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The Gettysburg Address

The Gettysburg Address



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Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address

President Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg.

A Brief Overview of the Gettysburg Address

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history. His brief, yet powerful, Gettysburg Address described the United States as being at a pivotal crossroads. The United States, Lincoln said, would either fall apart or continue on as a stronger and more truly free nation.

In the mid-1800s, the northern states, which did not allow slavery, and the southern states, which did, were headed to a crisis over whether the national government should be allowed to prohibit slavery in territories. Territories were part of the United States, but not yet states.

By the time Lincoln was elected president in November of 1860, the United States was in danger of breaking apart. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. Many southern states soon followed and formed the Confederate States of America on February 4, 1861. Two years later, the country was in the middle of the American Civil War. The war claimed approximately 620,000 lives, which was two percent of the American population at the time.

President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863 at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg. The battle, which occurred in early July of that year, resulted in approximately 51,000 casualties.

Lincoln was the second to speak at a dedication ceremony for a cemetery for the soldiers killed in the battle. Edward Everett, a well-known American orator and former vice-presidential candidate, spoke first, for approximately two hours. President Lincoln followed him with less than 300 words. In his speech, Lincoln stressed the importance of honoring the human sacrifices that had been made. He declared, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here but it can never forget what they did here.”

The Civil War continued until the spring of 1865 when the North won the war. Throughout 1864 and 1865, President Lincoln worked with the Senate and the House to pass the 13th Amendment, which declared that slavery and involuntary servitude were no longer allowed in the United States and gave Congress the power to enforce this law. The Senate passed the amendment in April of 1864, and the House approved it in January of 1865, but the states’ ratification process was not over at the time of Lincoln’s death on April 14, 1865. The new president, Andrew Johnson, oversaw the last of the ratifications and the official adoption of the 13th Amendment into the United States Constitution on December 6th, 1865.

The Gettysburg Address remains a powerful statement on human equality, sacrifice, and the idea of the United States as a “nation conceived in liberty.”


Gettysburg Address: America's Greatest Speech and Why It Endures


America will soon celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, often called the greatest speech in our history. Did President Abraham Lincoln realize he was about to achieve immortality as a speaker that day in a small town in Pennsylvania? Perhaps not. After all, he had prepared a remarkably brief 270-word speech for the afternoon of November 19, 1863.

But it was indeed a magnificent speech, despite the mere two-and-a-half minutes it took to speak it. Interestingly, the president didn't have top billing that day. The dedication of the Union cemetery following the Battle of Gettysburg four months earlier was to feature Massachusetts politician and famed orator Edward Everett.

As was typical of the era, Everett wrote a two-hour oration and delivered it from memory. Yet he was moved to write to Lincoln the next day, "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."

Though brief, Lincoln's "dedicatory remarks" were prepared with care. Contrary to rumor, he didn't write his speech on the back of an envelope in the train on the way to Gettysburg. Here, then, are three reasons Lincoln's powerful evocation of the solemnity of that day in Pennsylvania has endured:

Conciseness. Lincoln lays out in just 10 sentences the momentous elements of the day and its significance. They are: the central founding principal of the nation the solemn occasion that brought everyone to Gettysburg and the bittersweet burden the living have to carry on the devotion of the Union soldiers who died in that place to preserve liberty.

Contrast this with the opening of Everett's featured oration. As befits a leading speechmaker of his era, Everett's lines are soaring and beautiful and exemplify the oratorial standards of the day. But compared to Lincoln's spare and evocative style, Everett's efforts are flabby, verbose, and wholly lacking in impact. Here is his opening:

Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature. But the duty to which you have called me must be performed grant me, I pray you, your indulgence and your sympathy.

Simplicity. Compare the rhetorical style of the two speakers, and the difference between Lincoln's verbal power and Everett's long-windedness is immediately apparent. Here are descriptions of Everett's: "obsequies of the citizens who fell in battle," "bones carefully gathered from the funeral pyre," "votive offerings of friends and relatives," "the last tributes of surviving affection," "lamentations for the beloved," "shaded with trees sacred to Minerva." These examples are all from only the second paragraph of Everett's speech.

Now Lincoln: "new nation," "all men are created equal," "met on a battlefield," "gave their lives that that nation might live," "fitting and proper that we should do this," "dedicated to the unfinished work," "increased devotion to that cause," "a new birth of freedom," "of the people, by the people, for the people." Lincoln's one rhetorical flourish, "four score and seven years ago" (for 87 years) is forgivable given the simplicity of what followed.

Eloquence. No audience was ever impressed by the superior learning or verbal pyrotechnics of a speaker. Eloquence arises from simple, concrete words filled with meaning and used to evoke emotions listeners know intimately. Listen or read Winston Churchill's speeches, much closer to our own time, and you'll understand how this is achieved. Edward Everett's references to the funeral pyres, mournful processions and orations of ancient Greece simply couldn't compete with Abraham Lincoln's reminder of the dead Union soldiers' "last full measure of devotion."

It's said that some listeners that day were shocked to realize Lincoln's speech was over almost before it began. If so, they could reflect that they'd heard a few simple, concise, and eloquent remarks paying tribute to exceptional people on an important occasion. Exactly, that is, what great speeches are supposed to achieve.

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who have fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Image: Abraham Lincoln, Draft of the Gettysburg Address: Nicolay Copy. Transcribed and annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois. Available at Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division (Washington, D.C.: American Memory Project, [2000-02]), http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/alhtml/malhome.html.

Everett note to Lincoln: Bob Greene, "The Forgotten Gettysburg Addresser, The Wall Street Journal, 22-23 June 2013, A15.


Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


Lincoln's Gettysburg Address Honored Ideals Far Older Than Four Score and Seven Years

O n Nov. 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln spoke at the dedication of the battlefield cemetery at Gettysburg, Pa. For the smoothness of its music, the gravity of its occasion and the conciseness of its 272 words, the Gettysburg Address occupies a unique position in American oratory.

What more is there to say about America&rsquos most famous speech? Maybe this: that it was not meant to be unique. The style was Lincoln&rsquos, with a little help from the King James Bible (&ldquofourscore and seven years ago&rdquo echoes Psalm 90:10). But the intellectual power of the Gettysburg Address is deliberately borrowed from America&rsquos founding documents. And yet, although America was &ldquoconceived in liberty&rdquo with the Declaration of Independence was written and signed &mdash four score and seven years back from 1863 equals 1776 &mdash and its &ldquogovernment of the people, by the people&rdquo comes from the Constitution, the pursuit of liberty with which Lincoln engaged is much older than either. What was old news for Lincoln and his audience during the Civil War had already been old news even in the first days of independence.

