With just three paragraphs worth of notes scribbled on parchment paper, one man stood before a crowd 150 years ago on Tuesday and tested the power of his words to shape the course of a nation torn apart by brutal war and oppressive inequality. This is how President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address might've been covered if Upworthy -- a site we love -- were around back then. And here's how it might have been received if it was given today.
Lincoln's speech, given four score and seventy years ago -- a joke that history buffs have no doubt been waiting to use for decades -- is now regarded as one of the most famous in U.S. history. From a battlefield where thousands of Americans had killed each other just four and a half months earlier, Lincoln called upon the nation to fulfill the promises of freedom and equality for all, made by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence just 87 years earlier. The war raged on for nearly two years after Lincoln's address, but in his two-minute, 272-word speech, many historians say that he instilled meaning into the violent struggle, and gave the North the will to win for the good of this "new nation."
Below, the text of the most famous version of the Gettysburg Address, which Lincoln signed sometime after giving it:
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.
November 19, 1863