The end of the war was a year and a half away, but Lincoln already understood the magnitude of work it would take to repair the brokenness of the nation. It would be slow. It would be difficult. It would be painful. But it was another draft in the rewriting of the nation, another step toward the more perfect Union the founding fathers had envisioned as they wrote the drafts of their time. Lincoln understood without fully taking the time to write this draft as well as possible, the nation could never fully recover. This understanding is clear in the last and lengthiest sentence of Lincoln’s sentence: the lengthiest sentence of the speech, to symbolize perhaps the lengthiest chapter of American history.
Lincoln’s theory on the reconstruction of the nation after the Civil War would prove correct. It was slow, difficult, painful–nonetheless, the nation reunited. So, then, is the address Lincoln gave at Gettysburg a collection of beautiful if simple words we merely like to remember? Is it just a picture of the small ray of hope that pervaded those troublesome times? Indeed not. The words have not been memorialized only for history’s sake. They are relevant to the American people of today, as they were relevant to the American people of the Civil War era.