Friday, November 19, 2010

The Gettysburg Address

One hundred forty-seven years ago today Abraham Lincoln spoke these 262 powerful, perfectly chosen words as he dedicated the Soldier's National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania...

Image of the Nicolay draft courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

"Fourscore 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 cannot dedicate…we cannot
consecrate…we cannot 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."

November 19, 1863

If you'd like to know more about the Gettysburg Address and the marvelously complex man who wrote and presented it, I strongly recommend Gary Wills 1992 book Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade AmericaWills does an incredible job peeling away the layers of what some people incorrectly assume was a hasty piece of writing and an extemporized delivery of one of the finest speeches in the history of the republic.