On November 19, 1861 (exactly seven score and eight years ago) Abraham Lincoln delivered a 272-word address in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on a battlefield that just a few months earlier had been soaked with the blood of those who surrendered their lives for the premise that all men are created equal. The nation would endure another full year and nearly five months of bloodshed before the Civil War would finally be over. In the end, 600,000 men would be dead, a President would be assassinated, and a number of states would continue their rebellion against equal treatment under the law for one hundred more years.
It’s still difficult for me to imagine our nation taking up arms to hold itself together.
I don’t want to believe that just a few generations back half the country was willing to dissolve the union to secure the right to own and exploit other human beings. And then I look around and wonder why we still haven’t fully embraced the truths our founders recognized as self-evident (known without proof or reasoning): that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Not only do well over a million unborn babies lose their lives to abortion each year, but an estimated 200,000 children are trafficked as sex slaves--in this country alone.
The words of the Gettysburg Address should give us pause. Lincoln prayed – and died – for a new birth of freedom. He was committed to resurrecting the protections of liberty from the battlefields of the Civil War. But were his words spoken in vain? Have we forgotten why we fought the bloodiest battles on American soil only 150 years ago? How many of us give silent consent to modern day slavery and the exploitation of the unborn? I believe the time is now to fulfill our constitutional mandate to secure the blessings of liberty – not only to ourselves – but to our posterity. Then as now, nothing less than the survival of our nation is at stake.
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 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.
Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863