(Lincoln Address Memorial, US National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA)
One hundred and fifty-four years ago today Abraham Lincoln gave an address to dedicate the national cemetery. He did so about 300 yards from where the memorial in the picture above stands, hence the explanatory marker in the lower left. Lincoln’s address, now known as the Gettysburg Address, was written in DC and revised upon his arrival in Gettysburg.
As is often the case with historic documents before the advent of carbon paper, let alone photocopying, word processors, and computers, there are multiple surviving versions of Lincoln’s dedicatory remarks. This includes two copies written before the speech, including the actual reading copy, and three others prepared for specific individuals after the speech. You can read all five versions here. The Nicolay copy, which was written on White House stationery also includes Lincoln’s revisions and additions after his arrival in Gettysburg on a second page of foolscap, is the reading copy he delivered at Gettysburg on 19 November 1863.
The Nicolay Copy (2nd and Reading Draft) of the Gettysburg Address:
Four score 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 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 it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. 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 hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.
It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us —that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, 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.
And here is what I always think of as the definitive documentation of how President Lincoln drafted his remarks.