Abraham Lincoln often spoke and dreamed about being assassinated, convinced that he would not outlast the rebellion when his work would have been done. Prior to his inauguration, he received letters warning him that he would be killed before reaching Washington. After he died an envelope with eighty such letters was found among his eﬀects, and although twice while president he had his hat shot from his head by unknown assailants, he deprecated all attempts to guard his life.
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The Gettysburg Address, 150 Years Later
On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln visited the site of that year’s earlier Battle of Gettysburg. He gave a short speech that became iconic. Here’s how it and the issues around it has been covered in The Atlantic, in the past and in the present.
- America Civilization: A year before Lincoln’s speech, Ralph Waldo Emerson argued vehemently for the emancipation of the slaves.
- The Words that Remade America: The significance of the Gettysburg Address, as remembered in our June 1992 issue.
- 'Idiot,' 'Yahoo,' 'Original Gorilla': How Lincoln Was Dissed in His Day: Abraham Lincoln set a standard of success that few in history can match. But how many of his contemporaries noticed?
- 150 Years of Misunderstanding the Civil War: America should question the popular account of a war that tore apart the nation.
- The Battle of Gettysburg, 150 Years Ago: A collection of photos from the battle, and modern recreations.
- And for more on the American Civil War, take a look at The Atlantic's Civil War issue.
[Images: Library of Congress]
When powerful, executive politicians speak, they often forgo visual aids. Obama, Reagan, Kennedy: There’s something about the prestige of the president, of presiding, that demands he (or she) face the nation straight-on and honestly, with… his face.
But what if that wasn’t the case? Thirteen years ago, Peter Norvig, the current director of research at Google, suffered a dark night of the soul. Powerpoint presentations, he felt, ruled everything around him. Sales pitches, mission statements, even (shudder) inspirational speeches: All had been processed and extruded by the harsh, homogenizing gizzard of Microsoft’s leviathan.
So, he wondered, what if the Powerpoint had existed earlier in history? What if Lincoln, for example, had turned to the software in a time of utmost national need—what if, oh my gosh, what if Lincoln had delivered the Gettysburg address as a Powerpoint?
Read more. [Image: Norvig]
One-hundred and fifty years ago today, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. It has been celebrated by successive generations of Americans ever since. One of my favorite retrospectives was published back in 1894 in The Century Magazine, where John G. Nicolay set the scene in Gettysburg the night before the now-famous speech.
"Except during its days of battle the little town of Gettysburg had never been so full of people," he wrote. "After the usual supper hour the streets literally swarmed with visitors, and the stirring music of regimental bands and patriotic glee-clubs sounded in many directions. With material so abundant, and enthusiasm so plentiful, a serenading party soon organized itself to call on prominent personages for impromptu speeches, and of course the President could not escape. The crowd persisted in calling him out, but Mr. Lincoln showed himself only long enough to utter the few commonplace excuses which politeness required."
Read more. [Image: Mr. T in DC/Flickr]
150 years ago, the Battle of Gettysburg began. Months later, Abraham Lincoln transformed the ugly reality of that fight, which left nearly fifty thousand dead or wounded, into a historic address—and he did it with 272 words.
Garry Wills wrote about Lincoln’s address in our June 1992 issue: “His speech hovers far above the carnage. He lifts the battle to a level of abstraction that purges it of grosser matter—even “earth” is mentioned only as the thing from which the tested form of government shall not perish. The nightmare realities have been etherealized in the crucible of his language.”
(Image: Library of Congress)
147 Years Ago Today, the U.S. Outlawed Slavery
Happy birthday, 13th Amendment! In honor of the anniversary, here’s a collection of excellent stories from The Atlantic's archives.
- Where Will It End? (Dec. 1857): In The Atlantic's second issue, Edmund Quincy urges readers to take a stand against slavery. “It is only the statement of the truism in moral and in political economy,” he wrote, “that true prosperity can never grow up from wrong and wickedness.”
- American Civilization (Apr. 1862): Ralph Waldo Emerson’s vehement argument for the federal emancipation of slaves. “Morality,” above all else, he asserted, “is the object of government.”
- The President’s Proclamation (Nov. 1862): Seven months later, Emerson hails Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation as an act that would mean “the lives of our heroes have not been sacrificed in vain.”
- Reconstruction, and an Appeal to Impartial Suffrage (Dec. 1866): In the same month the 13th Amendment was adopted, Frederick Douglass pushed lawmakers to grant black Americans the vote: “Slavery is not abolished until the black man has the ballot.”
- The Death of Slavery (Jul. 1866): William Cullen Bryant’s stirring poem about the demise of the “cruel reign” of slavery.
This is a very, very incomplete collection of stories from the era about slavery. (We were, after all, an abolitionist magazine.) For more, take a look at the commemorative Civil War issue we published last year.
[Image: Wikimedia Commons/National Archives]
The fun/chaos started, as it so often does, with a bad day on Monday. Come the evening of the 7th, St. Pierre says, “I was crabby; I was in a bad mood; I was tired of looking around at all the boring, lame stuff online — all the same people rehashing the same things.” He enjoys writing, so he took to his computer “to write something that would be exciting to read.” He started crafting a sensational story that would tell the tale of the epic day St. Pierre wished he’d just had — revisionist history meets personalized fanfic. “So I thought, ‘Okay, what would be just fun and crazy?’ What if Lincoln invented Facebook?”
Starting with that fun and crazy and also totally false premise, St. Pierre spun the rest of the tale of his alt-universe adventure. He wrote the story in bed, from 9:30 in the evening to 2:30 in the morning, impelled by the catharsis and amused by the absurdity of it all. Lincoln inventing Facebook! So ridiculous!
Really, he says, “I just wanted something that would make me smile.”
Read more. [Image: Brian Fung]