150 years ago: The Gettysburg Address – Fr Z opines

Four and a half months after the Battle of Gettysburg, on the afternoon of Thursday 19 November 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered a “few appropriate remarks” at the dedication of the cemetery for fallen soldiers.

After a 13,607 word speech by Edward Everett, the President’s address consisted of 10 sentences in 272 words.

Today is the 150th anniversary of the greatest pieces of public oratory in history.


Today of all days Pres. Obama, to mark this occasion, recorded the famous, pivotal speech and left out Lincoln’s reference to God.  HERE

As I watch what is happening domestically and abroad, I think we may be seeing in this presidency…

…the worst thing to happen to these USA since the American Civil War.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. I am ashamed of President Obama. I’m not surprised, but I am ashamed of him and for him. What a sad day this is for our great nation. If anyone looks at our country, they can see just how far it has fallen since we decided to take ‘God’ out of our world and try to hide him. I think at this point, only a terrible chastisement might bring people back to their senses and faith in God. But we are not going to get God out of Obama or find it in our current government structure.

  2. LarryW2LJ says:

    The Gettysburg Address is often hailed as one of the masterpieces of American speech writing. To delete a word, or especially a reference to God is unconscionable, IMHO. And I’m sure that POTUS was not reciting from memory, but had a script in front of him. So. whomever removed God from the script, whether the producers or POTUS himself, committed an act, that in my mind, serves a political agenda. Namely this would be removing God from the public square and fostering the false doctrine of separation of religion from state.

    This, of course, is not what The Founders had intended, but is a lynchpin in the Progressive Agenda, that the State and Government alone be adored and worshiped.

  3. monmir says:

    Consecrate, devotion …words he should not use either.

  4. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “Nothing exists in a vacuum!”, as one priest used to opine. “If you take God out what do you think enters in?”



  5. Legisperitus says:

    He thought it would be immodest to say “this nation under me.”

  6. Priam1184 says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you Father but would slightly amend your comment: the presidency is the culmination of the worst thing to happen to this country since the Civil War. If our culture and society had not sunk to the desolation we see today then Barack Obama would never have gotten beyond being a rabblerouser on the south side of Chicago.

    The deletion of ‘God’ doesn’t trouble me so much, though it is rhetorically unwise, because every lying and hypocritical politician we have uses that word ad infinitum (how many times did Bill Clinton say ‘God’?), but the biblical God of Creation and Redemption and the Church means nothing to them. They are talking about the amorphous, deist, bordering on nonexistent concept of God that came out of the so called Enlightenment and has contributed so much to the destruction of our society, and needs to go away. At least Barack Obama is being honest.

  7. Theodore says:

    Until this administration I thought that Buchanan’s position as Worst.President.Ever was totally secure. Now it’s move over Buck.

  8. jhayes says:

    The video was produced by Ken Burns. On his website for this project he explains that there are five manuscript versions of the Gettysburgh Address and that “we asked President Obama to read the first, the “Nicolay Version.”

    The “Nicolay Version” is on of the two manuscript copies held at the Library of Congress. They are the oldest versions, and neither contains a mention of God.


    [That is spectacularly LAME. You ask the President – also associated with Springfield – who did his oath of office on the Lincoln Bible twice – to record a version that is precisely NOT what Lincoln said. Riiiiight. This screams for the application of the famous razor, of the canon of parsimony. Face it: He’s busted.]

  9. Legisperitus says:

    Wonder if he coughs his way through parts of “America the Beautiful.”

  10. gjp says:

    The only way I can summarize this problem is that this country has become lazy. Too lazy to learn about human rights and where they come from, and too lazy to pay attention to whether or not they are electing persons who understand where rights come from.

    When Obama made his “pay grade” comments, what he was basically saying is that he didn’t feel authorized to decide which human beings had rights and which ones didn’t. Which is to say that he didn’t know where the rights came from, which is to say that he was admitting that he wasn’t qualified to become a local police chief, let alone president of the country.

    Once upon a time, people avoided the question of which human beings had rights and which ones didn’t, by classifying a large group of people as non-humans, which would have included the current president. The man who was president who gave a speech 150 years ago decided the best way to settle it was to start a war which would kill hundreds of thousands and eventually himself. Today, thousands are still dying on top of the millions who have been aborted, not from war but from incidents which echo our nation’s lack of respect for life.