Americans began striving for liberty before the United States was a country. The freedom to write critically about the government had been won as early as 1735 in the trial of John Peter Zenger, a New York newspaperman. Zenger&rsquos paper, the Weekly Journal, had waged a year-long campaign against the royal governor of the colony, arraigning him for high-handedness and mocking him and his supporters as spaniels and monkeys. The governor responded by hauling Zenger into court. British law criminalized criticism of rulers on the grounds that it might foment rebellion. But Zenger&rsquos lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, persuaded the jury to ignore the law, on the grounds that men had a natural right &ldquoboth of exposing and opposing arbitrary power.&rdquo Zenger&rsquos acquittal&mdashessentially an act of jury nullification&mdashleft the press in colonial America the freest in the world.

The American struggle for religious liberty began even earlier. Peter Stuyvesant, the one-legged governor of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, was a bigoted Calvinist, determined to cleanse his domain of Quakers, a new countercultural sect that ignored social rank and let men and women preach equally. But in 1657, 30 of Stuyvesant&rsquos subjects in the Long Island village of Flushing sent him a defiant letter in which they insisted on doing &ldquounto all men as we desire all men should doe unto us, which is the true law both of Church and State.&rdquo The Flushing Remonstrance laid down a marker of individual conscience. (Literally: six of the signers could not spell their own names, but only made marks.) Stuyvesant&rsquos bosses in Holland told him to leave Quakers alone&mdasha milestone in American liberty, as New Netherland was absorbed into British North America in 1664.

And even older than that is the power of the people, which went back to the first British colony. Jamestown, founded in 1607, struggled with war, drought and starvation. In 1619 it began an experiment with a new model of government&mdasha General Assembly consisting of the governor and his advisors, appointed in London, and 22 burgesses, two each from every settlement in the colony. Burgesses were elected by a &ldquopluratie of voices&rdquo in their constituencies&mdashone man, one vote. The Assembly made decisions the same way&mdashgovernor, advisors and burgesses casting one vote each (the governor did wield a veto). Over five summer days the Assembly&rsquos first session set tobacco prices, outlawed drunkenness and whoredom, and discussed Indian relations. Economics, morals, foreign policy&mdashthe stuff of politics ever since.

Jamestown is also infamous for something that happened only weeks after the Assembly adjourned: the purchase, off a privateer ship called The White Lion, of &ldquotwenty and odd Negroes,&rdquo who would be British America&rsquos first slaves. Though the pursuit of liberty has been part of American history for centuries, the denial of that very ideal has been part of the story for just as long&mdashand Lincoln was mindful of that history too. In his Second Inaugural Address, in March of 1865, he spoke of slavery&rsquos &ldquotwo hundred fifty years of unrequited toil.&rdquo (1865 minus 250 equals 1615: close enough.)

The carnage of the Civil War, he believed, was divine punishment for that primal sin. But Lincoln had won office and rallied Americans to save government of the people, through politics&mdashthe very process begun at Jamestown. Self-rule was Lincoln’s Jamestown project.

Lincoln was not offering a birth of new freedom what he wanted was &ldquoa new birth of freedom,&rdquo the freedom we had long pursued. We do best when we keep it, as he did, in our heads and our hearts.


The Gettysburg Address and how history came to know (and argue over) its immortal words

It was the biggest assignment of Joseph Ignatius Gilbert's journalistic career — and he was in serious danger of blowing it.

On Nov. 19, 1863, the 21-year-old Associated Press freelancer was standing before a "rude platform" overlooking the still-ravaged battlefield at Gettysburg, Pa. Towering above him was an almost mythic figure: Abraham Lincoln.

By this time, Gilbert had been covering the president for two and a half long years of civil war. Three months earlier, he had written a dispatch about the Union rout of Gen. George Pickett from this very field, an event often called the "high-water mark of the Confederacy."

Lincoln had come to dedicate a portion of the battlefield — still strewn with equipment, clothing and horse skeletons — as a national cemetery. Gilbert was dutifully taking down the president's words in shorthand when something uncharacteristic happened.

"Fascinated by Lincoln's intense earnestness and depth of feeling, I unconsciously stopped taking notes," he would recall decades later, "and looked up at him just as he glanced from his manuscript with a faraway look in his eyes as if appealing from the few thousands before him to the invisible audience of countless millions whom his words were to reach."

Luckily for Gilbert, Lincoln graciously allowed his text to be copied while the ceremonies concluded. And "the press report was made from the copy," the AP man noted.

Brief as Lincoln's speech was, many newspaper reports paraphrased or outright butchered it. In his new book, "Writing the Gettysburg Address," Martin P. Johnson argues that the fledgling "wire service" played a key role in ensuring that most Americans experienced the true power and poetry of their president's words at a time when he desperately wanted to reach them.

"The Gettysburg Address was not necessarily going to be an important text, if the first version published had been such a truncated version," he says.

But 150 years later, the debate continues over exactly what Lincoln said that day — and why it matters.

"Four score and seven years ago . "

The speech contains about 250 words. Today, a listener with a smartphone could polish it off in 10 tweets or simply post the raw video on YouTube.

But a century and a half ago, the news medium was a reporter taking notes with a pencil, most likely in shorthand.

Once finished, he would race to a telegraph office and hand over his dispatch to an operator, who would tap it out in Morse code. The story would travel to a newspaper office, where the series of dots and dashes were deciphered, then set in lead type.

For a great many papers, the source of that text was the AP, and its "agents" — men like Gilbert.

The goateed Gilbert was a "shorthand novice" in the state Senate at Harrisburg on Feb. 22, 1861, when he first heard the new president speak in the Pennsylvania capital. His dispatches appeared in the city's Evening Telegraph. As he moved on to The Philadelphia Press and AP, the young scribe would have other opportunities to report on "the care worn President whose shoulders, Atlas-like, were carrying the pillars of the Republic."

So Gilbert was an old hand at covering Lincoln when he joined the throngs assembling on Cemetery Hill in the fall of 1863.

