The Gettysburg Address has been called one of America’s greatest speeches, but why? Here’s everything you need to know about Lincoln’s famous address.
What is the Gettysburg Address?
President Abraham Lincoln delivered a short speech to a crowd of more than 15,000, focusing on America’s principles of human equality. The Gettysburg Address is considered a key moment in American history, due to its shaping of the way Americans viewed themselves and their government.
Where and when was it given?
During the Civil War, on Nov. 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This was just four and a half months after the vicious Battle of Gettysburg that took place at the same location.
Brief and to the point
Lincoln’s speech was just 271 words and only two minutes long. A sigh of relief when compared to the other speaker of the day, dignitary Edward Everett, who gave a two-hour, 13,000 word speech just before Lincoln.
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.
You’ve probably heard of the now famous opening phrase, “Four score and seven years ago,” but maybe you don’t know what it means? A score means 20, so four score is 80. So the phrase, “Four score and seven years ago,” means 87 years ago an refers to the founding of America.
The only known photo of President Abraham Lincoln delivering the speech.
A close up of the president from the same photo.
An image from the crowds attending the address.
An original draft of the Gettysburg Address, with Lincoln’s handwritten notes.