Why Abraham Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address is poetry…

The title’s not as ambitious as I promised, of course, but sometimes it’s best to keep one’s hubris below the fold.  In case you’re lost right now, I posted to this blog several days ago two “poems” for Poetry Friday: one of them a short ode to Abraham Lincoln by Vachel Lindsay, and the other was the full text of Lincoln’s remarkably brief speech given after he took the oath of office for the 2nd time, in March of 1865.  I acknowledged going in that calling it a poem was daring but defensible.  I commented afterwards that by Monday I’d explain why I think it’s his best speech—better even than the Gettysburg Address—and perhaps the best speech ever given.  I’m going to make that attempt now.  I want to say at the outset that I recognize this is an unresolvable question.  I’m not even sure that I’d agree with me on this 100% of the time—there are a lot of great speeches in the world, and in different moods they affect me in different ways.  So all I’m really doing is trying to explain why this reaches me, why I think it deserves higher acclaim than it gets, and why at the very least it is one of the great prose poems that expresses America at her noblest and best.  I’m not including the whole text here (as it’s accessible by scrolling down a bit), but will quote from time to time.

Photograph of Abraham Lincoln from the Library of Congress

Photograph of Abraham Lincoln in 1863

I want to start with his humility.  This is a public address on an immensely important occasion.  Lincoln has been re-elected by a country that knew his first election had caused the war.  His dedication and unconventional thinking had helped steer a course to victory.  As recently as the fall of 1864, leading up to the election, it was unclear if the war could end in any reasonable time, and many Northerners thought suing for peace would be best.  But startlingly by March 1865, the war is essentially over.  Lee is weeks away from surrendering at Appomattox. The Union is victorious.  And Lincoln begins this triumphant opportunity by telling the crowd he doesn’t want to talk long.  He calls the course of the war “reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all” and refuses to predict anything about its imminent conclusion.  He’s a man who literally had been sneaked into the capital through the shadows for his first inauguration because there were mobs waiting to kill him, and he’s unwilling to take a bow until the last shot is fired.  He would rather not linger on the stage.  Nothing he has to say is important.  This is characteristic of him—the Gettysburg Address is in exactly the same vein—and there is something pure and unfeigned about his shyness.  He recognizes the greatness of his time and the inability of any human being to look prominent by comparison.  In the modern era, where politicians never pass up a chance to give a long stirring speech with lots of applause lines, where our leaders look for chances to declare victories with banners and fanfare, Lincoln is a mystery.

Lincoln acknowledges the contrast with March 1861, noting the anti-Union forces at the start of the war (though saying nary a word about their personal hatred of him, or their attempts to do him violence).  And then the first of the great moments in the speech arrives: “Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.”  Lincoln uses 19th Century American language the way Shakespeare used Renaissance English—their command and confidence, in both cases, is really beautiful.  In one sentence, that slips by us like a rider in the night almost before we can hear it, Lincoln draws the lines between North and South in a way that does not demonize, but does distinguish.  The irony in that sentence—of the peoples who would have rejected war had there not been a more terrible evil to conquer—is at just the right level for me.  Lincoln was an unwilling warrior—strangely, the President we most associate with a war was, as far as I can tell, one of our least warlike and most pacifist leaders—and the phrasing of that clause “would accept war rather than let it perish” must be exactly what he said to himself the night that Sumter was fired upon.  It’s how he justifies to himself the years of blood and smoke that follow—the death and horror that live in those four slow syllables, “and the war came”.

Lincoln begins to walk directly into the topic of slavery, unblinking, fully aware that his Maryland audience is tense about the end of the war because it will bring with it an end to slavery—slavery which had been legal in the Union state of Maryland throughout the war.  He does so because he wants to show them that the course of history gives them no alternative.  He reminds them that both sides tried their best to avoid this outcome—to seek, in his beautifully phrased prose, “an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding“.  But it could not have been.  Lincoln here reveals a personal perspective on slavery, in saying that it “may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces“, but he immediately steps back from this as a policy statement: they are not to judge, lest they be judged themselves.  There is a wonderful balance here, in which Lincoln simultaneously reminds the audience that the Bible and their faith has been used by both sides against the other, while using the language of the Bible and of faith himself to present his own perspective on the war, a perspective he knew in his heart was “right” in a way the Confederacy could not be.

