Lincoln had prepared remarks, written on a slip of paper. Legend has it that he threw the address together as he rode on a train toward Gettysburg, but he actually spent a bit more time on it than that. By the time he got to the ceremony, he had prepared remarks that he had carefully considered, and he reportedly used them. But here’s the interesting part: Modern scholars aren’t sure which of the five known, still-existing transcripts Lincoln used that day—or potentially he could even have used an unknown, sixth transcript! …
The version that is most often cited is the transcript that was requested by historian George Bancroft; he intended to use if at a fundraiser for soldiers. The request was fulfilled, but the final transcript was ultimately delivered to Bancroft’s stepson, Colonel Alexander Bliss. The so-called “Bliss copy” is the last known transcript written in Lincoln’s hand. It is also the only transcript that has his signature.
“The brave men,” Lincoln stated, “living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. . . . 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.”
It’s a resolve that bears repeating, isn’t it?