    To admit that our rights come from God is also an admission that they cannot be taken away. Otherwise, they came from man and can therefore be taken away by other men. Therefore, those who deny that rights come from God should not be fit to hold even the lowest of public office. However, the people of this country ignore all of this most of the time, my theory is that they are too busy worrying about what Paris Hilton is doing this week, but whatever it is, it proves that we are lazy when it comes to choosing our public servants.

  11. Phil_NL says:


    You nailed it!

  12. Clinton says:

    Presidents have staff to arrange events like this– nothing is left to chance. This was not just
    a careless omission. Why would he edit the Gettysburg Address? Quite simply, to stick a
    thumb in the eye of that half of the American population he regards as his enemy, and to give
    a wink and a shout-out to his fellow-travelers.

  13. tcreek says:

    There are several differing copies of the Gettysburg address but the only one signed by Lincoln is on the wall at the Lincoln Memorial. It contains “under God”. This accepted version is also posted in the Lincoln Room at the White House.

  14. Legisperitus says:

    He doesn’t want to be under anything. Except an umbrella held by a Marine.

  15. Elodie says:

    Since 2008, I’ve been telling those who say he’s a Muslim in disguise that the man is NOT a Muslim. He’s a Marxist. Thus, he’s an atheist. Islam is just as ridiculous to him as Christianity, but he shows it more respect because that’s what the “cool kids” do. Either that, or Christianity threatens him in ways Islam doesn’t.

  16. Nun2OCDS says:

    He has quoted a signed document inacurately. He should be sued.

  17. tcreek says:

    The Delaration of Independence, 1776
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Obama version, 2010, 4th paragraph
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that each of us are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”


  18. ChrisRawlings says:

    To the contrary, Father, I think that the president may very well go down as one of the best things to happen to America. Now Christians can stop hiding behind a misguided and triunphalistic “Christian Nation” trope. For the past 70 years too many Catholics have been trying to be the most American of Americans, and they have done so right down the road to perdition. A Catholic president? Ah, yes, what better country to be Catholic! And so it started, with Catholics’ easy cooption by the government, especially the Democratic Party, all in the name of social justice and the long-awaited integration into the fabric of American culture.

    All of that is done with. At last the American Church recognizes the basic problem with wrapping itself up in the American flag. In fact, Christians are finally rediscovering the vast mission territory that exists in our own communities. Barack Obama is breaking our idols and forcing us all back to finding our meaning, hope, and future in Jesus Christ. As for me, I’m grateful.

    Notice the enlivened zeal of our bishops for evangelization and a distinctly Catholic identity. Notice the increased disregard for political power and popular acceptance by young priests, bishops, and lay Catholics. The president is merely a product if his culture, but the Church is not. And that creates tension that stirs the faithful to an unabashed embrace of the Gospel. That is what our Maccabees readings this week have been about.

    I am all for inculturating the Gospel and loving our country. And there is much within the American political and cultural attaché worthy of preservation. But we have to concede that the America of old is not the America of the future. It can be a nation more faithful to the Gospel, but that likely happens only if Christians give up their restorationist nostalgia and embrace a new evangelization forged in the crucible of personal sanctity.

    I recommend Archbishop Chaput’s speech from Mexico last weekend for a perspective somewhat like this.

  19. Priam1184 says:

    @Elodie The Teaching of the Church threatens Barack Obama because it is the Truth. And the Truth threatens anyone aspiring to worldly power and domination. Whereas Islam is a very worldly philosophy that is filled with untruths and therefore is simply just another version of what he is trying to do.

  20. Gail F says:

    The website now has a note on it that says President Obama was asked to record a different version of the speech. This is a CYA note, I’m betting, because if it’s true you still have the same questions. Why was he asked that? I mean, as there are some 10 different versions but only one address was actually delivered, why record that one at all? And why have the SITTING PRESIDENT, one who was once so often compared to Lincoln, record it? And if asked, why would he say yes — considering all the flak he got for, say, handing out copies of the Constitution without the word God in them. Why not avoid more trouble? The note doesnt answer anything.

