Skip to main content

tv   American History TV  CSPAN  November 17, 2013 5:49pm-7:01pm EST

5:49 pm
of it. they played a signal role. even the best historians writing second early will say these people were the vanguard of the progressive movement. so then i started reading about them. i knew about ida tarbell and william alan white but i didn't know the others and i didn't know mcclure so he came into my life. >> roosevelt, taft and the muckrakers tonight with the bully pulpit author doris kearns goodwin on c-span's q&a. next on the civil war, author historian and co-director of the lincoln study center douglas wilson talks about the gettysburg address delivered by president abraham lincoln 150 years ago on november 18th, 1863. he considered several facets of the address including its context in the war and how it would have sounded when delivered by president lincoln versus how it reads on paper and how its meaning and interpretation have evolved over time. the lincoln group of the district of columbia hosted this
5:50 pm
event. it's ban hoabout an hour and te minutes. >> thank you very back here. i remember when i first made my brash entrance into the lincoln field, one of the first invitations i got was from this group. and i remember that -- what i had to say astonished many people, but they were polite. and steve carson made me squirm for my dinner by asking hard questions. but he too was a good -- he was very dubious about what i was saying. i'm pleased to report that our friend, the late steve, told me not too long before he died, really, that he remembered that session. and he was gracious enough to
5:51 pm
say that his doubts had been relieved. and he agreed with me -- what i was arguing about. and, of course, it was as greg says, only a few years ago that we were honored -- my partner and i were honored for our editorial work by this group. and it was -- it's something we are very proud of, and i can't thank you enough for that honor. you may not think that i've done you any favor of talking about the gettysburg address. everybody knows the gettysburg address. most of you can recite it, i'm sure. it's the most famous speech in the world. a lot of people think it's the best speech in the world. it's storied. there are endless, endless mythology about it. and i know that the myths irritate some serious historians.
5:52 pm
but i think it's all part of the landscape. if you're going to have something great, it's going to have myths grow up around it. and that's just a sign that people take it seriously. it's one way to take something like the gettysburg address seriously. so with my apologies, i want to try and say something about the gettysburg address. but rather than read you a paper, i thought i would try to see if we could do this as a kind of open conversation. and while i'll be glad to take questions at the end, as is usual, i thought i would try doing it in an open fashion, so that if what i'm talking about prompts a question, if you raise your hand, and ask the question -- if it doesn't lead us too far astray, i would be glad to get involved in a conversation.
5:53 pm
but, of course, i warn you, if i discover that we're going hopelessly off the subject, and the time limit, i'll cut you off and go on with the presentation. so the gettysburg address is something special, something unique. and we're getting ready to celebrate its 150th anniversary. and we've had enough good books about the address in the last 20 or 25 years that we know quite a bit about it. we -- one of the last books that we had by gabor boreat did a marvelous job of showing what happened from the time the speech was given to the point at which it had become iconic. it took a while, if you remember. and he laid that out very nicely and showed us.
5:54 pm
and so it hasn't always had the stature that we give it now. and it couldn't have had. but it's interesting to see the way in which or to think about the way in which it's been held down through the years. it's probably the most mythologized of all of our historical speeches. i consider it the high watermark of american history. i really -- i've studied jefferson and the declaration, and in a way it isn't fair to compare these things. but important as the clarification declaration was, i think the gettysburg address is even more important. and i'll try to tell you something about that as i go along. so what i'm -- i'm going to try an experiment here. what i want to do is -- i know
5:55 pm
that a lot of you know it, and you should be proud of that. or if you're prompted, you can can kind of get on the text and stay with it. so i'm going to read it slowly. i'll start the first sentence and then i hope that the people who know the words can go along. we kind of get a chorus going here, get the base voices over here and get some higher tenor abraham lincoln voices going with it, and see what it sounds like. four score and seven years ago, our fathers, brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. wow, this is terrific. but that's only the first sentence. okay. who knows how the next sentence begins? anybody? >> now -- >> now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.
5:56 pm
great. next line? >> we. >> we are met -- we are met upon a great battlefield of that war. we have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. it is all together fitting and proper that we should do this, but in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. we cannot consecrate. we cannot hallow this ground. the brave men -- >> living and dead, who -- >> who struggled here have
5:57 pm
consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. >> the world. >> 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, which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. it is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. >> that -- >> that -- >> from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.
