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Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon 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 are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting-place of 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 large sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living asid dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our power to adil 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 that they have thus far so nobly carried on. 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 here 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 and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS [On the 4th of March, 1865, Abraham Lincoln spoke his last words to the American nation. These words will remain for centuries to come a classic of American oratory, their closing words inscribed upon the hearts of our people as the true motto of the great Western Republic.]
FELLOW-COUNTRYMEN : At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than at the first. Then, a statement somewhat in detail of the course to be pursued seemed very fitting and proper; now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have constantly been called forta concerning every point and place of the great contest which still absorbs attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself. It is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With a high hope for the future, no prediction in that regard is ventured.
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it. All sought to avoid it. While the Inaugural Address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, the
ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS (1812-1883)
THE CONFEDERATE VICE-PRESIDENT
HEN, in the early days of 1861, the secession convention of
Georgia, was considering the perilous purpose which most of
its members had strongly in view, Alexander H. Stephens earnestly combatted its suicidal course. In this he was strongly sustained by another statesman of the convention, Benjamin H. Hill. But when the ordinance of secession was passed against their advice, they yielded their own opinions and went with their State, Hill becoming a Confederate Senator, and Stephens Vice-President of the Confederacy during its four eventful years.
He had been a member of the National House of Representatives for sixteen years before the war, and entered this body again in 1874, serving for several terms. In 1882 he was elected Governor of Georgia. Alike as orator and statesman, Stephens was a man of unusual powers.
SEPARATE AS BILLOWS, BUT ONE AS THE SEA [As an example of Mr. Stephens's oratory, we offer the following extract from his address of February 12, 1878, at the unveiling of Carpenter's picture illustrating the signing of the Proclamation of Emancipation by President Lincoln. It is of interest alike for its eulogy of Lincoln, and its views on the effect of emancipation and the reunion of the country.]
I knew Mr. Lincoln well. We met in the House in December, 1847. We were together during the Thirtieth Congress. I was as intimate with him as with any other man of that Congress, except perhaps my collergue, Mr. Toombs. Of Mr. Lincoln's general character I need not speak. He was warm-hearted; he was generous ; he was magnanimous; he was most truly, as he afterwards said on a memorable occasion, “ with malice toward none, with charity for all.” He had a native genius far above his fellows. Every fountain of his heart was overflowing with the “milk of human kindness.” From my attachment to him, so much deeper was the
WILLIAM M. EVARTS ADDRESSING THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION, 1877
JAMES G. BLAINE AND THOMAS B. REED These distinguished American Orators won high place in oratory, both in and out of Congress. The former was known as the "Plumed Knight" for the popular addresses he made in campaigns for presi. dency, and the latter as "Czar Reed" for his method of ruling as Speaker of the House.