Four Score equals 80…Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

"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."   --Abraham Lincoln, 1863

How is it that three short paragraphs—probably less than five minutes of speaking, unless Abraham Lincoln really liked to take his time—have made such a lasting impression upon us? Why do we remember the Gettysburg Address and not the countless other speeches the Civil War President made before his death?

This speech, made at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery four months after the battle of the same name, was listed as "Dedicatory Remarks" on the program for the dedication ceremony, indicative of the brief and passing nature many knew it to be. But as it was later recorded for consumption in newspapers and other lithograph printings, this brief speech became the rally cry of the Union, even after Lincoln's murder two years later. Some people would remember the experience years—even decades—later. Because of its brevity, it has appeared at celebrations and in classrooms (maybe you had to recite it in sixth grade? I did!), and is permanently engraved in its entirety on the interior wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

There are five known versions in his handwriting—drafts from before the speech and copies requested for printing or auction. Read the one that was determined to have been the one spoken at the cemetery here, opens a new window.