The Battle of Gettysburg occurred over three hot summer days, July
1 to July 3, 1863, around the small market town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
It began as a skirmish but by its end involved 160,000 Americans and
effectively decided the fate of the Union. Read
more about the Battle of Gettysburg
On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln went to the battlefield to
dedicate it as a National Cemetery. The main orator, Edward Everett
of Massachusetts, delivered a two-hour formal address. The president
then had his turn. He spoke in his high, penetrating voice, and in a
little over two minutes delivered this speech, surprising everyone by its brevity and leaving many quite unimpressed at first.
Over time, however, this speech with its ending - government of
the People, by the People, for the People - has come to symbolize the
definition of democracy itself.
President Lincoln among
the crowd at Gettysburg.
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 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.
President Abraham Lincoln - November 19, 1863
The History Place - Great Speeches Collection
See also: The History Place - Abraham Lincoln Timeline
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