Saturday, November 20, 2021

No One Cheered at Lincoln's Dedication Speech -- Gettysburg Address

    So how bad of a failure was Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on November 19th, 1863? 
    The Democrat “Copperhead” Chicago Times newspaper (1854-1895) posted this editorial on Nov.24th, 1863 about the speech: "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States."
    C.R. Graham includes in his book, Under Both Flags. A Panorama of the Great Civil War as Represented in Story, Anecdote, Adventure, and the Romance of Reality (1896) p.73-74, an account of the crowd’s acceptance of Lincoln’s speech at the Gettysburg event by W. H. Cunnington, who was a newspaper correspondent up on the stage. Accounts differ as to how well accepted Lincoln’s speech was, and what the exact wording of the speech was etc. Don’t know how long after the war this account was written down by Cunnington. It is interesting that he views the audience being taken by surprise at how short it was and by the non-melodramatic way Lincoln spoke as explanations as to why the crowd did not cheer when Lincoln spoke. Since the previous speech had been two hours long, it is possible that the shortness of Lincoln’s address may indeed have been a reason the crowd was unresponsive. Again, this is one person’s memory of that historic event.
Cunnington writes:
    “It was my privilege to be present at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery at Gettysburg, on the afternoon of November 19, 1863, and to hear the now world-famous address of Abraham Lincoln on that occasion. I can bear witness to the fact that this address, pronounced by Edward Everett to be unequaled in the annals of oratory, fell upon unappreciative ears, was entirely unnoticed, and wholly disappointing to a majority of the hearers. This may have been owing in part to the careless and undemonstrative delivery of the orator, but the fact is that he had concluded his address and resumed his seat before most of the audience realized that he had begun to speak.
    It was my good fortune as a newspaper correspondent to occupy a place directly beside Mr. Lincoln when he delivered this brief oration, and on the other side of the speaker was Hon. W. H. Seward. Other members of the Cabinet had seats on the stand, and I also noticed Governors Curtin, Seymour, Tod, Morton, and Bradford, Hon. Edward Everett, and Colonel John W. Forney.
    At the conclusion of Mr. Everett’s scholarly oration, Mr. Lincoln faced the vast audience. He looked haggard and pale, and wore rather a shabby overcoat, from an inside pocket of which he drew a small roll of manuscript. He read his address in a sort of drawling monotone, the audience remaining perfectly silent. The few pages were soon finished; Mr. Lincoln doubled up the manuscript, thrust it back into his overcoat pocket, and sat down. Not a word, not a cheer, not a shout. The people looked at one another, seeming to say, “Is that all?”  
    The full text of Mr. Lincoln’s address was as follows:
    ‘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 longer 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 that 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, shalt have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’ 
    I am well aware that accounts have differed as to the manner of this address and its reception by the audience. I was an eye-witness and hearer, and my position was immediately beside the speaker, therefore that foregoing account may be relied upon.”

    In the days following the event, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address got both positive and negative reviews by various newspapers. Democrat papers like the Chicago Times paned Lincoln’s speech, after all the people there didn’t cheer, or they laughed at it. Many Republican leaning newspapers were more complementary of his wording and presentation, or at least neutral in their evaluation of it. It should be no surprise that “politics” played into how Lincoln’s words were evaluated back then, just like happens today.  Growing up in the 1950s/60s, my family would go and watch the Memorial Day parade in our small town in upstate New York, and then go to the cemetery for the Memorial Service. Each year from our local high school Senior class a young lady was selected to read the poem “In Flanders’s Fields”, and a young man to read the Gettysburg address. I got to do it my Senior year. That was back when Lincoln was honored and his words were viewed as a positive challenge. Now his statues are being defaced and torn down by ‘woke progressives’. Guess the democrats haven’t changed much in their assessment of Lincoln and his speech.
    Various studies have been done tracing how his Gettysburg address has been interpreted over the years. And there have been changes of interpretation of what he was saying, and differing views of what it should inspire in people who hear it today. Differences of interpretation are legitimate discussions.
    But to interpret his speech as hateful and representing a foul nation that is all just show, with no real equality is a Marxist lie being pushed by those who hate the freedom our nation was founded on: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
    Yes, indeed our nation has had many serious problems over the years. Some have been addressed and other still remain. Equality of opportunity (NOT a guarantee of success or acceptance, but opportunity to work for it) and equality before the law (riches, connections, political power do not give an advantage or give a disadvantage) is the solid foundation that is needed to constantly address differences and conflicts. 
    “Equity” is a “woke progressive” ploy to give the elites power over the masses who submit for “compensation” given to preferred “categories” of people. I posted a satirical blog back in 2013 about what then President Obama’s version of the Gettysburg address might have sounded like had he given it in 1863 instead of Lincoln (What would President Obama’s version of the Gettysburg Address be?). I suggested that Obama would have praised “federalization”. I didn’t know how correct I was in describing the agenda of the “woke progressives”. I choose to stand with Lincoln, imperfect as he was. And I stand with America, imperfect as we are. Judge others individually by the character of their heart, not by their group ethnicity. Reject the Marxist equity path which divides us into group categories to allow the elites to control us. Do not let the men who died at Gettysburg die in vain.