On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave what is now considered to be one of the most famous speeches in United States history, the Gettysburg Address. He gave it at Gettysburg, 35 miles southwest of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, after 170,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died there, in a battle that lasted from July 1 to July 3, 1863.
Both President Lincoln and Edward Everett, the former president of Harvard College, former U.S. senator and former secretary of state, gave speeches at the dedication of the national cemetary at Gettysburg. Everett’s speech was 2 hours long; Lincoln’s was 2 minutes. Later, Everett wrote a letter to Lincoln stating, "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes."
Of the various versions of the Gettysburg address, the Bliss version below is viewed by many as the standard text. It is the only version to which Lincoln affixed his signature. Notice that in the first and most famous line, he invoked the Declaration of Independence. Thus, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address not only cited the Civil War as a struggle for the Union, but also for the principle of human equality. Recall that he had issued an executive order on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation.
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.