  21. Robbie says:

    Brevity is the soul of wit. Although not a perfect phrase in relation to the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln, in less than three minutes, delivered a speech that changed American history. Today’s politicians, and some priests for that matter, ought to keep that in mind when their speeches and homilies drag on and on and on.

  22. TomD says:

    Two copies of the draft of the Gettysburg Address, known as the Nicolay and Hay drafts, do not have “under God” in the text. Three later copies (the Everett, Bancroft and Bliss manuscripts) do, including, as mentioned in a comment above, the one signed by Lincoln, the Bliss manuscript.

    Three reporters took down the speech as it was delivered and telegraphed the spoken text to their papers; all three include the words “under God.” Since all three reporters were independently consistent that the text of the speech as delivered varied from the two copies of the draft that we now have, it is very likely that Lincoln decided, at the moment he was delivering the speech, to intentionally add the phrase “under God.” This is further confirmed by the fact that the only copy of the text bearing Lincoln’s signature includes the phrase “under God.”

    That the President would intentionally use, on this significant anniversary, a different version of the speech than the text signed by Lincoln, is unfortunate, to say the least, and historically misleading.

  23. Kathleen10 says:

    We could endure a Godless president perhaps, although this one’s a determined change-agent for evil. But a Godless populace, that we can’t endure. Or I should say, it is not likely God will endure it. We flout too much in God’s face. We are proud and haughty. We push away His hand and congratulate ourselves on our strength and determination. As a Superpower, we export evil around the world and call it social justice. You want our money? You must abort your children and accept homosexuality. Our Lady was concerned in Fatima about the errors of Russia (atheism), and here we are promoting it more than poor Russia was able to in her heyday.
    Can there be any doubt we are already under God’s judgment? Spiritual discernment indicates it. World events indicate it. Our own country’s deterioration indicate it. Political, spiritual, and moral collapse indicate it. Even weather indicates it.
    We have exactly the president we deserve. As someone correctly pointed out, Catholics supported this late-term abortion proponent mightily. Nothing about him indicated he was a Christian, except he sat for twenty years and listened to a racist preacher screaming about how bad America is. (the famous “God d— America” sermon) Nobody cared. The disconnect between faith and morality was lost on this generation. Who cares about an immoral president? What difference does it make?
    Our situation, the evil that abounds, our rotten president, the barrage of problems we face, it all sounds about right. We seem already under God’s judgment, and need to rely even more on His mercy and compassion. I read this blog, so I know there are more than ten righteous people around, fortunately for the rest of us. I fear a great chastisement, which is what our once great country probably now deserves since so many have forgotten from Whom our blessings flow.

  24. Bruce Wayne says:

    I hesitate to comment because I think that Obama’s version is likely closer to Lincoln’s own sentiments than the version of the speech we commonly think of that Lincoln signed. Lincoln was an atheist. His law partner in Springfield made this known (as if it wasn’t obvious from Lincoln’s actions anyway). He was a master politician, deceitful and expert in demagoguery and propaganda. His references to God or Providence were always intended for their effect on his generally Christian and believing countrymen and do not in anyway denote personal belief, they are clearly political rhetorical references common to almost all American politicians.

    This address is also the best piece of nineteenth century political myth-making that was part and parcel of creating the Leviathan, unitary and secular national government that oppresses us all to this day. Notice that it did nothing to honor the dead but rather is entirely calculated to rally the revolutionary troops seeking to destroy the American experiment in federated republican government in the ongoing war. Clearly Lincoln had Pericles famed address in mind.

    His dating of the birth of the “nation” to the declaration was revolutionary revisionism at its worst for the future of the country (and limited law-abiding government). Lincoln was as much given to political idolatry and blasphemous neo-Messianism as Barack (“We are the ones we have been waiting for”) Obama. See, e.g., his Second Inaugural Address. This general blasphemous frame of mind common to American political Protestant mythology may be best seen in the blasphemous lyrics to the Battle Hymn of the Republic; which I have even heard idiotically played in Catholic Churches.

    I definitely do not celebrate the sesquicentennial of that infamous piece of propaganda.

    [Some of you may choose now to ignore him.]