We are not far into the speech—a handful of sentences, really—but are already past the half-way point, and everything from here on out is shocking.  Lincoln accepts the war as a punishment to both the North and South for slavery: he presents this simply enough, but think of the even-handedness of this.  He does not present the North as the white knight, having vanquished the iniquitous Southern villain.  Both sides are brothers, kinsmen in a house that must suffer for its sins.  Lincoln, who grew up and lived in an emancipated North, believes so firmly in the unity of his country that he will not excuse the North for having allowed the South to go its own way for so long.  Think of the daring of that from any political leader at any time—the willingness to share blame equally between your friends and your foes—and then think of a President doing this on the day of his triumphant inauguration, on the brink of victory after a long and bloody war.  The kind of character it takes to say this is remarkable.

Patients in Ward K, Armory Square Hospital, 1865

And then he says “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”  The epic scope of this overwhelms me every time, and sometimes pushes me to the brink of tears when I read it.  The Civil War had been the country’s bloodiest conflict—over 600,000 Americans dead, hundreds of thousands more wounded and maimed for life.  Every community in the country had felt loss, every neighborhood had at least one young man who would not come home (and many who came home were never the same).  And at this moment, when that long national nightmare seems at an end, when the light is beginning to dawn, Lincoln looks squarely in the eyes of his nation and tells them that this war has been the mercy of God.  That the evils they have undeservedly visited upon a whole race of human beings are so terrible that only the destruction of the American society, only an ocean of spilled American blood, could expiate their guilt.  At a time when he could easily have saluted his followers for their victory “in the cause of freedom”, he instead looks back on the gruesome past of a country built on the backs of an enslaved people and can hardly believe that divine justice will allow his land to escape with a mere million casualties.  His bravery in facing this truth has never, I think, been paralleled by any national leader in the history of democracy.

And I haven’t even gotten yet to the best sentence he ever penned.  “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”  The war is on the verge of ending, but as he continues to remind them, it is not quite over yet.  So, how does he envision the next four years?  Retribution against the traitors who destroyed his country?  Punishments that ensure no such rebellion will ever again arise?  No, he reaches out into the bleeding wounds of the South with charity and not malice—with a love that aches for his American brothers and sisters even as they continue to deny his leadership, even as a few of them are plotting to kill him and his closest friends in a night of assassinations.  Lincoln reminds his people, as both a benediction and a call to service, what work they are engaged in: not the work of warfare, of brutal force and blood.  There has been enough of that—a necessity forced on Lincoln by the war he could not avoid, but not the path of his choosing.  No, the work for Americans is to bind up the nation’s wounds, the whole nation’s and not merely part of it.  To care for soldiers and for those left behind by the dead, regardless of the color they wore as they fell or the flag they saluted when they enlisted.  To take every step, to leave no stone unturned, until the nation is at peace with the world and at peace with itself.

It’s not the greatest speech ever if you want to inspire modern people to action—it’s not timeless in the way that some speeches are (Martin Luther King comes to mind as a better example).  But as a speech of its time, especially of that particular context of the 2nd inauguration at the end of a difficult war, I think it shows an unmatched willingness to confront the truths no one would have asked to hear.  Lincoln is a great leader and a great man because of what he manages in speeches like this one—to humbly and simply put before the nation the truth about itself, that America has never lived up to its ideals, that America has built itself on injustice and exploitation, that in facing hardship America is only facing the consequences of fate and divine retribution that would befall any nation so unwilling to do what is right.  And he says all of this without condescending, without pulling rank or moral authority, and without shifting the focus away from what is most important—that revenge is unthinkable and that peace will only come from kindness and goodness, from the open love offered by a charitable heart.  Lincoln is our greatest President, and this is his greatest speech, because he shows us that under all his canny political instincts (there’s no denying he was skilled, and crafty at times) his devotion to truth and justice is unflinching even when it aims the sword at his own heart.  How our nation was fortunate to elect, not once but twice, a man who ultimately refused to glory in victorious battle, refused to keep honest criticism from his allies, refused to take vengeance on those who threatened the safety of himself, his family, and the nation he swore to protect, I cannot possibly imagine.  If he were a politician in the United States today, he might never rise above the office of local dogcatcher.  That is our century’s shame, and should be all the incentive we need to re-examine our politics.

