The Gettysburg Address is universally recognized by historians and scholars alike as the most famous and most important speech ever delivered by a US President. Its true meaning and significance to the American promise deserves a new analysis for each generation in an effort to keep not only the speech itself relevant for that new generation, but more importantly, to reinvigorate the steadfast purpose of the our God-given rights to liberty and equality.

An understanding of the back drop and the events leading to the speech are necessary for a full appreciation and comprehension to Mr. Lincoln speech’s power, beauty and timelessness. His speech delivered at any other time may not have had the same influence or remembrance without that very relationship to historical events. But after three years of war weariness on both sides of the conflict, a a fierce and bloody turning point had been reached upon the battlefield of Gettysburg from July 1-3, 1863.

I hope you take the time to read this post in full, as I will attempt to do an analysis of Mr. Lincoln’s address so as to clarify it, as well as accentuate what he was attempting to relay as to the importance of our “resolve” to carry on with the same dedication that those had demonstrated upon the battlefield of Gettysburg. Here is the Lincoln’s speech in full, followed by my own Gettysburg Address analysis, line by line, as well as my interpretation as to its meaning today.

“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. 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

Here is my line by line analysis of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“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.” Here Lincoln opens with a powerful connection to what we are to put this battle in context with. By opening with a comparison to the original dream, and the dedication to which men had risked all to fight in such a battle, he is ensuring that everyone realizes that “all men are created equal”, referencing Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence. Those very words had come to the forefront of our Civil War as a critical issue.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” Lincoln now is making the counter argument if such sacrifice is warranted. He is asking the more important questions, the broader scope of this civil war: Can our nation, so conceived in liberty, endure the inherit nature of Man? Can we pass the test of the dedication required? Are those questions not as relevant today as they were in the past? I believe that we face unique and nefarious challenges still today. These challenges can only be met by passing the test with continued dedication to our nation, one conceived in liberty.

“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.” The dedication ceremony that day bore no importance to President Lincoln, knowing that what they were acknowledging was not a new monument, but a testimony to Americans in their willingness to dedicate themselves to a nation conceived in liberty. Once again, Lincoln carefully pointing to the greater struggle and importance of that day and forever more.

“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,” This is the call-to-arms to all Americans, present and future. Here is Lincoln’s endeavor to instill and implore why they are there. Moreover, Lincoln is reminding us what must be required from here on out; an example so nobly set by those that they honored that day. The great task was not the Battle of Gettysburg, but the devotion to the cause of freedom that made these soldiers so willing to lay their lives on the line. Our resolve to carry forward with “increased devotion” is the only assurance to our nation carrying forward. This was then and is still today, “the great task remaining before us.”

“. . .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.” Here Lincoln sets our eyes on the future, not to mourn the dead. This is not so much a day of remembrance as it is a day to give a “new birth” of our dedication for the greater good of all people, as they so determine so as a free people.

Why I Issued My Own Gettysburg Address Analysis

I wrote this for two reasons. One, I hear of defeatist statements from Americans about the future survival of their own country. They enjoy the freedoms paid for by such men as those at Gettysburg, but are unwilling to show any type of devotion to its continuance. This is hypocrisy and cowardice. Reap and you do not sow? These hypocrites do not deserve freedom as they are not willing to exchange the price inherently built into it.

Secondly, I wrote this Gettysburg Address analysis for those who are dedicated to such a cause and to let them know that they are in the right. They are carrying the torch of freedom. Some are soldiers, and many are ordinary citizens to write, organize, educate and mobilize in their own way, forwarding a message of empowerment and freedom. It is to the latter crown to which I devote this post to.

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