The Gettysburg Address was a speech delivered by then-President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg in 1863. Gettysburg had been the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Although exceedingly brief, the Gettysburg Address is remembered as one of America’s greatest political speeches.
In its immediate context, the Gettysburg Address was meant to help dedicate the Cemetery at Gettysburg. More generally, Lincoln took up the question: what is the cause for which Union soldiers have fought and died at Gettysburg and throughout the Civil War? His answer was: the fundamental principles of liberty and equality contained in the Declaration of Independence. He impressed upon his audience the noble calling of which they were a part, as well as the urgency of their task: if the United States failed to prove the viability of their republican experiment, he warned, government of, by, and for the people might “perish from the earth.”
This version of the speech appears in a work called Autograph Leaves of Our Country’s Authors, an edited volume including short contributions by other notable figures of the day alongside Lincoln’s speech. It was published in 1864 and sold to raise money for charitable causes related to the Civil War.
Who: The author of the Gettysburg Address is Abraham Lincoln. Autograph Leaves was edited by Alexander Bliss and John Pendleton Kennedy.
Why: In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln took up the question: what is the cause for which Union soldiers have fought and died at Gettysburg and throughout the Civil War? His answer was: the fundamental principles of liberty and equality contained in the Declaration of Independence.
When: The Gettysburg Address was delivered on November 19, 1863. It was published in Autograph Leaves of Our Country’s Authors in 1864.
Publishing information: Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg by Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863, in Lincoln's handwriting. In Autograph Leaves of Our Country's Authors. First Edition. Baltimore: Cushings and Bailey, 1864.
Read the Gettysburg Address. What is your favorite line? What does it mean? Why do you think it is important?