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In November 1863, President Abraham Lincoln was invited to deliver remarks at the dedication of a cemetery on the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, which had raged in the Pennsylvania countryside for three days during the previous July.
Lincoln used the opportunity to write a brief yet thoughtful speech. With the Civil War in its third year the nation was enduring a staggering cost in human life, and Lincoln felt compelled to offer a moral justification for the war. He deftly connected the founding of the nation with the war to keep it united, called for a "new birth of freedom," and ended by expressing his ideal vision for the American government.
The Gettysburg Address was delivered by Lincoln on November 19, 1863.
Text of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:
Fourscore 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 this 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.