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Abraham Lincoln: In His Own Words

A century and a half after his death, the cadence, argument, and power of Abraham Lincoln's speeches still stir the heart of any American who encounters them.
Abraham Lincoln: In His Own Words is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 71.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solid overview of Lincoln’s oratory Solid overview of Lincoln’s oratory, which pays attention to the evolution of Lincoln’s thought, a stylistic analysis of his rhetoric and the historical context of his speeches. End felt a little rushed; perhaps less time could have been spent on the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Nevertheless, a superb series of lectures.
Date published: 2024-04-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I have no picture, only sound. I'd like to swap out this course for the one on Charlamange. Please advise.
Date published: 2022-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightening I very much enjoyed listening to the evolution of Lincoln's inner thoughts as expressed by his writings and speeches. Of particular interest was his thinking on slavery, Blacks, and succession, but the changes in his rhetorical style were also of note.
Date published: 2021-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great deep dive into Lincoln's speeches and in part into his mind.
Date published: 2020-11-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great detail and perspective I was expecting more of an autobiography in Lincoln's words. Instead there was an extremely detailed examination of his speeches which evolved up to his election and through his presidency. It was not what I expected, though I did learn several interesting perspectives I was not aware of before.
Date published: 2019-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lecture series. I learned a great deal about Lincoln that I did not know and also about the political and social environment of that time that has relevance even today. Thank you for making this lecture series.
Date published: 2019-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have at least 50 courses from GC and this is possibly the very best. I have gifted or recommended it to many friends. I have been thanked many times.
Date published: 2018-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Abraham Lincoln: In His Own Words Was looking for a course that informative, keep my attention and highly accurace. This course met exactly what I was looking for.
Date published: 2018-04-16
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Overview

Precisely because Lincoln is a national hero and legend, we have lost sight of some of his depth and complexity. His noble words—the Gettysburg Address especially—have become so familiar that we have almost lost the power truly to hear them. By tracing Lincoln's path to oratorical greatness, these lectures restore a full sense of his true stature.

About

David Zarefsky

It's my belief that the most ethical way to go about influencing other people is through argumentation, which respects their individuality, and respects their freedom, and seeks their free assent.

INSTITUTION

Northwestern University

Dr. David Zarefsky is the Owen L. Coon Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University, where he has taught for over 30 years. He earned his B.S., master's degree, and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. From 1988 through 2000, he served as the Dean of the School of Speech.

A nationally recognized authority on rhetoric and forensics, he is a past president of the National Communication Association (NCA) and recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award in 1994 and the Distinguished Service Award in 2001. On no fewer than 13 occasions, his outstanding lecturing skills have been recognized by the inclusion of his name on Northwestern's Associated Student Government Honor Roll for Teaching.

Dr. Zarefsky has authored five books, edited three more, and published over 50 scholarly articles and reviews. He received the 1986 National Communication Association's Winans-Wichelns Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address for his book President Johnson's War on Poverty: Rhetoric and History and the same award again in 1991 for Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate.

By This Professor

Argumentation: The Study of Effective Reasoning
854
Lincoln and Rhetoric

01: Lincoln and Rhetoric

In this lecture, we will review Lincoln's basic biography and introduce a rhetorical perspective to the study of his career. A rhetorical perspective focuses especially on Lincoln's use of public persuasion to create a sense of community with his audience and to influence his listeners to achieve his goals. Lincoln's speaking career began as a young man in Springfield and continued until his death. We will review the major phases and highlights of that career.

33 min
The Lyceum Speech, 1838

02: The Lyceum Speech, 1838

Lincoln's first major public address was about the dangers of lawlessness to the survival of American political institutions. Although delivered in the aftermath of the murder of abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy in Alton, the speech does not mention the attack but refers instead to other examples of lawless behavior. In this speech Lincoln previews much of his later political philosophy and raises questions about the relationship between the current generation and the Founding Fathers.

31 min
The Temperance Speech, 1842

03: The Temperance Speech, 1842

Another early Lincoln speech was delivered to the Washington Temperance Society of Springfield in 1842. Although praising the aims of the temperance movement, Lincoln promotes moderate rather than radical approaches to this important social reform. The speech can also be read as revealing Lincoln's theories of politics and of rhetoric, foreshadowing how he will oppose slavery without calling for its outright abolition.

