Today is the 150th anniversary of the delivery of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. President Lincoln had been invited to deliver “a few appropriate remarks” at dedication ceremony of the soldiers’ cemetery at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg. Edward Everett, a leading orator of the time, had spoken for two hours prior to the President’s address. The audience was taken by surprise when President Lincoln’s address had drawn to a close after approximately three minutes. Upon completion, the address was met with “long continued applause,” as well as three cheers from the audience. Some favorable reviews from newspapers around the country were published in the November 20th issue of The New York Times,
Chicago Tribune: “The dedicatory remarks by President Lincoln will live among the annals of man.”
Springfield (Mass.) Republican: “Surprisingly fine as Mr. Everett’s oration was in the Gettysburg consecration, the rhetorical honors of the occasion were won by President Lincoln. His little speech is a perfect gem; deep in feeling, compact in thought and expression, and tasteful and elegant in every word and comma. Then it has the merit of unexpectedness in its verbal perfection and beauty… Turn back and read it over, it will repay study as a model speech. Strong feelings and a large brain are its parents.”
As well as unfavorable reviews.
Chicago Times: “The cheeks of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances.”
Care to read it for yourself? The text of the speech that has been inscribed on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial can be found on this Library of Congress page. If you’d like to see the original drafts, The Library of Congress owns what is known as the “Hay Draft” and the “Nicolay Copy” and has made them available as part of their online Gettysburg Address exhibition.
The Mudd Library’s Lincoln Reading Room contains an interesting collection of Abraham Lincoln-related documents, pictures, and works of art- including bronze casts of President Lincoln’s hands and face.
“Contemporary Reactions.” The Gettysburg Address. Cornell University Library, 2008. Web 18 November 2013.
“Gettysburg Address.” Encyclopedia of American Studies. : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. Credo Reference. Web. 18 November 2013.
“Gettysburg Address.” The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Houghton Mifflin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. Credo Reference. Web. 18 November 2013.
“The Heroes of July.” The New York Times. 20 November 1863. The Learning Network: Teaching and Learning With The New York Times. Web. 18 November 2013.