  25. jhayes says:

    Update from National Review:

    “UPDATE: During today’s White House press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney claimed that President Obama had read from the version of the Gettysburg Address given to him by documentarian Ken Burns. This appears to be the case. As Mediaite notes, the website for Burns’ upcoming project, Learn the Address, says that there are five manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address and that Obama read from the “Nicolay Version.” This version of the manuscript is believed to be the earliest of the copies of the Address, and it does omit the phrase “under God.” Three of the five manuscripts do include the phrase. ”


    Carney’s press conference (per CNN):

    “The president was the only person to tape a version, known as the ‘Nicolay’ version, which perhaps most notably is one that does not include “under God” in the second to last sentence. The selection came at the request of the documentarian Ken Burns, who has a team heading up the project. One of the producers told CNN they gave Obama this version to use to highlight that there are multiple versions.

    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed the producer’s account, saying Tuesday the President “read the version of the address…Ken Burns provided.” Carney added that was the Nicolay manuscript of the speech.”


    I guess we’ll have to wait until next year when Ken Burns releases his completed film to find out how reading the Nicolay version fits in with the rest of the film .

    The “Nicolay version” is written in Lincoln’s own handwriting and is understood to be the version he took with him to deliver at Gettysburg. From newspaper reports, it appears that he improvised the “under God” as he delivered the speech.

    [I don’t buy it.]

  26. tcreek says:

    After Gettysburg, in the fall of 1863, Lincoln issued the first Federally mandated Thanksgiving Day to held on the last Thursday in November.

    “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

  27. Kathleen10 says:

    I came all the way back here to share something Abe Lincoln did that most of you may not know about. Apparently, he and George Washington made a commercial last year for Honda, and the result was unforgettable, just like Abe and George.
    Who knew!
    Go to YouTube and look up “Honda’s 2013 Presidents Day TV Commercial”.
    “…I wanna four score a deal with youuu….Who’s your Founding Fathaaa…..”

  28. Kathleen10 says:

    Bruce Wayne…really? What a shocking idea. I’m absolutely wondering which is it now, Abraham Lincoln as atheist? Or Christian believer. What a jolt this would be. Gee you can’t depend on anything anymore.
    Why then, would he have gone to the trouble of instituting Thanksgiving, as tcreek pointed out?

  29. Lin says:

    Bad leadership,is punishment for sin.

  30. David Zampino says:

    Bruce Wayne:

    I’m not about to dispute with you the state of President Lincoln’s soul . . . but your history is just plain wrong. And you seem to use “high dudgeon” to deny anyone who would have a different opinion — and I am most suspicious of that type of attitude.

    Any historian — or theologian — worth his salt recognizes that Lincoln’s theology was, shall we say, difficult to define. But he was no atheist — and at the time of his death, was active (if in arrears in pew rental) at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in DC.

  31. I removed a few comments both for, in one case, a shockingly intemperate statement, some over the top ad hominem statements, and for the fact that they have taken this down a truly black rabbit hole.

    As a matter of fact, I’ll now turn on the moderation queue. I should have from the start, but I composed this on my phone in a truck stop diner.

    Some of you, in your anonymity, consider yourselves unbound by civility. None of us need that.

  32. Reginald Pole says:

    Get a copy of the Nicolay version and compare it to Obama’s reading. It is the Nicolay version word for word. I can see it now: Ken Burns asks the president to read the Gettysburg Address and Obama turns to an aide and says, “Quick, get me a version that doesn’t mention God”. [Plausible.]

  33. frjim4321 says:

    Actually jhayes is correct. Why is it so hard to accept the facts and admit the error? [Absurd. He always leaves God out. He is consistent. It is what he does.]

  34. The Masked Chicken says:

    “The “Nicolay version” is written in Lincoln’s own handwriting and is understood to be the version he took with him to deliver at Gettysburg. From newspaper reports, it appears that he improvised the “under God” as he delivered the speech.”

    When a person writes a speech to be delivered, sometimes, they have an inspiration, on the spot. This version of the speech is, historically speaking, part improvisation and should be recorded, as such. Burns is being both disingenuous and re-writing history by implying that Lincoln said what was written in the Nicolay version. He should be sued for slander and libel by the Lincoln estate.

    Lincoln did not read the Nicolay version. The Nicolay version is a fiction, as far as being faithful to oratorical history. He read the Nicolay + improv version and Burns, if he had any kind of historical integrity, should have used that well-known and factually recorded version (by three independent sources). He did not and this reeks of an agenda. It was not Obama who took God out of the speech. It was not Lincoln. It was Ken Burns.

