Lincoln At Gettysburg – November 19, 1863 (As Read By Harry E. Humphrey)

The "afterthought speech" burned into the collective psyche.
The “afterthought speech” burned into the collective psyche.
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Probably the most famous speech given by a U.S. President, The Gettysburg Address by President Abraham Lincoln lasted barely 4 minutes. It consisted of notes scribbled down as the President rode the train from Washington to the battlefield for its commemoration on November 19, 1863.

This is probably the first recording of the now-famous speech, as it was given that day in 1863, recorded for posterity (and a little overdone) by actor/orator Harry E. Humphrey for Victor Records, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that now-pivotal battle and the dedication of the Gettysburg battlefield as a memorial on November 19, 1913. This recording was made on February 20, 1914.

Just as potent today as it was then.  Just as relevant.

President Lincoln: “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 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.”

Little did anyone realize, especially Lincoln, that this one address would have the lasting impact it has had over so many decades and across two centuries.

Simple words for complex times.

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