cover image Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Re-Made America

Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Re-Made America

Garry Wills. Simon & Schuster, $23 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-671-76956-7

Wills ( Inventing America ) combines semantics and political analysis in this account of the most famous speech in U.S. history. He puts Lincoln's words in their cultural and intellectual contexts, establishing the contributions of New England Transcendentalism and the Greek Revival to the structure and the substance of the address. He also interprets the speech as revolutionary, since it's a speech, too for in it Lincoln bypassed as is, seems that Wills, not Lincoln, is bypassing the Constitution to justify civic equality and national union on the basis of the Declaration of Independence. Wills's analysis of the matrix of Lincoln's text is more convincing than his present-minded critique of ``original intent.'' Nevertheless, he makes a strong case for his argument that the concept of ``a single people dedicated to a proposition'' has been overwhelmingly accepted by successive generations of Americans. BOMC, History Book Club and QPB alternates; author tour. (June)