GENESIS OF THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. The theme of the Gettysburg Address was not entirely new. President Lincoln was aware of Daniel Webster's statement in 1830 that the origin of our government and the source of its power is "the people's constitution, the people's government; made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people." Lincoln had read Supreme Court Justice John Marshall's opinion, which states: "The government of the Union . . . is emphatically and truly a government of the people. . . . Its powers are granted by them and are to be exercised directly on them, and for their benefit." In a ringing anti-slavery address in Boston in 1858, Rev. Theodore Parker, the noted minister, defined democracy as "a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people." On a copy of this address in Lincoln's papers, this passage is encircled with pencil marks. But Lincoln did not merely repeat this theme; he transformed it into America's greatest patriotic utterance. With the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln gave meaning to the sacrifice of the dead—he gave inspiration to the living.
Rather than accept the address as a few brief notes hastily prepared on the route to Gettysburg (an assumption which has long gained much public acceptance), it should be regarded as a pronouncement of the high purpose dominant in Lincoln's thinking throughout the war. Habitually cautious of words in public address, spoken or written, it is not likely that the President, on such an occasion, failed to give careful thought to the words which he would speak. After receiving the belated invitation on November 2, he yet had ample time to prepare for the occasion, and the well-known correspondent Noah Brooks stated that several days before the dedication Lincoln told him in Washington that his address would be "short, short, short" and that it was "written, but not finished."
THE FIVE AUTOGRAPH COPIES OF THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. Even after his arrival at Gettysburg the President continued to put finishing touches to his address. The first page of the original text was written in ink on a sheet of Executive Mansion paper. The second page, either written or revised at the Wills residence, was in pencil on a sheet of foolscap, and, according to Lincoln's secretary, Nicolay, the few words changed in pencil at the bottom of the first page were added while in Gettysburg. The second draft of the address was written in Gettysburg probably on the morning of its delivery, as it contains certain phrases that are not in the first draft but are in the reports of the address as delivered and in subsequent copies made by Lincoln. It is probable, as stated in the explanatory note accompanying the original copies of the first and second drafts in the Library of Congress, that it was the second draft which Lincoln held in his hand when he delivered the address. Quite opposite to Lincoln's feeling, expressed soon after the delivery of the address, that it "would not scour," the President lived long enough to think better of it himself and to see it widely accepted as a master piece. Early in 1864, Mr. Everett requested him to join in presenting manuscripts of the two addresses given at Gettysburg to be bound in a volume and sold for the benefit of stricken soldiers at a Sanitary Commission Fair in New York. The draft Lincoln sent became the third autograph copy, known as the Everett-Keyes copy, and it is now in the possession of the Illinois State Historical Library.
George Bancroft requested a copy in April 1864, to be included in Autograph Leaves of Our Country's Authors. This volume was to be sold at a Soldiers' and Sailors' Sanitary Fair in Baltimore. As this fourth copy was written on both sides of the paper, it proved unusable for this purpose, and Mr. Bancroft was allowed to keep it. This autograph draft is known as the Bancroft copy, as it remained in that family for many years. It has recently been presented to the Cornell University Library. Finding that the copy written for Autograph Leaves could not be used, Mr. Lincoln wrote another, a fifth draft, which was accepted for the purpose requested. It is the only draft to which he affixed his signature. In all probability it was the last copy written by Lincoln, and because of the apparent care in its preparation it has become the standard version of the address. This draft was owned by the family of Col. Alexander Bliss, publisher of Autograph Leaves, and is known as the Bliss copy. It now hangs in the Lincoln Room of the White House, a gift of Oscar B. Cintas, former Cuban Ambassador to the United States.
George Bancroft Copy - Held at Cornell University
"Fourscore 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 battle-field 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 cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot 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 here 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, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Of the five known manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address, the Library of Congress has two. President Lincoln gave one of these to each of his two private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. The other three copies of the Address were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes well after November 19. The copy for Edward Everett, the orator who spoke at Gettysburg for two hours prior to Lincoln, is at the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield; the Bancroft copy, requested by historian George Bancroft, is at Cornell University in New York; the Bliss copy was made for Colonel Alexander Bliss, Bancroft's stepson, and is now in the Lincoln Room of the White House.