5:58 pm
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, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. that's very good. that's very good. and once you get in, somebody else is -- you can jump on every once in a while. so we all know it. now, that -- that is one version of the gettysburg address, right? that's -- that's the final text. that's the last text that he wrote. believe me, if he had kept
5:59 pm
copy -- official copies, it would have changed a little bit. it wouldn't have changed much, i think. he's really incapable, i think, of always do it the same way. he always has another thought and sees nothing wrong with putting the comma over here or changing the position of this word, if he thinks it would be better. he doesn't have the sense that he wants it frozen, which i think is probably a good idea. let me just touch on a few places i'm sure some of you are as well aware as i am of some of these things. it's interesting what parts of the speech were different in some other version. than the ones that we had. you may know that on this continent and upon this continent, he couldn't decide what he wanted. and maybe the next one, if he had done another version, would have -- he would have gone back
6:00 pm
to a pawn. but he back and forthed on that one. he originally wrote, if we assume that the nickolai version is the oldest version and i do. he originally wrote, "we have come to dedicate." but apparently at gettysburg, he wrote -- he said -- he repeated what he said in the sentence before. "we are met." "we are met to dedicate." and in revising it, he saw that his first thought was the best. rather than repeat "we are met," it somehow works better to say, "we have come." and i think what's really remarkable is that he started with -- the sentence that we know as, it is all together fitting and proper that we should do this. originally said, "this we may in all propriety do." that's an iambic pentameter.
6:01 pm
but it's flat. it just shows you that -- and i think he had an affinity for iambic and perhaps even iambic pentameter. but that doesn't mean that it always raises the level. the poetic level. in this case, this is a flat line. this, we may, in all propriety do. nobody would ever choose that. over it is all together fitting and proper. even though fitting and proper is a cliche in a way, it's a familiar phrase. somehow, if you can use a familiar phrase in the right place, it works very well. it's interesting that lincoln in all the versions we have in his hand always says, "we cannot dedicate." two words. "we cannot." the newspapers always put that together. so the newspaper versions always say cannot. but if you say them both and you try them, you see there is a difference.
6:02 pm
especially in a speech like this. we can not dedicate. also, seeing the value of a change, originally he wrote, "the world will little note nor long remember what we say here while it can never forget what they did here." but the while isn't very strong. so he changes it to but. and so we get that really memorable line. and the but helps us see and feel the two parts of the sentence. and as you know, the oldest version, the so-called nickolai version, is on -- on executive mansion letterhead. and then it's connected to a different size sheet. a sheet of fools cap. in pencil rather than pen, so that what we have are almost
6:03 pm
certainly two parts, the first page of one draft which used to have a second page. and the second page of a different draft that was originally in pencil. and this juncture makes -- is part of the -- if you're interested in the text and the growth of the text and so forth, part of the puzzle about the fact that nickolai, his secretary, claimed he was there when lincoln put the finishing touches on his speech at gettysburg. and that he had that draft in the papers of lincoln. and he produces them. and argues even that they have fold, as though somebody folded it up and put it in his pocket. the trouble is that he didn't say the words.
6:04 pm
he made big changes, like the one change, where he completely threw out the sentence "this we may in all propriety do." but it isn't crossed off in the manuscript. and then there's the -- there's a -- you know, the one point in the -- in the speech that i think gives one pause is it -- he says the same thing twice, which you can do, in a good speech and make it better. but he says it awkwardly. it seems to me. if we can say anything, in this really fantastic speech is awkward. but when he says, "it is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work, which they who fought here have thus far so nobly" and he said in the speech "carried on." he realized later on that he needed a stronger word.
6:05 pm
and he put in "advanced." but he said "carried on." and then he almost repeats it. "it is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. the unfinished work." but then somehow that sets up that really resonant series of that clauses. and so everything seems to be fine. it's interesting to me, although i don't believe that lincoln -- that the delivery manuscript that he held in his hand was the nickolai copy. for reasons that i'll say in a minute. but it does make sense that he has trouble getting -- if that were the case, it would explain why he has this sort of weak repetition of the unfinished work. the unfinished work, the great task remain before us. because it comes right exactly at that point in the manuscript.
6:06 pm
in my analysis and my book "lincoln seward," i got interested in the kind of way that almost musical notation he uses the word "here." but that's a little technical. but i think he's the kind of letterician and rhetorical master who thought at that level. and i think if there's one criticism that some people make, it is that he took one of the "heres" out in this version, the bliss version. that in the everett and ban versions before he had one more "here." for which they here gave the full measure of devotion. in the last one he took it out. i still seem to want to hear it.
