When Abraham Lincoln was asked to deliver "a few appropriate remarks" at the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National Cemetery, he was not expected to be the keynote speaker. That honor went to Edward Everett, who was widely regarded as the best speaker in the nation at the time. The copy given to him by Abraham Lincoln is the one held at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. After his long, two hour speech, Abraham Lincoln stood for a much shorter one that would go down in history as one of the best speeches ever given.
What followed was Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. In less than 275 words, Abraham Lincoln dedicated the cemetery to those that died, highlighted the American experiment in democracy, and reframed the war as a test of that experiment. He then asked the crowd to reaffirm themselves to the conflict to ensure that democracy would be proven viable, and to ensure the soldiers who died did so to preserve something far greater than their own lives.
The purpose of this project is to provide perspective, context, and meaning to the Gettysburg Address. This speech can be studied for decades and covers many different topics that can be analyzed from many different angles. This in no way covers all of them, but serves as a basic outline of what the speech was about. Click any highlighted area to be taken to a page about that part of 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 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.