This is an immense post, and may well be rambling (though I hope not).  I think at the very least it conveys my enthusiasm for Lincoln and for this speech, and I hope I did so in a way that touches you also, even if not in the same way.  If you’ve never read anything by him, I urge you to track down whatever you can—even in short letters to people he was unacquainted with, the character and the vision I’ve been praising are very evident.

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9 comments on “Why Abraham Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address is poetry…

  1. SavasBeatie says:

    I came across your post recently and thought you might be interested in some information on the following title that we published:

    Book: Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason
    Authors: David A. Hirsch and Dan Van Haften
    Website: http://www.thestructureofreason.com/

    The authors broke “Lincoln’s code” regarding how he wrote his speeches. Unknown to previous Lincoln scholars, he used a regular template and it is replicable. Anyone can do it. The authors prove it in their book, explain it line by line, and show you how it is done. Now anyone can speak and argue like Lincoln.

    Authors Hirsch and Van Haften persuasively argue, for the first time, that it was Lincoln’s in-depth study of geometry that gave our sixteenth president his verbal structure. In fact, conclude the authors, Lincoln embedded the ancient structure of geometric proof into the Gettysburg Address, the Cooper Union speech, the First and Second Inaugurals, his legal practice, and much of his substantive post-1853 communication.

    There is an interview that we conducted with the authors posted on our website here: http://savasbeatie.com/authors/author_interview.php?&authorID1=DAHirsch&authorID2=DVHaften&authorID3=empty&authorID4=empty&authorID5=empty
    And this article about the book recently came out in the Chicago Daily Herald: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110212/news/702129924/#ixzz1DnyQRijU

    Please let me know if you would be interested in any content from the book (excerpt, author interview, etc.) for your blog or a guest post/article by the authors and I would be happy to help.

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      I really hesitated over approving this, since I think what you’re doing is basically spam. And spam in favor of a book that, frankly, looks like hokum to me—I’d phrase it more kindly if you’d posted like a real human being who wanted to have a conversation, but since you’re treating me like advertising space, I think you deserve my honest reaction that the book you’re advertising looks pretty flimsy to me. But I decided in the end that you just might have posted this with good intentions: I am, after all, talking about why Lincoln’s writing works, and you’re suggesting here’s a place people can go to see another answer. That would be more comforting if you weren’t profiting from the referral, but I guess all’s fair. I really have no interest at all in hearing from the authors of that particular book, who appear to want to reduce Lincoln’s talent to some self-help 10-step guide to winning friends and influencing people. Whoever they are, they really know nothing at all about writing (something we take seriously here at Following Pulitzer, to the extent that anything here is taken seriously). You do (from what I’ve seen) publish some other more serious historical authors….if any of them drop by to be a real part of the conversation here, they’ll be welcome. And I’m sorry if you think I’m being too snarky—honestly, if you do think that, I agree with you, since thinking I’m snarky means you’re back here reading my comments and trying to be part of a conversation, and my attitude is based on my 95% confidence level that you’ll never be back. If you post again (something that doesn’t try to sell us anything), I promise to be a much better host and interlocutor.

  2. David Hirsch says:

    My Google search bot tracked this down. I am one of the co-authors of “Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason”. My publisher is not opposed to selling books. But it sells them honestly. In a sense this book is a how-to book. Obviously not everyone can be the 16th President of the United States, but nearly everyone can give a speech like him. I am giving a speech at the National Archives II next weekend in College Park Maryland that in part focuses on the structure of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. We also analyze it in the book. I would be happy to engage in a conversation on the structure of the Second Inaugural.

    Your posting essentially characterizes the description of our discovery as unbelievable. I consider that I complement. It turns out there was good reason this stayed undiscovered for over 150 years.

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      David, thanks for your reply (and your courtesy). With respect, though, the phrase “my Google search bot tracked this down” confirms for me what I suspected—that is, that the comment left here wasn’t the thoughtful response of a reader who likes my blog, but rather the graffito of a web-crawling advertising machine. You’re welcome to think that’s defensible—after all, as you rightly point out, publishers and authors need to sell books, and I like authors (generally) and publishers (at least much of the time)—but I think it’s fair for me to think it objectionable. I make this comment space available because I want to engage in conversation with readers about what I’ve said and what it makes them think about. For someone else, even a bright, well-spoken, well-meaning someone else, to hijack that space for commerce, is rude. Wouldn’t you agree? After all, if you had a guestbook in your home, it would be impolite for me to knock on your door under some pretense in order to advertise my lawn-mowing business in it. I know the Internet changes a lot of standards for interaction, but I don’t think it does (or should) change this one. I’m not angry with you. But I think your fairly unapologetic stance doesn’t speak very well for you, especially as (to reiterate) you seem like a bright and pleasant fellow.

