Celebrating President Lincoln’s Birthday
The 16th president of the United States was born Feb. 12, 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky. He later moved to Springfield, IL practicing law, eventually becoming prominent in politics. President Abraham Lincoln’s legacy is the preservation of the Union during the U.S. Civil War as well as the emancipation of slaves.
“Honest Abe” was also known for his quick wit as well as his speeches. Here is one that many schoolchildren were required to memorize: The Gettysburg Address.
The President had been invited to give a “few appropriate remarks” during a ceremony to dedicate a cemetery for Union soldiers killed at the Battle of Gettysburg. Contrary to urban legend, he did not write this speech on the back of an envelope on his train ride to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In fact there were five known manuscripts of the speech.
Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg
November 19, 1863
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.
In July 1913, over 50,000 Union and Confederate veterans held a reunion at Gettysburg National Military Park to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the battle.
The opening line “Four score and seven years ago,” is referred to the Declaration of Independence, written at the start of the American Revolution in 1776.
Politician Edward Everett delivered an oration for over two hours before Lincoln’s two minute delivery of the famous speech.
Two copies of the Address are within the Library of Congress, encased in specially designed, temperature-controlled, sealed containers with argon gas in order to protect the documents from oxidation and continued deterioration.