05 May, 2004

An Unfinished Lincoln & Machiavelli Entry

In my last journal entry (which I doubt any have even bothered to read at all), I ended my thoughts prematurely do to it being final exams week. But tests are now over, and I finally have the ability to explain what I meant when I spoke of Lincoln and Machiavelli.

This country was founded on September 17, 1787. On this day, the Constitution was signed by our founding fathers, and the United States of America was born into existence.

But I wonder how many of you readers actually knew that, despite having been American citizens for all of your life.

But why is it that American citizens are not taught the birthday of their own country? Why is it that if you ask any random guy on the street when the United States was founded, you will hear the date of July 4, 1776 instead? Does anyone even know what was written on that day?

On July 4, Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence. An important document, to be sure, but it is rather retarded to think of it as the birth of this nation. In fact, no one thought of the Declaration as the beginning of the United States until some eighty years after the US was in existence. In 1800, if you had asked a guy off the street, he would have said September 17, 1787 was the birth of this nation. The same is true for 1850. But by 1900, the guy on the street would say July 4, 1776 instead.


The answer is horrifyingly simple. On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address in Gettysburg, PA. Here, reprinted in full, is what he said there on that day:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who died here that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have hallowed it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Did you catch his references? His address was simple, yet brilliant. In giving this speech, he changed the course of history for the United States, and thus the world. How is it that such a simle address at a battlefield site could have so much power?

First, he begins his address with "fourscore and seven years ago", which refers back to 1776, and not to 1787. But it isn't a mistake on his part; it is a carefully orchestrated plan to create a new nation. I'll explain what I mean by that in a minute. Second, he

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