The Gettysburg Address - 150 Years Later

November 18, 2013

Nov. 19, 2013                       Ralph Mann

150 years ago today President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the best-known speeches in American history at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

“Four score and seven years ago…” began the short speech that would define an embattled president, a nation struggling with slavery and a war that was close to tearing it apart, says Ralph Mann, CU-Boulder history professor.

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The Gettysburg Address - 150 Years Later

Nov. 19, 2013                       Ralph Mann

150 years ago today President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the best-known speeches in American history at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

“Four score and seven years ago…” began the short speech that would define an embattled president, a nation struggling with slavery and a war that was close to tearing it apart, says Ralph Mann, CU-Boulder history professor.

CUT 1 “He is taking the opportunity to define the war, to define what the United States is and to define his political philosophy and what he hopes, I think, to achieve in the future.” (:14)

Many historians have identified the Battle of Gettysburg as the turning point in the American Civil War. The Union victory forever sent Southern forces back into Virginia, never to threaten the North again. Mann says, Lincoln understood the importance of that victory and tied the sacrifice made by the soldiers at Gettysburg to the sacrifice Americans will to make to preserve the union.

CUT 2 “The thing that shows up in this speech again and again is the word dedication. (404) We are going to dedicate a cemetery but we can’t because they dedicated it, consecrated it, the soldiers themselves. But the country is dedicated to this proposition - we must dedicate ourselves to complete this great work that they have advanced and this dedication is to saving the republican form of government.” (:28)

Lincoln also reiterated the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and that the war was not only a struggle to preserve the union but also to a new birth of freedom that would bring equality to all Americans, says Mann.

 CUT 3 “The starting point is Jefferson’s famous, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, endowed with their creator with certain inalienable rights and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ When Lincoln used that, the pursuit of happiness to him meant civil rights for white and black. (:19) And Lincoln had said several times before he was the president and during his presidency, ‘ You can’t ultimately save the nation without destroying slavery.’ “(:29)

Mann says Lincoln also saw the American Civil War as a struggle to save democratic ideals and hope, not just for the United States, but for all republican forms of government.

CUT 4 “A new nation dedicated to this proposition that all men are created equal and the war is a test as to whether that nation, or any nation based on those values - a republic where the people have a voice, and the people’s interests come first - can survive. (:20) He thought the American Republic was the only legitimate one at that time and if that republic is destroyed the whole idea of a republican government will be destroyed. America is the world’s last great hope and so the future of this kind of government is at stake.” (:35)

Despite the historical and cultural importance of the speech, the exact wording and location of the speech are disputed. According to Abraham Lincoln Online, there are five known copies of the speech in Lincoln's handwriting, each with a slightly different text and named for the people who first received them. Two copies apparently were written before delivering the speech; the remaining ones were produced months later for soldier benefit events.

-CU-

 

 

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.

Abraham Lincoln, 
November 19, 1863

(The Colonel Alexander Bliss Copy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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