I was invited by BBC Radio Scotland’s John Beattie today to go into the studio and talk about the speech and public speaking on his show at 1pm.
This made me look at the speech more closely and in a new light, and it’s worth studying if you haven’t done so already.
The Gettysburg Address lasted just over 2 minutes.
Lincoln was the second speaker that day after Edward Everett, a famous orator of the time.
Everett’s speech lasted 2 hours.
Lincoln’s speech lasted 2 minutes – a masterpiece of brevity, clarity, and rhetorical devices such as anaphora, epistrophe, repetition, triads, and metaphor.
The day after the Address, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
There are 5 known copies of the Gettysburg Address, all in Lincoln’s handwriting, all a little different. This one is thought to be the one most often reproduced.
See if you can spot all the different rhetorical devices Lincoln used.
The 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.
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 battle-field 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 cannot dedicate — we cannot 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.
— Abraham Lincoln
Nov. 19, 1863
Post written by Moira Beaton DTM
VPPR waverley Communicators