    Sometimes, speeches are so well-received that people ask for a version for posterity. This gives the author time to think and reconsider his original words. This last setting should be considered the final, definitive version for all time. Clearly, the version for posterity is the Bliss version, as Lincoln signed his work, as any artist would. The other versions are mere posers. Again, I blame Burns for being a poor historian, representing Lincoln as Burns wants him to be, not as Lincoln wanted to be represented by his own words.

    While the Burns mauling of the text might fit in with Obama’s agenda and while Obama, probably, has heard the versions with, “under God,” in them, he accepted, either from ignorance (the most charitable reading), or agenda, the sneaky presentation of Burns’s use of the Nicolay text. Nevertheless, it is Burns who must bear the primary responsibility for this insult to both Lincoln and God.

    It is sad, because, whatever Lincoln’s theological beliefs, the oratory is among the most powerful ever written and deserves a better telling than Burns has given by his agenda and implications.

    That being said, readers might cut Bruce Wayne a little slack. Lincoln’s theology was something that is not well-known to history, but some historians have argued that he used theology in an opportunistic way. This may not make him an atheist. It seems to make his view on God divided into a public and private opinion. As I say, this is a contentious area in Lincoln scholarship.

    As for Wayne’s comment about the Gettsyburg address re-writing Republicanism, this is an opinion that has gained some hearing in the last few years. The phrase, “and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” while it sets a high standard in oratory, is not a phrase that, I suspect, Jefferson would have been happy with as a re-framing of Constitutional principles. The Preamble to the Constitution states:

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    This states that the purpose of the government is to establish a more perfect union of peoples. It points to a representative, semi-hierachical, form of government, with city, state, and federal government being somewhat independent of each other. This is very close to the Catholic principle of subsidaity. Unfortunately, the workings of these three independent loci of laws has become contaminated with the federal government at each level in a way that the Founding Fathers would have found reprehensible.

    Be that as it may, Lincoln’s remarks were meant to be a remark to the effect that the people’s of the United States were one – it was a blessed hope for a commonality among men. However, it completely re-purposes the original intention of the Constitution, which envisioned a three-fold division of the relationship of men to the government. One can argue that this homogenizing oratory (which many people confuse as Lincoln simply quoting the intent of the Constitution) was, in fact, the beginning of the rapid expansion of the federal branch of government, or, at least, a rationalization for it, since it is only the federal government that unites the entirety of the country.

    This radical re-formulation of Constitutionalism in the Gettysburg address, is not only Bruce Wayne’s opinion, but has been noted by at least some modern Lincoln scholars.

    I do not assert my own opinion in any of this. I just want to set the record of facts straight.

    The Chicken

  35. dans0622 says:

    Yes, he did read that earlier draft but I don’t know why one would read, or suggest that one should read, what WASN’T said 150 years ago… In any event, what a “coincidence” that Obama turned out to be the one who recited a Godless version.

  36. tcreek says:

    Who cares (except Obama and his minions) what the words say on a piece of paper? It is the spoken words of the Gettysburg Address that are relevant. So what if the early draft did not include “under God”? Lincoln included those words in his speech so he inserted them in the copies he signed.

    As TomD pointed out—


    Usage of “under God”
    The words “under God” do not appear in the Nicolay and Hay drafts but are included in the three later copies (Everett, Bancroft, and Bliss). Accordingly, some skeptics maintain that Lincoln did not utter the words “under God” at Gettysburg.[71][72] However, at least three reporters telegraphed the text of Lincoln’s speech on the day the Address was given with the words “under God” included. Historian William E. Barton argues that:[73]

    “Every stenographic report, good, bad and indifferent, says ‘that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom.’ There was no common source from which all the reporters could have obtained those words but from Lincoln’s own lips at the time of delivery. It will not do to say that [Secretary of War] Stanton suggested those words after Lincoln’s return to Washington, for the words were telegraphed by at least three reporters on the afternoon of the delivery.”

