As "Lincoln" is in theaters nationwide, director Steven Spielberg went to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Monday to commemorate the 149th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address -- a speech which began "Four score and seven years ago..." and is held up to this day by historians as the most influential statement on behalf of fighting for freedom. (Read the entire speech below.)
Spielberg attended the event along with 11 new U.S. citizens. "All the glory and all the tragedy we associate with the Civil War resides most palpably, and most indelibly here," Spielberg said. The famed director also remarked that the 16th President would want us to realize equality is a "democratic essential."
When it comes to President Abraham Lincoln's famous speech at Gettysburg, it was given at the dedication ceremony for the Soldiers' National Cemetery in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. The speech is truly immortal, but over there years, misconceptions have developed around it.
One of the myths around the speech is that Lincoln jotted it down on an envelope during a train ride. Sure, Lincoln was a great story teller and was certainly capable of conceptualizing such prose in a casual setting, but the truth of the matter is the speech was prepared ahead of time in Washington. Moreover, bumpy train travel during that time was not conducive to writing.
Here are other little known facts about Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:
-The reason Lincoln said "Four score and seven years ago" instead of simply stating "Eighty-seven years ago" was to appeal to his Bible-reading audience. Psalm 90 verse 10 states, "The days of our years are threescore years and ten." A score is equal to 20 years. Incidentally, Lincoln was referencing the year 1776 -- when the Declaration of Independence was signed.
-Lincoln's speech might be better named "The Gettysburg Remarks." Relayed in front of a crowd of 15,000, his speech was only three minutes long and consisted of only 272 words. In fact, before Lincoln went on, a certain Edward Everett gave a much longer speech that clocked in at two hours -- perhaps more fitting of the "address" title. He later wrote the President, saying he wished he could flatter himself that he had "come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes."
-Lincoln actually spoke twice in Gettysburg, the second time being the famous instance. His first remarks were given the night he arrived at the prompting of a crowd that appeared outside his door. He had nothing prepared and said such, but thanked the crowd and said he understood why they appeared. He ended his short statement with "I must beg of you to excuse me from addressing you any further."
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The entire Gettysburg Address (via the Library of Congress):
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.
[Related: See showtimes for 'Lincoln']
Watch Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg discuss 'Lincoln':