Abraham Lincoln's Address
ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S GETTYSBURG ADDRESS
Words To Heal The Nation -
On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln came to Gettysburg to help
the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. He was not the featured orator.
followed a two-hour speech with one that took just two minutes. At
end of his address, many of those in attendance didn’t even realize
had spoken. But today, those 272 words continue to inspire a nation.
In the few words of the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln redefined for the
North – and eventually for all Americans – the meaning and value of the
continuing struggle for a unified nation: "...that we here highly resolve
that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have
a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the
people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." It was what
many consider the best summation in the nation’s history of the meaning
and price of freedom.
Soon after the Battle of Gettysburg, local attorney David Wills proposed
the establishment of a soldiers’ cemetery where Union dead could be
reburied with dignity and honor. The creation of the Soldiers’ National
Cemetery at Gettysburg became a model for the reburial of Union war dead
in other national cemeteries during and after the war. Today, some 3,577
Union soldiers (half of them unknown) from 18 states are buried there.
Dedication of the cemetery, adjacent to the local cemetery where some of
the fighting had taken place, occurred on November 19, 1863. Noted orator
Edward Everett provided the main oration for the event, with a speech that
lasted approximately two hours. Then Lincoln, wearing a black suit, tall
silk hat and white gloves, delivered his address. In just a few minutes
and 272 words, Lincoln described his vision for "a new birth of freedom"
Contemporary reaction to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address varied widely. The
Chicago Tribune predicted that it would "live among the annals of man,"
while its competitor, the Chicago Times, editorialized that "the cheek of
every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and
dishwatery utterances of the president."
Event orator Edward Everett wrote 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."
Today, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is considered one of the
greatest speeches, if not the greatest speech of all time. At some time
or another, most of us probably were required to memorize all or part of
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. But, how many of us were challenged to
understand what it meant? As you read it now, we invite you to consider
The 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.