The Gettysburg Address

In this section we'll look at the Gettysburg Address: The speech Abraham Lincoln gave to dedicate the cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania following the Battle of Gettysburg during The Civil War. Original text is here in blue:

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.


In this paragraph, Lincoln is referring to the creation of the US by the Declaration of Independence. A score is twenty years, so "four score and seven years ago" means 87 years ago. He goes on to say that the new nation that was created by The Declaration was based on liberty and equality.


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.


He says that The Civil War is testing the country. He acknowledges those who died in the battle and explains that they are there to dedicate the cemetery.


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 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.


He says that he cannot dedicate the cemetery, but that it was already given a better dedication by those who died there. He believes that the speech will not be remembered, but the bravery of the soldiers will. He then refers to their unfinished work, meaning that the war is not over.


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.


He acknowledges the work still to be done. He advocates continuing with the war effort out of respect for those who died. That they would not want to see the country disappear.