Inventing Lincoln: Approaches to His Rhetoric

D. Leigh Henson, PhD

Professor Emeritus of English, Missouri State University, Springfield


Springfield, Missouri, February 12, 2017. Forthcoming later in 2017: Inventing Lincoln: Approaches to His Rhetoric. This book does not develop a new, provocative interpretation of Abraham Lincoln—as some readers might require to justify a new Lincoln book—but it does pursue a purpose that none of the other 15,000+ books in Lincoln studies have ever attempted. Applying fundamentals from classical rhetoric, Henson explains and critiques how Lincoln’s speeches and other compositions have been treated in biographies—twenty-one, from 1872 to 2016—and studies of discourse analysis—thirty-six, from 1900 to 2015: five books and thirty-one book chapters or essays published in peer-reviewed journals largely unfamiliar to the general public. Interpretations of Lincoln's speeches and other compositions have shaped the world’s beliefs about Lincoln the man, Lincoln the politician, and Lincoln the statesman. Henson sought, received, and applied feedback on his research and composition from several prominent Lincoln scholars, and the back cover will include their testimonials.


Inventing Lincoln is a discursive, bibliographical exposition emphasizing how Lincoln experts have or have not explained growth and development vs. consistency in his rhetoric, and its eloquence vs. demagoguery. The book rigorously critiques sources that claim Lincoln was a demagogue. Surprisingly, Henson finds that despite many Lincoln experts' observations about his eloquence, a comprehensive study/definition of it has yet to appear. The final section of this book recommends strategies to advance scholarship on Lincoln’s eloquence, among other aspects of his discourse. The book features a detailed index and abundant endnotes citing primary and secondary sources.


This book is intended for multiple audiences, including instructors and advanced students in English and cultural studies (for example, literature and language), rhetoric and speech communication, history, political science. and presidential studies. Specialists in these fields will find new information and fresh analyses of familiar information. All readers, including Lincoln buffs and history buffs in the general public, will find clarity in this scholarship: this book’s approximately 370 pages yields a Flesch-Kincaid grade-level reading score of 15.6 (undergraduate senior). The book will be available at


The author designed the book and took the cover photo. It depicts Lincoln Rallies the People, a life-sized, bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln by David Seagraves, and this statue is located on the lawn of the Logan County Courthouse in Lincoln, Illinois—the First Lincoln Namesake Town. As a member of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission of Lincoln, Illinois, Henson proposed this statue and corresponding historical marker in 2008. The statue, dedicated on May 16, 2015, portrays Lincoln as the 1858 Illinois US Senate Republican candidate, showing him clutching his speech after he delivered a two-hour stem-winder on the steps of the Logan County Courthouse on October 16 that year, the day after the last Lincoln-Douglas debate, at Alton. Like each Lincoln statue and other artistic portrayal of him, each publication on his rhetoric contributes to the world’s diverse perceptions of his life, work, and legacy. The story of the inception and development of David Seagraves' Lincoln Rallies the People:

David Seagraves' Lincoln Rallies the People in Lincoln, Illinois


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Author's award-winning, collaborative, community history website of his hometown, Lincoln, IL--the First Lincoln Namesake Town--
with links to his cv and to his other publications on Mr. Lincoln's history, heritage, and lore of central Illinois, and on Lincoln's rhetoric:


"The Past Is But the Prelude"