On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered what would become one of American history’s most highly regarded political speeches.
The Gettysburg Address, named after the Pennsylvania town where a decisive Civil War battle occured months before, affirmed what Lincoln saw as the importance of preserving the United States and securing "a new birth of freedom." Although he never mentioned the enslavement of Black people by name, he did refer to the Founding Fathers’ proclamation in the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal."
It would take more than a century for the ambitions of the Gettysburg Address to be legally recognized in the United States. And our nation still struggles to realize full equality and racial justice. But the hope in this speech, and the precedent it set for the eventual Union victory and end of legal slavery, is worth a #TBT.
Read the Gettysburg address, as it appears in a print archived by the Library of Congress, below.
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.
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 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 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. 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, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.