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Gettysburg Address






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Gettysburg Address Gettysburg Address Presentation Transcript

  • Abraham Lincoln and The Gettysburg Address By Betsy Cole
  • 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 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
  • Traditionally, Abraham Lincoln is viewed as being the man who freed the slaves. A man of immense morals, he is seen as someone whose primary goal in the Civil War was to provide freedom for the slaves in the South. However, a more in-depth analysis reveals that Lincoln was much more complex than that. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is a speech that relates the Union back to the foundations of the nation and the principles on which the country was founded. Lincoln believed that the nation was founded even before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, not with the writing of the Constitution. The immortal words of the Gettysburg Address, “Four score and seven years ago…” provide the basis for a redefining of the nation as an entity that was and continues to be dedicated to equality. Abraham Lincoln changed the country on that day, just as did the soldiers who fought in that extremely gruesome battle. Lincoln forced the people of this country to reexamine their own morals and principles and begin to understand just a little bit of what true equality means.
  • Lincoln made his famous speech at Gettysburg to dedicate a national cemetery for soldiers. This also was a significant part of the way that the Gettysburg changed history. Before, casualties of battles were just buried where they had fallen. With the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, soldiers could all be buried in one place with actual grave markers.
  • Lincoln was actually the last person invited to make a speech. Others like David Wills and the keynote speaker, Edward Everett, each knew at least a month in advance of the date set for the dedication. Lincoln, however, was asked on November 2, only seventeen days before the actual event. Lincoln wasn’t even asked to give the main speech, or “the Oration.” He was only giving a short speech after “the Oration.” A copy of Lincoln’s speech
  • Part of the reason the Gettysburg Address is so well remembered is because of Lincoln’s humility. Lincoln even said in his speech that the world wouldn’t remember what he said at Gettysburg, but rather what was done. On the contrary, Lincoln’s words are some of the most well remembered words ever spoken in American history. Only ten sentences long and 250 some odd words, the Gettysburg Address Lincoln delivering his Gettysburg Address made a lasting impact on the United States of America.
  • With beginning his speech and dating the founding of the Union back to 1776, not 1787, Lincoln showed that a unified common set of principles was present even before a document was written establishing those principles into law. In 1776, the colonists were united by their common hatred of the British and belief in equality for all men. Although the Constitution is traditionally seen as the founding of the nation, Lincoln asserts that it wasn’t. The Constitution even says that the goal of writing such a prestigious document was “to form a more perfect union,” not create a union, because one was already in existence. Lincoln wanted to remind the citizens of the United States that they were united under a moral banner that was unique to this country and supposed to encompass all of the citizens of the nation. However, the spirit of equality that was present at the founding of the nation in 1776 and even before, had long since faded.
  • Even before 1776, the colonists were united together because of their common beliefs and their immense hatred of the British. They didn’t really need to write down all they believed in and codify it because they all knew they believed it and all abided by it. However, as time went on, and as the founding generation got older and even began to die, that same spirit of unity and equality started to fade. The two supports of the American system dedicated to equality were gone: (1) the ambition to make equality happen because it was a novel idea; and (2) the common hatred of the British. These common beliefs and problems drove the founding fathers to make equality happen; however, getting closer to the Civil War, when equality wasn’t a new idea, and when united dislike of the British was no longer holding the citizens of the United States together, these principles were decaying; these truths that were self- evident in the Declaration of Independence time period were no longer evident to the people of the Civil War era. Consequently, Lincoln needed to redefine the Declaration of Independence to fit what was necessary for that time period.
