Abraham Lincoln's "The Gettysburg Address"

Abraham Lincoln was the President of the United States during one of the most tragic periods in American history. President Lincoln fought to reunite a nation fractured by war. His dedication and strength have made him one of the most admired American presidents.

Lincoln was elected president of the United States in 1860. Soon after his election, a number of states succeeded from the Union, beginning the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was a talented speaker and writer. One of his most famous speeches was "The Gettysburg Address." This speech was delivered at the dedication ceremony for the national cemetery in Gettysburg. This speech is often regarded and one of the most significant speeches in American history because it managed to encompass the sorrow and courage of a war-torn America.

As a historical note, this speech was so unexpectedly short that a photographer did not even have time to prepare his camera. As in our day, some newspapers that commonly found fault with Lincoln's policies were critical of his address. The Chicago Times referred to it as, "silly, flat, and dish-watery utterances." There were, however, may newspapers who were aware of its oratory significance. The Springfield Republican called the speech, "a perfect gem; deep in feeling in every words and comma." Harper's Weekly stated that President Lincoln's words were, "from the hear to the heart. They cannot be read, even, without kindling emotion."

You are going to read "The Gettysburg Address". As you read this historical address, think about the following questions.

Note the DICTION. Diction is a writer's choice of words. Diction is an important piece of style. Diction must be appropriate to subject, audience, and occasion. Think about how President Lincoln uses diction to portray emotion. ( You are encouraged to make note of this term!) Why is Lincoln's diction appropriate? Would this speech been less effective if he had used less formal language?

Think about how this speech reaffirms the democratic principles that our government was formed upon. How does Lincoln imply that our government might be in danger?

What memorable phrases are contained in this speech? What makes them so memorable?

In what ways is Lincoln's speech different from the presidential addresses that you see on television?

STEP 1: Here is the actual address written in President Lincoln's own hand. Check it out.

STEP 2: Now READ the text of "The Gettysburg Address."

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 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.


Last modified: Thursday, 14 June 2012, 4:20 PM