"The battlefield, on that sombre autumn day, was enveloped in gloom," he wrote in a paper delivered at the 1917 convention of the National Shorthand Reporters' Association in Cleveland. "Nature seemed to veil her face in sorrow for the awful tragedy enacted there."

Lincoln was not even the keynote speaker that day that honor fell to former U.S. Sen. Edward Everett, who spoke for two hours. Lincoln's address lasted barely two minutes.

There are five known drafts of the speech in Lincoln's own handwriting, each different from the other in some subtle or not-so-subtle way. The last, penned in March 1864, is the version chiseled in marble on the Lincoln Memorial.

In 1894, Lincoln's personal secretary, John Nicolay, published what he called "the autograph manuscript" of the Gettysburg Address. The first page was written in pen on lined stationery marked "Executive Mansion" the second is in pencil on bluish foolscap.

Johnson, an assistant history professor at Miami University in Ohio, concludes that this is the delivery or "battlefield draft" Lincoln pulled from his coat on the platform that day. John R. Sellers, curator of Civil War papers at the Library of Congress, which recently put the pages on display, agrees.

But historian Gabor Boritt, author of "The Gettysburg Gospel," argues that a version discovered in 1908 among the papers of John M. Hay, Lincoln's assistant secretary, is the one from which the president read.

Perhaps the most important difference among the address's various permutations is the presence or absence of the phrase "under God."

Those words do not appear in either the Nicolay or Hay drafts, but they are present in the three other handwritten copies Lincoln produced for use in fundraising efforts.

They also appear in dispatches sent by Gilbert and shorthand stenographer Charles Hale, who was there for the Boston Daily Advertiser, leading Johnson, Boritt and others to conclude that Lincoln added them extemporaneously.

Lincoln told his good friend, Kentuckian James Speed, that he continued to work on the speech after arriving in Gettysburg and had not had time to memorize it. He also acknowledged that he did not stick to the script in his hand.

Nicolay said Lincoln referred to the AP report when reconstructing and refining the address for the later drafts. But which one?

Due to "inevitable telegraphic variations," says Johnson, there were almost as many versions in circulation "as there were newspapers that printed them." No definitive "wire copy" survives in AP files, says company archivist Valerie Komor.

Many, including Komor, believe the story that appeared the next day in the New York Tribune, represents the dispatch sent out from AP headquarters. But Johnson notes that the Tribune had its own reporter in Gettysburg that day.

Through some forensic calisthenics, Johnson believes he has succeeded in recreating the original AP dispatch.

Different versions either include or omit the word "poor" in "far above our poor power to add or detract."

"Poor" is missing from the Tribune version, Boritt notes. It's included in the story published in the Philadelphia North American, which to Johnson "appears to be the closest approximation of the AP version as it was telegraphed from Gettysburg on the day of the speech."

Unfortunately, Gilbert's personal account only muddies the waters. In the wire dispatches, the text is interrupted six times to note applause. But in 1917, Gilbert remembered no "tumultuous outbursts of enthusiasm accompanying the President's utterances," adding the cemetery was "not the place for it."

Boritt, director emeritus of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, has concluded the recollection of the AP man, who died in 1924, "needs to be taken with a grain of salt."

In the end, does it really matter whether Lincoln said "the government" or just "government?" It certainly did to him.

"The exact words are important because they clearly reveal Lincoln's thinking about the importance of the Civil War and the world historical importance of the struggle that he was engaged in," says Johnson. "He was very clear about wanting to get the words correct, precise — because he knew that it was an important point."

Johnson says "it's very fortunate for us" that Gilbert was there.

"We'd probably always have the delivery text, but that might never have been published during Lincoln's lifetime," he says. "So the Gettysburg Address might never have become such an important, iconic text for us if the AP had not been there reporting it properly."

In a paper prepared for Northern Kentucky University's [email protected] lecture series, archivist Komor suggests that Gilbert's greatest contribution to our understanding of the speech is perhaps his recollection of how Lincoln delivered the final lines: "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Many who recite the address place the emphasis on the prepositions "of," ''by" and "for." But Gilbert, no longer preoccupied with the mechanics of note-taking, was able to truly listen to what the president was saying, and how he said it — and he insisted Lincoln's focus was "the people."

"He served the people he referred to them as his 'rightful masters,'" Komor writes. "On the morning of November 19, Lincoln beheld his masters lying dead by the thousands."


Contents

Following the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1–3, 1863, the removal of the fallen Union soldiers from the Gettysburg Battlefield graves and their reburial in graves at the National Cemetery at Gettysburg began on October 17, though on the day of the ceremony, reinterment was less than half complete. [11]

In inviting President Lincoln to the ceremonies, David Wills, of the committee for the November 19 Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, wrote, "It is the desire that, after the Oration, you, as Chief Executive of the nation, formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks." [12]

On the train trip from Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg on November 18, Lincoln was accompanied by three members of his Cabinet, William Seward, John Usher and Montgomery Blair, several foreign officials, his secretary John Nicolay, and his assistant secretary, John Hay. During the trip Lincoln remarked to Hay that he felt weak on the morning of November 19, Lincoln mentioned to Nicolay that he was dizzy. Hay noted that during the speech Lincoln's face had "a ghastly color" and that he was "sad, mournful, almost haggard." After the speech, when Lincoln boarded the 6:30 pm train for Washington, D.C., he was feverish and weak, with a severe headache. A protracted illness followed, which included a vesicular rash it was diagnosed as a mild case of smallpox. It thus seems highly likely that Lincoln was in the prodromal period of smallpox when he delivered the Gettysburg address. [13]

After arriving in Gettysburg, which had become filled with large crowds, Lincoln spent the night in Wills's house. A large crowd appeared at the house, singing and wanting Lincoln to make a speech. Lincoln met the crowd, but did not have a speech prepared, and returned inside after saying a few extemporaneous words. The crowd then continued to another house, where Secretary of State William Seward delivered a speech. Later that night, Lincoln wrote and briefly met with Seward before going to bed at about midnight. [14]

The program organized for that day by Wills and his committee included:

Music, by Birgfeld's Band [15] ("Homage d'uns Heros" by Adolph Birgfeld)

Prayer, by Reverend T. H. Stockton, D.D.

