Monday, September 16, 2013

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

by Edd Doerr

On September 15 the Washington Post had a section on the middle period of the Civil War, the battles of Gettysburg Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Chattanoga, etc. It devoted most of a page to Lincoln's November 1863 Gettysburg Address, one of Lincoln's most memorable speeches. The Post printed the whole (short) speech, which concludes  (the Post says "Below is the text as it appears in his [Lincoln's] copy of the speech.") with these words, "we here highly resolve that . . . the nation shall have a new birth of freedom."

However, the version of the speech on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington contains the words "under God" after "THIS nation", and Samuel Eliot Morison's monumental Oxford History of the American People (1965) agrees with the Memorial text.

As there were no tape recorders or television cameras to capture exactly what Lincoln said, we have an interesting mystery here. Can anyone shed any light on the matter? We know that Lincoln never joined a church, though he often attended Washington's New York Avenue Presbyterian Church (at which in 1993 I was one of the speakers at the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights celebration of the 20th anniversary of Roe v Wade), and that he liked  Tom Paine's Age of Reason.

(Edd Doerr is president of Americans for Religious Liberty and a former president of the American Humanist Association.)

1 comment:

Explicit Atheist said...

Two hand written copies given to his secretaries make no mention of god. But three other hand written copies which were written after the speech include that phrase. So the available evidence best fits the conclusion that Lincoln decided to add that phrase at the time he made the speech. Of course, it is possible that he deliberately omitted that phrase from his pre-speech written drafts to conceal his intent, but I think that is unlikely. It is also possible, but highly unlikely, that he did not say those words but added it to his post speech renditions, because eyewitnesses subsequently claimed they heard that phrase.