Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (Simon & Schuster Lincoln Library)

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9780743299633: Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (Simon & Schuster Lincoln Library)

In a masterly work, Garry Wills shows how Lincoln reached back to the Declaration of Independence to write the greatest speech in the nation’s history.

The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation “a new birth of freedom” in the space of a mere 272 words. His entire life and previous training and his deep political experience went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece.

By examining both the address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew, and reveals much about a president so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln came to change the world and to effect an intellectual revolution, how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns, and how Lincoln wove a spell that has not yet been broken.

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About the Author:

Garry Wills is an Emeritus Professor of History at Northwestern University. Born in Atlanta in 1934, he has taught widely throughout the United States. A prolific writer and scholar, Wills is the author of more than twenty books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lincoln at Gettysburg, Papal Sin, and What Jesus Meant. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

Oratory of the Greek Revival

James Hurt says that Lincoln used "the ordinary coin of funeral oratory" at Gettysburg. Insofar as there was a standard coinage of funeral tribute, Pericles struck the master coin 2,394 years before Lincoln spoke. At the end of the first year of Athens' war with Sparta, Pericles gave a speech over the ashes of the Athenians who had fallen in that year. Thucydides put a version of that speech in his history of the Peloponnesian War, and it became the most famous oration of its kind, a model endlessly copied, praised, and cited -- especially in the early nineteenth century, during America's Greek Revival.

Edward Everett lost no time referring to that speech at Gettysburg. He opened his talk with a detailed description of the annual funeral rite at which Pericles had spoken, comparing it point for point with the ceremony for the Union dead. Both rites involved reburial. Athenian soldiers or sailors were cremated where they fell, then their ashes were returned to Athens and buried, together, on the annual day of military tribute. They were buried by tribe, with a special place for those whose tribes could not be identified -- as the Union dead were buried by states, except for those "unknown soldiers" who had their own special place.

But at Gettysburg the reburial was still at the battle site. The ancient parallel for this, Everett was learned enough to know, was the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.E.), after which the Athenians were buried on the spot where they had saved Hellas from the Persians.

These references, common enough at the time, all had a special meaning for Everett, considered by some the new Pericles for a young democracy of the Western world. Ralph Waldo Emerson, who studied Greek at Harvard in Everett's classroom, was emphatic in his teacher's praise: "There was an influence on the young from the genius of Everett which was almost comparable to that of Pericles in Athens."

America as a second Athens was an idea whose moment had come in the nineteenth century. This nation's founders first looked to Rome, not to Greece, for their model. Like most men of the eighteenth century, they thought of Athens as ruled by mobs. If any Greek city was admired, it was Sparta, whose discipline inspired the severe moralists of the early Roman republic. The "mixed government" of Rome -- not Athens' direct democracy -- was the model invoked in debates over the proper constitution for the United States. The great republican of the new era, George Washington, was regularly referred to as a modern Cincinnatus, after the Roman who left the plow to serve the republic and then returned to his fields, relinquishing power. When Jefferson laid out the plan for his University of Virginia, he fashioned everything to Roman architectural standards.

All this changed very rapidly as the eighteenth turned to the nineteenth century. Archaeology in Greece brought the ancient democracy to mind just as modern Greece began its struggle for freedom from the Turks. Greece would prove as important to the romantic movement as Rome had been to the Augustan age. Byron died as a military participant in the war for Greek liberty. Shelley wrote a Prometheus. Keats rhapsodized on a Grecian urn. Hölderlin and the German romantics composed plays and poems on Greek themes. Architects looked to the Parthenon now, not the Pantheon. (The Elgin Marbles, taken from the Parthenon, had been moved to London by 1806.) It is significant of this changed taste that Washington completed his inherited home (as Jefferson conceived his own house) in the form of a Roman villa, while Lincoln's additions to the house he purchased were in the Greek Revival style. This was a "democratic" style in the eyes of Lincoln's contemporaries:

Thomas Jefferson's brief and highly personal Roman Revival was the product of an individual mind; the Greek Revival was the product of a popular sentiment. The fact that it became expressive for the whole of American society, from the erudite to the untutored, from the capital to the village, from the city house to the farm, gave it a national independence and set it apart from the architecture of Europe in a way and to a degree that American builders had never before achieved. Indeed, at no time in the history of Western man had a single stylistic form, however sentimentally conceived, been so spontaneously accepted by a total society. It is in this sense that the Greek Revival must be understood as America's first national style of architecture.

Everett played a key role in America's Greek Revival. Harvard established its new chair of ancient Greek studies for him. He had sped through Harvard at the top of his class, completed his divinity studies, and been appointed to the prestigious Brattle Street pulpit before he was twenty. His promise as a scholar made Harvard call him back from the pulpit to the classroom. But first the university subsidized his studies in Germany, where he was the first American to earn his doctorate at a center of the new philology (in 1817, from Göttingen). While Everett was abroad, he traveled widely and met the leaders of the romantic age, from Goethe to Byron. He went to Greece, to walk over the battlefields where the first democracy of the West won its freedom. He returned to America convinced that a new Athens was rising here.