Did Lincoln add extemporaneously the phrase “under God”
as he delivered the last sentence of the Address?
Prior to the moment he rose to make the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln had not written the phrase “under God” into the final sentence of the text: for the undisputed evidence shows that the written text of the Address, which he held in his lap as he sat on the platform at Cemetery Hill and waited for Edward Everett to end his speech, does not contain the phrase. But did he speak the phrase to the audience gathered before him?
Proof of the fact that he did depends upon accepting as true the newspaper reports of the speech that were printed the day following Lincoln’s delivery of the speech. The New York newspaper reports, including the phrase “under God” in the text of the spoken speech, were based on the statement of Joseph L. Gilbert, a member of the staff of the Associated Press, who claimed he wrote the phrase down as he recorded what he heard Lincoln say. The evidence shows, however, that Gilbert did not record accurately what Lincoln actually said; for example, his version of Lincoln’s speech leaves out the adjective—poor—in the phrase “our poor power” Still other reporters present also appear to have included the phrase “under God” as having been spoken, though they, too, are not completely accurate in giving the exact words of his speech.
Several months later, Edward Everett wrote Lincoln, requesting an autograph copy of the text of the Address which Everett wished to include with his publication of his own quite lengthy speech, given before Lincoln spoke. The text Lincoln sent Everett includes the phrase “under God” as does the text Lincoln later sent to George Bancroft, the last version of the Address known to be in Lincoln’s hand.
The evidence shows that Lincoln spent much time molding and refining the text of his speech before he gave it, writing and rewriting it, deleting words and phrases, adding new ones etc. In the process of doing this, including here the long hours that he held the text in his lap waiting for Everett to finish speaking, it is clear that Lincoln did not include “under God” in the Address. Yet, when he rose and spoke for barely five minutes he suddenly improvised by adding the phrase ab lib? This is strange human behavior, indeed, for a man known to have taken great pains to prepare the text, to not pencil in the phrase into the text as it occurred to him as he waited to speak through the offered prayers, the songs, and the speeches that went before he rose to speak.
Perhaps, the human explanation for the presence of the phrase in the history of the event lies in the politics of the moment, rather than in the nature of his speech-making or in his thoughts about “God.” The fact was that the newspaper reports attributed the phrase to him and, in providing Everett and Bancroft with their requested copies, he saw no practical reason for disputing it. note by Author Joe Ryan Read all Joe Ryan Original Works
Preservation Techniques for Original Drafts
In order to assure the long-term preservation of the two drafts of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in the Library of Congress collections, in the 1990s the Preservation Directorate commissioned the design and manufacture of two environmental cases, one for each document. In addition, the Library constructed a low temperature vault where these encasements and other Top Treasures of the Library will be permanently stored.
As shown in the images below of the display encasement for the Nicolay copy of the Gettysburg Address, the two cases are constructed of heavy-gauge stainless steel frames with clear Plexiglas panels to allow access and viewing of the documents from both sides of the case. The cases are filled with inert argon gas that replaces all the oxygen in the case thereby virtually eliminating deterioration from oxidation. The argon gas is humidified to a low relative humidity to retain the moisture level required in the document, while reducing the impact of high or fluctuating relative humidity. The Plexiglas filters out ultraviolet wavelengths to further protect the document from damaging non-visible radiation when on exhibition.
Prior to the bicentennial Lincoln exhibition (February–May 2009), the cases were assessed in 2008–2009 to integrate advances in technology and new high performance materials. The installation of new gasket materials and valves, and extensive leak testing of the cases, ensured continued high performance to extend the lifetime of the anoxic environment. This controlled environment protects the documents from damaging fluctuations external to the encasement while minimizing oxidative or hydrolytic reactions within the case. The constant low temperature of the case in the permanent storage area (50º Fahrenheit) ensures further protection from environmental changes, greatly extending the lifetime of these precious documents.
The Gettysburg Gospel:
The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows
Reconstructs what really happened in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863.
The Gettysburg Address
9 in. x 12 in.
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Lincoln with Text of Gettysburg Address
18 in. x 24 in.
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