31 min
Lincoln as a Young Whig

04: Lincoln as a Young Whig

From an early age, Lincoln identified himself with the Whig Party. He served a single term in Congress from 1847 to 1849 and is known chiefly for his opposition to the Mexican War, then a popular cause. He claimed to be guided in all his actions by the example of Whig leader Henry Clay. In this lecture we will examine his speaking in opposition to the Mexican War and his eulogy of Henry Clay.

31 min
Lincoln Returns to Politics

05: Lincoln Returns to Politics

After his one term in Congress, Lincoln retired from politics and returned to Springfield to practice law. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 brought him back into politics. This law, by repealing the Missouri Compromise (1820), opened territory that previously was free to the possible spread of slavery. This lecture will review the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act controversy, and why this issue rekindled Lincoln's interest in politics.

31 min
The Peoria Speech, 1854

06: The Peoria Speech, 1854

During the fall of 1854, while the major political parties were in flux, Lincoln campaigned for candidates opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. His major speech was delivered in substantially identical form in Springfield and Peoria. In this speech, Lincoln explained how he found the Kansas-Nebraska Act to be a historical aberration and a dangerous departure. We will examine the speech and the effects of the midterm elections of 1854.

31 min
Lincoln's Rhetoric and Politics, 1854–1857

07: Lincoln's Rhetoric and Politics, 1854–1857

In this lecture, we will examine the evolution of Lincoln's thought during the time between the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision. We will find Lincoln building on the logic of the Peoria speech. The Dred Scott decision, however, seemed to threaten the political positions of both Lincoln and Douglas.

31 min
The Springfield Speech, 1857

08: The Springfield Speech, 1857

By holding that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in the territories, the Dred Scott decision undercut the Republican platform. But it also invalidated the Democratic Party's devotion to popular sovereignty, in which the people who populated a territory decided whether it would be slave or free. Both Douglas and Lincoln found it necessary to restate and defend their political principles in the wake of the Dred Scott decision. This lecture will explore the speeches in which they did so.

31 min
The

09: The "House Divided" Speech, 1858

In 1858, the Illinois State Republican Convention took the unusual step of nominating Lincoln to fill the senate seat then occupied by Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln accepted the nomination with a speech known by its key phrase, "a house divided against itself cannot stand." Although often understood today as a forecast of civil war, the speech was intended to convey a quite different message - that Republicans should not succumb to the temptation of supporting Douglas because he was encouraging a plan to make slavery legal nationally.

30 min
The Chicago Speech, July 1858

10: The Chicago Speech, July 1858

When Congress adjourned, Douglas returned to Illinois to begin his campaign. He delivered a blistering attack on the "house divided" doctrine. Lincoln answered Douglas the next night. He claimed his speech had been misconstrued, but he delivered a ringing statement in support of racial equality. This statement would create problems for Lincoln among more moderate voters, and he would retreat from it later in the campaign.

31 min
The Springfield Speech, July 1858

11: The Springfield Speech, July 1858

From Chicago, Lincoln and Douglas both traveled to Springfield. Lincoln was in the audience while Douglas spoke, then rose and offered to speak later to explain his views. Again Lincoln denied the radical nature of the "house divided" position, and he pointed out that Douglas had not answered his allegation that the incumbent was part of a plot to spread slavery all over the nation.

31 min
The Debate about the Debates

12: The Debate about the Debates

Having trouble attracting his own crowds, Lincoln followed Douglas as a kind of "truth squad." When the partisan press began to ridicule him for doing so, Lincoln used a different strategy. After Douglas's schedule of campaign appearances had been published, Lincoln challenged him to a series of about 50 debates. Intense negotiations between the principals on the details of the debates followed. This lecture will review the "debate about the debates" and suggest that it has a contemporary character.

31 min
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates I

13: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates I

Douglas opened the first debate on a strong note, charging that Lincoln's "house divided" doctrine would mandate national uniformity and alleging that he was part of a plot to abolitionize both major parties. He posed several questions to try to tie Lincoln to a radical Republican platform. Lincoln answered defensively and had difficulty establishing his own position. This lecture will review the course of the argument in the first two debates.

31 min
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates II

14: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates II

Douglas had expected to do well in the third debate, held in heavily Democratic southern Illinois. But Lincoln arrested his momentum and posed a fifth question that forced Douglas to state whether he would support territorial legislation to protect slavery. The fourth (Charleston) debate is unlike any of the others; it is devoted to an argument that Douglas plotted to deny Kansas the chance to vote on slavery while claiming to champion popular sovereignty. This lecture will analyze arguments in the third and fourth debates.

