For this activity, you will write an essay and address the following :
This video is from PBS and notes the events leading up to Lincoln’s drafting the Gettysburg address. Scholars will read the address and provide analysis. Pay close attention to the analysis as it will help you to formulate your critical thinking assignment this week.
‘All men are created equal’ is one of the famous quotes from the Gettysburg Address. The Gettysburg Address is one of the most iconic speeches in American history, given by President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, just a few months after the Battle of Gettysburg. The address is widely regarded as a masterpiece of American oratory, briefly summarizing the principles of democracy and the Union that the Civil War was fought to defend. According to David (2020), the Gettysburg Address consists of just 272 words, but its impact on American history is immeasurable. Lincoln began his speech by acknowledging the purpose of the occasion, honoring the soldiers who had died in the Battle of Gettysburg and the sacrifices they had made for the Union. David (2020) also stated that he then went on to emphasize the larger significance of the war, saying, “We are met on a great battlefield 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” (p.1). Lincoln then delivered the famous opening lines of the speech: “Four score 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” (p.1). The phrase “four score and seven years ago” refers to the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which had occurred eighty-seven years before the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln used this reference to tie the present moment to the founding principles of American democracy.
From there, Lincoln made the case that the soldiers who had died at Gettysburg had given their lives not just for the Union, but for a larger ideal. According to Helgatama et al. (2022) Lincoln did this by stating “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” (p.1); This phrase, with its emphasis on the importance of democracy and the Union, has become one of the most famous lines of the speech and of American political rhetoric more broadly. The Gettysburg Address was remarkable not just for its content but also for its brevity. Helgatama et al. (2022) also stated that at a time when political speeches could run for hours, Lincoln’s address lasted just a few minutes; This concision made the speech easy to remember and quote, ensuring that its ideas would spread widely and continue to resonate with Americans in the years and decades to come. Lincoln decided to keep his speech short, concise, and impactful because he was aware of the need to capture his audience’s attention and hold it, he was also aware of the historical significance of the occasion, and he was under pressure to unify the country and heal the wounds of the Civil War.
One of the reasons why President Lincoln chose to keep his Gettysburg Address short was that he was aware of the need to capture his audience’s attention and hold it. According to Amel (2018), as a skilled orator, Lincoln knew that a long speech could easily become tedious and boring, causing people to lose interest and tune out. Gettysburg Address was delivered during great turmoil and division in American history. Amel (2018) also stated that the Civil War had been raging for more than two years, and the country was deeply divided over issues of slavery, states’ rights, and the federal government’s role. The dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg was a solemn occasion, and Lincoln’s speech was intended to honor the soldiers who had fought and died there. By keeping his speech short, Lincoln was able to deliver a message that was clear and memorable. His opening line, “Four score and seven years ago” (p.1), immediately captured his audience’s attention, drawing them into the speech and setting the tone for what was to come. He then delivered a powerful message about the meaning of democracy and the importance of preserving the Union. Thus, Lincoln carefully crafted a short, concise, and impactful speech because he was aware of the need to capture and hold his audience’s attention.
Another reason why Lincoln chose to keep his speech short was because he was aware of the historical significance of the occasion. According to Kelly (2019), the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg was a solemn event, and Lincoln’s speech was meant to honor the soldiers who had fought and died there. The Gettysburg Address was delivered amid the Civil War, one of the most significant events in American history. It was a time of great upheaval and division, and the country was struggling to come to terms with the consequences of slavery, states’ rights, and the federal government’s role (Kelly, 2019). The dedication of the cemetery was an important moment in this struggle, as it represented a tangible effort to recognize the sacrifice of the soldiers who had fought in the war. Lincoln understood the importance of the occasion and knew that his words would be recorded and remembered by future generations. He wanted to ensure that his message would be clear and timeless, so he carefully crafted a concise and impactful speech. He knew a long speech might become tedious and lose significance, so he opted for brevity instead (Kelly, 2019). The opening line of Lincoln’s speech, “Four score and seven years ago” (p.1), immediately captured the historical significance of the occasion. He was referring to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which had taken place 87 years earlier; This reference connected the present moment to the founding principles of the country and emphasized the importance of preserving the Union. Thus, Lincoln was aware of the occasion’s historical significance, so he chose to keep his speech short.
Another reason why Lincoln chose to keep his speech short was because he was under pressure to unify the country and heal the wounds of the Civil War. The Civil War was a deeply divisive period in American history, pitting brother against brother and tearing the country apart. According to Avlon (2022), as President, Lincoln was acutely aware of the need to unite the country and heal the wounds of the conflict. The dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg allowed him to do just that. Avlon (2022) also stated that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was delivered just a few months after the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the bloodiest and most significant battles of the Civil War. The country was still reeling from the aftermath of the conflict, and tensions were high. Lincoln’s speech was therefore seen as an important opportunity to help bring the country together and begin healing. By keeping his speech short, Lincoln was able to deliver a message that was both powerful and unifying (Avlon, 2022). He spoke directly to the people of the United States, reminding them of the importance of preserving the Union and the sacrifices made to defend it. He also emphasized the need for unity and called on all Americans to work together to ensure the country remained strong and free. Thus, Lincoln decided to keep his speech short because the speech was to serve as a powerful symbol of hope and unity during a time of great division and turmoil from the Civil War.
In conclusion, the Gettysburg Address is a landmark speech that holds a special place in American history. Delivered by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, the speech served as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Lincoln’s words were simple yet profound, and they continue to inspire generations of Americans today. The brevity of the speech is one of its most striking features. In just a few short minutes, Lincoln captured the essence of the struggle for American unity and the importance of honoring those who had given their lives for their country. His focus on democracy, equality, and freedom served as a call to action for all Americans to work towards a better future for themselves and future generations. The Gettysburg Address has been studied, analyzed, and celebrated for over 150 years, and it remains one of the most famous speeches in American history. Its enduring legacy is a testament to the power of words and the American people’s unwavering commitment to the values of liberty, justice, and equality.
Amel, L. Religious Discourse in American Political Speeches: The Jeremiad in Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Lyndon Johnson’s We Shall Overcome Address.
Avlon, J. (2022). Lincoln and the Fight for Peace. Simon and Schuster.
David, A. (2020). Examining the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln. Enslow Publishing, LLC.
Helgatama, F., & Utami, B. R. (2022). The History Behind the Gettysburg Address.
Kelly, P. (2019). The Lost Continent of Abraham Lincoln. journal of the civil war era, 9(2), 223-248.
Latunra, A. R. Q. (2022). Interpersonal Meaning in the Gettysburg Address (Systemic Functional Analysis). ELS Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, 5(4), 723-728. https://doi.org/10.34050/elsjish.v5i4.24847
Smith, J. (2019). Lincoln’s miniature Bible: performing sacred history in the Gettysburg Address. https://hdl.handle.net/11222.digilib/141002