This was a vision he found it hard to keep alive while teaching teenagers their Greek verb forms? His earlier success in the pulpit made him think he could accomplish in the secular sphere what the ancient orators had in the Greek marketplace, groves, and public cemetery (Agora, Akademy, and Kerameikos). He was confirmed in this sense of vocation in 1825, the year of Lafayette's visit to America. That return occasioned one of this country's great outpourings of romantic feeling. Here was a warrior from the age of General Washington surviving into the age of Byron. His appearances prompted rallies for Greek independence -- a favorite cause of Everett. At Cambridge, Lafayette was treated to a long oration by Everett, devoted to the role of literature in America. The response was almost as great as the response to the speech Daniel Webster addressed to Lafayette, across the Charles River, in Boston. Everett's own talk propelled him into the political arena -- as congressman, Massachusetts governor, minister to the Court of St. James's in London, senator (after an interval as president of Harvard), and secretary of state. But, all along, his public lecturing remained the most satisfying part of what he considered an essentially pedagogic career. Webster's orations were an offshoot of his role as statesman and legislator; but Everett, in effect, ran for and held office in order to attract an audience for his speeches.

He was always a teacher. He had merely traded the classroom for the stump. And his students followed him out into this wider world. Emerson made the public lecture his own main art form, launching his career with the 1837 address on the modern scholar as Everett had launched himself in the 1825 talk on American letters. Everett was a model to Emerson and the other Transcendentalists because he was so clearly a scholar before he became a popularizer of democratic ideals. Emerson's experience in Everett's classroom gave an entirely new direction to his life:

Germany had created [literary] criticism in vain for us until 1820, when Edward Everett returned from his five years in Europe, and brought to Cambridge his rich results, which no one was so fitted by natural grace and the splendor of his rhetoric to introduce and recommend. He made us for the first time acquainted with [Friedrich August] Wolf's theory of the Homeric writings, with the criticism of [Heinrich] Heine. The novelty of the learning lost nothing in the skill and genius of its interpreter, and the rudest undergraduate found a new morning opening to him in the lecture room at Harvard.

Emerson's mention of the philologist Wolf struck an ominous note for orthodox Calvinists of New England. By tracing multiple authorship in Homer, Wolf had encouraged a similar approach to the other main text of a "heroic age," calling into question Moses's authorship of the Pentateuch. Transcendentalists like Emerson and Theodore Parker would abandon or alter Christian tenets to accommodate this "higher criticism." The other name Emerson mentioned, that of the lyric poet Heine, suggests a different side of Homer, one that would also be important in the romantic period. Homer, who was thought of as wild and natural, held a relation to the polished Roman poets, like Virgil, roughly resembling that of Wordsworth to Alexander Pope.

Everett's immense prestige sent others to Göttingen for German learning, including the historian George Bancroft, whose lecture on progress Lincoln would later imitate. Bancroft intended to study ancient languages at Göttingen, for interpreting the Bible, but he feared no pulpit would welcome a "higher critic." He moved on to Berlin, where he acquired his personal Transcendentalism from the philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher. But his main interest was Greek history. After his return to America, he set up a preparatory school to imitate on our soil the methods of educational reformer J. H. Pestalozzi, which he had observed in the German Gymnasium. During his teaching years, he translated from German some works of his Göttingen professor Arnold H. L. Heeren. These included Ancient Greece, a history that Harvard accepted as a textbook.

Heeren's book, which glorified the Periclean age, shows how far romantic historiography had moved from the picture of Athens as anarchical. Bancroft was ahead of the wave of histories that would glorify Periclean Athens in Victorian England. Direct democracy, a flawed system in republican theory, was rehabilitated, for its usefulness in the parliamentary reform movement, by British historians like George Grote. In America, a similar motion toward government by the people, not just for the republic, was signaled by an enthusiasm for Greek symbols. Bancroft became a Jacksonian Democrat when he began to apply the historical skills formed on the Attic democracy to America's development. Walter Savage Landor recognized what was happening in America when he dedicated the second volume of his Pericles and Aspasia to President Andrew Jackson.

It was as the voice of a fashionably romantic Hellenism that Everett became famous. This is what led people to turn naturally toward him when the Gettysburg cemetery was to be dedicated -- as it had, earlier, led New England orators to imitate the Greek idea of popular debate and instruction. Perry Miller describes Everett's impact on the most influential philosophical school of his period:

No account of Transcendentalism is ever comprehensible unless it includes a consideration of what seemed, during the 1820s, the unearthly magic of his [Everett's] eloquence. If the whole group, and especially Emerson, were committed to the belief that oratory is among the supreme manifestations of art, they were persuaded not only by such forensic giants as Webster and Clay, but more particularly by Everett, who was one of their own kind. Here at last was a New England scholar who appeared the master of all that European culture could offer, who in native terms made articulate, in a style that could compete with Burke and Pitt and Sheridan, everything that America held precious.