Music, by the Marine Band ("Old Hundred"), directed by Francis Scala

Oration, by Hon. Edward Everett ("The Battles of Gettysburg")

Music, Hymn ("Consecration Chant") by B. B. French, Esq., music by Wilson G Horner, sung by Baltimore Glee Club

Dedicatory Remarks, by the President of the United States

Dirge ("Oh! It is Great for Our Country to Die", words by James G. Percival, music by Alfred Delaney), sung by Choir selected for the occasion

Benediction, by Reverend H. L. Baugher, D.D. [12]

While it is Lincoln's short speech that has gone down in history as one of the finest examples of English public oratory, it was Everett's two-hour oration that was slated to be the "Gettysburg address" that day. His now seldom-read oration was 13,607 words long [16] and lasted two hours. [17]

Lengthy dedication addresses like Everett's were common at cemeteries in this era. The tradition began in 1831 when Justice Joseph Story delivered the dedication address at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Those addresses often linked cemeteries to the mission of Union. [18]

Shortly after Everett's well-received remarks, Lincoln spoke for only a few minutes. [19] With a "few appropriate remarks", he was able to summarize his view of the war in just ten sentences.

Despite the historical significance of Lincoln's speech, modern scholars disagree as to its exact wording, and contemporary transcriptions published in newspaper accounts of the event and even handwritten copies by Lincoln himself differ in their wording, punctuation, and structure. [20] [21] Of these versions, the Bliss version, written well after the speech as a favor for a friend, is viewed by many as the standard text. [22] Its text differs, however, from the written versions prepared by Lincoln before and after his speech. It is the only version to which Lincoln affixed his signature, and the last he is known to have written. [22]

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

In Lincoln at Gettysburg, Garry Wills notes the parallels between Lincoln's speech and Pericles's Funeral Oration during the Peloponnesian War as described by Thucydides. (James McPherson notes this connection in his review of Wills's book. [23] Gore Vidal also draws attention to this link in a BBC documentary about oration. [24] ) Pericles' speech, like Lincoln's:

  • Begins with an acknowledgment of revered predecessors: "I shall begin with our ancestors: it is both just and proper that they should have the honor of the first mention on an occasion like the present"
  • Praises the uniqueness of the State's commitment to democracy: "If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences"
  • Honors the sacrifice of the slain, "Thus choosing to die resisting, rather than to live submitting, they fled only from dishonor, but met danger face to face"
  • Exhorts the living to continue the struggle: "You, their survivors, must determine to have as unfaltering a resolution in the field, though you may pray that it may have a happier issue." [23][25]

In contrast, writer Adam Gopnik, in The New Yorker, notes that while Everett's Oration was explicitly neoclassical, referring directly to Marathon and Pericles, "Lincoln's rhetoric is, instead, deliberately Biblical. (It is difficult to find a single obviously classical reference in any of his speeches.) Lincoln had mastered the sound of the King James Bible so completely that he could recast abstract issues of constitutional law in Biblical terms, making the proposition that Texas and New Hampshire should be forever bound by a single post office sound like something right out of Genesis." [20]

Several theories have been advanced by Lincoln scholars to explain the provenance of Lincoln's famous phrase "government of the people, by the people, for the people". Despite many claims, there is no evidence that a similar phrase appears in the Prologue to John Wycliffe's 1384 English translation of the Bible. [26]

In a discussion "A more probable origin of a famous Lincoln phrase", [27] in The American Monthly Review of Reviews, Albert Shaw credits a correspondent with pointing out the writings of William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, who wrote in the 1888 work Abraham Lincoln: The True Story of A Great Life that he had brought to Lincoln some of the sermons of abolitionist minister Theodore Parker, of Massachusetts, and that Lincoln was moved by Parker's use of this idea:

I brought with me additional sermons and lectures of Theodore Parker, who was warm in his commendation of Lincoln. One of these was a lecture on 'The Effect of Slavery on the American People' . which I gave to Lincoln, who read and returned it. He liked especially the following expression, which he marked with a pencil, and which he in substance afterwards used in his Gettysburg Address: 'Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, for all the people, by all the people.' [28]

Craig R. Smith, in "Criticism of Political Rhetoric and Disciplinary Integrity", suggested Lincoln's view of the government as expressed in the Gettysburg Address was influenced by the noted speech of Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster, the "Second Reply to Hayne", in which Webster famously thundered "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!" [29] Specifically, in this speech on January 26, 1830, before the United States Senate, Webster described the federal government as: "made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people", foreshadowing Lincoln's "government of the people, by the people, for the people". [30] Webster also noted, "This government, Sir, is the independent offspring of the popular will. It is not the creature of State legislatures nay, more, if the whole truth must be told, the people brought it into existence, established it, and have hitherto supported it, for the very purpose, amongst others, of imposing certain salutary restraints on State sovereignties." [30]

Wills observed Lincoln's usage of the imagery of birth, life, and death in reference to a nation "brought forth", "conceived", and that shall not "perish". [31] Others, including Allen C. Guelzo, the director of Civil War Era studies at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, [32] suggested that Lincoln's formulation "four score and seven" was an allusion to the King James Version of the Bible's Psalms 90:10, in which man's lifespan is given as "threescore years and ten and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years". [33] [34]

Glenn LaFantasie, writing for the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, also connected "four score and seven years" with Psalms 90:10, and referred to Lincoln's usage of the phrase "our fathers" as "mindful of the Lord's Prayer". [35] He also refers to Garry Wills's tracing of spiritual language in the address to the Gospel of Luke. Philip B. Kunhardt Jr. suggests that Lincoln was inspired by the Book of Common Prayer. A 1959 thesis by William J. Wolf suggested that the address had a central image of baptism, although LaFantasie believes that Wolf's position was likely an overstatement. [36]

Each of the five known manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address is named for the person who received it from Lincoln. Lincoln gave copies to his private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. [37] Both of these drafts were written around the time of his November 19 address, while the other three copies of the address, the Everett, Bancroft, and Bliss copies, were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes well after November 19. [38] [39] In part because Lincoln provided a title and signed and dated the Bliss copy, it has become the standard text of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. [40]

Nicolay and Hay were appointed custodians of Lincoln's papers by Lincoln's son Robert Todd Lincoln in 1874. [37] After appearing in facsimile in an article written by John Nicolay in 1894, the Nicolay copy was presumably among the papers passed to Hay by Nicolay's daughter Helen upon Nicolay's death in 1901. Robert Lincoln began a search for the original copy in 1908, which resulted in the discovery of a handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address among the bound papers of John Hay—a copy now known as the "Hay copy" or "Hay draft". [37]

