Book

“Its words are magnificent in their brevity and their meaning. Yet, until the appearance of Jared Peatman’s book, no one had shown as clearly as he does the long-term effect of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on friend and foe alike. Must reading for all Americans.”—John F. Marszalek, executive director and managing editor, Ulysses S. Grant Association

“After 150 years Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg still live with meaning. Any time Americans face crisis and sacrifice, that immortal few minutes’ talk reappears to comfort and inspire. Jared Peatman’s wonderfully researched and ably presented book is the first in more than a generation to examine thoroughly the events of November 19, 1863, the public response to the address, and what it has meant to the world ever since. The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address goes a long way toward explaining why we cannot escape its power, and why we wouldn’t escape it if we could. Like Lincoln, it belongs to the ages.”—William C. Davis, director, Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, Virginia Tech

“Who owns the immortal words that Abraham Lincoln delivered at the soldier’s cemetery overlooking Gettysburg? This question animates Jared Peatman’s immensely important The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. From the moment the president stepped away from the speaker’s platform on November 19, 1863, his ‘brief remarks’ unleashed fierce disagreements throughout the country. This contentious debate, as the author argues, quickly turned into a global conversation about issues of human freedom and the meaning of citizenship that continues to this day. Peatman’s powerful book reminds us that for every student who memorizes the Gettysburg Address, he or she will likely reach very different conclusions as to what Lincoln meant by a ‘new birth of freedom.’”—Peter S. Carmichael, Fluhrer Professor of History and director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College

When Abraham Lincoln addressed the crowd at the new national cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863, he intended his speech to be his most eloquent statement on the inextricable link between equality and democracy. However, unwilling to commit to equality at that time, the nation stood ill-prepared to accept the full message of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. In the ensuing century, groups wishing to advance a particular position borrowed Lincoln’s words for their own ends, highlighting the specific parts of the speech that echoed their stance while ignoring the rest. Only as the nation slowly moved toward equality did those invoking Lincoln’s speech come closer to recovering his true purpose. In this incisive work, Jared Peatman seeks to understand not only Lincoln’s intentions at Gettysburg but also how his words were received, invoked, and interpreted over time, providing an insightful analysis of one of America’s most legendary orations.

After reviewing the events leading up to November 19, 1863, Peatman examines immediate responses to the ceremony in New York, Gettysburg itself, Confederate Richmond, and London, showing how parochial concerns and political affiliations shaped initial coverage of the day and led to the censoring of Lincoln’s words in some locales. He then traces how, over time, proponents of certain ideals invoked the particular parts of the address that suited their message, from reunification early in the twentieth century to American democracy and patriotism during the world wars and, finally, to Lincoln’s full intended message of equality during the Civil War centennial commemorations and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Peatman also explores foreign invocations of the Gettysburg Address and its influence on both the Chinese constitution of 1912 and the current French constitution. An epilogue highlights recent and even current applications of the Gettysburg Address and hints at ways the speech might be used in the future.

By tracing the evolution of Lincoln’s brief words at a cemetery dedication into a revered document essential to American national identity, this revealing work provides fresh insight into the enduring legacy of Abraham Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address on both American and international history and culture.

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