The Gettysburg Address


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.

A handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address by Lincoln:

Gettysburg Address

 

 Information about the Gettysburg Address

The battle of Gettysburg ended on July 3, 1863. After three days of fighting, the Confederate Army and the Union Army had both suffered casualties over 20,000 (including dead, wounded, missing). The battle turned the tide for the Union Army whose Major General George Meade accepted the surrender of the Confederate Army under Robert E. Lee.

Four months after the battle at Gettysburg, local Gettysburgian and lawyer David Wills planned and organized a dedication ceremony of the Gettysburg battlefields as the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Dignitaries were to attend the event, and the keynote speech was to be given by Edward Everett, who had served the country in a variety of roles including US Representative of Massachusetts, Senator of Massachusetts, and President of Harvard College. President Abraham Lincoln was also invited to the dedication of the battlefield and cemetery, and stayed at the home of David Wills in the Gettysburg town.

On November 19, 1863 the dedication ceremonies began. Edward Everett gave a great two hour speech discussing the outcome of the battle and the brave men who had secured a win for the Union army. President Abraham Lincoln followed Everett and spoke for only two minutes, a speech that would soon be immortalized.

However, contemporary reaction of the Gettysburg Address was mixed. The Chicago Times wrote, "the cheeks of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances." The Harrisburg Patriot and Union of Pennsylvania wrote, "We pass over the silly remarks of the President; for the credit of the Nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall no more be repeated or thought of." Meanwhile, others supported and admired the words of the Gettysburg Address. The Chicago Tribune stated, "The dedicatory remarks of President Lincoln will live among the annals of man." The Springfield Republican of Massachusetts wrote, "Surprisingly fine as Mr. Everett's oration was in the Gettysburg consecration, the rhetorical honors of the occasion were won by President Lincoln. His little speech is a perfect gem; deep in feeling, compact in thought and expression, and tasteful and elegant in every word and comma. Then it has the merit of unexpectedness in its verbal perfection and beauty... Turn back and read it over, it will repay study as a model speech."

Despite the originally mixed reactions to the Gettysburg Address, it is now the best known speech in the United States of America, and is praised for being an exemplary example of great speech writing. Lincoln's words are still studied and memorized in lower and middle schools across the country, and with 2009 being the Bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, the words are still as pertinent as ever. 

Quotes from the Cornell University Library Rare and Manuscript Collections on the Gettysburg Address.