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Abraham Lincoln

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Autor:  anton  18 May 2011
Tags:  Abraham,  Lincoln
Words: 2515   |   Pages: 11
Views: 288

When thinking about oneВЃfs own rhetoric, it is interesting to note the many ways in which one interacts with the audience, make connections, and form that relationship that is crucial to oneВЃfs success. For example, when I make a presentation, standing up in front of all the classmates in Rhetoric class, I am also trying to make that very same connection. Ethos plays a large role when speaking before an audience. Right at the very moment of speaking to the audience, I am forming ethos with the classmates and professor because I am speaking about a particular area we share interest.

To be an effective speaker, Michael J. Hyde (2004) stated that speakers must ВЃgunderstand human character and goodness in their various forms.ВЃh (Hyde 38) By using ethos as a connecting line, a bridge forms between the speaker and the audience. This bridge is one of understanding and relation. Hyde further explains that ВЃgdetermining the audienceВЃfs beliefs is the key to successful adaptation in terms of building credibility. In this way, ethos dwells not only in the speaker, as Plato and Isocrates would have us believe, but also in the audience.ВЃh (Hyde 6) Sharing this responsibility connects the audience and speaker.

Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite historical figures of all time, and I read a number of publications on him whilst studying at universities in Japan and England. Especially of my interest are the speeches he made throughout his political life, with each single word uttered through his mouth overwhelmingly powerful but extremely persuasive, convincing and above all intriguing. Through doing my research for this final paper, Abraham Lincoln has proven to be one of the most well-known and influential rhetoricians of all time. LincolnВЃfs ethos was truly reflected through the many speeches he made throughout his career. It became clear that he adjusted the development of this ethos depending on the audience in which he was speaking. He found it useful and powerful to relate to his audience on levels they were familiar. This ability of LincolnВЃfs made it possible for him to form connections that other rhetoricians of his time were unable to do, therefore making him more successful. Lincoln made it an obligation to relate to his audience in different ways so that they may better appreciate his character and the contributions he desired to make on their behalf.

In this final paper, I would like to prove LincolnВЃfs ability to use ethos in order to appeal to his audience. This rhetorical critique will focus primarily upon his ability to construct himself as a peer to his audience through his use of pronouns, appealing to their religious sensibilities, and providing humor they can all share. Rhetorical analysis and criticism will be given to LincolnВЃfs Lyceum Speech, Lincoln-Douglas Debates, The Cooper Union Address, The Gettysburg Address, and The Second Inaugural. Not only will these texts assist in the proof of this thesis, but reference to other material that has been constructed based upon this same argument will be analyzed and used in order to further prove this thesis.

I will begin this rhetorical critique by proving Abraham LincolnВЃfs use of pronouns as a way of constructing himself as a peer to his audience. I will utilize several of his works beginning with the Lyceum Speech. When looking closely at the Lyceum Speech, given by Abraham Lincoln, pronouns are particularly noticeable throughout the speech. In the speech, Lincoln states, ВЃgIn the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American people, find our account running under date of the nineteenth century of the Christian era. We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climateВЃh ( Lyceum Speech). The pronouns noted in this section (we, our, ourselves) truly exemplify LincolnВЃfs ability to relate to his audience. He uses these pronouns as a way of constructing himself as a peer to the audience. He wants to relate to them on a similar level so that they may all feel connected. This ability of his is a demonstration of his ethos. At the time that this speech was given, Lincoln was not considered a prestigious individual; therefore this speech works to establish that reputation that was needed to further expand on his political career. This reputation that he was building, helped the audience trust the words that he had spoken to them.

Further in the speech, Lincoln poses a series of questions for the American people to think about. He asks, ВЃgHow then shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow?ВЃh (Lyceum Speech). As Lincoln speaks to his audience, he makes it clear that he is one of them. He wants them to understand that he looks at himself on an equal level. He does not give off the impression that he feels superior. This technique of LincolnВЃfs was quite useful and worked to his advantage. It increased his reputation amongst the American people, which is a crucial step to take as a politician.

The way that Abraham Lincoln used pronouns to construct himself as a peer can also be seen in his speech, the Cooper Union Address. Harold Holzer makes apparent in his book, Lincoln At Cooper Union, that ВЃgfor more than twenty paragraphs he will now show, as he neatly seizes the high ground of the argument with a triplet of possessive pronounsВЃcLincoln always strove for such rhetorical constructionsВЃh (Holzer 124). The following passage taken from the Cooper Union Address demonstrates how Lincoln utilizes these pronouns. ВЃgWe must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do not let them alone.ВЃh Through this statement, Lincoln utilizes pronouns to construct the idea that he and those in the North must work together as a collective whole. He is not depending solely on them to fulfill the satisfaction of making sure the South does not think they are going to let them get away with the expansion of slavery, but rather that he is equally responsible for taking control of the situation.

The Gettysburg Address can be looked upon as one of the most well-known speeches given by a politician. At this particular time, Lincoln had already become president, but what is so remarkable is that despite his superior status in society, Lincoln still manages to keep himself on the same level as the American people. Lincoln states: ВЃgNow we are engaged in a great civil warВЃcwe are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate this portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might liveВЃh (The Gettysburg Address). It is clear in this statement that Lincoln constructs himself as a peer. His ethos is greatly present as he utilizes pronouns to maintain equal status between himself and the American people. He does not blame them for being in the middle of the war, nor make the war a problem of their own that they should solve. He simply clarifies that they are in the war together. They now have gathered to remember everyone that they have lost. Lincoln makes it obvious that they are all affected by the war that is occurring and they have all lost someone. They all represent a collective whole, therefore their own personal losses are the losses of every other individual as well.

