The meaning of the Gettysburg Address

November 14th, 2013 by Ken

Four Score and Seven Years Ago – – Most school kids know this is the beginning of the Gettysburg Address delivered 150 years ago on this date in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

President Abraham Lincoln was asked to give “a few appropriate remarks” as the country dedicated the new National Cemetery for the 50,000 soldiers who had given their lives in the battle of Gettysburg the previous July.

Lincoln was not the main speaker at the event.  That honor fell to Edward Everett, a renown speaker, who regaled the crowd with a two-hour long speech.

When Lincoln got up to speak he appeared pale and weak.   It was later disclosed that the president may have been suffering from a mild case of smallpox.

But, Lincoln’s words that day – – just a couple of hundred – – summed up what the battle of Gettysburg and the entire Civil War was about.

Democracy is a fleeting form of government.  Few governments have existed very long which embraced the concept that all men are created equal.

Many European governments were convinced that the civil war in America was the final gasp of a dying, failed form of government.

The American experience in democracy was only 87 years old  – – Four Score and Seven – – as Lincoln put it,  and no one was certain that it was going to survive.

But, Lincoln pointed out that the sacrifices of the soldiers who died on the Gettysburg battlefield, had given a rebirth to the concept of democracy and equality for all people – – far beyond what anyone could say.

Their sacrifice, Lincoln said, gave us the opportunity to have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people and for the people (in other words – democracy) shall not perish from this earth.

Historians have equated Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address among the most eloquent and important speeches in all of human history.

For it spelled out the ideals and concepts of American democracy and how much people would be willing to sacrifice to protect it.

150 years ago today – – we still remember the words – – and hopefully the meaning.

Posted in History, The Real News

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