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"The Gettysbiirg Address is a
marvelous piece of English com-
position. The more closely the
Address is analyzed, the more
one must confess astonishment at
its choice of words, the precision
of its thought, its simplicity,
directness, and effectiveness.
"I escape the task of deciding
which is the masterpiece of mod-
ern English eloquence by award-
ing the prize to an American."
— Lord Ci^rzpn, Earl of Kedleston, Chancellor
of the University of Oxford
The Lincoln National
Little Known Facts About The
By Louis A. Warren, Lift. D.
Historian, The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company
Director, The Lincoln National Life Foundation
THE ADDRESS delivered by Abraham Lincoln at the dedicatory
exercises of the Gettysburg National Cemetery has been ac-
claimed the outstanding oration in the Anglo-Saxon tongue. Natur-
ally, any incident which relates to the preparation or the delivery
of this masterpiece of eloquence is extremely important. Some of the
little known facts about Lincoln's Gettysburg Address are herewith
Gettysburg — Battle and Address
THE Battle of Gettysburg came to a close on the eve of Inde-
pendence Day, 1863. The famous Gettysburg Address of
Abraham Lincoln, however, was not made at the time of this
important contest, and the remarks were not inspired by the
militia in action. It was those brave men who had given "the last
full measure of devotion," which drew from Lincoln the mem-
orable words spoken on November 19, 1863, at the consecration
of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
It was more than four months after the actual conflict that a
part of the very field where men had fought was consecrated as a
place where men were buried. The din and clamor of battle had
given place to calm and quiet, and in an atmosphere charged with
reverence and thoughts of the dead, the requiem pronounced by
Abraham Lincoln was heard.
THE unprecedented number of casualities resulting from the
decisive battle called for an orderly and decent burial of the
dead. David Wills, a citizen of the town of Gettysburg, Pennsyl-
vania, was apparently the first individual to present a satisfactory
plan for the general interment of the fallen soldiers, and he was
ably supported in his views by the Governor of the state.
Way up in New England, a kinsman of the President, Mayor
F. W. Lincoln of Boston, was active in attempting to perfect some
organization which would acquire ground on the battlefield where
the Union soldiers from Massachusetts might be interred and
memorialized. Finally a corporation known as The National
Soldiers Cemetery was created, financed by the various states
having citizens eligible for burial there. It was this cemetery that
President Lincoln was invited to consecrate with dedicatory
The Chief Executive Invited to Speak
THE Gettysburg program was arranged by the National Sol-
diers Cemetery Committee, and they selected Edward Everett
as the orator for the occasion. The first date set for the exercises
was Thursday, October zt,, 1863, but Mr. Everett felt he could not
be ready to speak so soon as that and then suggested that No-
vember 19 would be the earliest possible date on which he could
appear. This date was approved.
Officially, Lincoln had no voice in the plans for the celebration
as it was not under the jurisdiction of the United States Govern-
ment. Out of courtesy to him, however, in ample time to prepare
the few remarks he was expected to make, he was invited by the
committee in charge to participate in the ceremonies. This request
he graciously accepted, apparently without any feeling that his
invitation to be present was unduly belated, as is often alleged.
Writing the Immortal Words
IT WAS on November x, seventeen days before the address, that
the invitation to participate in the Gettysburg program
reached Lincoln, and knowing his deep interest in the project, one
would suggest that he immediately gave some thought to what
he might say at the dedication. John Nicolay, one of his secre-
taries, observes that Lincoln "probably followed his usual habit
in such matters, using great deliberation in arranging his
thoughts, and moulding his phrases mentally, waiting to reduce
them to writing until they had taken satisfactory form."
There is much difference of opinion as to when he found it
convenient to write out his address, but all authorities in a posi-
tion to know his movements in Washington are agreed that the
first draft was written before he left the Capitol for Gettysburg.
There is no dependable evidence, whatsoever, that indicates he
wrote any part of the address on the way to Gettysburg.
That some corrections in his manuscript were made after ar-
riving at Gettysburg, and that the last part of it especially, was
rewritten is an assured fact. The writing was done in the home
of Mr. Wills where Lincoln was a guest. What is known as the
battlefield revision copy is transcribed on two pieces of paper, the
first part written in ink and the concluding part written in pencil.
The First Gettysburg Speech
LINCOLN made two addresses at Gettysburg; one is forgotten,
the other will always be remembered. The evening on which
the President arrived at Gettysburg, he was serenaded at the home
of Mr. Wills, his host. In response to urgent demands from the
crowd, Lincoln appeared at the door of the home and made his
first Gettysburg speech. He said:
"I appear before you, my fellow citizens, merely to thank you
for this compliment. The inference is a very fair one that you
would hear me for a little while at least, were I to commence to
make a speech . I do not appear before you for the purpose of doing
so, and for several substantial reasons. The most substantial of
these is that I have no speech to make. In my position it is some-
what important that I should not say any foolish things. It very
often happens that the only way to help it is to say nothing at all.
Believing that is my present position this evening, I must beg of
you to excuse me from addressing you further.
An Unlovely Setting
GETTYSBURG was an unlovely place on November 19, 1863.
The trees, shorn of their limbs, gave evidence of the fearful
struggle which had occurred there. The symmetry of the burial
acres, with its semi-circular arrangement of lots, was entirely lost
in the uneven newly made mounds with their crude markers. In-
terments were still being made as hastily prepared graves were
being discovered from day to day. These physical surroundings
contributed much to the solemnness of the gathering.