      As far as your book’s concerned, I can’t comment directly, having not read it. As a former teacher of writing and rhetoric, I’d certainly agree to the proposition that students can learn a lot from Lincoln. His tone, his use of irony, his reliance on a sort of Biblical cadence to ennoble both his topic and the listener—these are all excellent things that young writers can learn a lot from. If that’s the stance you struck, I wouldn’t quibble. But “nearly everyone can give a speech like him” is too sweeping, especially since your website (I did visit it) suggests that there’s some basic arithmetic or geometric structure to his speeches…whether or not your book does this, the way you talk about this online makes it sound as though you can learn a basic structure and a few tips and instantly write some of the most memorable speeches in American History. And, to be blunt, that’s not possible. I know very well, having worked at it for years, how hard it is to grow and learn as a writer, and how hard it is to teach others to do the same. And this kind of quick-and-easy self-help approach which is favored by many Americans is really profoundly offensive to me because it devalues work ethic and the real, honest, and slow progress that is actually necessary to master any field in any discipline. You, as a well-educated man, know this—know that there were no short-cuts to become who you are, to learn what you know, to have gained the skills that you now possess. I am dismayed that you’re not willing to send that message to people looking to develop those same skills of rhetoric and persuasion.

      Your comments still have yet to say anything about what I said on my blog. I’m interested in what moves people about Lincoln, and so I would, honestly, be interested to hear what drew you to focus on him, where you think he’s most inspiring or most effective, what it is about this particular speech that hits home the deepest for you. But if I get another response that sounds to me like you’re using me as a billboard, that’ll be the end, David. I’m sorry to be blunt, but this is my virtual living room, and folks who can’t talk to me like a person (instead of a commodity) don’t get to stick around for dessert.

  3. David Hirsch says:

    Bear with me. I suspect, by the time this is finished, it is going to be a long post. What drew me to Lincoln is the tour of his office roughly four years ago and my conclusion that his practice of law in his time was not that different that small town midwestern practice when I started in the early 1970’s. What cemented my interest was the plaque outside the old Springfield train station containing his farewell address — where he left for Washington as President-elect. It is a beautiful speech. Poetic.

    The discovery of Lincoln’s secret for writing was almost accidental. We did not initially set out to do it. Lincoln’s structure is elegantly simple. But we never said it is easy. I will have more to say on that later.

    Let me first tell you where my publisher’s words come from. They come from me. They are symptomatic of today’s world that demands soundbites or it won’t listen to you. Our book premiered in Gettysburg November 16, 2010, at the Lincoln Forum’s three-day annual symposium that culminates on the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Shortly prior to the Forum, I received my copies of the book. At about the same time I was off to a consumer law seminar in Boston. I took the book with me because I wanted to read it all the way through in final form. Understand that in the three year process of researching and writing the book, I had already read it probably hundreds of times in one fashion or another. But there is something special about the final physical product. So I was carrying the book around with me in Boston. This is about a week before the Forum; the main way to get the book then was a pre-release order from Amazon. I was sitting eating lunch, and a lawyer attending the Boston seminar sat down next to me and glanced at the book, asking if it was a good book. I responded, “I am biased because I am one of the authors, but yes.” And I went into to an early version of what became the elevator speech. Much to my amazement he pulled out his iPhone and purchased the book on Amazon as I was talking to him.

    Attorneys have to explain complex matters all the time in a simple way. While particularly true when speaking to a jury, it is also true when speaking to a judge. Explaining something simply does not mean talking down — that never works. Nor does it mean being dishonest. Juries sense that, and judges decapitate for it. Lincoln was good in front of judges, and magnificent in front of juries.

    The week after I was in Boston, during the Lincoln symposium my co-author Dan Van Haften remarked to me, “You know the problem with our book is that you cannot sum it up in just a few sentences. Our ideas are too complicated.” Up for the challenge I came up with what Dan and I have dubbed “the elevator speech” — pretty much what our publisher posted, and a refined version of what I said to the lawyer in Boston.

