The Fight For Tennessee: July 1863 to January 1864

Gettysburg Address

Today we might say that Lincoln had “hooked” his audience. How did he proceed?

“Today we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war.”

Again, many other writers and orators could have come up with the same words. But they did not. It was left to Lincoln, with his special feel for history and the pulse of the nation, to question whether it could “long endure.” Then, the next sentence seems so obvious, so without hidden meaning. Of course they had come to meet on a great battlefield, the greatest ever seen in North America. But Lincoln was playing his listener along, making it seem as if he might speak of the heroics of this action or that. Such was not his intent. He continued: “We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is all together fitting and proper that we should do this.” If Lincoln had already employed the hook, he now came through with the justification. Implicit in his words was that there was no time, or space, to waste. While a nation was engaged in a great civil conflict, its leaders and its citizens must be able to justify their actions.


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