Teach PA History
The Gettysburg Address: An American Treasure
Background Information for Teachers

Lincoln's ability with the English language permitted him to craft a ten sentence statement that would bring admiration from wordsmiths, but the speech is more than the arrangement of words. The words speak of ideas, not specifics of the recent battle. These ideas were not new, but there was nothing wrong or un-American with that. In fact, you could argue that the very document which proclaimed American independence was the product of the political theorists and philosophers of the Enlightenment, not Thomas Jefferson's imagination. His moving passages in the Declaration of Independence expressed ideals worth fighting for. So, too, were the words in the Gettysburg Address. The ideas so cogently expressed on November 19, 1863, were not new. They were embedded in the Republican Party platforms of 1860 and 1864. They also found expression in other speeches that Lincoln gave during his political career, both before and after the Gettysburg Address, as well as in personal letters and other primary sources.

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