LINCOLN’S LYCEUM SPEECH AS A MODEL OF DEMOCRATIC RHETORIC

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Abstract:

Abraham Lincoln's 1838 Lyceum speech is of interest for its explicit argument - that extra-legal violence is not a legitimate inference from popular sovereignty - but especially for the manner in which Lincoln led his listeners to this conclusion, which many of them would have resisted. His defence of American political institutions relies on informal, non- institutional, rhetorical means. By employing such means, Lincoln addressed a gap in the American framers' view of a representative’s duty: he sought to change public opinion as well as represent it. Lincoln's response to violence invites comparison with that of the abolitionists, who were frequently its targets. Both saw rhetoric as a necessary complement to formal institutions, but Lincoln goes further than the abolitionists in considering the dangers in an appeal from popular opinion to rights

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of History and Social Sciences, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, IN 46808, USA, Email: tschneider@sf.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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