Gettysburg Address Annotated
Abraham Lincoln, November 1863
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.1
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.2
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.3 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.4
1President Lincoln opens by referring to the U.S. founding 87 years previously and identifies the nation’s roots of liberty and equality.
2Referring to the Civil War, he questions whether the founders’ vision can last and identifies the battlefield on which they are gathered as one where people died so that the nation might survive.
3The president says that the soldiers who fought and died here have already dedicated it better than those gathered could do.
4He states that the way those still living can best honor the dead is to dedicate themselves to the cause for which they fought—freedom and the preservation of the Union.