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.