Issue of Public Education
Public education has been always one of the most important subjects of political debates, but in the middle of XIX century in the USA, this topic was more important than ever. The Unites States based on the ideals of the Enlightenment philosophy believe in the transformational potential of education. Therefore, the social development of the Americans has been always inseparable from the development public life. As a progressive politician, Abraham Lincoln shared all of the tendencies that mentioned and propagated open access to education in order to increase well-being and happiness of the nation.
There are two very illustrative speeches, which reveal Lincoln's position concerning the issue of education, including First Political Announcement proclaimed in New Salem, Illinois (1832), and a famous Eulogy on Henry Clay (1852). Each speech performed a different function. The goal of the first speech was to make Lincoln's audience familiar with his political objectives and general ideas, while the second one addressed Lincoln's relation to a specific person (and in this context, to this persons education).
It is also important to remember a twenty-year gap between the speeches analyzed. For this reason, the first speech is a part of political program oriented to make some changes, while the latter one provides some results and conclusions of social and political activity. However, these differences do not make the speeches incomparable, but allow them to complement each other by demonstrating the reader different dimensions of Lincoln's political position.
Lincoln in his first political announcement in 1832 underlines that education is the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in (2001, p. 53). When trying to protect peoples right to receive at least a moderate education, Lincoln connects it with morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry (2001, p. 55), and identifies them as possible ways to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period (2001, p. 55).
In general, the quotations demonstrate Lincoln's belief in connection between individuals intellectual, moral and spiritual development. In fact, one feature of the Enlightenment is the attempt to improve people through their constant education. Furthermore, the history of the USA demonstrated that Lincoln was right, since because right for at least moderate education increased the level of democracy as well as prompted industrial development. Thus, Lincoln's early views on education appear to be very realistic and humanistic.
While in the previously analyzed speech Lincoln appears primarily as a politician, his Eulogy demonstrates him as a simple private man. Thus, in the Eulogy, Lincoln regrets about Henry Clays poverty that have not allowed him to achieve the best education. Besides, as he underlines, Clay always tried to educate himself during his life, and in this way, he was constantly overcoming his intellectual limitations. Lincoln concludes, saying, In this country, one can scarcely be so poor, but that, if he will, he can acquire sufficient education to get through the world respectably (2001, p. 267).
It is clear that in this case Lincoln speaks about either Henry Clay or himself, because both were mostly self-educated representatives of the American elite. Thus, here Lincoln appears as American ideal of a self-made man in the sphere of education, and demonstrates that this ideal is approachable in the context of American social reality.
Through the speeches analyzed, it is clear that Lincoln's views on the issues of education are based on the American values of intellectual liberty and self-development. Both speeches demonstrate the same ideas of their author from different points of view. Thus, the latter speech proves the intellectual correctness of the assumptions made in the first one.
Eulogy on Henry Clay
Abraham Lincoln's eulogy on Henry Clay proclaimed in 1852 is a perfect example of a speech that uncovers its author both as a public and private person. Henry Clay was Lincoln's ideal of a statesman, and in this way, this eulogy expressed Lincoln's private feelings connected with the death of a person who inspired him. At the same time, he used this public speech to make a proclamation and underline his understanding of Henry Clays role in the American politics. The speech revealed that Lincoln considered Clay to be some kind of the American public spirits manifestation embodied in one politician who served the people in accordance to the most important devotions and needs of the nation.
Lincoln's eulogy begins with the author drawing the parallels between Henry Clay and the independent USA. He mentions the Declaration of Independence and then claims that Clay was born among those people who played the most active part in the struggle for the American Independence (2001, p. 264). At this point, Lincoln already appeals to the close relation between Henry Clay and the American people, but he still discusses it in a moderate manner.
Telling about Henry Clays personality, Lincoln underlines his poverty and inability to afford the best education; in this way, he also draws some parallels between the American nation and the mentioned politician. In fact, by mentioning Clays poverty, Lincoln emphasizes that he was a self-made man, a realization of the American dream. Due to such characteristics, one may conclude that Clay was the most ordinary American who achieved the highest point of his social realization, and who (as Lincoln points out) embodied all the general features of his compatriots.
Lincoln also tells about Clays moral and spiritual qualities, and underlines that Mr. Clay's predominant sentiment, from first to last, was a deep devotion to the cause of human liberty in fact, this characteristic also shows Clay as a genuine American (2001, p. 270). The speech is very illustrative, since Lincoln mentions small details of Henry Clays relationships with other people, and in this way, he demonstrates his attentive and respective relation to a human individual. The previously mentioned characteristic of Clay as a self-made man makes him appear as an ideal generalized image of an American citizen.
At last, in the speechs conclusion, Lincoln exclaims the reasons why Henry Clay is his inspiratory ideal. He was a politician the times have demanded, says Lincoln (2001, p. 277). The speaker even refers to God in order to underline Clays specific private and especially public dignity. According to Lincoln, Clay was the instrument of safety and security provided by Divine Providence (2001, p. 277).
The degree of irony in these words is unclear, and it seems that Lincoln believes that Clay really embodies some supernatural characteristics, which can help him to establish and develop the USA. Certainly, it is important to understand these words through the rational prism, where Gods will in this context means probably the unified collective will of the American people.
In this way, through the eulogy on Henry Clay it becomes clear that for Lincoln this politician embodied the highest and innermost desires and needs of the Americans. Such relation to the national majority, to the spirit of the nation itself, may be equal to close relation with God in the terms of the rhetoric used in XIX century. Thus, in this context it was possible to claim that Henry Clay embodied Gods will for Lincoln, and inspired him, as God would do.