6:07 pm
and then there doesn't seem to be any doubt that he said "under god". there is a school of thought or a position that says that he ad libbed it. i don't think that's the case. but at any rate, he changed the position when he got to studying his text, getting ready to push it out in the world as an official text. all the reporters who reported -- who had access to the -- the reporter who had access to the manuscript and the stenographic reporter report that he said that this nation shall under god. and i can't tell whether we have
6:08 pm
become habituated to it coming after than before makes it seem like the right choice. but it is an interesting choice again. and this is one of the really interesting things. the changes he tends to make are minor. and it changes the cadence. it changes the sound a little bit. it doesn't do much, but all these little changes are the change of a person who is hearing what would be making -- maybe fine discriminations about what would sound better. okay. what did lincoln really say? this is what he wrote in march. as a revision of his speech. the bliss copy dates from march. what did he say at gettysburg? this is where the controversy begins.
6:09 pm
and if you like the controversy, this is where the fun begins. clearly what we have just had, what we all know, what we can recite, isn't exactly what he said at gettysburg. and i've already pointed out a few of these things. but the words that he uttered are still debated. they're going to go on being debated. but the -- the argument -- you would think that the argument would be settled now that we have -- we videotape everything. and if c-span doesn't videotape you, your uncle will, you know, with his phone. nothing goes unvideotaped anymore. so -- but the interesting thing is that that doesn't solve the problem the way that you think it was. let me give you just a little example from my own experience.
6:10 pm
to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the lincoln douglas debates, my partner and i at the lincoln study center determined that we wanted to bring out a new edition of the lincoln douglas debate. and they needed a new edition, because what we had before was simply lincoln's scrapbook where he cut out the "chicago tribune's" editions of his speeches and the "chicago times" editions of douglas' speeches. that's what we got for the debate. and as you probably know, the debates in those days, even though they were supposed to be word for word and so forth, they were heavily politicized. because even if the stenographer was honest and reported exactly what lincoln said, if the editors didn't like that or thought it didn't sound right, or was a mistake, they would take it out.
6:11 pm
we know this, because the other side didn't have the same impulse. they were -- they were working it the other way. in fact, they didn't work for the paper. they worked for douglas. and lincoln was sure that they were editing his stuff. and the truth is that lincoln says, i tried to get the reporter who reported him for the "tribune" to let me see his transcriptions, but he wouldn't let me see them. and as we know, his reporter who worked for the "tribune" was a very, very good reporter because he was very much in demand of the law to take down transcriptions of very important cases. so we worked with both sides of the aisle, as it were. for our -- so while we were working on it, we had the great good fortune at knox college to have two wonderful inspiring commencement speakers within two or three years.
6:12 pm
the first was a guy that we had just sent to the u.s. senate from illinois. in 2005. and this was -- this was the guy who is now president, barack obama. and a few years later, we had former president bill clinton. and i was interested in the fact that the college taped the stuff, audio and video. and so i wanted to compare the transcriptions. in the case of clinton, they -- the clinton people sent us a copy of what he said. and then the college made a transcription from just the videotape. and they didn't match. they weren't really far off, but they didn't match.
6:13 pm
because he didn't say exactly can what was written in his speech. he did what most people do, and he ad libbed some. he probably ad libbed a good deal. anyway, it was -- what you could see is that if you're trying to get the exact text, what did he say, precisely, i know what he said, i've got his own speech! where did you get it? from his headquarters. not a good idea. so -- one of the things that wasn't in the written speech that i thought was unfortunate was that at the beginning of his speech, he made some informal remarks, which were complimentary to one of my books. and i thought that belonged in this book. and i was disappointed that it wasn't in the official transcript. and obama's speech was very good. and not long afterwards, there
6:14 pm
was an issue of "time" magazine dedicated to lincoln and they asked a number of people to write about lincoln. and obama did. he talked about what was going on in his mind when he is sitting there, watching the graduates march down the aisle and get ready for the program. and he said, "what crossed my mind was, since he was sitting --" "i was sitting where abraham lincoln was trying to run for the senate, trying to beat the incumbent, douglas. and even though he lost, it made it possible for me to be here in the senate." which i thought was really remarkable. so in a way, what did -- what did -- what did lincoln say in the speech? well, we have five versions of it in his own hand. one of them is the earliest one that i talked about, the nick olai, but the ones that represent his attempt to put down an official version are
6:15 pm
known as the everett -- the bancroft and the bliss. which he did in february and march. that is to say, four -- three to four months after the speech. and the accounts that we have of how he did this, what he used, suggest that he didn't -- he didn't go back to his own manuscript. or at least that's my sense of it. and the -- the ap reporter who filed the speech that most newspapers used says that -- he didn't have a full set of notes, because he got caught up in the moment, and that he simply copied lincoln's speech afterwards. lincoln gave him permission to copy. so we have that text. and then we have a text by a very skilled stenographer, charles hale, who says that he
