Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Gettysburg Address

I love reading these words of The Gettysburg Address, written by Lincoln (though not on the back of an envelope) to commemorate the important battle that had been fought there:
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.
Abraham Lincoln presented this address on the 19th of November 1863, four and a half months after the armies of the Confederacy were defeated by Union armies at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Note how, in the very first line, Lincoln reminds his listeners that their own fathers had brought forth this nation. This is only a slight exaggeration. Lincoln was born in 1809. His father was born during the Revolutionary War. Older men would even have fathers who fought in that war. That past was only yesterday for them. Lincoln reminds them that the Revolutionary War was fought for liberty and equality, two terms that would resonate with his listeners, whose thoughts would naturally gravitate toward the war over slavery, the ongoing Civil War. Lincoln draws their thoughts along with his own . . .



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