Seven score and ten years ago today our nation's greatest president brought forth the Gettysburg Address. I hope you will celebrate by reading about the dozens of other addresses given at cemeteries in the years leading into Civil War! While none of them rival Lincoln's address in quality, they provide the context of his address. For they established the framework of cemetery dedications as places for celebration of the Union and the economic and moral progress since the Revolution. That is, the addresses were important constitutional documents even before Lincoln gave us one our nation's most important, if concise, constitutional documents.
The image is of the Soldier's National Memorial at Gettysburg, which is supposed to mark the spot where Lincoln delivered his address (though subsequent research has revealed a different location, which may be in the Evergreen Cemetery.)
I also have a post up this morning, "The First Gettysburg Address: A New Bond of Union," on the National Constitution Center's blog, It is about Edward Everett's address immediately preceding Lincoln's address. I begin: "If your fifth grade social studies class was like mine, in addition to memorizing Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address you also heard about some long-winded Harvard professor who spoke for hours before Lincoln and said nothing worthwhile. Amidst all of the talk of Lincoln’s address, I’m going to refocus on that long-winded figure: Edward Everett. It turns out that he was, actually, quite sought-after as a speaker in those years when oratory was a primary form of entertainment. Many were too busy to read and print was too expensive anyway, so public addresses were a common form of communication for political ideas." I go on to write about Everett's address, which told the history of the Gettysburg campaign, rebutted Southern arguments regarding secession, and called for reconciliation. At the end he called for "a new bond of Union." It was a great set up to Lincoln's address because it provided the context for Lincoln's brief and eloquent restatement of our nation's commitment to equality and democracy.
One other update here -- on a lighter note -- check out the Gettysburg Address in powerpoint. This is a lot of fun.