President Abraham Lincoln's
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
and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. --- Abe Lincoln
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
The Gettysburg Address is a speech by Abraham Lincoln and one of the most quoted speeches in United States history. It was delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National
Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, during the American
Civil War, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the decisive Battle of Gettysburg.
Abraham Lincoln's carefully
crafted address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American
history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely
for the Union, but as "a new birth of freedom" that would bring true equality to all of its citizens,
and that would also create a unified nation in which states' rights were no longer dominant.
Beginning with the now-iconic phrase "Four score and seven years ago...", Lincoln referred to the events of the Civil
War and described the ceremony at Gettysburg as an opportunity not only to consecrate
the grounds of a cemetery, but also to dedicate the living to the struggle to ensure that "government of the people,
by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth".
Despite the speech's prominent place in the history
and popular culture of the United States, the exact wording of the speech is disputed. The five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg
Address differ in a number of details and also differ from contemporary newspaper reprints of the speech. Background
- Union soldiers dead at Gettysburg, photographed by Timothy H.
O'Sullivan, July 5–6, 1863.
From July 1–3, 1863, more than 160,000 American soldiers clashed in the
Battle of Gettysburg, in what would prove to be
a turning point of the Civil War. The battle also had a major impact on the town of Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania, which numbered only 2,400 inhabitants.
The battlefield contained the bodies of
more than 7,500 dead soldiers and several thousand horses of the Army of the Potomac and the Confederacy's Army of Northern Virginia, and the stench of rotting bodies in
the humid July air was overpowering. Interring the dead in a dignified and orderly manner became a high priority for
the few thousand residents of Gettysburg.
Initially, the town planned to buy land for a cemetery and then ask the families of the dead to pay
for their burial. However, David Wills, a wealthy
32-year-old attorney, objected to this idea and wrote to the Governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew
Gregg Curtin, suggesting instead a National Cemetery to be funded by the states.
Wills was authorized to
purchase 17 acres (69,000 m²) for a cemetery to honor those lost in the summer's battle, paying $2,475.87 for
the land. Letter of David Wills inviting Abraham
Lincoln to make a few remarks, noting that Edward Everett would deliver the oration.
Wills originally planned to dedicate this
new cemetery on Wednesday, October 23, and invited Edward Everett, who had served as Secretary of State,
U.S. Senator, U.S.
Representative, Governor of Massachusetts, president of Harvard University, and Vice Presidential candidate, to be
the main speaker.
that time, Everett was a widely famed orator. In reply, Everett told Wills and his organizing committee that he would be unable
to prepare an appropriate speech in such a short period of time, and requested that the date be postponed. The committee agreed,
and the dedication was postponed until Thursday, November 19.
Almost as an afterthought, Wills and the event committee invited President Lincoln
to participate in the ceremony. Wills's letter stated, "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." Lincoln received formal
notice of his invitation to participate only seventeen days before the ceremony, while Everett had been invited 40 days earlier:
there is some evidence Lincoln expected Wills's letter, its late date makes the author appear presumptuous...Seventeen days
was extraordinarily short notice for presidential participation even by nineteenth-century standards." Furthermore, Wills's
letter "made it equally clear to the president that he would have only a small part in the ceremonies", perhaps
akin to the modern tradition of inviting a noted public figure to do a ribbon-cutting at a grand opening.
Lincoln arrived by train in Gettysburg on November 18, and spent the night as a guest in Wills's house
on the Gettysburg town square, where he put the finishing touches on the speech he had written in Washington, D.C. Lincoln neither completed his address while on the train nor
wrote it on the back of an envelope.
This story is at odds with the existence of several early drafts on Executive Mansion stationery as
well as the reports of Lincoln's final editing while a guest of David Wills in Gettysburg. On the morning of November 19 at 9:30 a.m., Lincoln, astride a chestnut bay horse and riding
between Secretary of State William H. Seward and
Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, joined in a procession with the assembled dignitaries, townspeople,
and widows marching out to the grounds to be dedicated.
Approximately 15,000 people are estimated to have attended the ceremony, including
the sitting governors of six of the 24 Union states: Andrew Gregg Curtin of Pennsylvania, Augustus Bradford of Maryland, Oliver P. Morton of Indiana,
Horatio Seymour of New York, Joel Parker of New Jersey, and David Tod of Ohio. Canadian politician
William McDougall attended as Lincoln's guest.
The precise location of
the program within the grounds of the cemetery is disputed. Reinternment of the bodies buried from field graves into the cemetery,
which had begun within months of the battle, was less than half complete on the day of the ceremony. Political significance
- By August 1863, the casualty lists from Civil War
battles included a quarter of a million names.
As a result, anti-war and anti-Lincoln sentiments grew in the North. Peace Democrats known as Copperheads were eager to oust Lincoln in the 1864 election in order to end the war through concessions to the Confederacy, and Lincoln's 1863 drafts
were highly unpopular. Hatred for Lincoln's draft climaxed just ten days after the Battle of Gettysburg with the New York Draft Riots.
In September 1863, Governor Curtin warned Lincoln
that political sentiments were turning against the war effort: If the election were to occur now, the result would be
extremely doubtful, and although most of our discreet friends are sanguine of the result, my impression is, the chances would
be against us. The draft is very odious in the State... the Democratic leaders have succeeded in exciting prejudice and passion,
and have infused their poison into the minds of the people to a very large extent, and the changes are against us.
The following year the
Presidential election would be held, and Lincoln was quite concerned that the Copperheads might prevail. Well into the summer of 1864, Lincoln remained convinced that the opposition would
oust him. In the fall of 1863, one of Lincoln's principal concerns was to sustain the Union's spirits toward the war effort.
That goal was the chief aim of Lincoln's Address at Gettysburg.
Edward Everett delivered a two-hour Oration before Lincoln's few minutes of