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The Gettysburg Address as a Highly Regarded Speech

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The assassination of Abraham Lincoln took place on 14th April 1865. There were nine people in total who took part in the murder of Lincoln; the actual assassin was called John Wilkes Booth. Booth overheard someone stating that Lincoln would be at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. that evening so he spent the rest of the day plotting the assassination with a group of other conspirators. At 10.13 pm Lincoln was shot in the head while watching ‘Our American Cousin’. After a long winded manhunt, all nine of the criminals were either killed or captured, Booth being shot through the neck. Obviously one could go into a colossal amount of detail about the assassination, however the point to be made regarding Lincoln’s influence does not require this. It is human social nature to like a story that provokes emotion, even if it leads to sorrow, hence Lincoln’s murder can be considered a quality ‘story’. Due to Lincoln’s murder causing people to feel as though his death was a waste of a good man, individuals often sympathise with him.

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Another impact of his assassination is it makes Lincoln appear more genuine. In Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America by William E. Gienapp, Lincoln is said to have believed that ‘the ruler of a free people should not be surrounded by guards’ (Gienapp, 2002), which makes him seem humble, and therefore genuine. People tend to like individuals who are both humble and genuine, so when paired with the hatred many people have for John Wilkes Booth, their perception of Lincoln is elevated, making his actions have a greater influence.

Lincoln’s assassination is possibly the most significant factor in his fame. Out of the 45 United States presidents, Lincoln is one of four who have been assassinated. There is a vast number of sources that delve deep into the events leading up to, during, and after Lincoln’s assassination, such as Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever and The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln: Flight, Pursuit, Capture, and Punishment of the Conspirators . One could infer from the long and detailed titles of these two books that there is a high demand for specific accounts on the assassination. As well as Lincoln being one of four people in history who have been assassinated in his position, this indicates that Lincoln’s legacy is unique. As a consequence of this, many people choose to learn about him, hence he has influenced them psychologically.

It has been noticed that there are many similarities between the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. For example, Lincoln and Kennedy were both shot in the back of the head in the presence of their wives on a Friday. Both Booth and Oswald, Kennedy’s killer, were shot before being brought to trial. Furthermore, Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theatre, while Kennedy was shot in a Lincoln, made by Ford. All of these similarities are purely coincidental, of course, however many people like to speculate about these parallels, drawing a variety of conclusions. There are countless websites and social media pages referencing these ‘unusual’ similarities. It is also true that other sources, such as Snopes, disprove many of the coincidences. Patently, one can comfortably come to the conclusion that the large media response, including many conspiracy theories, has induced greater discussion and popularity for both Kennedy and Lincoln. Once again, this popularity can be translated into influence, as Lincoln has reached the level of modern social media, which is heavily designed to influence a large number of people .

A notable story related to Lincoln’s assassination is the murder of Lincoln’s dog, Fido. A drunk man murdered Fido, the first ever photographed presidential dog, sometime in 1866  as he was jumped on by Fido and his ‘muddy paws’ (Ackermann, 2019). The fascinating coincidence in the fatal and tragic endings of both owner and dog has been discussed in many books and on many websites, including America Comes Alive and Psychology Today, clearly expanding how many lives Lincoln’s legacy reached.

Furthermore, a persuasive argument exists explaining that Lincoln’s dog is behind the fact that Fido is a very popular name for dogs. An Italian dog, also named Fido, is usually credited with this due to his outstanding loyalty to his deceased owner; this was, however, almost a hundred years after the death of Lincoln’s dog. Even in the 1860s, long before extensive social media sites and online communication were established, famous people existed in America, the most famous usually being the President. Due to this, many people heard that Lincoln had a dog named Fido. As the name originates from the Latin ‘fidō’, meaning ‘I trust’, it is probable that many people would find this a fitting name, due to dogs being inherently faithful.

When the Lincoln family moved to the White House in Washington DC, Fido had to be left behind in Springfield, Maryland, because Lincoln believed that Fido would not survive in the city. Evidently Lincoln loved his dog, putting ‘the welfare of Fido above his children’s tearful pleadings’. A sense of loyalty and faithfulness is consequently induced between Fido and Lincoln. This leads to a further way in which Lincoln’s extensive influence is demonstrated. Many people who are persuaded by modern culture will perceive Lincoln as loyal, but also romanticise Lincoln’s life, because this story sounds like the basis of a tragic novel.

Although the death of Lincoln’s dog does not make Lincoln incredibly significant, it is still an interesting idea to consider. It is also fascinating to contemplate the impact it had on the number of people Lincoln reached, and therefore his legacy in the modern day. It is due to stories like these that it is hard to find people who dislike Abraham Lincoln.

In conclusion, it is obvious that Lincoln’s influence can largely be traced to the three major events that have been discussed above.

Lincoln’s issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation was one of the first occasions in which racial equality became a bone of political contention. This action led to a domino effect with respect to equality. It can be said that Lincoln sparked the popular moral consensus that came to fruition in the mid-twentieth century, continuing to this day, namely the belief in racial equality. Therefore, Lincoln is considered in retrospect to be the most influential United States president because he supported, from a privileged position as the President, a selfless cause for the benefit of those who were oppressed by slavery.

The Gettysburg Address is a highly regarded speech in terms of content and execution, demonstrating Lincoln’s well suited position as the President. Not only did the speech influence the soldiers and Union supporters at the time, but also promoted Lincoln into a category of often considered ‘legendary’ leaders by historians, often compared with other leaders such as Winston Churchill, Julius Caesar and George Washington (Alain, 2012).

The assassination of Lincoln produced a wave of polarised emotions, impacting the lives of everyone in America at the time of his death. This well known tragedy generated a discussion of a size that can be compared to any major event in the United States to this day. The existence of a vast number of sources from all over the world based on the assassination of Lincoln prove the extensive influence the Lincoln has manifested.

As a result of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address and his assassination, Lincoln was undoubtedly a very well known figure, influencing the lives of many people, from those working as slaves in cotton plantations to those who are in positions of power today. 

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