Wednesday, February 8, 2012


When looking at the Gettysburg Address, it is a little bit daunting to have to compare it to Trancendentalism. To be quite honest, the real problem is that the two do not have very much in common. Considering everything, this could turn out to be a rather interesting analysis.

One of the few things Lincoln's beliefs had in common with Trancendentalism is that both had a great appreciation for freedom. The greatest goal of the Trancendentalist was to be free from the impressions of other people, and do only what an individual thinks is right, regardless of what is thought about them (Emerson). Lincoln's ideas about freedom did not really reach all of the way to the individual, but he had a strong belief in Democracy none the less. He chose not to compromise before the civil war because he thought it would betray the democratic principle he was elected by, and fights the war so that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people "shall not perish from the earth" (Lincoln 402). One could say that Lincolns ideas about freedom are more collective than the Trancendentalist's individual freedom.

Like Thoreau, Lincoln also found slavery to be a moral wrong, and wrote of a lynching of a mulatto as "most highly tragic of anything of its length that has ever been witnessed in real life" (Barzun). He wanted slavery to be ended, but true to his belief in a more collective freedom, he did nothing about it until it would be thought right by more people than would think it wrong (rule of the majority). Thoreau however, thought that this was precisly what was wrong with government (he preferred the rule of the individual), and this marks the splitting point between Thoreau and Lincoln.

Another big difference between Lincoln and the Trancendentalists is that Lincoln never had the distaste for society that Emmerson and Thoreau had, or if he did he never wrote about it. The Trancendentalists idolized nature, and from his writings, it would seem that Abraham Lincoln idolized God, considering he mentions Him in most of his famous speeches.

Barzun, Jacques. "Lincoln the Literary Genius." The Saturday Evening Post, Vol. 231, No. 33 (14 February 1959): 30, 62–4. In Bloom, Harold, ed. Enslavement and Emancipation, Bloom's Literary Themes. New York: Chelsea Publishing House, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 8 Feb. 2012. BLTEAE011&SingleRecord=True.

Emerson, Ralph. "Self-Reliance." Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. Web. 09 Feb. 2012. .

Lincoln, Abraham. "The Gettysburg Address." Comp. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Ph.D. and Douglas Fisher, Ph.D. Glencoe Literature. American Literature ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 97-99. Print.

Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web. 25
Jan. 2012.

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