On the 19th November 1863, US President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Lasting just over two minutes, it is often noted as one of the greatest speeches of all time and linked America’s founding principles, as written in the Declaration of Independence, to the struggles of the Civil War.
Opening with the famous phrase “Four score and seven years ago” Lincoln made the speech to an assembled crowd of approximately 15,000 people which included six separate state governors. However the President’s short, ten-sentence speech was intended only to be ‘dedicatory remarks’ – the main oration came from Edward Everett in a 13,000 word address that directly preceded the President. Everett wrote to the President the next day, stating that the President had delivered a better address in two minutes than he had in two hours.
Not everyone was so complimentary. Newspaper reports at the time were divided along party lines, with Democrat-leaning newspapers such as the Chicago Times dismissing Lincoln’s “silly, flat and dishwatery” speech. Meanwhile Republican newspapers were overflowing with praise.
The exact location, and even the exact wording, of the Gettysburg Address continue to be points of disagreement. Five manuscripts exist, but there are a number of notable differences between each of them. Even the inclusion of the words “under God” are disputed. Furthermore, they also differ from contemporary newspaper reports by people present at the address itself. Despite this, the Gettysburg Address is still seen as one of the most important English-language speeches of all time.