The Civil War was a time when the United States was split in two. In every battle Americans were killing Americans because of sectional conflicts. These were times when people were forgetting the concept of the United States, all the things their fathers and grandfathers had worked so hard for. Lincolns speech, The Gettysburg Address, defined, symbolized, and epitomized the spirit of America. Lincoln established equality, found in the Declaration of Independence but not in the Constitution nor in any Federal or State law, as a basic and fundamental concept in America. This is very true since this country was founded on equality but apparently not granted in the Constitution to all. In the time of the Civil War many Americans forgot what equality meant, freedom for all – black and white.
The Gettysburg Address was written by President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863. It was delivered at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, honoring those who died in the Civil War battle of Gettysburg earlier that year. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here. (Doc. 25 line 10). The brief speech was followed by a two-hour oration by Edward Everett, one of the most famous speakers of the time. The next day the newspaper of the time regarded Everetts speech very highly and only briefly mentioned Lincoln. Ironically, Everett sent Lincoln a note saying, I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes. (Encarta). Although Lincoln was not as eloquent and verbose as many, his words had a deep meaning and touched the hearts of many soldiers who fought at Gettysburg.
In the Gettysburg Address Lincoln states, 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. (Doc. 25 lines 1-3). By saying this Lincoln meant that the United States was born through the struggle of the colonists for freedom from England. When the fathers of this country made this nation, they wanted it to be one of liberty and equality.
The Civil War was basically fought over the issue of slavery and keeping the United States as one. The North believed it was immoral to own slaves. The South on the other hand felt that slavery was necessary to their economy and lifestyle. When Lincoln became president by one the southern states seceded from the Union. The big question was whether or not the South had the right to secede. It was legal for territories to become states, but it was not stated in any document that states could break away from the United States – because thats what they are supposed to be, united.
When writing the Gettysburg Address Lincoln had in mind the equality of all citizens. He felt that winning back the South and abolishing slavery was a tough fight that many had given their life to win. Lincoln expressed this when he said, It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who have fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.(Doc.25 lines 12-14). In the Address, Lincoln also showed his fears of losing the war. That these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. (Doc. 25 lines 17-20). This also meant that Lincoln thought that if the nation remained divided it could not survive, that the country and unique type of government it had would no longer be in existence.
The Declaration of Independence was written to declare the independence of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain. This document, like the Gettysburg Address, states, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. (Declarationlines 9-11). This statement meant to grant freedom to all the people living in the colonies. The document went on to list a number of repeated injuries and usurpations, committed by the King of Britain against the colonies. (Declarationlines 33-34). Like the Address, the Declaration was also written in a time of turmoil and struggle.
Both the Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence were meant as symbols of freedom and equality. The Declaration intended to give equality but did not have the power to do so. When the Constitution was written it did not include equal rights for all. The Gettysburg Address intended to instill in the hearts of Americans a new sense of equality, equality for all. The Address also did not have the power to do this. After the Address was written the Emancipation Proclamation was also written by Lincoln to emancipate all slaves living in Confederate territory. This was so far the only document that actually headed more in the direction of equality than any other. Both the Address and the Declaration were symbols of freedom and liberty against a foe that intended to demolish these concepts.
The Gettysburg Address is recognized as the one of the most moving expressions of the democratic spirit ever uttered.(Encarta). The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important symbols of what America stands for. Both are important in recognizing how we as Americans have come to enjoy the freedom and equality that we have today.
Document 25. The Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln
Encarta Encyclopedia. The Gettysburg Address 1996