Seven Score and Seven Years Ago: What You Don’t Know About the Gettysburg Address

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On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech that would be quoted for centuries to come. But what do you really know about the Gettysburg Address? Check out some things you may not know about the iconic speech.

  • Lincoln’s address starts with “Four score and seven years ago.” A score is equal to 20 years, so he was referencing 87 years ago — 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed. The speech was made, then, seven score and seven years ago.
  • On the day of the speech, Lincoln’s oration was hardly the highlight of the occasion. Instead, the biggest speech belonged to Edward Everett, who spoke for two hours before Lincoln took the podium.
  • Everett later wrote to Lincoln about his speech, saying, “I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”
  • We get our current text of the speech from the fifth of five written copies, all written in Lincoln’s handwriting. Each copy differs slightly, which probably stems from Lincoln’s self-editing.
  • The Library of Congress has two copies of the address, the Illinois State Historical Library has one, Cornell University has one and one is in the Lincoln room in the White House.

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See the full text of the Gettysburg Address below. (via Britannica, Library of Congress)

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.

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