The paper I wrote, that I said I, um, wouldn’t share? Yeah, well, I’m sharing it, but in portions. (You knew I would, haha.) This is part one. Enjoy!
**If you are not familiar with the Gettysburg Address, I would recommend reading it before reading my paper. I have posted it here.
“Four score and seven years ago,” Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address begins, “our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” (Lincoln 2234). Lincoln’s address, which goes on for nine more sentences, comprises only 267 words in total, and took only two minutes to deliver. Yet it is one of the most studied addresses in American history. As literature, it holds a poignant message, one oft forgotten, yet deeply necessary, even today.
Lincoln begins by reminding the audience of the nation’s beginnings, reminding them it was only 87 years before that the nation was created. He then reminds them of the test–the “great civil war” (Lincoln 2234), as he phrases it–in which they are currently involved, and which is tearing apart the seams between north and south. He reminds the audience of the impact of Gettysburg. He could not then know that the battle would be historically important as the northernmost point reached by the Confederate army. He knew merely that the battle, as a northern victory, prevented the continuation of a Confederate invasion of the north, and that the battle of Gettysburg symbolized not only a great victory but a further truth about the point of the war in general.
This point, as Lincoln says, is the preservation of the liberty granted by the government formed those short 87 years. They are there to “dedicate a portion of that field” (Lincoln 2234), Lincoln says, “But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate–we cannot consecrate–we cannot hallow–this ground” (Lincoln 2234-2235). This “larger sense” he speaks of is the nation’s preservation. He says a few sentences later that it is for the “living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced” (Lincoln 2235). Lincoln believes Gettysburg is not something simply to be memorialized, but something to be perpetuated. The fight for freedom, he believes, cannot cease with the battle at Gettysburg. The soldiers at Gettysburg had far advanced the cause of freedom, but Lincoln is convinced that the cause to which the soldiers were devoted is that to which those who remain alive should also be devoted. Gettysburg is not, then, the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.