As Lincoln sought to guard against the dedication of the ground on which the battle of Gettysburg was ought in favor of perpetuating the perfect Union for which they were fighting, so must the American people seek to guard against merely memorializing the Gettysburg address in favor of perpetuating the cause Lincoln advocated there. Even now, there are issues in America–the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, health care, et cetera–that threaten to rend the nation similar to the way slavery did in the mid-nineteenth century. The fight remains to perfect the Union that has survived over a hundred years past the 87 that had passed by the time Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address, and it is the job of every American citizen to ensure it is perfected. Lincoln’s plea to perpetuate the cause of freedom as fought at Gettysburg cannot end with the citizens who were alive when he delivered it. The great task remains. The “perpetuation of the republic” (Kaplan 351) is the responsibility of each American, and it is this point that is ultimately made in Lincoln’s speech. For freedom they gave their highest devotion, and it is “from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause” (Lincoln 2235) of freedom, and that “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain” (Lincoln 2235). Lincoln clearly speaks of those who died at Gettysburg, but his words apply to all those who have given their lives in the name of freedom, and his charge is laid at the feet of all those who would live under that more perfect Union.
Eleven core and thirteen years ago “our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation…dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” (Lincoln 2234). Seven score and six years ago, thousands of men laid down their lives in belief of the cause of perfecting the nation founded 87 years before. The responsibility given by Lincoln’s address at that battleground belongs to every American; the responsibility to continue rewriting the text of the republic, to continue the reconstruction of the nation. The legacy Lincoln left with the Gettysburg address is a great gift, and to whom much is given, much is required.
Apthorp, Elaine Sargent. “Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 6th ed. Vol. B. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2009.
Dodge, Daniel Kilham. Abraham Lincoln: The Evolution of His Literary Style. Champaign, Ill.: University Press, 1900.
Fehrenbacher, Don E. and Virginia Fehrenbacher. Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996.
Kaplan, Fred. Abraham Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008.
Lincoln, Abraham. “Address at the Dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 6th ed. Vol. B. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2009. 23-24.