|
|
The Suburbanite
  • ‘That the nation might live’ — and it did

  • The issue: The 149th anniversary of Gettysburg Address

    Our view: Lincoln’s speech was about human lives and the fragile life of a Republic

    • email print
  • The issue: The 149th anniversary of Gettysburg Address
    Our view: Lincoln’s speech was about human lives and the fragile life of a Republic
    When Abraham Lincoln spoke at the dedication of a national military cemetery in Gettysburg, Pa., he gave a deeply felt tribute to the soldiers who would rest there for all time. The honor he paid them 149 years ago today is what is often remembered most about his brilliantly crafted, 239-word speech.
    But the Gettysburg Address is about more than human lives. It is about the life of a nation.
    Lincoln asked whether a nation founded on the belief that all of its citizens are equal could “long endure.” What a fragile notion this is, that a huge, diverse country can be ruled, generation after generation, century after century, by a consensus of its many citizens.
    On Nov. 19, 1863, Lincoln spoke on the battlefield at Gettysburg “to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live.” The nation did live, thanks in great part to his political genius and vision.
    At Gettysburg, Lincoln was not the main speaker. He spoke for two minutes. He thought the speech would be quickly forgotten. It may have been his biggest miscalculation.
    •••
    “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth, upon 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 battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. 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 hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.
    “It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, 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.”