Do you know the Gettysburg Address?

"National monument to be erected at Gettysburg, Pa. -- ." By James Goodwin Batterson. (New York: Major & Knapp, ca. 1863-1867)
“National monument to be erected at Gettysburg, Pa. — .” By James Goodwin Batterson. (New York: Major & Knapp, ca. 1863-1867)

“The newspapers are making morning after morning the rough draft of history. Later, the historian will come, take down the old files, and transform the crude but sincere and accurate annals of editors and reporters into history, into literature. The modern school must study the daily newspaper.” – The State (Columbia, SC) December 5, 1905

On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most memorable speeches in American history when the cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated just four months after the great battle.  Edward Everett spoke first for over two hours.  When it was Lincoln’s turn, his speech was over almost before people realized he had begun.

One of the people in the audience was a reporter for the Associated Press.  He sent in a report about the speech which was subsequently printed in various newspapers.  The Cincinnati Gazette for November 21, 1863, printed the entirety of Everett’s speech on page 1.  On page 3, they gave a description of the ceremony and included Lincoln’s speech as recorded by the AP reporter.  Whether he tried to copy it down by shorthand or tried to reconstruct it from memory and/or by consulting others who were there, we do not know.  It does differ from the traditional version of the Gettysburg Address we know today from fair copies written out by Lincoln after the event.

Here is the version reported in the Cincinnati Gazette.  See how many differences you can find:

7992_0001Four-score and seven years ago our fathers established upon this continent a government subscribed in liberty and dedicated to the fundamental principal that all mankind are created free and equal by a good God – [applause] – and now we are engaged in a great contest deciding the question whether this nation or any nation so conserved, so dedicated, can long remain.  We are met on a great battlefield of the war.  We are met here to dedicate a portion of that field as the final resting place of those who have given their lives that it might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this, but in a large sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.  The brave men, the living and the dead who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our power to add or detract from the work.  [Great applause.]

Let us long remember what we say here, but not forget what they did here.  [Immense applause.]  It is for us rather, the living, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried forward.  [“Good,” and great applause.]  It is for us here to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us, for us to renew our devotion to that cause for which they gave the full measure of their devotion.  Here let us resolve that what they have done shall not have been done in vain; that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth offered; that the Government of the people, founded by the people, shall not perish.

Published by

Vincent Golden

Curator of Newspapers and Periodicals, American Antiquarian Society

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