Lincoln’s “We Have to Continue the War” Speech

When reading Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, we should be reminded of something. If you really know your biblical books, you should be able to recognize something else. The way the sixteenth President of the United Union States worded the document was in such a way similar to that of the King James Version Bible.

It was very short. The man who spoke before Lincoln, spoke for two hours. Lincoln stood up and sat back down about two-five minutes later. This was a crowd pleaser in some ways. However, not many people in Lincoln’s time or who were even listeners of the speech remembered or quoted his speech. It was confusing to listen to. Newspapers then added it to their papers. When read, Lincoln’s address was easy to follow and more memorable.

Public schools and some homeschooling curriculums require students to memorize this. But that seems to be where the learning of the document ends. Some teachers may speak about it a little, but they probably do not get into any depth. Such as the following I will be sharing with you.

 

“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 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.”
-Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

This speech is so similarly structured and written like that of the Declaration of Independence, the King James Bible, and John Wycliffe’s first English Bible. In the first paragraph, the phrase, “that all men are created equal”, we find this in the Declaration of Independence. The last statement, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”, hints at Wycliffe’s (1384) prologue statement, “This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people, and by the people.” So that the people may not perish but have everlasting life.

Like that of the KJV Bible, the way the words are put together, read, and thought of bring the reader who is familiar with both literary works to believe Lincoln had read the version of the Bible. He seemed to believe in God. However, he used this Christian language in way that he pointed to the North, claiming that what they were doing was right and the godly way.

“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.”

With the sentences above, we can take this several ways. It may have seemed “proper that we should do this”. “This” could mean continuing the war of trying to unite and bring back the old United States, or just simply giving the speech in honor of the brave men who gave their lives.

“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.”

These two sentences basically say the same thing. Let me put it in a few short and easily understandable words: “We, the living, should honor the dead, by continuing the war and winning.”

This speech may have seemed inspiring but was it right? Was it correct to continue the war? Why did Lincoln go to war? This is another essay, but let me hit some important points.

It was wrong to go to war. Just like Lincoln quoted at the beginning, the Declaration of Independence gave the South the right to secede. It was the Revolutionary War all over again. Lincoln and the North in some cases in the shoes of England. The South should have been left alone. But Lincoln knew the North would not make it long without the South. But he could have tried to make peace a different way with the South instead of going to war. There is more I could go on, but again, another time.

~Perrissa

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