    The difference between what our publisher posted and what I said to the lawyer in Boston is I already had credibility with the lawyer in Boston. Even though we didn’t know each other, we were both lawyers attending the same seminar, and we were face-to-face. Savas Beatie has lots of credibility with Civil War blogs. And much respect from fellow publishers who know them. Savas Beatie is a small publisher with a high quality reputation. I make no apologies for them making the posting. I am glad to see them working on my behalf, particularly during a time period where the publishing industry is fighting for its life. On the other hand, I understand where you are coming from. I don’t watch much television, but I do watch some. I have one hard rule, I refuse to listen to commercials. I change the channel instantly.

    As far as using a Google search bot, I want to know what people are saying about my book. Not for ego purposes. And certainly not for spam. I need to know what people are thinking. Today’s authors have to work more after they write the book than before if they want anyone to read it. This is not mega marketing. It is more like micro marketing. But we can cross-enrich. The reason I stand behind the elevator speech is we can back it up.

    This leads to another point about today’s world. Every book thinks it is special. So how does a really special book differentiate itself from yet another book about Abraham Lincoln? Our book is selling fine. But if I had to identify a problem it is that the world is glazed with hype.

    While most reviewers have found our writing amazingly clear for the complexity of the topic, many also comment this is not a book to take to bed with you. My interpretation of that is you need to be awake and clear-minded when you read it.

    Harvard Professor John Stauffer, who wrote the book’s Afterword, commented to me, “It is a magnificent book, one of the few that read better and reveal new insights the second time around.”

    Now I will confess something that I have never done publicly before. It took me two years to get comfortable with our discovery. By that I don’t mean it took me two years to know we nailed Lincoln’s technique. I knew that instantly. I mean it took me two years to internalize it. We will never know how long it took Lincoln to internalize it. We do know he began serious study of Euclid in 1849 after leaving Congress. Dan and I found no Lincoln speeches or writings prior 1854 that demarcate into the six elements of a Euclidean proposition. So it could have taken him up to five years.

    I apologize for the length of the above, but feel it necessary. So let’s at least get to some substance. Your original post. Poetry. Clearly what you love about the Second Inaugural is its poetry. And that is the right track. What is poetry? Poetry is structure. What is structure? Structure is position. Structure is building with architectural principle. Structure is far more than word choice. For over 150 years people have focused on Lincoln’s beautiful choice of words. What I call the leaves. They have not seen the trees nor have they seen the forest. Beautiful words do not come by themselves. They are fastened to something. Lincoln’s Euclidean structure liberated him to make beautiful intellectual twists, and relatively effortless word choice.

    I am a lawyer that hates forms. So by definition I must hate templates. But writing this book has changed my view. Template is not necessarily a bad word.

    I recognize that I am your guest and you are free to cut me off. But I feel the above is necessary for us to get know each other.

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      David: Wow. Thanks for what you wrote—it’s long (as you warned) but really worth it, perhaps most of all because it clarifies for me that I really did misjudge you, and I want to say upfront that I apologize for that. Your ability to respond to my skepticism and criticism with this really honest and open reply, that’s not at all judgmental about me or where I’m coming from, is unbelievably refreshing, and makes me exceptionally glad to have “met” you here in this unlikely way. I hope you will accept my apologies for any curtness in my tone before.

      I’m still on the other side regarding comments as advertising—I’m glad you see my side, and honestly I understand your position (given the state of publishing as an industry, etc.), and feel it’s a case where two intelligent people have an honest disagreement, which doesn’t bother me. And besides, the side benefit of Savasbeatie’s aggressive promotion is that I’ve had a conversation with you, which is well worth the “price of admission”, so to speak.

      I see your point about advertising…I want to push back a bit, and ask you if you see mine about sending young people the wrong messages, but it sounds like I’m at a disadvantage here because I haven’t read your book. I can’t know for sure if it’s as “flashy” as the advertising copy, or as thoughtful and winningly humble as you clearly are personally, or somewhere in between. I’m willing to take your word for it at this point, though, that anyone who actually reads the book sees that this isn’t easy, and that what you’re doing with Lincoln isn’t a “6 easy steps to greatness” but rather a “hey, Lincoln wasn’t magical, here’s at least one reason why his words work, and how ours can work better too”. Maybe I’m mis-stating your position there? Let me know if I am.

