Essay, Research Paper: American Rennaissance

Literature: Civil War

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The American Renaissance is a time that American writers received more
recognition as to the quality of their works. Before this time scholars looked
upon the works of the artist and writers in America were looked upon as
secondary to the across the Atlantic. The novelist Gustave de Beaumont
"warned Europeans not to ‘look for poetry, literature, or fine arts in
this country'." (McQuade et al pg. 462) "When one of the proprietors
of the North American Review first read young William Cullen Bryant's blank
verse, Wordsworthian "Thanatopsis" (1817), a poem subsequently hailed
as the finest yet written in America, he assumed the author was British: ‘No
one on this side of the Atlantic is capable of writing such verse'." (462)
The American Renaissance is also a time of Transcendentalism. Transcendentalism
is a form of relying on one's own intuition and conscious. The American
Renaissance is a period framed by two major events, the Panic of 1837 and the
Civil War. The American Renaissance also saw the rise in leadership from the
"backwoods" politicians Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. Rises in
the distinguishment between social classes start in this period. By this time
small groups of middle class citizens had been formed. The American Renaissance
is the time of the gold rush and the ending of slavery. The American Renaissance
is an important time in American history when we get some of our greatest
literary contributions to the world. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12,
1809 in Kentucky. He grew up under the discipline of his father Thomas Lincoln
and his mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln. "Abe's" mother died when he was
nine years old. He began to go to Andrew Crawford school at this age. He knew
his alphabet and could read a little but with difficulty. Lincoln went to school
off and on but read as he grew up. The Bible was Lincoln's main source of
reading, but Abe would borrow books from neighbors from time to time. In 1837
Lincoln became a lawyer and 1849 he was selected to congress. In 1860 Abraham
Lincoln was elected the 16th president of United States, and in 1864 wrote one
of his greatest works; he wrote his Second Inaugural Address. His Second
Inaugural Address "has a double purpose: to comment upon the more striking
events of the pending tragedy and to divine their meaning in the light of
religion." (Robinson 344). In the first part of the Second Inaugural
Lincoln gives a survey of the war. Lincoln briefly gives the motives and
expectations of both sides. (p. 344) "On the occasion corresponding to this
four years ago. All thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil-war .
. . Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let
the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish.
And the war came." (Lincoln Second Inaugural Address). In the second part
of the Address, Lincoln notes the amount of slaves in the Union in 1861 and he
notes that the slaves are in the Southern part of the Union. (Slagell p.155).
Lincoln also expresses his belief in slavery being the cause of the Civil War.
"As a whole, the passage expresses the irony of a war that has both gone
beyond and fallen short of the expectations of both sides." (p. 160) In the
third part of the Address Lincoln gives instructions for the future based on the
hope that the nation also has been reformed by the war. "With malice toward
none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, . . . let us strive on
to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him
who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan–to do all
which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and
with all nations." (Lincoln) "The duties that Lincoln lays out are in
completing the present work, healing the nation, caring for individuals, and
establishing a just and lasting peace" (Slagell p.167) After delivering the
Second Inaugural, some men criticized Lincoln for not giving more attention to
specific military details. Lincoln "symbolically transforms the Civil War
from an occasion of terrible suffering to one of purification, from the ultimate
example of a nation ‘divided against itself' to an event that exemplified the
nation's unity under God." (P. 169) "He does so, moreover, with a
rhetorical and literary brilliance that has made the speech one of the most
eloquent addresses in the English language." (P. 169) Abraham Lincoln's
thoughts were deeply grounded in scriptural text, and his writings reflect this.
Lincoln is a model of the Transcendentalist way of thinking because he is a
self-made man and he relied on his own intuition and conscious. By incorporating
the Bible and his own ideas into his writings, I think that this makes Lincoln
one of the greatest writers in American history.
McQuade, Donald, et al. The Harper Single Volume American Literature. New
York, NY: 1999 Slagell, Amy R. "Anatomy of a Masterpiece: A close Textual
Analysis of Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address." Communication
Studies vol.42 1991 pp. 155-171. Robinson, Luther E. Abraham Lincoln as a Man of
Letters 1918 **.
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