  • Before, public opinion defined what was moral. If all the colonists thought that equality was necessary and inherently good, then it would become part of an unwritten moral code that was bound to bind the colonists together for however long they all believed that. If the principle of equality was self-evident to everyone, then public opinion would coincide with morality. However, Lincoln asserted, the Civil War era changed that because the truth was no longer self-evident to all. Those in the South believed that slavery wasn’t morally evil and they didn’t see a fundamental problem with it. In fact, they weren’t even apathetic to the cause, believing that it was neither good nor bad. Most Southerners vehemently advocated keeping slavery in existence for a number of reasons. First, they need slaves to work on their plantations and harvest their crops. Since whites didn’t want to work themselves, they needed slaves to work for them. As part of their economy, slaves needed to be kept in the South as slaves to keep the economy of the South going. Also, white Southerners believed in the inferiority of blacks and consequently didn’t want them to be freed because they thought blacks couldn’t take care of themselves. Whites’ power came from the fact that they had control of the blacks and could ultimately force them to do anything they wanted. If the slaves were freed, then white Southerners would lose all their power and their economies would disintegrate. These people didn’t see the supposedly evident truth of equality and consequently, Lincoln felt the need to bring these seceded people back to the Union to help them realize what equality truly meant.
  • Lincoln changed the Declaration of Independence in the Gettysburg Address by departing from the traditional definition of the Declaration as a theoretical thing that needs no public support. In the Revolutionary era, there was no need to explain the measures taken by the Declaration, because everyone was for it. In the 1860s, not everyone believed in equality, and Lincoln had to do something to make the nation united once more. So he changed the definition of the Declaration of Independence from a Gettysburg Today theoretical document to something practical that can be understood and applied to everyday life by everyone.
  • The Battle of Gettysburg Lincoln himself admitted that he wasn’t great at speaking extemporaneously. However, in the Gettysburg Address, he added the words “under God” between “this nation” and “shall have a new birth of freedom” (White 250). Although the concrete reasons for the addition of these words in the speech are unknown, there are a couple of guesses for their placement there. Lincoln was a deeply religious man who had a strong sense of piety and great morals. The beginning of his speech, “Four score and seven years ago…,” is closely related to Psalm 90. Lincoln was well known to have loved reading the Bible, especially the psalms. By adding the words “under God” to his speech, Lincoln showed his own personal belief in the power of God. Also, the addition of the words is important because it relates the Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address back to the Declaration of Independence and its obvious belief in God. Lincoln’s addition of the words “under God” while he was speaking provided the nation with a unified belief that they all lived “under God” and reminded the people that Lincoln himself was a man of immense religious beliefs.
  • The Gettysburg Address is an extremely religious speech. While not evident at first glance, parts of the speech are very closely related to certain passages of the Bible. The opening words, “Four score and seven years ago,” are a direct correlation to Psalm 90:10. Lincoln said that the founding fathers “brought forth” a nation, which is closely related to what the angel Gabriel says to Mary, telling her that she shall “bring forth” a son and shall name him Jesus (Luke 1:31). The words “bring forth” are also from Isaiah 41:21 when the Lord speaks. The entire speech is somewhat like the Lord’s Prayer. Both the Our Father and the Gettysburg Address start out “with an invocation of the paternal and conclude with a vision of the everafter” (Anastaplo 115). The order of events in the speech, starting out with the very distant past and the creation of new nations, and returning to present day, is symbolic of the Creation of the world in the book of Genesis and Moses’ flight from Egypt with his people to start a new nation. From these Biblical references, it is very clear that Lincoln was a firm believer in the power of God and wanted to remind the people at Gettysburg that day of the nation’s foundations in a belief of God.
  • The rebirth of the nation that Lincoln advocated at Gettysburg is symbolic of the rebirth that John talks about in his Gospel. John believed in the power of baptism and the effect that it could have on one’s spirituality. Similarly, Lincoln saw Gettysburg as the christening of the nation, and wanted the nation to have a “new birth of freedom” from then on. Jesus’ main message in the Gospel of John is about the New Commandment: loving one another as He has loved us. Lincoln, by relating his speech at Gettysburg to the Gospel of John, was also advocating a New Commandment for the nation: equality. Treating everyone the way that you want to be treated, Lincoln said, is vital to the success of the nation after its rebirth. To Gettysburg – Little Round Top in winter succeed according to Lincoln was to start anew with the principle of equality and applying it to all aspects of life. Lincoln was a very spiritual man and was obviously influenced by the Bible in writing his speeches, especially the Gettysburg Address.
