Saturday, July 4, 2015

Lincoln and the Fourth of July and the Gettysburg Address

Only Lincoln photo after the Gettysburg Address.
Abe Lincoln made more than one speech about the Battle of Gettysburg, which was fought on July
1,2,and 3 in the year 1863. The battle ended on July 4, 1863. One year later, Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address on the field of battle in Pennsylvania, November 19, 1864.
Lincoln's background made him the ultimate outsider in Washington; he was from the pioneer West, Illinois. Surely not a person of privilege or social connections. His grandfather had immigrated to Pennsylvania from England around 1740, then after the Revolutionary War the Lincolns moved through the Cumberland Gap (as did my ancestors, one being a German immigrant Jacob Link, also from Pennsylvania.) Abraham was born in Kentucky, where they settled briefly (as did Jacob Link) but the Lincolns moved to Indiana, then Illinois. My Links moved to St. Louis, Missouri, around the time Lewis and Clark left to explore.
Lincoln the Illinois lawyer 1846
The Lincolns were really poor, but with the stubbornness of the pioneer, they survived and prospered until Abraham was an up-and-coming lawyer. At this time in US history, the West was wide open. The Civil War was destined to explode over greed (the South wanting to expand the plantation system into the West) and the abolitionists' moral indignity over slavery.
So here we are on the Fourth of July. It is impossible to adequately described the horrors of the Civil War. Here are Lincoln's public comments few days after the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 7, 1863. One year later, Lincoln will give the Gettysburg Address. You can see this speech as a precurser to the profound, eloquent speech that Lincoln cogitated over for a year.
"On July 7th 1863, President Lincoln delivered an impromptu Independence Day address to a group of hundreds who gathered outside the White House in celebration of the July 4th victory at Vicksburg. They caught Lincoln off-guard sometime past 8pm, yet he nonetheless stepped outside and delivered this address:
Fellow-citizens: I am very glad to see you to-night. But yet I will not say I thank you for this call. But I do most sincerely thank Almighty God for the occasion on which you have called. [Cheers.]
How long ago is it? Eighty odd years since, upon the Fourth day of July, for the first time in the world, a union body of representatives was assembled to declare as a self-evident truth that all men were created equal. [Cheers.]
That was the birthday of the United States of America. Since then the fourth day of July has had several very peculiar recognitions. The two most distinguished men who framed and supported that paper, including the particular declaration I have mentioned, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the one having framed it, and the other sustained it most ably in debate, the only two of the fifty-five or fifty-six who signed it, I believe, who were ever President of the United States, precisely fifty years after they put their hands to that paper it pleased the Almighty God to take away from this stage of action on the Fourth of July. This extraordinary coincidence we can understand to be a dispensation of the Almighty Ruler of Events.
Another of our Presidents, five years afterwards, was called from this stage of existence on the same day of the month, and now on this Fourth of July just past, when a gigantic rebellion has risen in the land, precisely at the bottom of which is an effort to overthrow that principle "that all men are created equal," we have a surrender of one of their most powerful positions and powerful armies forced upon them on that very day. [Cheers.]
And I see in the succession of battles in Pennsylvania, which continued three days, so rapidly following each other as to be justly called one great battle, fought on the first, second and third of July; on the fourth the enemies of the declaration that all men are created equal had to turn tail and run. [Laughter and applause.]
Gentlemen, this is a glorious theme and a glorious occasion for a speech, but I am not prepared to make one worthy of the theme and worthy of the occasion. [Cries of "go on," and applause.] I would like to speak in all praise that is due to the many brave officers and soldiers who have fought in the cause of the Union and liberties of this country from the beginning of this war, not on occasions of success, but upon the more trying occasions of the want of success. I say I would like to speak in praise of these men, particularizing their deeds, but I am unprepared. I should dislike to mention the name of a single officer, lest in doing so I wrong some other one whose name may not occur to me. [Cheers.]
Recent events bring up certain names, gallantly prominent, but I do not want to particularly name them at the expense of others, who are as justly entitled to our gratitude as they. I therefore do not upon this occasion name a single man. And now I have said about as much as I ought to say in this impromptu manner, and if you please, I'll take the music. [Tremendous cheering, and calls for the President to reappear.]
I think in not naming a single man, Lincoln honored all of them. With that sentiment in mind, I post his remarks for all those brave men and women fighting for our nation today, and everyday."
[Gregory S. McNeal]

This is the Gettysburg Address:

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 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.
Lincoln is also among the honored dead.

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