Gettysburg Address: First Draft

The news of the surrender of Vicksburg did not reach Washington until July 7, 1863.  On top of Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg, the town went wild with rejoicing.  A jubilant crowd went to the White House.  President Lincoln made an impromptu speech that contained many of the themes and thoughts that he would flesh out in his Gettysburg Address delivered on November 19, 1863:

Fellow-citizens: I am very glad to see you to-night.  But yet I will not say I thank you for this call.  But I do most sincerely thank Almighty God for the occasion on which you have called. [Cheers.]  How long ago is it?  Eighty odd years since, upon the Fourth day of July, for the first time in the world, a union body of representatives was assembled to declare as a self-evident truth that all men were created equal. [Cheers.]

That was the birthday of the United States of America.  Since then the fourth day of July has had several very peculiar recognitions.  The two most distinguished men who framed and supported that paper, including the particular declaration I have mentioned, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the one having framed it, and the other sustained it most ably in debate, the only two of the fifty-five or fifty-six who signed it, I believe, who were ever President of the United States, precisely fifty years after they put their hands to that paper it pleased the Almighty God to take away from this stage of action on the Fourth of July.  This extraordinary coincidence we can understand to be a dispensation of the Almighty Ruler of Events.

Another of our Presidents, five years afterwards, was called from this stage of existence on the same day of the month, and now on this Fourth of July just past, when a gigantic rebellion has risen in the land, precisely at the bottom of which is an effort to overthrow that principle “that all men are created equal,” we have a surrender of one of their most powerful positions and powerful armies forced upon them on that very day. [Cheers.] And I see in the succession of battles in Pennsylvania, which continued three days, so rapidly following each other as to be justly called one great battle, fought on the first, second and third of July; on the fourth the enemies of the declaration that all men are created equal had to turn tail and run. [Laughter and applause.] (more…)

Published in: on November 12, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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