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.
From 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.
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.
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.
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.
At 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
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: "
Although 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.
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
Jesus said, Greater
love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.