The speakers' platform added little to the decorative features
of the occasion. It was forty feet square and stood on the site now
occtipied by the Gettysburg National Monument. The platform
facecl away from the cemetery, however, so that the people as-
sembled to hear the program would not be standing on that por-
tion of the grounds where the soldiers were buried.
The day itself, however, was a beautiful one and this contrib-
uted much to the comfort of the people. But the brightness of the
sun only accentuated the ugliness of the place which is now so
beautiful and serene.
A Few Appropriate Remarks
WHEN Lincoln was invited to make "a few appropriate re-
marks," as the letter of invitation addressed to him stated,
it was apparently decided in Lincoln's mind that in one respect,
at least, he would abide by the literal request of the committee —
his remarks would be few.
Lincoln's words were few, one hundred and sixty-five, to be
exact, according to the most dependable stenographic report.
James Grant Wilson claims it took "precisely one hundred and
thirty-five seconds" to deliver the message. The President, a few
days previous to leaving for Gettysburg had confided to a friend
that his address was to be "short — short — short."
The brevity of the message was not the most surprising char-
acteristic of it, although it is said a photographer who planned
to make a picture of Lincoln while speaking had insufficient time
to get the camera adjusted before the address was over.
The apparent care with which Lincoln had prepared the small
part he was to take on the program was the o^tstanding feature
of his efforts. As on occasions of similar dedications, according
to Secretary Nicolay, the people were expecting "a few perfunc-
tory words, the mere formality of official dedication."
A formal statement by the President beginning, "as President
of the United States I hereby, etc.," would have been appropriate
but it was just like Lincoln to make something very beautiful out
of a commonplace task. Without comment on what had been
said before, without apology for lack of time, in simple and
sympathetic words, he consecrated the burial field as "a final
resting place for those who here gave their lives."
ALL public speakers are aware that there comes to one spon-
taneously, on occasions of unusual emotional experiences,
expressions which may have been lying dormant for years,
apparently waiting for the proper moment to find voice.
Lincoln's preliminary draft of the Gettysburg Address makes
no mention of Deity, and this has been made a great point by
those who would prefer to have it so. Every stenographic report
of what Lincoln actually said, however, puts in the expression
"under God" as having been spoken by the President.
Back in Lincoln's childhood days, he had been greatly im-
pressed by Weems' story of George Washington and he was able
to quote many passages from this inspirational biography.
Weems had one expression which he frequently used in his book,
a word couplet — "under God." It was in the midst of Lincoln's
final declaration that these two words sprang forth to hallow the
entire address with the atmosphere of reverence.
Government — Of, By, For — The People
OFTTIMES a gem needs but the proper setting to bring out
its brilliancy and full worth. Government of, by, and for
the people was no new idea conceived by Abraham Lincoln, but he
placed this jewel of democratic idealism as a crowning thought
within the most eloquent oration of modern days.
Five years before Gettysburg, Lincoln acquired two pamphlets
containing addresses by Theodore Parker, delivered in 1858. In
one of Parker's speeches, Lincoln underlined this statement:
"Democracy — The All Man Power; government over all, by all,
and for the sake of all." The other pamphlet contained a sermon
delivered by Parker in Music Hall, Boston, on July 4, 1858, and
these words Lincoln enclosed with a pencil: "Democracy is Direct
Self-Government over all the people, for all the people, by all the
Lincoln may have read in many instances statements which
conveyed the thought with which he brought the Gettysburg
Address to a close, but this slogan of a free people never had been
spoken with more feeling, nor uttered in a more inspirational
atmosphere, than on the nineteenth of November, 1863:
"That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of free-
dom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the
people, shall not perish from the earth."
Lincoln's Written and Spoken Versions
FIVE different versions of the Gettysburg addresses, strange to
say, were all written or spoken by Abraham Lincoln and there
may have been others equally authentic. They can be identified
as (i) preliminary writings, (2.) spoken words, and (3) revisory
copies. One author has put it like this, "What he intended to say,
what he said, what he wished he had said."
It is apparent that one copy of the address, and this one is also
revised, by the way, was written preliminary to the delivery of the
speech. There is no way of learning how many revisions the
speech underwent before it finally was delivered.
The most dependable record of what Lincoln actually said
seems to have been made by a member of the Boston commission
who went to Gettysburg, instructed to take down in shorthand
the words of the President. This he did and his transcription was
not jumbled by telegraph operators or rapid fire typesetters but
was carefully and accurately prepared to be included in the com-
After the dedication, copies of Lincoln's address were re-
quested by Edward Everett, George Bancroft, and probably
others. The writing which he prepared for Everett and the two
copies he wrote for Bancroft have been preserved. It is the version
in the final Bancroft copy that is most widely used, and it has
become known as the authentic Gettysburg Address of Abraham
Lincoln. It may be seen in facsimile on the back cover of this
EDWARD EVERETT, principal speaker at the dedication,
wrote to the President the day following the exercises and
complimented him on the timeliness of his remarks. Everett said
"Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts
expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity and appropriate-
ness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad if I
could flatter myself that I came as near the central idea of the
occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes."
Lincoln's reply was as gracious as Mr. Everett's compliment.
"I am pleased to know that in your judgment the little I did say
was not entirely a failure. I knew Mr. Everett would not fail."
Mr. Everett did not fail in Lincoln's opinion, and more than
a year later he was praising the words of Everett at Gettysburg.
It is doubtful if Lincoln was ever conscious of the fact that his own
Gettysburg Address was the real climax of all Amcric.m elo-
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