Emerson, who was always ready to pay his debt to the influence of Everett, learned to tighten his own public speeches toward a knottier classicism than Everett's diffuse speeches exhibited. Emerson represented the next step in the modern use of classical rhetoric -- and it was a step in the direction of the Gettysburg Address itself. Emerson uses antithesis, aphorism, the nervous rhythms of a quickening time. It is no wonder that Emerson admired Lincoln's speech at Gettysburg more than that of his old master: "His brief speech at Gettysburg will not easily be surpassed by words on any recorded occasion." But, in forming the idem of modern democratic speech that gave us Emerson, Everett had helped create the very conditions that brought forth Lincoln's demotic oratory. Everett's classicism was as much the forerunner of Lincoln's talk as its foil or contrast.

The classicism of Everett's opening references at Gettysburg should not be taken as mere antiquarian reverence for the past. Everett had always opposed any fetishism of the classics. In his speech on the Battle of Concord (1825), he said:

Are we to be eternally ringing the changes upon Marathon and Thermopylae; and going back to find in obscure texts of Greek and Latin the great exemplars of patriotic virtue?...We feel a glow of admiration at the heroism displayed at Marathon, by the ten thousand champions of invaded Greece; but we cannot forget that the tenth part of the number were slaves, unchained from the workshops and doorposts of their masters, to go and fight the battles of freedom. I do not mean that these examples are to destroy the interest with which we read the history of ancient times; they possibly increase that interest, by the singular contrast they exhibit. But they do warn us, if we need the warning, to seek our great practical lessons of patriotism at home; out of the exploits and sacrifices of which our own country is the theatre; out of the character of our own fathers. [Italics added.]

But, like a good student of Germany's "higher critics," Everett held that certain large themes are only traceable in history's process, and a vision of long stretches of time is needed to grasp and advance those themes. Transcendentalism looked to the progressive realization of ideals implicit in ancient art. Everett felt that popular awareness of these ideals could be kept alive by a reverence for the "holy places" of freedom, democracy, and eloquence. Speaking in 1833 to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill, Everett urged the citizens of Boston to raise the funds for completing their monument, not trusting to time for the preservation of a site sacred to liberty. He described how "I have searched in vain for the narrow pass [Thermopylae] between the foot of the mountain and the sea. It is gone." He compares, at Gettysburg, his tracing of the battle's course on Pennsylvania fields to his student days at Marathon. That is what made him celebrate the "birthplace" of American democracy at revolutionary-war sites. These, he said, were America's classic places, "the battlefields, the infant settlements," that became our "matter of history, of poetry, of eloquence." He campaigned in the 1850s for the restoration of Mount Vernon as a shrine, raising $90,000 by delivering his eulogy to Washington before many audiences.

As a Greek scholar, Everett knew that the state Funeral Oration (Epitaphios Logos, normally shortened to Epitaphios-Epitaphios -- in the plural) was a genre established before Pericles spoke, one whose formulae can be traced in the six surviving examples of the genre? As the earliest known prose performance mandated by the democratic polls, it set the tone and style for most later public rhetoric, By the continuity of its themes and values, it established a sense of Athenian identity. Nicole Loraux, in her influential study of the rite, even claims that Athens was "invented" in this communal act:

Indeed it may well be that from the end of the fifth century right up to Cleidemus [in the second half of the fourth century] the Athenians were officially content with the "Athenian history of Athens" repeated in every Funeral Oration, in which the series of warlike deeds performed by the polis was interchangeable with a...

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Descrizione libro SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2006. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. In a masterly work, Garry Wills shows how Lincoln reached back to the Declaration of Independence to write the greatest speech in the nation s history. The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation a new birth of freedom in the space of a mere 272 words. His entire life and previous training and his deep political experience went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece. By examining both the address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew, and reveals much about a president so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln came to change the world and to effect an intellectual revolution, how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns, and how Lincoln wove a spell that has not yet been broken. Codice libro della libreria BZV9780743299633

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Descrizione libro SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2006. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In a masterly work, Garry Wills shows how Lincoln reached back to the Declaration of Independence to write the greatest speech in the nation s history. The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation a new birth of freedom in the space of a mere 272 words. His entire life and previous training and his deep political experience went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece. By examining both the address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew, and reveals much about a president so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln came to change the world and to effect an intellectual revolution, how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns, and how Lincoln wove a spell that has not yet been broken. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780743299633

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