The Green Papers
The Green Papers
Historical Data

'canonical' Gettysburg Address

Wed 19 Nov 2014

[What follows this Note in italics is the- for lack of a better term- 'canonical' version of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, the one that is most familiar to Americans: it is the version of the speech that is enshrined on many memorials and monuments (such as the memorial to Lincoln inside Gettysburg National Cemetery, as well as on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC) and is the version that many an American schoolchild would memorize over the years and decades since Lincoln himself spoke at Gettysburg back on 19 November 1863.

However, this 'canonical' version differs, in many respects (however minimal in number and with no appreciable effect upon intent and tone), from that which appeared in newspapers across the country the morning of Friday 20 November 1863 (which, in turn, was based on one of three [or, perhaps, more] transcriptions of Lincoln's words by the relatively few members of the Press present at the event).

In fact, what has become the 'canonical' Gettysburg Address is derived from the last- in chronological order- of five "drafts" of the Gettysburg Address known today, one that has come to be called the 'Bliss draft', which was penned by Lincoln some months after the speech had itself been delivered (though it is the only handwritten draft specifically titled 'Gettysburg Address' and signed by Lincoln).]



Fourscore 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 cannot dedicate,— we cannot consecrate,— we cannot 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.


Created Wed 19 Nov 2014. Modified .