Sarah Hale Letter to Lincoln: Rhetoric Examination

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Sarah Hale’s letter to the President sheds light on the method through which the holiday of Thanksgiving was established as a national holiday. Hale believed that by institutionalizing the day, it would help to unite the Nation and to provide an American custom. Using Lincoln’s position and the general societal approval as her main points, she establishes the basis for her argument, and pleads her case to the President—the only person capable of making Thanksgiving a set holiday.

Hale spends the majority of her letter to “discreetly” establish credibility in her favor. Utilizing—from the very beginning—her role in society as a writer and editor, Hale attempts to gain the President’s trust: “Permit me, as Editress of the ‘Lady Book’, to request a few minutes of your precious time.” Although her position is mentioned only twice throughout the letter, her use of the word “editress”—rather than “editor”—leads her audience to identify her as a woman who is proud of not only her title but of the difficulties through which she achieved it. Women in society were on a much lower scale than men, so while most would assume the term editor—which could represent a male or as a female—Hale goes out of her way to establish her femininity. Hale uses the influence and position of high government officials as a method of connecting with Lincoln on a more professional level: “[O]ne from Governor (now General) Banks and one from Governor Morgan…have nobly aided to bring about the desired Thanksgiving Union”. By showing that others agree with her idea—Government and military officials, no less—Hale guarantees that Lincoln’s involvement would not go un-supported.

Given the time period, a difference in dialect is to be expected; however, there are many nuances that Hale utilizes that are considered odd. One such method is her repetitive referring to Lincoln in third person, as if discussing him with a friend: “[C]ould he not, with the right as well as the duty, issue his...
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