Freedom: A History of US

Webisode 6. Segment 7
A New Birth of Freedom

In the fall of 1863, tourists, sightseers, and grieving families pour into the little town Gettysburg See It Now - Crowd Gathered at Gettysburg. The war is not yet over, but eighteen northern states have agreed to share the costs of a national cemetery to be established on Cemetery Hill. The dead soldiers will rest in peace. A ceremony is planned for November 19 to honor them. The famous orator Edward Everett See It Now - Edward Everett will give a major address. The President is asked to make a few remarks. Lincoln doesn't want to miss this occasion. He has come a day early to work on his speech. He will try to explain the meaning of the war. Many Northerners are crying out for peace. They no longer care about the Union, or the slaves. Lincoln knows the nation can have peace any time it wants. But that would end the United States. Lincoln believes this terrible war has a purpose. He believes it must give new birth to the dream. The 15,000 listeners who sit or stand in the afternoon sun are hot and tired when the President finally rises, puts on his steel-rimmed glasses, and reads his few remarks See It Now - Lincoln at the Time of the Gettysburg Address Check The Source - Abraham Lincoln Delivers the Gettysburg Address. E.W. Andrews is in the crowd. He later writes: "On this occasion he came out before the vast assembly, and stepped slowly to the front of the platform, with his hands clasped before him ... his head bent forward, his eyes cast to the ground. In this attitude he stood for a few seconds, silent, as if communing with his own thoughts; and when he began to speak ... his manner indicated no consciousness of the presence of tens of thousands hanging on his lips."

And then Abraham Lincoln delivers these words:

Hear It Now - Abraham Lincoln 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 battlefield 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 the nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot 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 See It Now - The Gettysburg Address.

When the President finishes there is not a sound—not a clap, not a cheer. Most of those who listen that day at Gettysburg do not know they are hearing one of the greatest speeches ever written, but all know their president is speaking from his heart Check The Source - Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.

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