Abraham Lincoln, November 8, 1863

Alexander Gardner
Albumen silver print

Collection of Keya Morgan, New York City

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“Government of the people, by the people and for the people.”


On November 8, 1863, Lincoln had this portrait taken by Alexander Gardner. While waiting, he read a newspaper account of the speech that famed orator Edward Everett would make at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg. Lincoln would also speak but had yet to compose his remarks, promisingly only that they would be “short, short, short.”


On November 19, after Everett’s three-hour oration, Lincoln rose and delivered a speech of only 271 words. His “Gettysburg Address” powerfully recast the Civil War from being about the simple preservation of the Union to a dedication, consecrated in blood, of a “new birth of freedom” to redeem the purity of the Republic’s founding. In Lincoln’s famous biblical phrasing, “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.”

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