6:16 pm
got -- he was sure he got every word that lincoln said. and he couldn't find his paper, because he got caught in a jam, he couldn't get it through the telegraph. the telegraph was full and then he got caught in the bottleneck on the railroads, came back to boston for several days. and so he didn't get his version in his paper. but he published it later. and if you compare the two, the one that the stenographer took down and the ap reporter who says he copied lincoln's manuscript, they're within a phrase or two the same text. this is fatal to the idea that he had the nickolai in his hand, which is missing a good bit of material and has some other stuff. and he would have to ad lib a
6:17 pm
good many things. so there isn't much doubt in my mind. but let me tell you about the newest book of the -- about the writing of the gettysburg address. and it is, i think, the most ambitious book. it's a new book by martin p. johnson. it's called "writing the gettysburg address." i've had occasion to read over the years while he's been working on this, and it's been a number of years, his articles he has written on various parts of -- aspects of the address. and i've also had the good fortune to read his book, which is just out with some care, because i was reading it before it came out. and it is a very good book. it is certainly the most ambitious study of the address that we have had in a long, long time, and probably the most ambitious of all of them. and it tells us a lot of interesting things. and clears up some -- some puzzles, and adds some things --
6:18 pm
gives us a lot of new, interesting things to think about. and so i just wanted to say a few words about that, because it's a book that you're going to be reading reviews of very soon, and i think it is a worthy effort. let me give an example of a couple of things that he does that i think are really contributions to the study of the gettysburg address. he explains, i think, better than anybody ever has, and took a lot of time to look into the way the telegraph system worked. how the newspapers used it. how things were transcribed. sent.
6:19 pm
and what he shows us is that some of the strange errors that occur in the telegraphic accounts are results of the telegraph kind of incremental errors that are made along the way. so that philadelphia papers who -- i've forgotten the route they were on. but at any rate, they're the most accurate, because they're the fewest telegraphic glitches in it. and it shows you how telegraphic glitches down the road make people think that the address -- the editors reading this say, oh, this must mean this and so forth. so you get all these strange reports of the gettysburg address that are faulty because of the telegraph transmission. but you can use the telegraph transmission, because it was -- they had four lines. one that went out to the north. the boston area. one that went to the new york area.
6:20 pm
one went south through baltimore, and one went west toward chicago. but the western one, lines were so busy, they couldn't get there sent first day, so they didn't send it until the second day. so -- this kind of information was interesting. we have always felt that these telegraphic errors are obscuring our perfect vision of what lincoln actually said. but he helps a great deal with that. another thing that i think that is really interesting is, he gives us a rationale for the hay manuscript. i wish i gave powerpoint lectures so you could see the difference between the hay manuscript and nickolai manuscript. they're lincoln's secretaries, why aren't they the same? we don't know. but probably the hay manuscript is a document that lincoln used in trying to work up an official version that he was going to
6:21 pm
send to edward everett, the guy who gave the big oration at gettysburg. because he had requested it. he said, i'm going to put the manuscript in my oration, i would like to have the manuscript of your talk, and i'm going to sell these for the benefit of the soldiers. so lincoln said fine, i'll do that. lincoln didn't send him the delivery manuscript. why not? well, he didn't seem to have it. the guy who ran the cemetery dedication, david wills, had written him, and asked him if he would donate the original manuscript. but lincoln was sick in bed at that time. you may remember, he came home
6:22 pm
sick from gettysburg. he had a minor version of smallpox. but he had to go to bed. and so he wasn't doing much business. and he doesn't seem to have gotten around to working with the text until everett asked him in january to send him something. so i think that this -- this isn't -- this doesn't seem to me to be the strength of a martin johnson's book. because -- is working on an admirable principle. he says, now, look, why should we invent a lost manuscript if we have a manuscript that his secretary says is the manuscript that he finished in david wills' house and put in his pocket and took out and read from at gettysburg? granted, it doesn't -- those aren't the words that he said at gettysburg, because the newspapers tell us that. but that's the manuscript. we don't -- that way we don't have to invent one.
6:23 pm
well, i think we need to invent one. because if the ap reporter says he copied it out, and he filed the story and they sent it out, and it's just almost exactly word for word what the stenographer says he took down word for word, there's no room for the nickolai manuscript, in the way i see it. so i don't think this is the strength of the book. but i think in showing us how the hay manuscript makes perfect sense -- it's hard to describe what's wrong with the hay manuscript. it has things that -- it seems to be a hodgepodge of manuscript things -- that are from known manuscripts and things from known newspaper reports. so i think he makes a very good case that the hay manuscript comes in when lincoln is trying to get back what he said and what he wants.
