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Bancroft copy of the Gettysburg address - Cornell University Library, Rare & Manuscript Collection

Annotated Gettysburg Address - Handwritten version

Annotated Text

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 battlefield 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 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

Fourscore

Fourscore

Fourscore and seven years:  87 years

Fourscore and seven years ago:  87 years ago = 1776  Lincoln is referring to July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence, and the founding of the United States.

Garry Wills.  "Don Fehrenbacher plausibly traces the form of Lincoln's opening words back to an 1861 speech in the House of Representatives, in which Galusha Grow said "Fourscore [and five] years ago..." But all such uses echo the "four score and ten" years allotted to mankind in Psalm 90." (p. 78)

Bible. Psalm 90, verse 10: "The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." (King James version)

Our Fathers

America's Founding Fathers: Delegates to the Constitutional Convention

Garry Wills (p. 84-85) "When [Lincoln] refers to the fathers, it is usually to call them the authors of the Declaration of Independence. And of course the pre-eminent father in this context is Jefferson...the man who enunicated the proposition to which the country is dedicated."

A New Nation

new nation -- To Form a More Perfect Union

new nation -- Primary Documents in American History: The American Revolution and the New Nation, 1763-1815

This Continent

this continent

Garry Wills. (p. 77) "It had created the cliche of America's founding on a 'virgin continent'--a false metaphor (original Americans have to be ignored, or removed, to make the continent 'vigin") but a persistent one, because it was so deep a part of American myth."

Liberty

liberty (wikipedia)

All men are created equal

All men are created equal (wikipedia)

Civil war

civil war (rmc.library.cornell.edu)

Great battlefield of that war

great battlefield of that war (wikipedia)

Final resting place

final resting place (The Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg)

Consecrate

consecrate (www.webwordonline.com)

Hallow

hallow (www.webwordonline.com)

World will little note

world wil little note (nytimes.com)

What we say here

what we say here (www.npr.org)

What they did here

what they did here (www.npr.org)

Unfinished work

unfinished work (thinkingwithshakespeare.org)

New birth of freedom

new birth of freedom (www.digitalhistory.uh.edu)

Government of the people, by the people, for the people

Government of the people, by the people, for the people (bartleby.com)