The Evaluation of Lincoln's Lyceum Speech
Abraham Lincoln's Lyceum Speech proclaimed in 1838 is a well-known text in which young politician expressed the objectives of his future political program. Its author originally titled this speech as The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions. This title already introduces the reader with the main topic of the text, which concerns the sharpest social and political problems of the American society in the middle XIX century.
The speech revealed constant persecutions and humiliations of African Americans by white Americans who judged black criminals in accordance to their pathetic law of mob (lynching). Lincoln's intention is to eliminate such accidents to make all people obey the national law and prevent the deformation of the USA. Thus, the main idea of the text lays in the respect to laws, which constitute the main heritage the Americans received from the founding fathers of the USA.
After the specification specifying the thesis of the speech (the perpetuation of the American political institution), Lincoln's describes the USA as the country, which has all the potencies needed for the effective development and achieving happiness. Besides, as Lincoln points out, this happy order may be perverted by some danger. He rhetorically asks about the source of this danger and concludes that it is among the Americans themselves because the military intervention of any foreign state is impossible. In this way, Lincoln contrasts the law of the founding fathers by which the nation has lived before, and the law of mob, which some Americans who prefer to lynch black criminals currently follow.
Lincoln mentions such cases in Mississippi and St. Louis, and claims that even a small number of such people can cause disorder in the USA. Lincoln's argument is very clear, as he appeals to peoples dignity and self-respect by saying that the problem is not the African Americans have been lynched (who were criminals and would be found hanging anyway), but whites who want to substitute the American Constitution and law with their own passionate judgements that can lead to social and political disorder.
The American Constitution has to be respected as a religious norm, and the passion of the people of the XVIII century has to be replaced by the reason of XIX century nation, because each epoch has its specifics. Thus, Lincoln appeals to the need of national law that would be undoubted and respected by the majority of the Americans.
Lincoln's speech perfectly fits the purposes of the epoch. Instead of appealing to the equality between races, which was not obvious for the Americans of the XIX century, Lincoln used the authority of the American founding fathers, and in this way, he criticized the racists as those who violated the innermost tenets of the American national idea. His arguments were not deep or logically grounded because the main goal of the speech was to appeal to the American duty to save the heritage of their ancestors who established the USA.
The same argument Lincoln uses when he mentions the new, rational version of Washington that will continue the mission of real Washington, but through the prism of current epochs challenges. In both cases, Lincoln tries to justify his ideas by referring to the authorities of the American Revolution, its main ideas and participants. At the same time, Lincoln claims that with the flow of time, the realization of the same mission demands new forms and approaches. This idea represents the great rhetorical mastership of Lincoln who in fact has demonstrated the American racists and chauvinists as the main danger to the nation even while the institution of slavery in the USA is not doubted during Washingtons time.
To achieve this effect, Lincoln rhetorically separated the important (and, probably, eternal) guidelines of the nation from the temporal forms that need some changes. The details mentioned above are the main strengths of the speech. At the same time, the speech also has some weaknesses, such as an unclear position on the bad laws that also have to be cancelled, according to Lincoln. As he claims, although bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible, still while they continue in force, for the sake of example, they should be religiously observed (Lincoln, 2001, p. 81).
The mechanism of eliminating such bad laws after their sanctification is not proposed, and, according to some interpretations of Lincoln's speech, he is planning to enforce totalitarianism. Besides, in general, Lincoln's ideas concerning state and law are very rational, despite the prevalence of pathos and ethos in the speech.
One of the most interesting issues in the speech is Lincoln's proposition concerning the problem solving techniques. More specifically, Lincoln advices:
Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. (2001, p. 81)
He offers people to make the national law a political religion of the American nation, and in this way; he plans to ensure its fulfillment both by peoples rational understanding of the laws supremacy and by peoples religious respect to the highest norms of this law. One of the most interesting and exciting ideas of Lincoln is that while the American revolution demanded passionate deeds, the middle XIX century needed passion to be replaced with reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason (2001, p. 84).
The main virtues of Lincoln's contemporaries were general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws (2001, p. 84). Such qualities have to be expressed in the highest degree in the figure of new George Washington the rational leader who will save and develop the USA in accordance to the challenges of Lincoln's epoch, as well as passionate Washington who has done it in previous century. It is very obvious today that such New Washington is Lincoln himself, but it is important to note that the analyzed speech has been proclaimed before Lincoln's political success, and in this way it serves as some kind of political prophecy.
In this way, Lincoln's ideas, concerning the opposition to the law of mob, were based on in-depth understanding of the political reality and national needs. It seems that the parts of the speech, which concern Lincoln's advice to approach life rationally, served as the description of his own dominant political and personal life strategies.
The analysis of Lincoln's Lyceum Speech demonstrates the high rhetoric skills of of the speaker, whose text appears to be a perfect example of a persuasive speech. By using all three rhetorical elements, Lincoln achieves the needed result. He appeals to the honor, dignity and national duties of his audience (ethos). He also makes people personally feel the danger of the American nations moral decrease (pathos).
At the same time, Lincoln logically proves that the only one way to overcome the mentioned dangers and problems lays through the respect to the American Constitution and law as well as through the replacement of revolutionary passion with rationality of successful and developing nation. Due to the harmony of the elements mentioned, Lincoln's speech serves as an example of a rhetorical masterpiece.