6:24 pm
he knows that the newspapers pretty much have it. but he wants to test it against his other manuscripts, and that he's using the hay manuscript, which some people have argued is the delivery manuscript. is -- is the -- is the one. so i really think, if you're interested in that kind of history of the text, he's got a very good explanation of the hay -- much better, i think, than any we have had before. so i can say that. as i said, i think it's a very good book. very worthwhile. it is narrowly focused. he does have some interesting things to say about what happened at gettysburg. what lincoln did at gettysburg. and some other events. but mostly he's talking about the text.
6:25 pm
and minutely going through accounts of what this person said and what that person said and what if you put these two together and discount for this and so forth what that might mean. that's -- that's heavy going. not very entertaining to read. and it is -- as john adams says, my head hurts, trying to figure this out. and your head can hurt a little bit in some of these arguments. but i think he is definitely contributing a good deal. and anybody who works with this is going to have a much better understanding of the problems and what the possible solutions are. so i commend the book. and i don't want to emphasize my misgivings. but i do think that he's got the wrong delivery text. he -- he has an interesting -- he makes an interesting point of
6:26 pm
some well-known testimony by james speed. speed was the attorney general in 1864, and when he came to become attorney general in talking with lincoln, lincoln told him about the gettysburg address, he says. he says 14 years later. but it's a very interesting account of what lincoln said. but it's taken by a reporter. these aren't speed's words. this is the report telling what speed said. when requested to deliver an address -- he's telling us what lincoln told him. when requested to deliver an address on the occasion of the dedication of the national cemetery at gettysburg, he was very uncertain whether his duties would detain him at washington. but he was anxious to go. and he desired to be prepared to say some appropriate thing. the day before he left washington, he found time to write about half of a speech. he took what he had written with
6:27 pm
him to gettysburg. there he was put in an upper room in a house, and he asked to be left alone for a time. he then shortly before -- he then prepared a speech, but concluded it so shortly before it was to be delivered, he had no time to memorize it. after the speech was delivered and taken down by reporters, he compared what he had actually said with what he had written. and the difference was so slight that he allowed what he said to remain unchanged. a lot of what speed says here is corroborated. but i think that since johnson makes such a heavy use of this, this is kind of a outline of his book, as he says. he's gotten this story, and he thinks it has a beginning and a middle and an end.
6:28 pm
that he uses it as kind of an outline. but i don't think he takes into account can can the fact that there are these difficulties. i mean, it's a great piece of testimony. but testimony always has problems. i'm not going to go into that any further. just except to recommend the book if you're interested in the textual history. here's the real controversy. and it isn't such a -- it isn't such an energetic controversy as the textual controversy sometimes becomes. and that is, what is the gettysburg address about? what is lincoln trying to say? what's the most important message for americans then? and what is its most enduring message?
6:29 pm
those things are worth thinking about. consider the setting in 1863. and johnson's book is very good on this. but gabor -- gabor boreit's book is even better. and that is the setting of the scene after the battle. the armies leave. of course, the confederate wounded are all left behind, that they couldn't take. so they're -- and the union army can can only take so many. and so the people of gettysburg are left to tend the wounded. the dead are simply lying out there on the ground. by the thousands. and the horses, ooh. and, of course, all of the broken and abandoned implements of war strew the battlefield.
6:30 pm
and for a while, it was really bad. it was dangerously bad. they had to get those bodies buried. and so it was not a pretty scene. by the time, four months later, when they had the ceremony, they were -- they had gotten on top of the burial to a large extent. but consider that the people there were -- there were lots of soldiers, okay? just on their own time. soldiers on leave. veterans of the battle, if they could get away, came. there were a lot of them. relatives, widows, orphans of the people who were dead. at that -- it was a very somber occasion. and this is something that when we're looking at it on the page is hard to contextualize.
6:31 pm
but it was the kind of occasion where everybody wept. the guy who gave the prayer was a famous preacher for prayers. and he did himself proud. and everybody wept. in the middle of everett's very affecting two-hour oration, the president would seem to -- be mopping his tears. and then when lincoln read his -- especially the second part of his address, you can can imagine what it was like for people for whom this is a somber occasion, like a funeral, for lincoln to say that these dead have not died in vain. as the -- i like to point to the comment of george william curtis in "harper's" just two weeks after the address. he says, "it's a -- it's the kind of thing that you -- that
6:32 pm
kindles emotion. you can't read it without feeling something. without feeling something strong. and for people who are involved in this way, it would have been clearly for them, it was about the sacrifice of those men. those people who died. for the cause. that's what the gettysburg address meant to them. and i think to the veterans for years and years and years, and the relatives, people, they -- continued to decorate graves and so forth. it was for a long time that's what it was. it was about the soldiers who died at the battlefield. the -- the one that -- the other
6:33 pm
theme is preservation of the union, of course. and that's what lincoln is saying it's about -- the war is about the preservation of the union. that's what we're doing. this is what he said about greely, criticized for not moving quicker on slavery. it depends on what will preserve the union. and that's what i'm going to do. if i have to free them all, if it i can free some, and not others, it's what he had already made up his mind to do. so the preservation of the union had been a national issue, a strong national issue, growing national issue. got fierce in the '50s. but it was -- it went back at least to the webster debate in 1830, a debate that lincoln would have memorized and his contemporaries. and that would have been something like their gettysburg address.