The Hay draft differed from the version of the Gettysburg Address published by John Nicolay in 1894 in a number of significant ways: it was written on a different type of paper, had a different number of words per line and number of lines, and contained editorial revisions in Lincoln's hand. [37]

Both the Hay and Nicolay copies of the Address are within the Library of Congress, encased in specially designed, temperature-controlled, sealed containers with argon gas in order to protect the documents from oxidation and continued deterioration. [41]

Nicolay copy

The Nicolay copy [a] is often called the "first draft" because it is believed to be the earliest copy that exists. [42] [43] Scholars disagree over whether the Nicolay copy was actually the reading copy Lincoln held at Gettysburg on November 19. In an 1894 article that included a facsimile of this copy, Nicolay, who had become the custodian of Lincoln's papers, wrote that Lincoln had brought to Gettysburg the first part of the speech written in ink on Executive Mansion stationery, and that he had written the second page in pencil on lined paper before the dedication on November 19. [42] Matching folds are still evident on the two pages, suggesting it could be the copy that eyewitnesses say Lincoln took from his coat pocket and read at the ceremony. [43] [44] Others believe that the delivery text has been lost, because some of the words and phrases of the Nicolay copy do not match contemporary transcriptions of Lincoln's original speech. [45] The words "under God", for example, are missing in this copy from the phrase "that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom . " In order for the Nicolay draft to have been the reading copy, either the contemporary transcriptions were inaccurate, or Lincoln would have had to depart from his written text in several instances. This copy of the Gettysburg Address apparently remained in John Nicolay's possession until his death in 1901, when it passed to his friend and colleague John Hay. [37] It used to be on display as part of the American Treasures exhibition of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. [46]

Hay copy

The existence of the Hay copy [b] was first announced to the public in 1906, after the search for the "original manuscript" of the Address among the papers of John Hay brought it to light. [37] Significantly, it differs somewhat from the manuscript of the Address described by John Nicolay in his article, and contains numerous omissions and inserts in Lincoln's own hand, including omissions critical to the basic meaning of the sentence, not simply words that would be added by Lincoln to strengthen or clarify their meaning. [ citation needed ] In this copy, as in the Nicolay copy, the words "under God" are not present.

This version has been described as "the most inexplicable" of the drafts and is sometimes referred to as the "second draft". [43] [47] The "Hay copy" was made either on the morning of the delivery of the Address, or shortly after Lincoln's return to Washington. Those who believe that it was completed on the morning of his address point to the fact that it contains certain phrases that are not in the first draft but are in the reports of the address as delivered and in subsequent copies made by Lincoln. It is probable, they conclude, that, as stated in the explanatory note accompanying the original copies of the first and second drafts in the Library of Congress, Lincoln held this second draft when he delivered the address. [48] Lincoln eventually gave this copy to Hay, whose descendants donated both it and the Nicolay copy to the Library of Congress in 1916. [49]

Everett copy

The Everett copy, [c] also known as the "Everett-Keyes copy", was sent by President Lincoln to Edward Everett in early 1864, at Everett's request. [ citation needed ] Everett was collecting the speeches at the Gettysburg dedication into one bound volume to sell for the benefit of stricken soldiers at New York's Sanitary Commission Fair. The draft Lincoln sent became the third autograph copy, and is now in the possession of the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield, Illinois, [48] where it is displayed in the Treasures Gallery of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Bancroft copy

The Bancroft copy [d] of the Gettysburg Address was written out by President Lincoln in February 1864 at the request of George Bancroft, the famed historian and former Secretary of the Navy, whose comprehensive ten-volume History of the United States later led him to be known as the "father of American History". [50] [51] Bancroft planned to include this copy in Autograph Leaves of Our Country's Authors, which he planned to sell at a Soldiers' and Sailors' Sanitary Fair in Baltimore. As this fourth copy was written on both sides of the paper, it proved unusable for this purpose, and Bancroft was allowed to keep it. This manuscript is the only one accompanied both by a letter from Lincoln transmitting the manuscript and by the original envelope addressed and franked by Lincoln. [52] This copy remained in the Bancroft family for many years, was sold to various dealers and purchased by Nicholas and Marguerite Lilly Noyes, [53] who donated the manuscript to Cornell University in 1949. It is now held by the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in the Carl A. Kroch Library at Cornell. [48] It is the only one of the five copies to be privately owned. [54]

Bliss copy

Discovering that his fourth written copy could not be used, Lincoln then wrote a fifth draft, which was accepted for the purpose requested. The Bliss copy, [e] named for Colonel Alexander Bliss, Bancroft's stepson and publisher of Autograph Leaves, is the only draft to which Lincoln affixed his signature. Lincoln is not known to have made any further copies of the Gettysburg Address. Because of the apparent care in its preparation, and in part, because Lincoln provided a title and signed and dated this copy, it has become the standard version of the address and the source for most facsimile reproductions of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. It is the version that is inscribed on the South wall of the Lincoln Memorial. [40]

This draft is now displayed in the Lincoln Room of the White House, a gift of Oscar B. Cintas, former Cuban Ambassador to the United States. [48] Cintas, a wealthy collector of art and manuscripts, purchased the Bliss copy at a public auction in 1949 for $54,000 ($587,000 as of 2021), at that time the highest price ever paid for a document at public auction. [55] Cintas' properties were claimed by the Castro government after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, but Cintas, who died in 1957, willed the Gettysburg Address to the American people, provided it would be kept at the White House, where it was transferred in 1959. [56]

Garry Wills concluded the Bliss copy "is stylistically preferable to others in one significant way: Lincoln removed 'here' from 'that cause for which they (here) gave . ' The seventh 'here' is in all other versions of the speech." Wills noted the fact that Lincoln "was still making such improvements", suggesting Lincoln was more concerned with a perfected text than with an 'original' one. [57]

From November 21, 2008, to January 1, 2009, the Albert H. Small Documents Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History hosted a limited public viewing of the Bliss copy, with the support of then-First Lady Laura Bush. The Museum also launched an online exhibition and interactive gallery to enable visitors to look more closely at the document. [58]

