Acton Institute Powerblog

5 Facts About the Gettysburg Address

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Gettysburg AddressToday marks the 150 year anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Here are five facts about one of history’s most famous — and famously brief — speeches:

1. The Gettysburg Address was not written on the back of an envelope. Despite the popular legend that Lincoln wrote the speech on the train while traveling to Pennsylvania, he probably wrote about half of it before leaving the White House on November 18.

2. Much of the language and thematic content of the speech had been used by Lincoln before. The radical aspect of the speech was Lincoln’s assertion that the Declaration of Independence — and not the Constitution — was the true expression of the founding fathers’ intentions for their new nation.

3. There are five different versions of the speech. The most widely quoted one is the oldest.

4. Now regarded as one of the great speeches of history, the address was initially greeted with criticism by many newspapers. The Democratic Chicago Times called the address “a perversion of history so flagrant that the extended charity cannot regard it as otherwise than willful.”

5. “God” is the only proper name mentioned in the speech. The name of the battle is not mentioned.

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Scott in Tulsa

    Adding my thoughts on the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

    It has been
    150 years since Lincoln summarized the true purpose of the United States as a
    nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are
    created equal—the equal nobility of all human beings. In honoring the actions
    of the Union soldiers who had died in the battle—“the last full measure of
    devotion”—Lincoln issued a challenge to those who heard him that day, the
    challenge to complete the unfinished task of the restoration of the nation, a
    task to which we should rededicate ourselves today.

    There is no
    better way to honor and remember Lincoln on this day than for all of us to be devoted,
    to show a firm resolve, to a new birth of freedom and to self-government, which
    is the only course which will further the cause of liberty and human nobility.
    Regardless of the endless debate, the issue to which Lincoln spoke was the
    notorious evil of one human being claiming the right to own another human
    being. However, “ownership” is only the worst manifestation of this evil; it is
    also evil deny any person the liberty and nobility which comes from their
    individual sovereign control over their lives, liberty and property.

    The famous
    reference to “…government of the people, by the people, for the people…,” is a
    clarion call for all to rededicate themselves to the cause espoused in the
    Declaration of Independence, restated in the Fourteenth Amendment, that all are
    created equal, with an individual right to govern their own affairs.

    On this 150th
    anniversary, let us highly resolve to show that increased devotion to defend
    our lives, liberties and property, so help us God.

  • Southern Catholic

    I’m a little confused as to why the Acton Institute would sing the praises of a tyrant such as Lincoln. Considering Lord Acton himself had a much different opinion of the man and his war of aggression. I would like to refer the author to the Acton-Lee correspondence for refernece:

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  • Tim

    The massive welfare state in which Americans now live began with the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. All of our present suffering began with Lincoln and his Radical Republican Party. That’s history–not revisionism.