45 pages • 1 hour readJames M. Mcpherson
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Lincoln was a clear elocutionist, and his preeminent quality as a leader was an “ability to communicate the meaning and purpose of [the war] in an intelligible, inspiring manner” (93). He had this skill over his opponent, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate states. This was despite Davis having a much better education than Lincoln. Lincoln’s rural education, mostly received outside of the classroom, served him in connecting with laypeople, as did his penchant for figurative language, with which he was very skilled.
Lincoln used metaphor to ensure people understood his points, finding it more effective than literal speech. He purposefully injected figurative language into his messages to Congress and his public addresses. This choice stemmed from his own frustrations of being spoken to in ways he could not understand as a child.
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Lincoln became famous for his use of metaphor, parables, and storytelling, and his ability to use each of these techniques to make strong analogies and precisely understood points. Some considered this character trait undignified of a president, but Lincoln understood this mode of speech was a powerful way to intellectually connect with common people. There is also an extensive record of his use of such metaphors to make strategic points to his generals.
By James M. Mcpherson