November 20

1863 The OTHER Gettysburg Address

The brief remarks at the Gettysburg battle site by Abraham Lincoln are rightly remembered as one of the greatest speeches in history. Almost forgotten is the address which preceded the President’s, given by Edward Everett, the politician and diplomat whose oratory was so fabled in his day that he was considered the featured speaker on this occasion. If you like two-hour lectures, rich in florid phrases, metaphor, and allusion, this is your baby. 

In the course of 13,000 words, Everett gave a minutely-detailed history of the war to that point, a microscopic analysis of the three days of battle, a salute to women,  and a lengthy constitutional analysis of why the Confederate cause could justly be called a rebellion, ending with a discussion of how a post-war reconciliation was possible. His second-last paragraph (longer than the entirety of Lincoln’s speech) will give you an idea of his style. If you like that sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you will like:

But the hour is coming and now is, when the power of the leaders of the Rebellion to delude and inflame must cease. There is no bitterness on the part of the masses. The people of the South are not going to wage an eternal war for the wretched pretexts by which this rebellion is sought to be justified. The bonds that unite us as one People, – a substantial community of origin, language, belief, and law (the four great ties that hold the societies of men together); common national and political interests; a common history; a common pride in a glorious ancestry; a common interest in this great heritage of blessings; the very geographical features of the country; the mighty rivers that cross the lines of climate, and thus facilitate the interchange of natural and industrial products, while the wonder-working arm of the engineer has levelled the mountain-walls which separate the East and West, compelling your own Alleghanies, my Maryland and Pennsylvania friends, to open wide their everlasting doors to the chariot-wheels of traffic and travel, – these bonds of union are of perennial force and energy, while the causes of alienation are imaginary, factitious, and transient. The heart of the People, North and South, is for the Union. Indications, too plain to be mistaken, announce the fact, both in the East and the West of the States in rebellion. In North Carolina and Arkansas the fatal charm at length is broken. At Raleigh and Little Rock the lips of honest and brave men are unsealed, and an independent press is unlimbering its artillery. When its rifled cannon shall begin to roar, the hosts of treasonable sophistry–the mad delusions of the day–will fly like the Rebel army through the passes of yonder mountain. The weary masses of the people are yearning to see the dear old flag again floating upon their capitols, and they sigh for the return of the peace, prosperity, and happiness which they enjoyed under a government whose power was felt only in its blessings.

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