      I agree with you about the importance of structure—heck, I beat it into the heads of high school students for years! I’m not sure I accept the simple equation of poetry and structure (I’m not convinced they’re interchangeable, anyway), but I do recognize that a lot of what makes poetic words powerful is the structure (often unnoticed) underlying them. If what you’re doing with Lincoln is looking for that prose structure I think that’s interesting. Without giving too much of your book away for free (maybe seeing it as a “free sample” to encourage someone to buy the whole thing?), can you point out an example of structure underlying the 2nd Inaugural? I’m interested in mulling this over, and a concrete example would be very nice. I’m sorry not to offer to purchase a copy of your book, but for the next few months, at least, I’m a starving grad student still (for the third time) and am holding off book-buying.

      I like where you’re coming from re: templates, though for me “rubric” is a better word. Template does feel very “boilerplate” to me, where rubric feels more skeletal and open to interpretation. But regardless of the word chosen, I recognize that cautious balance between discouraging mere imitation and repetition, and encouraging the emulation of sturdy and clear thinking.

      I’m interested in what you’re saying, if you have more to say. And if you get me fired up enough about this, I have no problem with writing a blog post about my impression of what you’re doing (full disclosure: I’m already getting visitors who are Googling your book’s title, so for better or worse, it looks like I’m now part of your information campaign!) in an effort to give people an outsider’s opinion (and an outsider who can be candid about his initial skepticism and how you’ve managed to win over some of my trust). It’s up to you, of course—if you move on to other sites and conversations, I’ll certainly understand, and I’m very glad you left the comments you did. Best wishes to you and your co-author: may you have more success than you expect!

  4. David Hirsch says:

    Do not have time for a long post.

    The magic of Lincoln is the he figured out the way Euclid made geometric demonstrations AND how he (Lincoln) could transfer that process to an oral demonstration.

    He was proprietary about that. At times he sort of tipped his hand. But he does not appear to have revealed his process to anyone. Fortunately his words (speeches) are the best evidence.

    As far as “Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason” free excerpts are available on amazon.com, kindle, iBook, and Google Books. There may be some overlap.

    In the Enunciation of portion of the Second Inaugural, Lincoln has a short Given explaining there is less to be said now than four years before. His Sought (at the end of the Enunciation) is the high hope for the future (though he does not predict). An enunciation always states obvious truths (which frequently boil down to “why are we here”.

    The exposition goes on for the next few paragraphs stating non-controversial (or at least irrefutable) facts developing from the Given leading toward the investigation for what is stated in the Construction.

    The Specification follows the Exposition. It clarifies and more affirmatively states the Sought. “Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.” Basically the result of the war is fundamental.

    There is a short biblically oriented Construction that follows. Reading the same bible, not judging.

    The Proof takes what is in the Construction and argues from it. Prayers of both can’t be answered. The war is punishment to both.

    The Conclusion, reverting back to the Sought and the Specification states what is proved. Here punishment is accepted; the nation will finish its work, heal the wounds and seek a just peace.

    This is perhaps not the ideal first speech to illustrate the book’s principles, but it does fit. It is more obvious in Cooper Union, and in the Gettysburg Address.

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      David: Briefly, thank you for this, which I’ll think over, and I’ll go track down some sample pages online to see if I can unearth a bit more of what’s meant by this Euclidean terminology. One lingering question for me (which is maybe answered in your book)—is there any written evidence from Lincoln himself that suggests he knew he had a sort of “system” for thinking, or that he applied these Euclidean precepts to rhetoric?

  5. David Hirsch says:

    > is there any written evidence from Lincoln himself
    > that suggests he knew he had a sort of “system” for
    > thinking, or that he applied these Euclidean
    > precepts to rhetoric?

    No straightforward explanation from Lincoln, otherwise this would not have taken 150+ years to discover. But there is evidence from Lincoln, the best being his words themselves (speeches and writings) and their underlying structure. Cooper Union and the Gettysburg Address are slam dunks. Second Inaugural is clear to me, but is more subtle. When someone writes a poem, they do not normally say, “This is iambic pentameter.” But whether they say so or not, if it is, it is. Lincoln does not appear to have been prone to give away his trade secrets.

    There is also direct verbiage from Lincoln that, for instance, challenges an opponent to prove something as Euclid would a proposition.

    The answer to your question takes up the bulk of the book. It was a secret hiding in plain sight. But when you look at it all, the evidence is overwhelming. You decide. Send me your address, I will see if I can get you a review copy.

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