Associate Press report

Another contemporary source of the text is the Associated Press dispatch, transcribed from the shorthand notes taken by reporter Joseph L. Gilbert. It also differs from the drafted text in a number of minor ways. [59] [60]

Eyewitness reports vary as to their view of Lincoln's performance. In 1931, the printed recollections of 87-year-old Mrs. Sarah A. Cooke Myers, who was 19 when she attended the ceremony, suggest a dignified silence followed Lincoln's speech: "I was close to the President and heard all of the Address, but it seemed short. Then there was an impressive silence like our Menallen Friends Meeting. There was no applause when he stopped speaking." [62] According to historian Shelby Foote, after Lincoln's presentation, the applause was delayed, scattered, and "barely polite". [63] In contrast, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin maintained, "He pronounced that speech in a voice that all the multitude heard. The crowd was hushed into silence because the President stood before them . It was so Impressive! It was the common remark of everybody. Such a speech, as they said it was!" [64]

In an oft-repeated legend, Lincoln is said to have turned to his bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon and remarked that his speech, like a bad plow, "won't scour". According to Garry Wills, this statement has no basis in fact and largely originates from the unreliable recollections of Lamon. [12] In Garry Wills's view, "[Lincoln] had done what he wanted to do [at Gettysburg]". [ page needed ]

In a letter to Lincoln written the following day, Everett praised the President for his eloquent and concise speech, saying, "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes." [65] Lincoln replied that he was glad to know the speech was not a "total failure". [65]

Other public reaction to the speech was divided along partisan lines. [9] The Democratic-leaning Chicago Times observed, "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States." [66] In contrast, the Republican-leaning The New York Times was complimentary and printed the speech. [61] In Massachusetts, the Springfield Republican also printed the entire speech, calling it "a perfect gem" that was "deep in feeling, compact in thought and expression, and tasteful and elegant in every word and comma". The Republican predicted that Lincoln's brief remarks would "repay further study as the model speech". [67] In 2013, on the sesquicentennial of the address, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, formerly the Patriot & Union, retracted its original reaction ("silly remarks" deserving "the veil of oblivion") stating: "Seven score and ten years ago, the forefathers of this media institution brought forth to its audience a judgment so flawed, so tainted by hubris, so lacking in the perspective history would bring, that it cannot remain unaddressed in our archives. . the Patriot & Union failed to recognize [the speech's] momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error." [68] [69]

Foreign newspapers also criticized Lincoln's remarks. The Times of London commented: "The ceremony [at Gettysburg] was rendered ludicrous by some of the luckless sallies of that poor President Lincoln." [70]

Congressman Joseph A. Goulden, then an eighteen-year-old school teacher, was present and heard the speech. He served in the United States Marine Corps during the war, and later had a successful career in insurance in Pennsylvania and New York City before entering Congress as a Democrat. In his later life, Goulden was often asked about the speech, since the passage of time made him one of a dwindling number of individuals who had been present for it. He commented on the event and Lincoln's speech in favorable terms, naming Lincoln's address as one of the inspirations for him to enter military service. Goulden's recollections included remarks to the House of Representatives in 1914. [71] [72]

Audio recollections

William R. Rathvon is the only known eyewitness of both Lincoln's arrival at Gettysburg and the address itself to have left an audio recording of his recollections. [73] One year before his death in 1939, Rathvon's reminiscences were recorded on February 12, 1938, at the Boston studios of radio station WRUL, including his reading the address, itself, and a 78 RPM record was pressed. The title of the 78 record was "I Heard Lincoln That Day – William R. Rathvon, TR Productions". A copy wound up at National Public Radio (NPR) during a "Quest for Sound" project in 1999. [74]

Like most people who came to Gettysburg, the Rathvon family was aware that Lincoln was going to make some remarks. The family went to the town square where the procession was to form to go out to the cemetery that had not been completed yet. At the head of the procession rode Lincoln on a gray horse preceded by a military band that was the first the young boy had ever seen. Rathvon describes Lincoln as so tall and with such long legs that they went almost to the ground he also mentions the long eloquent speech given by Edward Everett of Massachusetts whom Rathvon accurately described as the "most finished orator of the day". Rathvon then goes on to describe how Lincoln stepped forward and "with a manner serious almost to sadness, gave his brief address". During the delivery, along with some other boys, young Rathvon wiggled his way forward through the crowd until he stood within 15 feet (4.6 m) of Mr. Lincoln and looked up into what he described as Lincoln's "serious face". Rathvon recalls candidly that, although he listened "intently to every word the president uttered and heard it clearly", he explains, "boylike, I could not recall any of it afterwards". But he explains that if anyone said anything disparaging about "honest Abe", there would have been a "junior battle of Gettysburg". In the recording Rathvon speaks of Lincoln's speech allegorically "echoing through the hills". [ citation needed ]

Photographs

The only known and confirmed photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg, [75] taken by photographer David Bachrach, [76] was identified in the Mathew Brady collection of photographic plates in the National Archives and Records Administration in 1952. While Lincoln's speech was short and may have precluded multiple pictures of him while speaking, he and the other dignitaries sat for hours during the rest of the program. Given the length of Everett's speech and the length of time it took for 19th-century photographers to get "set up" before taking a picture, it is quite plausible that the photographers were ill-prepared for the brevity of Lincoln's remarks. [ citation needed ]

Usage of "under God"

The words "under God" do not appear in the Nicolay and Hay drafts but are included in the three later copies (Everett, Bancroft, and Bliss). Accordingly, some skeptics maintain that Lincoln did not utter the words "under God" at Gettysburg. [77] [78] However, at least three reporters telegraphed the text of Lincoln's speech on the day the Address was given with the words "under God" included. Historian William E. Barton argues that: [79]

Every stenographic report, good, bad and indifferent, says 'that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom.' There was no common source from which all the reporters could have obtained those words but from Lincoln's own lips at the time of delivery. It will not do to say that [Secretary of War] Stanton suggested those words after Lincoln's return to Washington, for the words were telegraphed by at least three reporters on the afternoon of the delivery.

