The Gettysburg Address: Inspiration For Our Time

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... government of the people, by the people, for the people

Licoln’s Gettysburg Address

We all recognize the opening of Licoln’s famous Gettysburgh Address and, perhaps, part of its conclusion. Spoiler: it was not written hurriedly on the train from DC to Gettysburgh. But most of us don’t know the speech itself. Lucky for us social media denizens with our dimenished capacities for sustained concentration, it is a short speech, albeit, still too long for a tweet, but not so long that it could not be reproduced comfortably in a tweet thread. I’ve copied the entire speech at the end of this post for those with the daring do necessary to go have a read.

It is its concluding passage that gives it its real mimportance: that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Shall not perish from the earth

At the time of the address, it had looked like our government would perish from the earth. It looked like the North would lose the war, the South would win, and slavery would prevail. Instead, the South merely paused in its pursuit of slavery of Black people.

If we are now fighting for our very democracy, our country, against the biggest threat since The Civil War as so many have characterized it including President Biden, then we need the vision and inspiration of a Lincoln to lead us to victory.

In the absence of transcendent oratory and decisive strategy by our current crop of leadership, we must look to We the People and the past to rise to the occasion and put the threat of white supremacy to rest once and for all.

The Republican attempt to replace government of the people by the People for the people with a single party pseudo-democratic minority-rule autocracy has to be fought as passionately and valiantly a as we fought the slavers of the South during The Civil War.

Comparing the US Now and the US at the Time of Gettysburg

The parallels not only to the war but to the time of Gettysburg are as amazing as they are instructive.

  • In our time, the GQP pass voter suppression and nullification laws like they are a foregone conclusion, and Democrats at the nationa!, state, and local levels seem powerless to stop them. Just as the Union Army seemed unable to stop the rebels during the first two years of the war.The
  • Wherever there are GQP majorities in state legislatures, they pass racially oppressive laws and enforce systemic racism. Across the nation the spread racially divisive rhetoric and encourage open acts of racism. Whenever the Confederate Army encountered free Blacks or runaway slavers they sent them to the slave auctions.
  • Joe Biden and the Democrats won the House, Senate, and Presidency on the strength of the Black vote. The Union Army recruited Blacks soldiers into their ranks and was impressed by their valor during battle. Lincoln considered the largest force available for.preserving the Unio.
  • The North didn’t begin to win the war until after the Emancipation Proclamation and the war was framed in moral terms as a fight against slavery and to preserve the union. We will not begin to win this fight unless and until we can frame it as a fight to preserve our democracy.

Because of the Union losses, people were dispirited, ready to give up and accept slavery, to return to the nation that was. But Lincoln had a vision of what the nation should be — ALL PEOPLE WERE CREATED EQUALLY BEFORE GOD — and a strategy for winning the war. Gettysburg have him the opportunity to sell the People and his generals on both. It was transformational.

After Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg, Lincoln had thought his army would be pursued and destroyed, but the Union generals failed to grasp the opportunity and allowed Lee.to escape.

To win the war Lincoln needed generals who could crush the Confederates completely and decisively. He promoted Grant and Sherman to accomplish the task. Just as we need

Inspiration For Our Trying Times

Lincoln’s Gettysburg address elevated the nation’s discourse as opposed to appealing to the lowest common denominator of instinct and impulse as so many in the right do now.. It is the embodiment of Michelle Obama’s “go high” rhetoric.

What do we need in this moment of existential threat to our democracy?

  • An inspiring vision of what America should be
  • A definitive statement of the threat we face
  • A unified strategy of combating that threat
  • The resources to implement that strtategy

We need to be rallies to our cause. We need to be reminded of why every generation had fought and died to preserve democracy.

We are not getting those things on the scale we need from our elected or part leadership. If we can’t get what we need from our present leadership, we need to get from the past, from Lincoln, the Gettysburg address, and the Civil War. And, this time when we win, we need to put an end to the slavery-inspired white supremacists once and for all.

The Gettysburg Address

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.

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 can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not 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 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.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

This post was inspired by the Jon Meacham, the presidential historian, podcast, Hope ,Through History, season two episode, ,A New Birth to Freedom focused on Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.

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Image Attribution

“Period Photo of Gettysburg Battlefield” by Gary Lee Todd, Ph.D. is marked with CC0 1.0

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