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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gettysburg Address

Four score and seventy years ago, (150 years)  Lincoln delivered his brief but iconic address to a crowd at  the Gettysburg battle field just a few months after the famous battle. The dead were still being buried on the new cemetery there.

It is interesting the Lincoln was invited, almost as a second thought, to give a brief address. The major speaker was the outstanding Boston intellectual The Reverend Edward Everett. He was a Unitarian Minister, (the Unitarians were the religious liberals of the day dominant in Eastern Massachusetts during this period of the New England Enlightenment,  He was a politician, professor, public intellectual and one of the outstanding orators of his day.  He spoke for 2 hours, (not an unusually long for a sermon in those days, public lectures were a form of entertainment in those days.  Lincoln spoke briefly for 2 minutes, his address is remembered and revered as the most memorable.

Lincoln preparing to speak holding  a copy of his address on a single page.

Lincoln in this speech reset the vision of the United States. While in the midst of a  absolutely dreadful war,  thinks back on the origins of the American experiment  at Statehood.  He minds those present that they can only honour those who died and fought by continuing to live out the mission of the Nation.  He reset the focus. The civil war for him was not just an issue of succession but an affirmation of  a Nation with a focus of Freedom and Liberty. He ends his address thus;
" we 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 this earth."
 I love it that he largely lifted from the Unitarian minister and abolitionist  Theodore Parker, part of this sentence.  Parker wrote, in a tract Lincoln had read,  "Democracy is direct self-government over all the people, for all the people, by all the people.."   As a person who found a religious home as a teenager in the Unitarian church, becoming a Unitarian minister to the surprise of my family and friends, I have long steeped myself in American history, particularly since the beginning of the 19th Century in New England. This rich intellectual history gave birth not only to my denomination but also literature and public debate of a high order. Theodore Parker was one of my religious heroes along with William Ellery Channing and Ralph Waldo Emerson, the three great thinkers that shaped my religious denomination's thought. They continue to stimulate me religiously. One can only imagine how much they inspired the intellectual community of Eastern Massachusetts in their day.

Just in case you were wondering, No I did not name my son Parker after Theodore Parker,  He is named after my maternal grandfather, Charles Parker Beeston.

Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg today  There are just over 31,000 names of those that died in the Gettysburg Battle

This memorial reminds me of the Menin Gate in Ypres  where there are 55,000  names of the unidentified soldiers who died in the battles for the salient battles outside the city of Ypres in the Great War.

Such memorials I find so very troublesome and emotionally moving. Such a waste  and such pain and suffering for those left behind.

Americans can feel blessed that the Civil War was in fact the war to end all wars on American soil.  Europe has not been so fortunate.


At 6:20 a.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

It's nice to read your historical musings, Philip. I hope you are doing well as winter looms ever larger.

At 7:34 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

I think I've told you before, Philip, that I was a Mass. Unitarian from age 9 on. You may remember that the Rev. Waitstill Sharpe and wife were my first Unitarian ministers.

At 8:07 a.m., Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I do remember that you were a parishioner of Waitstill Sharpe. I knew him and his second wife in his semi retired years. I never heard him speak of his and his first wife's heroic efforts at saving Jews from the Nazis. Real heroes seem to be modest about their achievements. They are the only Americans honoured by Israel for their war time efforts.

At 9:57 a.m., Blogger possum said...

I am just so not into war... and according to some people, it is still being fought here in the South.
How sad is that?

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