6:34 pm
and at the level of the public's understanding, i think insofar as they could divorce their own grief, personal grief, the cause that lincoln talks about without naming would have been preservation of the union. the new birth of freedom caught people's attention. and certainly for people who thought that the whole point of the war was to end slavery, this is what lincoln is talking about. a new birth of freedom. certainly he invites that interpretation. the demise of slavery was foreshadowed. the gettysburg was being looked upon as a turning point. it wasn't clear yet that they were going to prevail. but that -- this was the center of the hope. and i think that increasingly,
6:35 pm
it became more and more important. the new birth of freedom is the signal that this -- that the real issue is slavery. certainly, in our own time, the fact that the war was about slavery, which lincoln says in his second inaugural, has come back very strong. people have forgotten that the war was about slavery. it wasn't about these other extraneous things. so i think that's the one that is strongest right now. but i want to close by suggesting that its real importance in the larger picture, the larger controversy, might be two things. one is, reinterpretation of the declaration of independence. and gary wills' book gives voice to this. the words that remade america.
6:36 pm
gary wills, you remember, wrote a great book about jefferson in the '70s. one of the things he pointed -- he made very strongly was that it's just silly for people to think -- i'm making that too strong. but the people thought that they didn't -- they didn't think about all men are created equal so much as jefferson, 18th century idea about natural rights, they think about what lincoln says about people in general. and that lincoln -- this isn't what the declaration said. well i think that people agreed with that, except that i think what wills is saying in this -- in the second book is, so he reinterpreted it. so he gave us a new interpretation of the declaration. so that's great. historically, it may not be accurate. or it may have a lot of problems. a lot of baggage historically.
6:37 pm
but that's what people think. it changed people's way of thinking about the whole idea of natural rights, all men are created equal. i certainly subscribe to that. i'm of a mind that lincoln -- that lincoln thought -- longest and hardest about his first sentence. because i think he was trying to write a sentence that even his democratic opponents who hated the war and who hated him and what he was trying to do and thought they had started a partisan war, a republican war, dragged the country into this kind of mess. that he had them in a -- a trap, is a strong word. but for lack of a better. he got them to agree.
6:38 pm
that our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, dedicated of the proposition that all men are created equal. yeah. but then the next sentence says, now we're engaged in a great civil war. testing whether that nation -- and right there, the "chicago times" and democrats are going to say wait a minute, wait a minute, we don't go along with that. it's too late. you've already gone along with the first premise. and that's the one that matters. at any rate, that's the way i'm trying to make the case. i think lincoln himself would have -- been interested and sympathetic with all of those points of view. glad to lend his name and his words to most of it. but for himself, i think if you judge is by what he says in the
6:39 pm
'50s, and what he says in the first inaugural, about self government, which is only an experiment, democracies haven't worked, because it's not structured. but -- so he avoids the word democracy, by and large. he always says self government. he says slavery is wrong because that's not self government. if somebody else rules you, you're not -- that's not self government. so i think for him, especially the way he ends it, i think that he brings that home, because that's a larger goal. herndon says lincoln liked abstractions. we think of lincoln as a warm, personable, friendly guy. herndon points out he's thinking in abstract terms.
6:40 pm
he has a very rangy mind and i think self government is what he's talking about. that's why this speech ends by saying that these -- these men shall not have died in vain, that this country under god shall have a new freedom that government by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth. lincoln knew how to use the negative. if you want to really make that ending strong, you don't say and that we will continue to have self government. you say, not perish. and i think given what he was saying all through the '50s about the necessity of having equality, freedom, to have self government, that's what he's talking about here. and that the european countries are very suspicious of this.
