was a man with a lot of power. Lincoln was a very dangerous speaker.He could have easily used this power and his ability as an orator to become one of those men that are not satisfied with just the presidency and could have tried to have more. I believe that for this reason, Lincoln was a threat to our society. However, the people did not realize this because he had them so entranced by his wonderful speeches and writings. At a normal glance, it looks as if there is nothing hidden in those speeches.When they are looked at a little more closely though, one can see how Lincoln used his immense talent to trick the people into supporting him. Through his beautifully crafted orations, Abraham Lincoln gained many followers.
Category: History