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Declaration of Independence vs. Gettysburg Address Essay

The Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address are glimpses into America’s history. They were written in two different time periods: America’s first years in 1776 and the Civil War in the 1800’s. Despite their time gap, they are similar because they both explain to the reader what is going on during their time period. However, the country was going through different events and so these two documents are diverse as well. Both The Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address were written during times of turmoil and change for the country.

Both occurred during a time of war in which America was fighting for liberty and freedoms. During the Revolutionary War, the United States was trying to become “a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”. It was battling for independence and the right to govern them in a way that would actually benefit the country and its people. So in 1776 when The Declaration of Independence was written, the country fought for freedom for themselves.

During the Civil War, the country was divided in two, one half of the country fighting against the other half. They were independent as a country, but this time they were fighting for freedom for others—the African-American slaves. In a way though, America was fighting for equality both times. The first was equal treatment for the British citizens and American colonists. The second time, the country was fighting for equal treatment for all men, no matter what skin color. Both these eras were a time of testing for the United States.

The Revolutionary War period determined whether the states would actually be able to achieve independence. The Civil War was a test to see if America would be able to keep that independence. President Abraham Lincoln spoke about this in his Gettysburg Address: “we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure”. These two documents are similar because they are both written about a time of battle which tested America’s strength. The Declaration of Independence and Gettysburg Address are different for several reasons.

For one, The Declaration of Independence is a statement while the Gettysburg Address was a speech. The authors were also targeting different audiences. The Declaration of Independence was written mostly for themselves, but also for the British government. The Declaration stated the sentiments of the thirteen colonies and “the causes which impel them to the separation”. This clarified where the people stood in regards to their independence. This was for the benefit and organization of the country, but also for the British to know that the Americans were not giving up on independence.

The Gettysburg Address was a speech given by President Abraham Lincoln to the people of America. The Civil War was not an international conflict, but rather one inside the nation. The speech was aimed for encouraging and touching the hearts of the American people. Lincoln wanted them to not give up on the cause they were fighting for, but “to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us”. In the Gettysburg Address, the president was appealing to the people’s emotions in order to boost their war effort. This is another difference it has with The Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence appealed to the British government about rights that the people ought to have. The tone of the Gettysburg Address is more personal since Lincoln’s goal was to encourage the people. Lincoln achieves a personal tone by speaking about the brave men who fought in the recent battle. The Declaration of Independence, on the other hand, was written as a political document with a formal tone. It lists the main reasons why the people were demanding independence, which were mostly due to Great Britain’s offenses against the colonies.

The Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address are very distinct because they were appealing to different audiences and written in different tones. The Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address have several similarities and differences. Although they were written during different time periods, they both fight for liberty, freedom, and equality. However, the two documents, one a statement and the other a letter, were targeted at different audiences. This results in differing tones. One thing similar, both documents were written with a courage and passion for the goal it was fighting for.


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