Wednesday, November 19, 2008


November 19, 1863:
American Civil War: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address at the military cemetery dedication ceremony at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Wikipedia had this to say about the Gettysburg Address:

The Gettysburg Address is a speech by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and one of the most quoted speeches in United States history. It was delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, during the American Civil War, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the decisive Battle of Gettysburg.

Abraham Lincoln's carefully crafted address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but as "a new birth of freedom" that would bring true equality to all of its citizens, and that would also create a unified nation in which states' rights were no longer dominant.

Here is the speech in its generally accepted form:

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.

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 battle-field 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.

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. 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.
[Lincoln is seen in the center of this photograph at the dedication ceremony.]

Carl Sandburg's account of the speech and its impact and import rises above analysis to become poetry:

He has stood that day, the world's foremost spokesman of popular government, saying that democracy was yet worth fighting for. He had spoken as one in mist who might head on deeper yet into the mist. He incarnated the assurances and pretenses of popular government, implied that it could and might perish from the earth. What he meant by "a new birth of freedom" for the nation could have a thousand interpretations. The taller riddles of democracy stood up out of the address. It had the dream touch of vast and furious events epitomized for any foreteller to read what was to come. He did not assume that the drafted soldiers, substitutes, and bounty-paid privates had died willingly under Lee's shot and shell, in deliberate consecration of themselves to the Union cause. His cadences sang the ancient song that where there is freedom men have fought and sacrificed for it, and that freedom is worth men's dying for. For the first time since he became President he had on a dramatic occasion declaimed, howsoever it might be read, Jefferson's proposition which had been a slogan of the Revolutionary War - "All men are created equal" - leaving no inference other than that he regarded the Negro slave as a man. His outwardly smooth sentences were inside of them gnarled and tough with the enigmas of the American experiment.

President Abraham Lincoln and his address at Gettysburg play a small but interesting role in Toobworld, tucked away in a sitcom episode of all places. Rob Petrie's great-uncle, Hezekiah Petrie, was born in Gettysburg in 1863, probably no more than two weeks before the address. He lived to be at least 100 years of age, and left a living will for his favorite relative (even though he had not seen Rob since the writer was 13 years old). In the movie, Hezekiah presented his bequest as a riddle, singing "Me And My Shadow" before letting Rob know that his rolltop desk and all its contents were his.

It took Rob and Laura some time before they finally realized the true value of the desk's contents: there was a framed photograph of Hezekiah as a baby, held by his father. But once the frame was removed, one could see not only that Abraham Lincoln was in the background ("all alone and feeling blue"), but that the picture had been taken by Matthew Brady! Apparently it was taken in the hotel where the President was staying. (Whether it was after or before the dedication ceremony, I don't know.)
So even though he was just a newborn at the time, a relative of Rob Petrie's had been present in Gettysburg at one of the most famous moments in the nation's history.
And because Lincoln is turned away in the photograph, there are no recastaway problems in saying it's the same tele-version of Lincoln as seen in such shows as 'The Time Tunnel', 'Sunday Showcase' and 'Captains And The Kings' (as played by Ford Rainey).
Toby O'B

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