The reporters present included Joseph Gilbert, from the Associated Press Charles Hale, from the Boston Advertiser [80] John R. Young (who later became the Librarian of Congress), from the Philadelphia Press and reporters from the Cincinnati Commercial, [81] New York Tribune, [82] and The New York Times. [82] Charles Hale "had notebook and pencil in hand, [and] took down the slow-spoken words of the President". [83] "He took down what he declared was the exact language of Lincoln's address, and his declaration was as good as the oath of a court stenographer. His associates confirmed his testimony, which was received, as it deserved to be, at its face value." [84] One explanation is that Lincoln deviated from his prepared text and inserted the phrase when he spoke. Ronald C. White, visiting professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles and professor of American religious history emeritus at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, wrote in this context of Lincoln's insertion and usage of "under God":

It was an uncharacteristically spontaneous revision for a speaker who did not trust extemporaneous speech. Lincoln had added impromptu words in several earlier speeches, but always offered a subsequent apology for the change. In this instance, he did not. And Lincoln included "under God" in all three copies of the address he prepared at later dates. "Under God" pointed backward and forward: back to "this nation", which drew its breath from both political and religious sources, but also forward to a "new birth". Lincoln had come to see the Civil War as a ritual of purification. The old Union had to die. The old man had to die. Death became a transition to a new Union and a new humanity. [8]

The phrase "under God" was used frequently in works published before 1860, usually with the meaning "with God's help". [85]

Outside of either entrance to the National Cemetery, twin historical markers read:

Nearby, Nov. 19, 1863, in dedicating the National Cemetery, Abraham Lincoln gave the address which he had written in Washington and revised after his arrival at Gettysburg the evening of November 18. [88] [89]

Directly inside the Taneytown Road entrance are the Lincoln Address Memorial and Rostrum, which has hosted speeches by five U.S. Presidents. Lincoln was not one of them, and a small metal sign near the speech memorial stirs controversy by stating:

The Address was delivered about 300 yards from this spot along the upper Cemetery drive. The site is now marked by the Soldiers' National Monument. [90]

Holding title as the Traditional Site, the validity of the Soldiers' National Monument has been challenged by platform occupants (in the distant past) and by (relatively recent) photographic analyses. Based upon a pair of photographic analyses, the Gettysburg National Military Park (G.N.M.P.) has placed a marker (near 39°49.199′N 77°13.840′W) which states, "The location [of the platform] was never marked, but is believed to be in Evergreen Cemetery, on the other side of the iron fence." [91]

The observer of this newer marker stands facing the fence which separates the two adjacent cemeteries (one public and one private). Another heavy endorsement of the Traditional Site, this one in bronze and placed by Lincoln's native Commonwealth, stands nearby. [92]

Absent an original and enduring marker, the location of the platform is in the hands of rhetoricians and scholars. The Superintendent of Evergreen Cemetery, Brian Kennell, emphatically endorses the findings of William Frassanito's photographic analysis. [93]

Pre-modern

Colonel W. Yates Selleck was a marshal in the parade on Consecration Day and was seated on the platform when Lincoln made the address. [94] Selleck marked a map with the position of the platform and described it as "350 feet [110 m] almost due north of Soldiers' National Monument, 40 feet [12 m] from a point in the outer circle of lots where [the] Michigan and New York [burial sections] are separated by a path". [95] A location which approximates this description is 39°49.243′N, 77°13.869′W.

As pointed out in 1973 by retired park historian Frederick Tilberg, the Selleck Site is 25 feet (7.6 m) lower than the crest of Cemetery Hill, and only the crest presents a panoramic view of the battlefield. A spectacular view from the location of the speech was noted by many eyewitnesses, is consistent with the Traditional Site at the Soldiers' National Monument (and other sites on the crest) but is inconsistent with the Selleck Site. [96] [97]

The Kentucky Memorial, erected in 1975, is directly adjacent to the Soldiers' National Monument, and states, "Kentucky honors her son, Abraham Lincoln, who delivered his immortal address at the site now marked by the soldiers' monument." With its position at the center of the concentric rings of soldiers' graves and the continuing endorsement of Lincoln's native state the Soldiers' National Monument persists as a credible location for the speech. [98] [99] [100]

Writing a physical description of the layout for the Gettysburg National Cemetery under construction in November 1863, the correspondent from the Cincinnati Daily Commercial described the dividing lines between the state grave plots as "the radii of a common center, where a flag pole is now raised, but where it is proposed to erect a national monument". [101] With the inclusion of this quotation Tilberg inadvertently verifies a central principle of future photographic analyses—a flagpole, rather than the speakers' platform, occupied the central point of the soldiers' graves. In fact, the precision of the photo-analyses relies upon the coincidence of position between this temporary flag pole and the future monument. [102]

Confusing to today's tourist, the Kentucky Memorial is contradicted by a newer marker which was erected nearby by the Gettysburg National Military Park and locates the speakers' platform inside Evergreen Cemetery. [103] Similarly, outdated National Park Service documents which pinpoint the location at the Soldiers' National Monument have not been systematically revised since the placement of the newer marker. [104] [105] Miscellaneous web pages perpetuate the Traditional Site. [106] [107] [108]

Photo analysis

2-D and optical stereoscopy

In 1982, Senior Park Historian Kathleen Georg Harrison first analyzed photographs and proposed a location in Evergreen Cemetery but has not published her analysis. Speaking for Harrison without revealing details, two sources characterize her proposed location as "on or near [the] Brown family vault" in Evergreen Cemetery. [109] [110]

Resolution

The GNMP marker, Wills's interpretation of Harrison's analysis, and the Frassanito analysis concur that the platform was located in private Evergreen Cemetery, rather than public Soldiers' National Cemetery. The National Park Service's National Cemetery Walking Tour brochure is one NPS document which agrees:

The Soldiers' National Monument, long misidentified as the spot from which Lincoln spoke, honors the fallen soldiers. [The location of the speech] was actually on the crown of this hill, a short distance on the other side of the iron fence and inside the Evergreen Cemetery, where President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address to a crowd of some 15,000 people. [112]

The locations determined by the Harrison/Wills analysis and the Frassanito analysis differ by 40 yards. Frassanito has documented 1) his own conclusion, 2) his own methods and 3) a refutation of the Harrison site, [113] but neither the GNMP nor Harrison has provided any documentation. Each of the three points to a location in Evergreen Cemetery, as do modern NPS publications.

