Why Lincoln must always be honored
Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 20, 2004
Imagine that it’s late November, 141 years ago, and on page three of The New York Times, Harper’s Weekly, or The Baltimore Sun, you find an article such as this: Massachusetts Senator Edward Everett and President Abraham Lincoln spoke, to varying degrees of expertise and magnitude, at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery on 19 November.
The dedication was the climax of a grand, although still perfectly solemn, procession from Gettysburg’s town square, to the Cemetery, about a mile and a half south.
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The Cemetery is now the resting place of the many thousands of Union soldiers that sacrificed so courageously four months ago in and around the small town.
Other dignitaries were present, most notably, Secretary Seward and Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, as well as other state governors and Major Generals of the military.
In front of approximately 15,000 spectators, and in a setting near the entrance of the Cemetery, Rev. Stockton began the ceremonies with a stirring invocation.
The conclusion of Rev. Stockton’s prayer was as follows: &uot;As the trees are not dead, though their foliage is gone, so our heroes are not dead though their forms have fallen. In their proper personality they are all with thee, and the spirit of their example is here. It fills the air, it fills our hearts, and as long as time shall last it will hover in these skies and rest on these landscapes, and pilgrims of our own land and of all lands, will thrill with its inspiration, and increase and confirm their devotion to liberty, religion and God.&uot;
Devastating symbols of the horrific battle in Gettysburg were still apparent on the grounds surrounding the Cemetery, speakers, and crowd.
As another witness to the day’s events said, &uot;all about were traces of the fierce conflict. Rifle pits, cut and scarred trees, broken fences, pieces of artillery wagons and harness, scraps of blue and gray clothing, bent canteens.&uot;
Despite the two-hour length of Everett’s dedication, the unbreakable attention of the large crowd demonstrated the command of his oratory.
As morning turned to afternoon during the speech, the sun broke through the thick late autumn fog, increasing all the more the grandeur of the occasion.
Everett said, as one of his most poignant passages, &uot;how justly, from the dawn of history to the present time, men have paid the homage of their gratitude and admiration to the memory of those who nobly sacrifice their lives, that their fellow-men may live in safety and in honor. And if this tribute were ever due, to whom could it be more justly paid than to those whose last resting-place we this day commend to the blessing of Heaven and of men?&uot;
Lincoln then addressed the fully eager and interested audience.
With his hands folded in front of him, resting on the podium, Lincoln spoke for no more than two minutes with his hands and head in that prayer-like position.
The spectators gave Mr. Lincoln the proper amount of applause at the conclusion of his statement, but many were surprised at the brevity of the comments.
Lincoln’s remarks are now considered one of the single greatest speeches in American history; it was Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which has come to epitomize his fortitude to continue a war while many were calling for compromise for the sake of a short-sighted and empty peace, his courage to end slavery, and his remarkable spirituality, which guided him through the most difficult, trying, and controversial presidency in history.
The above-recreated article, to the best of my limited ability, is faithful to and accurate of many of the common opinions and first-hand accounts voiced by the press of the day.
Two points: one, freedom of the press has often been concurrent with the freedom of hindsight.
This is not a complaint or some cynical jab, it is simply a reminder that just because the so-called experts miss something, does not mean the American people will necessarily miss it when all is said and done.
Two: Lincoln is rightly honored for his courage, fortitude, and principles, specifically though he should be remembered on each Nov. 19.
Our nation has been either very blessed or very fortunate, depending on one’s outlook on such things, to have excellent leaders at its critical periods.
The names that belong on that list, and names that could be added, can be debated endlessly.
How-ever, Nov. 19 should remind us that Abraham Lincoln clearly belongs on such a list, and that the great qualities within Lincoln are some of the same characteristics that keep America great today.