  • Besides God, the only other word that is capitalized in the Gettysburg Address is the word Liberty. By giving Liberty the same emphasis that he gave to God, Lincoln illustrated how important the belief in freedom was: on the same level as God. Lincoln showed the nation that day that in order to really succeed as a nation, the people needed to start over. And the only way that the rebirth that Lincoln gave the nation was going to work was if the nation went back to the original principles present at the country’s founding. Those principles included a firm belief in God, the belief that all men were created equal, and the belief that liberty was an unalienable right given to the people by God.
  • The ability of Lincoln to change the Declaration of Independence was due largely due the fact that he was a great orator. When Lincoln spoke, people listened. Although the Gettysburg Address is only ten sentences long, there are amazing elements of great public speaking present in his address. Lincoln was able to use tripartite aspects in his speech to create a more memorable impression of his speech. The most memorable aspect of Lincoln thinking in threes is his prevalence of the elements of past, present, and future. Lincoln started out with helping people to remember the past by addressing the origins of the nation eighty-seven years ago. He then switched to talking about the present when he talked about the Battle of Gettysburg and how much people would remember it. Lincoln’s final point was about the future of the country and whether a nation so conceived could long endure. By addressing the past, present, and future in his speech, Lincoln was able to appeal to many more people because of his depth of knowledge. Lincoln recalled the origins of the country and put those origins at the forefront of people’s minds for the future.
  • Lincoln used other groups of three, including describing the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth and the connection between the continent, the nation, and the battlefield (McPherson 111). The founding fathers gave birth to the country when they fought for independence from England. The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the mostly costly in the Civil War, and the cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated because of the plethora of deaths. Lincoln’s speech gave the nation “a new birth a freedom” so that it might continue on for the future. By drawing parallels between the birth of the nation and the rebirth that he was advocating at Gettysburg, Lincoln redefined the nation, giving it a rebirth, because of the costly battle. Lincoln also talked about the relationship between the continent, the nation, and the battlefield. The United States was founded on a new continent as a new nation conceived with great morals. And the battlefield was where those morals were being tested to see if they could survive. Lincoln showed his great rhetoric skills by connecting three ideas in groups of three: the past, present, and future; birth, death, and rebirth; and the continent, nation, and battlefield.
  • By writing the Address from the viewpoint of the nation, Lincoln showed that he too was an American. He wasn’t just speaking as though everybody else but himself had made mistakes. Lincoln realized that the whole nation was at fault for letting the Union decay, not just himself, and not just the people. In declaring himself an American, Lincoln had to redefine who an The Battle of Gettysburg American was. “Lincoln declares who an American is. An American is one who shares a common memory back to 1776” (Thurow 71). The people of the United States had a confident and capable leader who was willing to lead them, help them learn from their mistakes and the failures of the nation, and in the process, help them redefine the nation for the future.
  • The Sixteenth President of the United States will always be remembered for his immense dedication to the principle of equality. Among other things, Abraham Lincoln was a great man who changed the entire course of history with his speech at Gettysburg. The immortal words, “Four score and seven years ago,” are etched forever on the hearts and minds of all Americans. Lincoln was able to create such a drastic change because of his immense belief in God, his great rhetoric skills, and his humility. Lincoln used great metaphors to relate his words at Gettysburg to the founding of the nation in 1776. It is altogether fitting and proper that this great president is immortalized forever on Mount Rushmore, a symbol of great equality himself, for all the world to see.
  • “No one but Abraham Lincoln could have made that address.” – Secretary of State William Seward when asked if he had helped Lincoln with the speech “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself, that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” – Edward Everett, who spoke for two hours at Gettysburg, in a letter to Lincoln, November 20, 1863