Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
Lincoln was called upon to deliver just a few appropriate remarks on November 19, 1863, to dedicate a military cemetery at Gettysburg. He delivered his remarks following those of Edward Everett, a distinguished speaker in his own right. One persistent myth is that Lincoln composed the speech while riding on the train from Washington to Gettysburg and wrote it on the back of an envelope or a napkin. This story is at odds with the existence of several early drafts and the reports of Lincoln's final editing while a guest of David Wills in Gettysburg. Though Lincoln's speech was much more concise than the two-hour oration Everett rendered, the president's remarks were profound and masterful, imparting another persuasive vision for America:
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 the nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield 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.