The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln is probably one of the best known speeches in the history of the United States. Written for the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the speech is only 271 words in length and probably took 2-3 minutes to read.
Abraham Lincoln was preceded at the podium by Edward Everett, a politician and orator. He spoke for two hours.
The response to Lincoln’s speech was initially less than ideal. A reporter from the Chicago Times wrote,
The cheeks of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances.
The London Times article included this assessment:
The ceremony was rendered ludicrous by some of the sallies of that poor President Lincoln. Anything more dull and commonplace it would not be easy to produce.
I often use the first two sentences (bolded below) as a test for writing. Pangrams work well for writing or typing tests, but the Gettysburg address is useful when a longer writing sample is needed.
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 battlefield 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.