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Letter to Edward EverettThe day before he wrote this letter, President Abraham Lincoln and Edward Everett shared the speakers' platform during the dedication of the soldiers' cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Lincoln was responding to Everett's note which praised him for the "eloquent simplicity & appropriateness" of his remarks. Everett said, "I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."
It's ironic that the length of these two speeches has been so much discussed since, because the Gettysburg Address is one of Lincoln's shortest efforts. Prior to his presidency, his political speeches often lasted two to three hours, but he managed to retain the attention of his listeners. For example, the reporter covering his speech in Dover, New Hampshire, on March 2, 1860, said, "Mr. Lincoln spoke nearly two hours and we believe he would have held his audience had he spoken all night."
November 20, 1863
Hon. Edward Everett.
My dear Sir:
Your kind note of to-day is received. In our respective parts yesterday, you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one. I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure. Of course I knew Mr. Everett would not fail; and yet, while the whole discourse was eminently satisfactory, and will be of great value, there were passages in it which transcended my expectation. The point made against the theory of the general government being only an agency, whose principals are the States, was new to me, and, as I think, is one of the best arguments for the national supremacy. The tribute to our noble women for their angel-ministering to the suffering soldiers, surpasses, in its way, as do the subjects of it, whatever has gone before.
Our sick boy, for whom you kindly inquire, we hope is past the worst. Your Obt. Servt.
Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler.
Battlefield Map (Library of Congress)
Gettysburg Address Exhibit (Library of Congress)
Gettysburg Address Essay Contest (Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania)
Gettysburg Address Text
Gettysburg Civil War Photographs (Library of Congress)
Gettysburg National Military Park (NPS)
Lincoln at Gettysburg Photo Tour
Edward Everett's Letter to Lincoln (Library of Congress)
Photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg (Library of Congress)
Recollections of Lincoln at Gettysburg (Bob Cooke)
Response to a Serenade
Boritt, Gabor. The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows. Simon & Schuster, 2006.
Kunhardt, Philip B., Jr. A New Birth of Freedom - Lincoln at Gettysburg. Boston: Little, Brown, 1983.
Landon, Roberta, ed. The Illustrated Gettysburg Address. Grammercy, 2000.
Wills, Garry. Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America. Touchstone Books, 1993.
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