Today marks the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
The date was November 19, 1863. The scene was the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, PA. The battle of Gettysburg had been fought four months earlier and more than 45,000 men were killed, injured, captured or missing. David Wills, on instructions from Andrew Curtin, the Governor of Pennsylvania, purchased17 acres of land for the purpose of turning the land into a cemetery for the 7,500 killed at Gettysburg.
Wills invited Edward Everett to speak at the dedication and for more than two hours Mr. Everett addressed the crowd. Just two weeks before the dedication Wills also invited President Lincoln to appear with “a few appropriate remarks”.
President Lincoln’s very short address was initially met with mixed reviews (along partisan lines). Over time it has become one of the most famous speeches made by any President.
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.