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“Nicolay Copy” of the Gettysburg Address, 1863., page 1

Abraham Lincoln

House Divided Project at Dickinson College

House Divided Project at Dickinson College

This document represents the earliest known of the five drafts of what may be the most famous American speech. Delivered by President Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, at the dedication of a memorial cemetery on November 19, 1863, it is now familiarly known as the "Gettysburg Address." Drawing inspiration from his favorite historical document, the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln equated the catastrophic suffering caused by the Civil War with the efforts of the American people to live up to "the proposition that 'all men are created equal.'" This document is presumed to be the only working, or pre-delivery, draft and is commonly identified as the Nicolay Copy because it was once owned by John George Nicolay, Lincoln's private secretary. The first page is on White House (then Executive Mansion) stationery, lending strong support to the theory that it was drafted in Washington, D.C. But the second page is on what has been loosely described as foolscap, suggesting that Lincoln was not fully satisfied with the final paragraph of the Address and rewrote that passage in Gettysburg, on November 19, while staying at the home of Judge David Wills.

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  • Title: “Nicolay Copy” of the Gettysburg Address, 1863., page 1
  • Creator: Abraham Lincoln
  • Original Source: Library of Congress
  • Transcription: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon 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 it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. 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 hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here. It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us —that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, 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.
  • Reproduction Number: Digital ID # al0186p1-# al0186p2

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