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SPEECH AT THE DEDICATION OF THE NATIONAL
CEMETERY AT GETTYSBURG
November 15, 1863
The home of Lincoln's boyhood days was a log cabin and he was almost a young man before he knew any home more comfortable than one made of logs.
On February 12, 1809, he was born in one of these rough cabins. There was but one room, one door and no windows, and out on that little clearing in Kentucky Lincoln spent the first seven years of his life. With the wind, rain and snow beating into the room through the cracks between the logs, Lincoln's mother told him all she knew of the Bible, fairy tales and old legends.
Lincoln's love for his mother inspired him to do many good deeds, but in 1818, a terrible disease made its appearance in their settlement, and Mrs. Lincoln, weary and worn with the hardships of their life, bade good-by to her little ones, begging Abraham to remember what she had taught him and be a good boy. A coffin was made of lumber, which Mr. Lincoln cut, and under a great sycamore tree Abraham's mother was laid away to rest. There was no minister to speak words of comfort, and this grieved Abraham, who knew how his mother loved God. He determined to have a funeral service for her. He knew of a minister who traveled about the country, so he tried to put his thoughts on paper, and at last was satisfied with the letter begging the minister to come and deliver a sermon over her grave. Many weeks and months passed, but one bright day the minister
He had ridden one hundred miles on horse-back, forded swollen streams and followed narrow paths through the wilderness to comfort this little nine-year-old boy. Friends gathered about the lonely grave, sweet hymns were sung and Lincoln never forgot that day.
From that time he determined to be a good and noble
His mother had taught him to be true and honest and he would always remember her wish,
Years afterward, when he became a great man, he said, “All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” When seventeen, this strong, ambitious boy heard a famous
Kentucky man make a speech in court. Few things had ever inspired him more. From that time he practiced making speeches. Any question of the day, road-making, school tax or farm improvements, served as a subject. He always had many droll stories to tell and people were so attracted when listening to him that they forget how homely and awkward the earnest young man was. He was in demand at every gathering for pleasure or for work.
He soon began to meet a better class of people. In 1834, when but twenty-five years old, this honest, hard working, roughly built frontiersman, six feet four inches tall, found himself a popular man and a member of the Illinois State Legislature. He had studied law at every possible moment and in 1837, he accepted an offer to enter into partnership with a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois. He soon became a recognized leader in politics.
In 1860, amid much opposition he was elected President of the United States, and was reelected four years later.
Five weeks after the second inaugural address, in April, 1865, the Confederate army surrendered. The four years of sadness, bloodshed, devastation and sorrow were ended. Now, to this overburdened man peace would take the place of pain, and rest would come instead of pressure, but at this very moment of the nation's triumph, rejoicing was turned to grief, for, while seeking recreation at Ford's Theatre, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, who, with others, had formed a plot for the assassination of the President, Vice-President, and leading members of the Cabinet.
Kind arms bore the loved and honored President to a friend's house, and kind hearts, who had aided with sympathy and counsel during the long, sad years, watched by the bedside through the night until the morning, when that noblest of all hearts ceased to beat.
Messages of sorrow and sympathy came from all the world to the sorrowing nation, to a nation who each year more deeply reveres the memory of him whose legacy was peace to his country, liberty to the enslaved, and an inspiring example of patriotism to the world.
Men have made speeches valuable for their quality of literary style, but Lincoln's speeches are distinctive, individual, original, and by his inborn reasoning power, his insight into the right of all questions, he became the most convincing speaker of his time. His speeches have won a permanent place in literature. The speech at Gettysburg is a classic and known to all English speaking people. It is brief, expressive, immortal. It was written in the car on the way from Washington to the battlefield the National Cemetery. Lincoln held a small piece of pasteboard on his knee and wrote those impressive few lines while persons were talking around him. Edward Everett, who delivered the oration of the day, said: “I would rather be the author of those twenty lines than to have all the fame my oration of to-day can give me.”
On that memorable day in November, 1863, Lincoln, with bowed head stepped out before the vast assembly, slowly, quietly, as if unconscious of the tens of thousands before him. He seemed as if with those to whose memory he was speaking.
The memories, feelingly, simply told, his counsels wisely given, his feelings impressively uttered, the prophecies so earnestly expressed, affected the assembly so deeply that they listened as to a voice divine, with affection and reverence. He stood before them “an heroic figure in the center of an heroic epoch.”
Fourscore 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 5 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 that field as a final resting place for those who here gave
their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether 10 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 power
to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long 15 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 20 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 25 government of the people, by the people, and for the
people, shall not perish from the earth.
HELPS FOR STUDY
What has been said of Lincoln's speeches?
Who was the orator of the day at the Dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg?
How did he compare his oration to Lincoln's speech?
Do you think that the world has noted and remembered what Lincoln said in this speech?
To what great task did he say those remaining should be dedicated?
Explain “last full measure of devotion.”
Edward Everett, a celebrated American statesman, orator and author, was born at Dorchester, Mass., April 11, 1794. He was Professor of Greek at Harvard College, and later became President of that college. In addition to this he was, at various times, a member of Congress from Massachusetts, Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to England, Secretary of State, and United States Senator from Massachusetts. He died at Boston, Mass., January 15, 1865.
ADDITIONAL LINCOLN SPEECHES
First Inaugural Address.
(The Speeches named in above list may be found in No. 142 of the Eduational Publishing Company's School Classics.)
A WINTER IDYLL
TO THE MEMORY OF
THE HOUSEHOLD IT DESCRIBES
This poem is Dedicated by the Author
JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER
John Greenleaf Whittier was born in Haverhill
, Mass., December 17, 1807. His parents were Quakers, his father being a farmer whose circumstances were such that he was scarcely able to send his son to the village school. But the boy was fond of reading and there were a few books in his father's house, or borrowed from neighbors, that it was almost an education to read. The Bible was one of these books. When he was about fourteen his school teacher presented him with a copy of Burns' poems, thus kindling the poetic fire which burned for seventy years. He was entranced with the poetry and soon began to express his own feelings in rhyme. His sister discovered some of these verses, and sent them to a newspaper. The editor of the paper thought so well of the poems that he came to see the author. He found a blushing, shy, country boy, to whom he talked kindly, advising him to take a course of study as a training for a literary future. This advice Whittier decided to follow, and he learned to make shoes that he might earn the money with which to pay for six months' board and tuition at the Haverhill Academy. At the end of this time he taught school, thereby earning the necessary funds to complete a full year of study. In three years after leaving the academy, he contributed to various publications more than a hundred poems, and had written many others. Although widely known as a poet, up to the time “Snow-Bound” was published, much of his verse had brought him little return. The success of “Snow-Bound,” however, relieved his straitened circumstances. He lived quietly in Amesbury, Mass., clinging to his Quaker coat and Quaker ways. He died at Hampton Falls, N. H., September 7, 1892. His last words were “Love to the world.”