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The Gettysburg Address

Jan 20, 2020 at History Essays

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In some cases, short remarks are much better than long and senseless speeches. The battlefield under Gettysburg was such a place, where people were waiting for encouraging words, and Lincoln said just exactly what the audience wanted to hear. His Gettysburg Address is famous not only because of its length but also because of extremely relevant and eloquent words, which Lincoln proclaimed there. The Civil War was not a glorious war as long as it was a fratricidal war. Lincoln understood it, and he did not have to make a solemn or cheerful speech. Therefore, he only said some words of honor to those who died and encouraged his people. This makes the Gettysburg Address special because even after the victory in the hardest war, Lincoln did not express any pomposity or pathos concerning the event.

They say that brevity is the soul of talent. In the case of the Gettysburg Address, laconism was the only appropriate option for Lincoln. He realized that the South is devastated by the Civil War and that his initial target is still not reached. Lincoln knew that although the battle was won, the outcome of the whole war was not decided. The president also understood that the hostility between Southerners and Northerners would not vanish only because the Union Army had won. There was a lot of work to do for him, and in the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln tried to show the most important objective for Americans after the Civil War.

First of all, it was of paramount importance to honor all troops who died on the battlefield for the ideas of freedom and democracy. Many soldiers died from both sides, and it was important to unite all people for the sake of the common target. Lincoln said that “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain” (Lincoln). He appreciated their deeds and victory, but not as a victory against the enemy, but as a victory against themselves. The president treated the Civil War as a test for the American nation. However, if the Civil War tested the ability of Americans to sacrifice their lives for freedom, then the after-war period was the test of how they can maintain and develop their success. 

Lincoln also understood that it is not the time to rest on one’s laurels. Although he reached his initial target and abolished slavery, it did not mean that the United States would become a democratic state. African Americans suffered not only from slavery but also from constant racial discrimination and prejudices. Even obtaining the suffrage and citizenship would not make them the first-class citizens. The same hostile attitude towards blacks was spread even among the Northerners, and no wars could change it, but time and education. That is why, realizing his mission, Lincoln could not feel that his work was done.

Undoubtedly, his famous phrase about government also needs to be discussed. Speaking about the government of the people created by the people to serve them, President Lincoln reminded people of the original intentions of the Founding Fathers. At the same time, Lincoln proclaimed “new birth of democracy”, making it clear that the United States cannot be a slave state and a democratic country simultaneously (Lincoln). His speech should have become a guideline for his followers, but, unfortunately, almost all achievements of the Civil War were diminished by the ineffective Reconstruction and Jim Crow laws.

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