Masaryk university faculty of education

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McKinley’s speech

  1. Syntax

McKinley’s speech, though delivered as a written letter, is half the size of Lincoln’s speech, only 3,039 words long, contains 78 sentences with 39 words in a sentence on average. As in Lincoln’s speech, syntax in McKinley’s speech is complex and sentences are long, several with more than 100 words. Unlike Lincoln, there is no special overuse of passive voice or finite clauses, though formal features are prevalent. Similarly as in Lincoln’s speech, the first word of the speech suggests the tone of the speech.

Obedient to that precept of the Constitution which commands the President ... it becomes my duty now to address your body with regard to the grave crisis that has arisen in the relations of the United States to Spain by reason of the warfare that for more than three years has raged in the neighboring island of Cuba.

Obedient indicates McKinley’s personal attitude toward the task, which is also apparent in linguistic choices throughout his speech. Based on the data in chart 8.5, it is clear that McKinley focused on steps that failed, dedicating 36% of the speech to this topic, following with justification, the issue and our plan with roughly 15% each. His emphasis on steps that failed confirms historical records about McKinley’s hesitance towards declaring war, and his need to provide all possible data to justify his decision.

Chart 8.5

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