Today is the 145th anniversary of the day Lincoln redefined America — you know the quote that is now so ubiquitous that its derivation is in danger of being lost…..
“with the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln changed the country from the United States “are” to the United States “is.””
I first heard Shelby Foote say that in Ken Burns’ Civil War and it resonated for me and many others. However, according to at least one source I’ve read, the idea of the United States as a singular entity as a result of the Civil War can be found as early as the 1887 Washington Post.
So, without a lot of other interpretation, Lincoln’s immortal words — followed by a poem from Carl Sandburg, who writes of Lincoln and America more empathetically than many.
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln
Four score 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 here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it 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 can never forget what they did here.
It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which 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 shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
I am the People, the Mob by Carl Sandburg
I am the people–the mob–the crowd–the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world’s food and
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me
and the Lincolns. They die. And then I send forth more Napoleons
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing.
Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out
and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes
me work and give up what I have. And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history
to remember. Then–I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the
lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year,
who played me for a fool–then there will be no speaker in all the
world say the name: “The People,” with any fleck of a sneer in his
voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob–the crowd–the mass–will arrive then.
music of the people: Waiting on the World to Change (John Mayer); Southern Belles in London Sing (the Faint); False from True (Guy Davis); Swing Low Sweet Chariot (She & Him); What’s it Gonna Be (Dusty Springfield); Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair (Roger McGuinn); Time Loves a Hero (Little Feat); Gentle Annie (Ollabelle); We Shall Overcome (Bruce Springsteen); Power to the People (John Lennon); Jerusalem (Steve Earle); One Small Year (Shawn Colvin); Let It Grow (Eric Clapton); The Torn Flag (John Trudell); The Obscenity Prayer (Rodney Crowell); Two Brothers (the Weavers); World in Changes (Dave Mason); My Old Kentucky Home (John Prine); Beautiful Dreamer (Raul Malo); To Washington (John Mellencamp); Old Folks at Home (David Ball); Simple as it Should Be (Tristan Prettyman); Hard Times Come Again No More (Mavis Staples); and Dixie (the Union Confederacy)
When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion. –> Abraham Lincoln