31 min
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates III

15: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates III

Lincoln found his stride in the last three debates. He derived the nationalization of slavery from a formal logical structure rather than from an alleged conspiracy, and he finally introduced the basic moral argument that slavery was wrong. Lincoln's positions advanced from the beginning of the debates to the end, while Douglas repeated arguments he had put forward in earlier debates. This lecture will examine the fifth and sixth debates between Lincoln and Douglas.

31 min
The Aftermath of the Debates

16: The Aftermath of the Debates

The final debate was anticlimactic for Douglas, but it enabled Lincoln to sharpen his moral argument. Following the debates, the last few weeks of the campaign were marked by a key last-minute endorsement for Douglas and by charges of vote fraud. Douglas was re-elected to the Senate, although it is likely that candidates pledged to Lincoln had the larger popular vote. Certainly Lincoln was not harmed by the results of the election.

31 min
Lincoln's 1859 Speeches

17: Lincoln's 1859 Speeches

After his defeat in 1858, Lincoln returned to his law practice but remained active on the speaking circuit. He developed a lecture on discoveries and inventions. Both Lincoln and Douglas also campaigned for candidates in the Ohio elections of 1859. Lincoln's Ohio speeches can be seen as extensions of the Lincoln-Douglas debates: the same arguments appear in a more fully developed form. This lecture will examine both "Discoveries and Inventions" and Lincoln's Columbus speech.

31 min
The Cooper Union Speech, 1860

18: The Cooper Union Speech, 1860

At the close of a New England tour, Lincoln spoke at Cooper Union in New York City - in effect meeting presidential frontrunner William H. Seward on Seward's home ground. He offered evidence that a majority of the Founders believed that Congress had the power to outlaw slavery in the territories and concluded that Congress should exercise that power. A portion of the speech ostensibly is directed to the South although it is likely that the true audience is the North. This lecture will analyze the Cooper Union speech.

31 min
The Campaign of 1860

19: The Campaign of 1860

Lincoln gave no speeches during the presidential campaign, believing that his views were on the record and that his opponents would distort his positions. This lecture will explore the nature and consequences of Lincoln's "eloquent silence." It also will examine his brief farewell speech to his Springfield neighbors and speeches he made en route to Washington for the presidential inauguration.

31 min
The First Inaugural Address

20: The First Inaugural Address

Lincoln's First Inaugural is one of his most famous speeches. The new President suggests the impossibility of dividing the Union and appeals to the loyalty and good will of the South. He defines his policy as purely defensive and suggests that, if war breaks out, the South will be the aggressor. Although the speech seeks reconciliation, southerners regarded it as a siren song. This lecture will explore Lincoln's rhetorical moves in the First Inaugural Address.

31 min
Justifying the War

21: Justifying the War

The Civil War broke out while Congress was not in session, so Lincoln could make decisions unimpeded by legislation - but he needed congressional approval of funds to support the war. He called Congress into special session on July 4, 1861. His message to Congress makes clear his war aims, which are much more limited and defensive than they soon will become. This lecture is devoted to Lincoln's rhetorical choices in his special message to Congress.

31 min
Moving Toward Emancipation

22: Moving Toward Emancipation

Having rejected emancipation as a goal of the war, Lincoln now moved toward defending it as a military necessity. In a meeting with a delegation of African Americans, Lincoln urged them to support his policy of colonization - returning free blacks to Africa. In his 1862 Annual Message, Lincoln again indicated his support for colonization. Meanwhile, the President was preparing to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. This lecture will examine these documents of 1862.

31 min
Lincoln at Gettysburg

23: Lincoln at Gettysburg

The Gettysburg Address is justifiably regarded as masterful and eloquent. Departing from tradition, it did not depict the battle itself, as had the major address of the day by Edward Everett, but abstracted from the particulars to the larger meaning of the war. By removing the war from its immediate context, Lincoln could articulate principles that would endure long after the guns were stilled, thereby denying his own claim that the world would "little note nor long remember" what he said. This lecture will examine Lincoln's most well-known speech.

31 min
Lincoln's Last Speeches

24: Lincoln's Last Speeches

As he had done at Gettysburg, Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address focuses on the larger meaning of the war. Lincoln here interprets the carnage and destruction by reference to Biblical precept and divine purpose. This is a speech of reconciliation, but it does not assign responsibility. This final lecture will examine Lincoln's Second Inaugural as his most mature assessment of the war. It also will comment on his final public address, a response to a serenade two days after Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

31 min