    The reporters present included Joseph Gilbert, from the Associated Press; Charles Hale, from the Boston Advertiser;[74] John R. Young (who later became the Librarian of Congress), from the Philadelphia Press; and reporters from the Cincinnati Commercial,[75] New York Tribune,[76] and New York Times.[76] Charles Hale “had notebook and pencil in hand, [and] took down the slow-spoken words of the President”.[77] “He took down what he declared was the exact language of Lincoln’s address, and his declaration was as good as the oath of a court stenographer. His associates confirmed his testimony, which was received, as it deserved to be, at its face value.”[78].

  37. jhayes says:

    Frjim4321 wrote Actually jhayes is correct. Why is it so hard to accept the facts and admit the error?

    To which our esteemed host replied [Absurd. He always leaves God out. He is consistent. It is what he does.]

    As a New Yorker editor said “Who he?”

    Not me I hope.

  38. TomD says:

    @jhayes: “The ‘Nicolay version’ is written in Lincoln’s own handwriting and is understood to be the version he took with him to deliver at Gettysburg.”

    It is my understanding from the Wikipedia entry that each of the five manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address that we now have, the two drafts of the speech (Nicolay and Hay), and the three copies made after the address (Everett, Bancroft and Bliss), are written in Lincoln’s own handwriting. It is conjecture that the Nicolay version was the draft copy that Lincoln actual used at Gettysburg, as the Hay draft contains some of Lincoln’s own handwritten corrections in the margin, as if he was using it to modify the text just prior to delivering the Address.

    But this begs a larger question. Isn’t the Gettysburg Address, historically, the address actually given by Lincoln? Not the written draft(s) of the speech that we have, but the actual address as spoken. Not the written text that he originally intended to use at Gettysburg (perhaps the Nicolay manuscript), but the words that he actually spoke at Gettysburg.

    All the historical evidence, as demonstrated by the three reporter’s accounts of the address, strongly points to the fact that Lincoln chose to insert the phrase “under God” into the speech as he delivered it. That some today would choose to focus on the written draft as “The Gettysburg Address,” rather than the more historically accepted evidence (until recently) that Lincoln modified his draft and included “under God” in the Address as he delivered it, begs the question, why? Is it because the written draft contains the version of history that some wish had happened, no “under God” in the text of the speech? That President Obama would deliberately choose to highlight the written draft of the speech as the basis for his comments on the 150th anniversary indicates that there may be other motives involved.

    And to the best of my knowledge, no other public address is treated in this manner. No President’s State of the Union Address is formally given as his written draft of the speech. Some scholars, for historical purposes, may study the draft and compare it to the version delivered, but it is the State of the Union speech as it is actually delivered that is considered the “official” version. So it should be with the Gettysburg Address.

  39. Uxixu says:

    They’re talking about Obama. It would certainly fit his MO though likely it was one of his handlers (probably Jarrett). I’m convinced he’s more like Ron Burgundy than that Machiavellian himself.

  40. Lori Pieper says:

    @Bruce Wayne:

    Your suggestion that Lincoln was an atheist only works if you look at a certain earlier part of his life, and ignore, as you have done, all the evidence from his later years, which is abundant, about his growing belief in God. I would suggest reading Stephen Mansfield’s book, Lincoln’s Battle with God, which is an excellent treatment of the subject. I also wrote a little something here:


  41. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Masked Chicken, when you say “Wayne’s comment about the Gettsyburg address re-writing Republicanism”, to what exactly are you referring?

    And what is it that you are saying about ” The phrase, ‘and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth’ “?

    Which “people” are not the ‘populus’ of one or another of the states? Which of the states is not ‘republican’ in organization? ‘Federal’ differs from ‘confederal’: what novelty is here expressed?

    Is not sovereignty mediated through the ‘populus’ of each state as ‘united’?

  42. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Fr. Z writes, “the President’s address consisted of 10 sentences in 272 words.” There seems to have been a lot of rhetorical analysis of it (none of which I have read in full), but it may be worth noting that “under God” recalls and balances “created”, being about as far from the end as that is from the beginning. Near the center of the address come “consecrate”, “hallow”, “consecrated”. The whole ‘event’ was, indeed, called “The Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg”.

    In the Address of the Hon. Edward Everett at the Consecration […] (1864) (available at the Internet Archive) can also be read the Prayer of the Rev. Dr. Stockton and the Benediction by the Rev. Dr. Baugher, which precede and follow Lincoln’s “Dedicatory Address” in the order of the exercises.

