The Gettysburg Address

by Abraham Lincoln

Start Free Trial

How do the American ideals mentioned in the first paragraph of "The Gettysburg Address" develop in the following paragraphs?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the first paragraph of the "Gettysburg Address," Lincoln mentions the two ideals on which the United States was founded. First, the new nation was dedicated to the idea of liberty, and second, to the idea that all men are created equal.

In the second paragraph, Lincoln turns to the...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

fact that these ideals have been put to a test. A group of Southern states is waging a war to try to break up the country, and therefore break up a nation founded on liberty and equality. A battle has just been fought in which many Northern troops gave up their lives to defend these ideals. It is important to remember and dedicate a portion of this field to these men.

In the third paragraph, Lincoln develops the idea that the best way, however, to honor the dead is not to consecrate a battlefield but to keep struggling to preserve the nation. It is important to win the war to ensure that a country founded on the ideas of freedom and equality—a country based on a great and idealistic experiment—should not die.

Lincoln is trying to keep his listeners focused on the cause for which the soldiers died rather than the fact that so many young men perished at Gettysburg. He wants to unite his followers around a patriotic cause, one worth dying for.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What two significant ideals brought about in the creation of the United states are mentioned in the first paragraph of the Gettysburg Address, and how does Lincoln introduce these ideals?

President Abraham Lincoln delivered the brief speech that became known as the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863 at a cemetery at the location of a horrifically bloody battle of the US Civil War. The primary speaker, Edward Everett, spoke for two hours, while Lincoln spoke for no more than two minutes. However, it is Lincoln's speech that has become an immortal part of American history. The first paragraph of the Gettysburg Address is comprised of a single sentence that says,

Four score and seven years ago our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Within this extraordinary sentence, Lincoln mentions two ideals that the United States is founded upon. He introduces the first ideal with the phrase "conceived in liberty." According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to conceive is "to cause to begin; originate." Liberty, of course, means freedom. Lincoln is saying the United States as a nation was founded on freedom. In the Declaration of Independence, among the "unalienable rights" of humankind are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." In the preamble to the US Constitution, it is emphasized that one of the reasons for writing the document was to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

The other ideal that Lincoln introduces is "that all men are created equal." To protect this ideal by abolishing slavery, of course, was one of the main reasons for the Civil War. At the beginning of the Declaration of Independence, this ideal is also affirmed as one of the truths that are "self-evident": "that all men are created equal."

We see, then, that in the first paragraph of the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln states some of the core ideals upon which the United States was founded: the importance of liberty and the equality of all people.

Last Updated on