On this day in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in Baltimore, Maryland. In the midst of the Civil War, Maryland, a union state, was considering a new state constitution, which included a provision that would end slavery. Lincoln, therefore, traveled to Baltimore to express his support for the constitutional change.
In making his case, Lincoln focused on the idea of liberty and how the word was viewed and defined differently in the North and in the South (1).
The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.
After talking about liberty in general terms, Lincoln then shifted to a concrete, showing illustration of his definition of liberty, a definition that was consistent with the changes being considered in Maryland, but which contrasted significantly with the Confederate view of liberty.
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf’s dictionary, has been repudiated. (2)
Today’s Challenge: The Word Became Flesh
What are some examples of abstract nouns — such as liberty, justice, success, or failure — that you could define using concrete examples and definitions? Brainstorm a number of abstract words. Then, pick one and write an extended definition of the word that gives more than just a dictionary definition. Include, like Lincoln did with liberty, some specific, showing imagery as well as some examples that show how the word is defined by different people in different ways. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
Today’s Quotation: Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow