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The Gettysburg Address – November 20, 1863 Rare First Day Printing by “Lincoln’s Dog” John Forney in the Philadelphia Press
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The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract…

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is on page 2, along with Edward Everett’s entire speech, and a report on the ceremonies. Printed in an important newspaper owned by John Forney, this version is in some ways more accurate than the more widely spread Associated Press report.

[ABRAHAM LINCOLN]. GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. Newspaper, Philadelphia Press, Philadelphia, November 20, 1863. Complete, 4 pp., approx. 20¼ x 28 in.

Inventory #25971       Price: $6,000

John Wien Forney (1817-1881), had been a Democrat whose support for President James Buchanan brought appointment as clerk of the House of Representatives and lucrative printing contracts. However, after Forney lost his election bid for the U.S. Senate, he started the anti-Buchanan Philadelphia Press, and switched to the Republican Party in 1860, becoming a key Lincoln supporter. Forney again served as House clerk, and then secretary of the Senate until 1868. (In that position, he was one of only four men to sign the official 13th Amendment Resolution: President Lincoln, Vice President Hamlin, Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax, and Forney, writing, “I certify that this Resolution originated in the Senate.”) At the same time, he maintained his editorial “Letter from Occasional” column in the Press and established the Washington Chronicle, aimed at the public and to soldiers in the Army of the Potomac. He interviewed the President on issues such as freedom of the press and the probable effects of the Emancipation Proclamation, and was invited to consult about cabinet appointments. His White House access caused opponents to call him “Lincoln’s dog.”

The night before the Gettysburg Cemetery, Forney got “roaring drunk and gave a violently pro-Lincoln speech” (Boritt). Given that history, he probably should not have been chosen to chaperone newly-elected vice president Andrew Johnson at the March 4, 1865 inauguration; Johnson was widely criticized for his drunken performance there. After Lincoln’s assassination and Johnson’s veto of the Freedman’s Bureau Act in 1868, Forney changed positions and campaigned for impeachment. Selling the Chronicle and returning to Philadelphia, the chameleon-like editor switched back to the Democrats, and started a weekly magazine, The Progress. In addition, he served as a director of the Texas & Pacific Railway.

Partial Transcript:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. [Applause] 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 general battle-field of that war; we are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting place of those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this, 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 consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. [Applause] The world will note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. [Applause]. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried on. [Applause]. It is rather for us here to be here 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 the dead shall not have died in vain. [Applause] That the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that the Government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth. [Long applause. Three cheers given for the President of the United States and the Governors of the States…

Textual Differences

The speed with which printings were produced given 19th century communication issues and the lack of any official manuscript or text, produced questions about Lincoln’s exact words. This version includes the word “poor” in the line “far above our poor power to add or detract.” This was heard by some reporters, and is present in both of Lincoln’s drafts, though is lost in most other contemporary printings. This version correctly quotes Lincoln’s “unfinished work,” which the AP incorrectly transcribed as “refinished work.” The applause notations also differentiates the Philadelphia Press version from the AP report, especially with the three cheers at the speech’s conclusion.

Additional differences:

- The “general battle-field of that war” is the “great battle-field of that war” in the AP text.

- “We are met to dedicate” is “We have come to dedicate” in Lincoln’s written copies.

- “carried on” is found here and in Lincoln’s second draft, but Lincoln used “advanced” in subsequent versions: “have thus so far [so] nobly [carried on advanced]”

Other Contents of the Paper

Page 1 starts with a column of advertising, ie “Cotton is not king yet.-I am selling linen sheetings at prices that are cheaper than cotton...” The news begins with a report from Chattanooga: “We lost 100, a fourth of whom were killed. The enemy had completely invested the place, but Gen. Burnside will defend it to the last man … Our troops are in the best spirits. Every import point is fortified, and confidence prevails that we shall whip the enemy out.” Also reports from Charleston, Atlanta, Cumberland, MD, Harpers’ Ferry, VA, Texas, etc. A report via Baltimore on November 19th carries “most gloomy” news from Union prisoners at Richmond, ending “these men must not be permitted to starve.” A New York bank was rumored to have been robbed of $20,000.

From Europe there’s notice of a speech of Emperor Napolean III, the differing interpretations as to whether it called for peace or war. There are reports of war like preparations in Russia.

An interesting notice: “A slander on Mr. Lincoln refuted.-The remark said to have been ascribed to President Lincoln by Wendall Phillips, to the affect that ‘the greatest folly of his life was the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation,’ out of which such Copperhead journals as The World and The National Intelligencer are attempting to make political capital, is emphatically pronounced, in high quarters, to be all together untrue.

Column 4 starts the extensive reporting on the National Cemetery at Gettysburg dedication, including a “documentary history on the battles of July,” and General Meade’s letter sending his official report on the battle.

Column 5 discusses the grounds of the cemetery and starts Edward Everett’s two hour oration, which on page 2. Transcriptions include the prayer, the dirge after the dedication, the consecration speech by Charles Henry Brock, and more.

Page 2 column 5 has more foreign news, re Japan, Britain, Napoleon III’s war with Mexico, etc. Column 8 includes lengthy reports on battles in Tennessee and Virginia “half of Lee’s army reported to be falling back to Richmond.” At the bottom, a Boston Journal description of some of Confederate firebrand Robert Toombs’ slaves is republished.

Page 3 includes advertisements, list of arrivals at hotels, the offering of about 200 million dollars in treasury notes, and the “five-twenty” six percent loan, with Jay Cooke as subscription agent.

Page 4 includes a report from New York on the raising of colored troops, and a notice about Professor McCulloh, “who recently left a professorship in Columbia College … suddenly turned up in the south as Confederate brigadier general. He’s said to be a native of Baltimore and a graduate of Princeton College. The Pittsburgh Commercial says that several years ago he was a professor of mathematics and natural sciences in Jefferson College Pennsylvania and was subsequently connected with the Coast Survey and the Philadelphia Mint.”

More political news includes from a Western newspaper a platform “said to have been adopted by Ohio and others elsewhere since the elections: “Resolved, That we air in favur uv subjoogashen, emansipashen, confiscashen, taxashen, conscripshen, exterminashen, nigger enlistments, and f there is anything else, the peeple desire, let em write, (post-pade) and weel pass the necessary resolushen.

Reports from Philadelphia including police account of an attempted murder by a deserter who was passing counterfeit money, a case of concealed deadly weapons, and an arraignment of a women for running a “disorderly house”. Plus Philadelphia financial reports (“gold was much excited today, and rose to 153 ½”) (p 4 col 3.)

This is a scarce large format paper.

Condition

Some archival tape repairs on front page (which we will have removed by a conservator).

Sources

Roy Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. VII (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, 1953).

Don E. Fehrenbacher, ed., Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings, 1859-1865 (New York: Library of America, 1989).

Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992).

Gabor Boritt, The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech that Nobody Knows (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006).

Kent Gramm, “A More Perfect Tribute.”


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