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Gettysburg Address ... easy question? maybe
12-19-2017, 09:32 PM
Post: #26
RE: Gettysburg Address ... easy question? maybe
Most of my response here is related to some of the earlier posts in this thread.

I agree with posts above about how Lincoln used or even spelled words in a way that would lend emphasis and clarity or even convey a specific meaning – especially when they were spoken or read aloud to large or small groups.

In 1904/1905 William Gibson Harris (a law student of Lincoln in the 1840s), over the course 4 issues of Woman’s Home Companion, published his recollections of Lincoln. In one of the segments he recalled Lincoln having said, “I write by ear. When I have got my thoughts on paper, I read it aloud, and if it sounds alright I let it pass.” And according to one of Lincoln's secretaries, William Stoddard, Lincoln’s method was “to read his manuscript over aloud, ‘to see how it sounded, as he could hardly judge of a thing by merely reading it.’”

When looking at his writing, I think it’s pretty clear Lincoln punctuated by ear as well. He tended to use lots of commas (to denote speaking pauses or breaths I suppose) among other more strange punctuation and capitalization choices. When considering a written piece being spoken aloud, some of the choices are maybe not quite so strange. Douglas Wilson, in his book Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words makes mention of these punctuation habits and how John Defrees at the Government printing office had the unenviable task of trying to edit the state papers (and purge those many commas as well as correct spelling errors and random capitalizations) that Lincoln sent to be printed.

When I have spoken on the subject of Lincoln’s remarks at Gettysburg, I have typically referred to the length as roughly 10 sentences and around 270 words. The exact length is not of primary importance to me. The point I try to get across is how the language he used was crafted in such a way that an evocative message was delivered with clarity and brevity. Edward Everett’s remarks in his 20 November 1863 letter to Lincoln (as quoted in a previous post in this thread) articulate this point quite clearly. I have no doubt the brevity of the message is one of the factors that has contributed to Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” being one of the most well-known and enduring speeches in the English language. If not brief, it would be much harder to memorize. The ability of individuals to memorize the address, in all or in part, has certainly been a contributor to its longevity and ongoing presence in our collective consciousness.

I would say the most recognized version would be the Bliss Copy. That one is considered the definitive copy (since as someone mentioned it was the last one written in Lincoln's hand) so most all modern printings and re-printings are based on that one. Even though it is probably not the exact version that the audience heard at Gettysburg on 19 November 1863, it is probably the version that millions and millions would recognize as the Gettysburg Address.

On the topic of can not vs. cannot, I might theorize that “cannot” originated in the print media. It would conserve a type space. I have seen misspellings in old newspapers that I suspect were intentionally made in order to better fit text into the available print space. The misspellings were obvious but not so egregious that the intended meaning was lost. Just a thought.
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RE: Gettysburg Address ... easy question? maybe - STS Lincolnite - 12-19-2017 09:32 PM

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