'A few remarks' remembered 150 years later

Brooklyn Currents | 11/20/2013 | 0 comments

 Lincoln (circled) at Gettysburg, at about noon


Brooklynites and most other Americans this week remembered the  Gettysburg Address, delivered by President Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago on Thursday afternoon, Nov. 19, 1863  
Lincoln – who wasn't even the keynote speaker – presented the short address following a two-hour oration by Edward Everett at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Penn., four and a half months after Union armies had defeated Confederate soldiers at the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in the Civil War.

Beginning with the now-iconic phrase "Four score and seven years ago" — referring to the Declaration of Independence, written at the start of the American Revolution in 1776 — Lincoln examined the founding principles of the United States in the context of the Civil War and memorialized the sacrifices of those who gave their lives at Gettysburg. He ensured his audience, and the nation, that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Ironically, Everett's two-hour oration was slated to be the "Gettysburg address" that day. His now seldom-read 13,607-word speech began:
"Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature. But the duty to which you have called me must be performed; — grant me, I pray you, your indulgence and your sympathy."
It ended two hours later with:
"But they, I am sure, will join us in saying, as we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, that wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates the Battles of Gettysburg."
After Everitt's lengthy speech, Lincoln offered "a few appropriate remarks" --
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 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.


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