6:41 pm
they don't think this will work. and of course, we're still having that argument. but i really think that he lands on what may be for him would have been the most important part. so, i think i'll stop there and see if you have any questions about this. [ applause ] >> okay. garret? >> yeah. doug, what would you say if i said that the gettysburg address was actually lincoln's abstract for his 1864 campaign re-election and that the gettysburg address was actually his first campaign speech? >> i don't know what i'd say. i'd have to think about that. i think that that people make a good point saying one of the reasons he wanted to come to pennsylvania is you had to have pennsylvania to win the
6:42 pm
election. he's already thinking about the election. '64. and he is up there talking to politicians. and consulting. he had to come to terms with curtain. curtain was ambitious. he thought maybe he could get -- beat lincoln out of a second term. he was one of many. so, so that he went up to -- that he did political fence mending and that kind of thing on his gettysburg trip, certainly. that it was the opening shot of his campaign, i'd have to think about that. do you have an idea? >> well, it just seems that when you really read the gettysburg address, i mean, you're thinking about the 13th amendment. you're thinking about all of the other things he accomplished in his second term which really the gettysburg address supported very broadly. but it's almost like an abstract outline. just a thought.
6:43 pm
>> okay. >> okay. who else? yes? don? >> going back to the battle, couple days after the battle, lincoln is talking at the white house about 87 years ago and this isn't the right time for my speech but we need to have a time for a speech. >> the july -- >> on july 7th. >> the july 7th speech. >> and then later in the summer, governor curtain comes to washington a couple of times. it is not until november 2nd that the formal invitation comes. what's the likelihood that lincoln was really was, you know, setting up the invitation so he'd have the appropriate time to be able to make those remarks and that he was thinking through all those months from july until november about what he'd say? >> very good.
6:44 pm
i'm with you all the way. i try to make the case in my book "lincoln's sword" that we have a good evidence once we look at the right places that lincoln was a very deliberate creator of his own speeches. he didn't say stuff off the top. and herndon describes how he wrote the house divided speech. he says he kept writing little notes to himself and little -- tear off a scrap of paper and write something down. he kept all those things in his hat. when it came time to write the speech, he said he turned the hat over on the table, dumped these out and started arranging them and then he numbered them and then he wrote out his speech.
6:45 pm
now, that would be an anomaly if it weren't for the fact that we have other examples and i could give them to you but i just -- i'll just tell you the people that talk about this pattern. his son robert says this is a way his father wrote, by making little notes on scraps of paper. i just said his law partner. his secretary nicolai says the same thing. that he was always writing, maybe just word or a phrase. something on a scrap of paper. and slate, mr. slate, his butler says that he was always collecting these little pieces of paper that mr. lincoln had written on and helping him keep track of them by rounding them up and handing them back to him. there's no question he did that. now, he gives the speech july 7th as he said. he says to the audience, what a glorious thing, on the fourth of july, the enemies of the declaration that says all men are equal, on the birthday of the declaration, the enemies of declaration turned tail and ran and he says this is a glorious theme and i just am i not
6:46 pm
prepared to give it right now. you can't tell me that he hasn't got already in his hat -- it turns out that in the presidential he used a drawer, a certain drawer of his desk to put it in. he said once described i liked that letter. he said, i had it all right here. showed him. the idea of -- this is one place where i disagree with martin johnson. he says this speech, he didn't -- had no preparation. he wasn't thinking about writing a speech until he got the invitation. he was busy. he had to write it on very short notice and so forth. i can't believe that that squares with what we know about the way he habitually wrote and he had a speech about equality, about all men are created equal, that he had been dying to give
6:47 pm
since the '50s. he probably had notes on it for then. so, i'm persuaded that he as you say took advantage. this would be the perfect place to give my speech. but then, of course, you've got to get it written. and so, he determines he's going to make it short and then he makes the discovery that we all make. it's takes more time to be brief than to write a long piece. so you make a great point and i would agree that he had been thinking a long time about this subject. he says the central idea of american politics is equality. and one of the things he talks about is that even with -- got all of these immigrants in his
6:48 pm
time and the politicians worry about him because they want the know how the people will vote and so forth. but he says that even though these people can't identify with the revolutionists, the way we all do because they all thought about the revolution all the time. he says when they hear us talk about all men are created equal, that resonates. that's not his word. but that's what he means. that resonates with them and they identify with it and they endorse it. so, the idea that equality is the most important, most revered resonant thing in american politics is one of his basic ideas and it's right there in the first sentence. >> edgar. >> yes. growing up, i had always read that after he delivered the speech most people and most newspaper accounts other than hale did not think much of the
6:49 pm
speech. is that, in fact, true? and at what time or what point did people awaken to the fact that it was a great speech? >> the speech had had admirers immediately and prominent ones. the one that was most gratifying to lincoln as you know is edward everett himself. the nation's most esteemed orator and he said to lincoln, you said more in two minutes about the subject than i said in two hours. is something like that. he valued that very much. he showed that letter to people. something that he didn't usuall. he showed that letter to people. something that he didn't usuall. he valued that very much. he showed that letter to people. something that he didn't usually do. but certainly it was a somber occasion. it wasn't an occasion where people throw their hats up in the air. and so, it was.