Pronouns served as an effective tool when trying to connect to the audience. But, religious sensibilities were also an effective method that Abraham Lincoln used throughout his rhetorical career. At this period in time, religion was a major focus on the audience of those that Abraham Lincoln spoke in front of. The people were Christians and the Bible was a book that was referred to for guidance in everyday activity. Gary Wills stated in his book, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America that ВЃgLincolnВЃfs fertility-language of conception and rebirth is made especially resonant for his audience by its scriptural echoesВЃh (White 78). Lincoln was not known to be a religious individual. As stated by White, ВЃgLincoln who did not wear his faith on his sleeve, never spoke brashly about GodВЃh (White 168). Despite this religious hole in LincolnВЃfs life, when it came to his rhetorical style, including religion was crucial due to the relevancy it had in the lives of the audience he was speaking to.

In the Cooper Union Address Abraham Lincoln made it a point to make reference to these religious sensibilities in order to construct himself as a peer to the audience. As Lincoln states at the end of this particular speech, ВЃgLet us have faith that right makes might, and in that fight, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand itВЃh (Cooper Union Address). This reference to faith reaches out to the audience which Lincoln is speaking. They can connect to what he is saying so that they may further understand and appreciate what he has to share. Lincoln strives as a rhetorician to relate to his audience, and the fact that this statement concludes his speech plays an active role in his construction as a peer. This strategic placement further relates Lincoln to his audience and leaves them thinking that he is one of them, he is their peer rather than a politician speaking to them; he is speaking for them.

The Gettysburg Address appeals to the religious sensibilities of Abraham LincolnВЃfs audience as well, further constructing himself as a peer. Entwined in the speech, Lincoln states, ВЃgВЃcthat this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedomВЃcВЃh(Gettysburg Address). As seen in this statement, reference is made to God, who was a key figure in the lives of LincolnВЃfs audience, further connecting to an area of their lives that they are so highly revolved around.

The Second Inaugural Address finds its way of appealing to the audienceВЃfs religious sensibilities. In his speech, Lincoln states, ВЃgThe prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposesВЃcIf we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offences which in the providence of GodВЃcВЃh (Second Inaugural Address). The words were practical as well as beautiful, according to White. In the words of White, ВЃgIn this final paragraph, Lincoln offered the ultimate surprise. Instead of rallying his supporters, in the name of God, to support the war, he asked his listeners, quietly, to imitate the ways of God.ВЃh (White 179). Lincoln fully appealed to his audience as he connected to God and asked his audience to do the same as they imitate GodВЃfs ways.

The last area that I would like to present is Abraham LincolnВЃfs use of humor as a way of demonstrating his ethos. Lincoln used humor as an outlet that helped the audience grasp the understanding that Lincoln was one of them. He was not just a politician or a lawyer, but he was their friend. He understood their needs and desires, and in order to prove this he used humor as a passageway. The Cooper Union Address and the Lincoln-Douglas Debates are two works that show evidence of this humor. In the Cooper Union Address, Lincoln states, ВЃgIn that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is coolВЃh (Cooper Union Address). In this area of the speech, Lincoln is explaining to his audience how ridiculously foolish that seems. They want to destroy the Union, but then fear about dealing with the consequences. He concludes this statement with, ВЃgthat is cool,ВЃh which shows his humor as he is almost poking fun at this ridiculous idea. In relation to modern times, reading this passage is humorous because ВЃgthat is coolВЃh is a saying used in todayВЃfs context and is so out of context for LincolnВЃfs time period. This shows evidence that even today, despite his death and the changes in society, Lincoln is constructing himself as a peer with those now reading his speeches.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates were a series of debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. One that will be particularly focused upon in this critique is the debate that took place in Ottawa. While speaking in Ottawa, Lincoln seemed to truly connect with his audience, on a level that Douglas did not appear capable of doing. Lincoln utilized his humor as credibility for what he was saying to them. In this particular debate a quote can be pulled from LincolnВЃfs response to Douglas. The quote states:

There was a call for a Convention to form a Republican party at Springfield, and I think that my friend, Mr. Lovejoy, who is here upon this stand, had a hand in it. I think this is true, and I think if he will remember accurately, he will be able to recollect that he tried to get me into it, and I would not go

(Lincoln-Douglas Debate-Ottawa).

As seen in this quote, Lincoln is poking fun at Stephen A. Douglas, calling him names that stir the audience. This comic relief connects Lincoln to his audience and constructs himself as a peer that they can relate to and trust.

Through this paper, it is indicated that Abraham Lincoln was not only one of the most remarkable and influential rhetoricians of his time, but rather that he was able to use ethos as a way of captivating his audience and maintaining their engagement as he spoke. Lincoln used his ethos as a rhetorical tool to transcend any other politicians at this particular period in time. He constructed himself as a peer through his pronoun use, appealing to the religious sensibilities of the audience, and humor that they could all share. Through the many opinions of critics and historians as well as close textual analysis, demonstration of his ethos at work can be seen through these three different rhetorical techniques. When speaking to an audience, it is important that you build a reputation with them. This reputation that is built is one that they can trust and look to for guidance. It is the reputation that you are one they can relate to and connect with on a level that might not be reached with anyone else. Abraham Lincoln was quite successful in doing this. In the words of B. Thomas, ВЃgHe was of the people and remained one of them. While becoming a leader he never lost the common touch. He grew beyond his beginnings but not away from themВЃh (Thomas 32). Abraham Lincoln was a member of his own audience as he spoke, and he never forgot that position. Should I have been present at the time of LincolnВЃfs great rhetorical demonstrations, I would have admitted that Abraham Lincoln was ВЃgjust one of us.ВЃh



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