    On 19 November 1863, Lincoln’s reference to “the proposition that all all men are created equal” was preceded, and effectively prepared for, by Everett noting “that it is just and proper to rebel against oppressive governments” (p. 61) but making his case (p. 62) that it was not “just and proper for the ‘disappointed great men’ of the cotton-growing States to rebel against ‘the most beneficent government of which history gives us any account’, as the Vice-President of the Confederacy, in November, 1860, charged them with doing.” He goes on to quote him again, from a later speech, as to their acting “in order themselves ‘for the first time in the history of the world’ to establish an oligarchy ‘founded on the corner-stone of slavery’ ” (p. 63).

    Lori Pieper, thank you for your linked post! Can you (or anyone else) recommend anything to read specifically about how Lincoln (and his vice-president and cabinet), on the one hand, and Davis (and his), on the other, spoke and thought about their theory of government in relation to God’s sovereignty?

  43. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Which “people” are not the ‘populus’ of one or another of the states? Which of the states is not ‘republican’ in organization? ‘Federal’ differs from ‘confederal’: what novelty is here expressed?”

    The Country is called, The United STATES of America.” The Constitution recognizes and assumes states rights and their quasi-independence. Lincoln’s phrase postulates a non-existent, “The United America,” which is not the same thing. Lincoln may be referring to his own reading of the Declaration of Independence (ironically, a secessionist document) which refers to all men being created equal, but the original notion of the Constitution was, I think, to establish a system of interlocking states, rather than a single, homogeneous country. In that sense, Lincoln’s phrase had the effect of increasing the reach of the federal government as the only level of government that reaches and unites all of the people. This new interpretation has been noted by others (I’ll have to research the original article – it has been several years since I read it – to make sure that my paraphrase of the author’s argument is correct).

    Lincoln used the phrase effectively, but the of/for/by use seems to have been invented by someone else:


    The Chicken

  44. TomD says:

    @ The Masked Chicken: “. . . the original notion of the Constitution was, I think, to establish a system of interlocking states, rather than a single, homogeneous country.”

    Take out the word “homogeneous” – as all recognized that Massachusetts and Virginia, for instance, were not homogeneous, but made up of very different people (i.e., John Adams and Thomas Jefferson) – and the answer is that the original notion of the Constitution was to do both . . . create a unified country from the existing colonies, but within a framework of the rule of law based on a written Constitution, unlike our British heritage that was based on a largely unwritten constitutional framework. One of our primary historical distinctions is that our Constitution was established as a single, written document.

    That balance between state and nation was intended to be strictly guided by the text of the Constitution, with, for most of the framers, the “benefit of the doubt” given to state authority. As is the nature of Man, however, the pull to centralize authority was ever-present, and some began to violate the Constitution in the direction of dominant nationalism. The slavery controversy only added to this tendency.

    The state vs. nation dichotomy is a false one . . . the Framers intended both. But, to the extent that things “went wrong,” it was the gradual violation of the letter of the law, by the “spirit” of the law [where have we heard that before??] , that led to the emergence of a large, dominant national government. It is not really fair to blame Lincoln for that.

    The issue of slavery demanded that we address it as a nation. Lincoln recognized this. The discussion of whether how we dealt with the slavery controversy did or did not violate the Constitution is a much more complicated matter.

  45. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Masked Chicken,

    Thank you! I probably should have checked the Wikipedia (a generally surprising admission?!) before asking my questions – the “Gettysburg Address” article has an interesting brief discussion of the Parker quotations, the Webster quotation (with more context, and a Hobhouse thrown in for good measure), and one from Marshall’s opinion in McCulloch vs. Maryland (1819).

    The Webster from 1830 and even more the Marshall would seem to give anything problematical in Lincoln’s formulation here a long prehistory and possible depth and reach of influence. And how far may it have been a shared heritage, north and south? How early and how far did southern states find advantageous ‘federal reach’ congenial, before 1860? How congenial might they have found some sort of analogous ‘Confederal reach’, had they been more successful?

    Then again, what were the limits of ‘Unionism’? Everett’s saying “that it is just and proper to rebel against oppressive governments” is not obviously an exclusive reference to a past as it were hermetically sealed away, with no possible post-Constitutional relevance.

    Not questions I am calling upon you to answer, but matters I would like to know more about!

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