6:50 pm
there wasn't a big demonstration. but it was well noticed in various places. and this gives me an opportunity to read the view of sumner that i had intended to finish with but i got in a hurry. trying to be brief.sumner i intenned to finish with. i got in a hurry. sumner's kentucky friend said in the memoir i wanted to record what sumner told him in the g gettysburg address. he read a lot of languages. any man living or dead, he thought lincoln's speech was the greatest. remember this guy is not entirely friendly. he did not like the second inaugural. no way. i want to go down and hang those
6:51 pm
guys. he said lincoln said the world with little note nor long remember what we say here but never forget what we did here. sumner said the speech would live when the memory of the battle would be lost. or only remembered because of the speech. i'm william from pennsylvania. i have two questions. during the first years of civil war, abraham lincoln avoided saying it was a civil war right. then he admits there really is a civil war. what did lincoln mean when he said a new birth of freedom. i think you mentioned that.
6:52 pm
i think you might want to review it again. >> i think a new birth of freedom does resinate about slavery. he's trying to get people to come together on first principles. that's his strategy as a politician. don't alienate people. when they talked about the republican party, he said don't disagree in public. if you bicker all the time -- i do think that the new birth of freedom applies also to the idea of self government. the idea that the cause of self government is what is the larger thing we're doing here. it involves the whole world. it isn't just this country. it's the whole future and whole
6:53 pm
world. so i think that's a good point. i don't think he liked to talk about it as a civil war. eventually he came around to it. he couldn't get generals to start talking about our territory and their territory. he said it's all our territory. those people are americans. they're on american soil. they're in rebellion. we want to talk them out of it or fight them out of it. of course the thing i think that resinates so much with lincoln in the world is that he did not do what sumner and so many thought he should do, go down south and hang those people responsibility. he said let's just obey the law and go back to doing what we were. >> i'm sure everyone in here as
6:54 pm
a child was required to remember the gettysburg address. do you endorse that now for children in school? i'm a great believer in memorization. it was prominent. we've gotten away from that. memorizing things is useful. all kinds of people tell me having memorized so much poetry when they were young and in love with poetry, they continue to enjoy that. drive down the road and site ode to grease earth. >> what was the response towards
6:55 pm
the gettysburg address. how did the confederacy respond to it? >> i've never look into that. civil war stories are so much union base had the we don't hear enough about it. there's a lot to be learned from knowing what was going on in the south from what people were saying and thinking. we can just about predict some things they said. it's not likely they said many complimentary things. it's what you said in private that's different than what you said in press. press is going to take the national line as they were. lincoln does not rule out good intentions or confederacy or the
6:56 pm
battle. the battle is decisive and the good guys as far as he's concerned won. he doesn't. in case lincoln couldn't come, they contacted sue ward and said would you be ready in case the president can't come? he gave it the night before. it's the standard kind of speech where he talks about wickedness of the opponents. just completely the opposite of the way lincoln talked about opponents. i think what people believe is that lincoln got better results. fredrick douglas said we opposed him all those years. he got done what we couldn't do because we didn't have the right method. we were antagonizing people.
6:57 pm
they were keeping the cause a live on the destruction of slavery. lincoln was trying to figure out how you did that, how to get that done and still have a country, not shatter the sense of a nation. >> do you agree with wells that the get tiget ttie ttie ttie tt address. the "t." >> i'm not so keen on that. i think of sandburg's way. he says before they said the united states are and after the war we say united states is.
6:58 pm
i think probably the idea is the same. to cover the anniversary of marking of gettysburg address. speakers include author and interior secretary sally jewel. watch the ceremony on thanksgiving day thursday november 28 at 4:00 and 10:00 p.m. eastern time on cspan 3.
6:59 pm
i i start wd roosevelt. i knew so much had been written i needed a different story. i got to taft knowing they were friends and broken apart in 1912. when i figured out the difference in the two, it was teddy's public leadership. i started reading about the progressive era, magazines and press. these guys played a center role. historians say these people were the vanguard of the progressive movement. i started reading about them. i knew about white but didn't know the others. >> roosevelt, taft and the muck wreckers tonight with the author doris goodwin on cspan q&a.
7:00 pm
we travel to learn about the project in the library. the collections exist in digital form for scholars, people with disacts and general public. we begin by hearing from brewster kel, founder of the ar arrive. >> the idea is build the library version two. the idea is can you go and make all book, music video available to anybody that's curious enough. we're trying to do pieces that are missing. maybe large scale materials or materials people are putting on their websites everyday and coming down to give that a permanent home. physical materials, an

111 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on