Rhetorical Analysis Paper: The Gettysburg Address

In Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the main claim is that actions speak louder than words. The Gettysburg Address was an extremely short speech that lasted two minutes and consisted of 10 sentences and 272 words. In spite of the brevity of the Gettysburg Address, it is still regarded as one of the most important speeches of all times.

The Gettysburg Address was written during the bloody Civil War between the North and the South. Four months prior to the Address, Union troops defeated Confederate troops in The Battle of Gettysburg and this battle was seen as a turning point in the war. In his speech, Lincoln praises the soldiers, in his own words; he said “We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who gave their lives so that that nation might live.” Lincoln obviously respects the soldiers and implies that their actions speak louder than his words. He dedicates the Soldier’s National Cemetery for soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg to honor their sacrifice for American values.

Lincoln also justifies the war in the Gettysburg Address by defining it as a struggle to preserve majority rule and republican government (Hutson, 2012). He makes the audience believe that the actions of the soldiers in this war will be significant in the future to America and other countries. By using the words “can long endure” in the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln alludes to the understanding of the premise of the war. The justification of the war was; can a republican, majority ruled government endure? (Hutson, 20). 

It was speculated by many critics of Lincoln that the war could have been avoided if he allowed Confederate states that decided to secede from the Union were critiqued for anarchy and  Lincoln was criticized for “overrated Union sentiment among nonslaveholders in the slaveholding states. He was also criticized for adhering too strongly to a “slave-power conspiracy” view of the planter class. (Hutson, 2012)” It is believed by some that the war could have been completely avoided if Lincoln had allowed the “Confederate States of America of March 1861 to depart, while at the same time preserving the essence of republican government.( Hutson, 2012)” Lincoln stressed the illegal nature of the secession but never explored the reasons for such mass dissatisfaction with the Union.

In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln coined the famous phrase “all men are created equal.” This phrase has been interpreted many different ways. Some believe that Lincoln careful selected those words to promote racial equality while others believe that it was Lincoln’s way of promoting government power to “promote equality instead of restricting the federal government to enhance individual liberty. (Hutson 2012)” At the time of the Gettysburg Address, many Americans were in favor of slavery so Lincoln had to be mindful of his audience.

Because of the ambiguousness in the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln was able to, in  ingenious ways, convince Americans that they needed to give up on the prejudice. (Wills, 1992)” This ambiguousness also allowed him to connect to more voters and defeat his opponent who was more forthright in his opposition of slavery. In the conclusion of Lincoln’s speech, he read; “God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, should not perish from the earth.” This sentence calls the audience into action to complete the unfinished work of the soldiers who fought so valiantly for the ideals our county is built upon.


Hutson, J. L. (2012). The Lost Cause of the North:A Reflection on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and The Second Inaugural.

Wills, Garry. (1992 ) Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America.

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