Although Lincoln dedicated the Gettysburg National Cemetery, the monument at the Cemetery's center actually has nothing to do with Lincoln or his famous speech. Intended to symbolize Columbia paying tribute to her fallen sons, its appreciation has been commandeered by the thirst for a tidy home for the speech. [114] Freeing the Cemetery and Monument to serve their original purpose, honoring of Union departed, is as unlikely as a resolution to the location controversy and the erection of a public monument to the speech in the exclusively private Evergreen Cemetery. [115]

The importance of the Gettysburg Address in the history of the United States is underscored by its enduring presence in American culture. In addition to its prominent place carved into a stone cella on the south wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Gettysburg Address is frequently referred to in works of popular culture, with the implicit expectation that contemporary audiences will be familiar with Lincoln's words.

In the many generations that have passed since the Address, it has remained among the most famous speeches in American history, [116] and is often taught in classes about history or civics. [117] Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is itself referenced in another of those famed orations, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. [118] Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963, King began with a reference, by the style of his opening phrase, to President Lincoln and his enduring words: "Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice."

Phrases from the Address are often used or referenced in other works. The current Constitution of France states that the principle of the French Republic is "gouvernement du peuple, par le peuple et pour le peuple " ("government of the people, by the people, and for the people"), a literal translation of Lincoln's words. [119] Sun Yat-Sen's "Three Principles of the People" as well as the preamble for the 1947 Constitution of Japan were also inspired from that phrase. [120] [121] The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln has as its ship's motto the phrase "shall not perish". [122] [123]

U.S. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts wrote of the address and its enduring presence in American culture after Lincoln's assassination in April 1865: "That speech, uttered at the field of Gettysburg . and now sanctified by the martyrdom of its author, is a monumental act. In the modesty of his nature he said 'the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here but it can never forget what they did here.' He was mistaken. The world at once noted what he said, and will never cease to remember it." [9]

U.S. President John F. Kennedy stated in July 1963 about the battle and Lincoln's speech: "Five score years ago the ground on which we here stand shuddered under the clash of arms and was consecrated for all time by the blood of American manhood. Abraham Lincoln, in dedicating this great battlefield, has expressed, in words too eloquent for paraphrase or summary, why this sacrifice was necessary." [124]

In 2015, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation compiled Gettysburg Replies: The World Responds to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The work challenges leaders to craft 272 word responses to celebrate Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address, or a related topic. [125] One of the replies was by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in which he made the point that one of Lincoln's greatest legacies was establishing, in the same year of the Gettysburg Address, the National Academy of Sciences, which had the longterm effect of "setting our Nation on a course of scientifically enlightened governance, without which we all may perish from this Earth". [126]

Envelope and other myths

A common American myth about the Gettysburg Address is that Lincoln quickly wrote the speech on the back of an envelope. [127] This widely held misunderstanding may have originated with a popular book, The Perfect Tribute, by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews (1906), which was assigned reading for generations of schoolchildren, sold 600,000 copies when published as a standalone volume, [128] and was twice adapted for film.

Other lesser-known claims include Harriet Beecher Stowe's assertion that Lincoln had composed the address "in only a few moments," and that of industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who claimed to have personally supplied Lincoln with a pen. [129]


Gettysburg Address

There are five known manuscript copied of the Gettysburg Address, each varying slightly in wording and punctuation. The version engraved on the south wall of the Lincoln Memorial is from what is know as the Bliss copy, so named after Colonel Alexander Bliss, publisher of Autograph Leaves of Our Country's Authors, written by his stepson, George Bancroft. Bancroft requested a handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address for inclusion in his book, and the president obliged. The Bliss copy is the only version to which Lincoln affixed his signature, and because of the care in its preparation (including a title, the signature and date) it has become the standard version of the address and the source for most facsimile reproductions of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of
that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate

we can not hallow, this ground. The brave men living and dead who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us

that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion

that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain

that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom

and that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth."


The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here, have, thus far, so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

This "Everett" draft of the Gettysburg Address is one of five slightly different drafts of the speech known to exist. It is named for Edward Everett, the chief speaker at the Gettysburg cemetery dedication, who requested a copy from President Lincoln. Lincoln complied, sending this draft to Everett in 1864 for a fundraising event. Learn more at Abraham Lincoln Online


The Gettysburg Address Text

Did you know that the Gettysburg address text was not written by Abraham Lincoln until the day before he arrived in Gettysburg?

He also may have delivered some of the words a little differently in his speech than what he had written.

Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg by train the day before the event, spent the night at the Wills house on the town square instead of at a hotel, and delivered his short speech for dedication of the Solders’ National Cemetery on November 19, 1863.

He delivered the Gettysburg address text under a Honey Locust tree on Cemetery Ridge.

The town of Gettysburg commemorates the historic event every year on November 19th, now called Remembrance Day. It’s quite an event. A reenactor reads the Gettysburg address text in the cemetery. You can see more people walking the streets in historical costumes on that day than people wearing modern clothes!

President Abraham Lincoln

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow, this ground — The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Gettysburg Address Meaning

Lincoln’s speech puts the Civil War in perspective as a test of the success of the American Revolution. The nation founded on equality was in the midst of a war to determine whether such a nation could continue to exist. He said that they were gathered to formally dedicate ground hallowed by the men, American citizens, who died there, but his speech turned the event into a rededication of the living to the war effort to preserve a nation of freedom.

Impact of the Gettysburg Address

Before Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address, Edward Everett gave a long speech. He droned on for 2 hours comparing the Civil War soldiers to Greek gods. In comparison, Lincoln’s speech lasted only 2 minutes. Because it was very short compared to the other speaker, there was silence from the audience afterward. Some said it was because they were not sure that he was done, but others said that the crowd was in awe of what was said. His speech was brief, to the point, and poetic yet understandable. It is a classic piece with famous lines now recognized by people worldwide.

Locations of the Gettysburg Address Text

Lincoln wrote out 5 known copies of the address. Here are their locations:

  • 2 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
  • 1 in the Lincoln Room at the White House
  • 1 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois
  • 1 at Cornell University in New York

Pictures of the Gettysburg Address Text

To view pictures of one of the Library of Congress handwritten copies online, see the Gettysburg address text at the National Archives website. (Opens in a new window.)

If you would like to read Everett’s speech for comparison, click to visit the Civil War Home website. (Opens in a new window.)


Watch the video: General Robert E. Lee explains the concept of sacred geography (August 2022).