The Gettysburg Address


  • What happened "four score and seven years ago"? Why does Lincoln start with this?
  • In the first sentence, what does Lincoln tell us about this new nation?
  • What is being tested by this war?
  • What impact does starting the second paragraph with "now" have on its meaning?
  • When Lincoln says the nation was "so conceived and so dedicated" what is he referring to?
  • What is the point including the phrase "or any nation so conceived and so dedicated" - what would the sentence mean without it?
  • What if Lincoln had used the verb "start" instead of "conceive?"
  • What are the people who are assembled at Gettysburg there to do?
  • What did those who fought at Gettysburg do that those who have gathered cannot?
  • What is the impact of starting the third paragraph with "but"?
  • What does Lincoln describe as the impact of those who fought at Gettysburg?
  • What does Lincoln mean by "the great task remaining"?
  • What is the unfinished work that those listening to the speech are asked to achieve?
  • How does Lincoln use the idea of "unfinished work" to assign responsibility to his listeners?
  • What specific ideas does Lincoln ask his listeners to commit themselves to at the end of his speech?
  • "Increased devotion to that cause". What cause is this?
  • How does the meaning of the word "dedicate" change over the course of the text, and what does it reveal about the Gettysburg address?

(From of the NewYork State Education Department. Internet. Available from


Discussion Questions 

Questions provided by Brian Farmer, Professor of Social Sciences at Amarillo College

  • Lincoln begins the Gettysburg Address with the assertion that the American founding fathers forged the new American nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Given that gslavery was legal in six of the thirteen states in 1776 when Thomas Jefferson penned the “all men are created equal” assertion in the Declaration of Independence, and given that women and men without property, not to mention slaves, could not vote, is Lincoln correct in his assertions that the nation was “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal?”  Why or why not?
  • If you believe that Lincoln is correct in his assertion that the nation was “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” what is your definition of liberty since slavery was legal and women and men without property could not vote? What is the meaning of “all men are created equal?”
  • Lincoln asserts that “We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.” In essence, Lincoln is dedicating the cemetery to the Union soldiers that died to save the Union and excluding the confederates.  He also states that “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…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 the earth.”  In making this statement, isn’t Lincoln asserting that the Union has a government of the people, by the people, for the people, but the Confederacy does not? Given that the Nation Lincoln hearkens to “Fourscore and seven years ago”  and “conceived in liberty” also had slavery in 1776, how is the Confederacy different from the America of 1776? Lincoln is essentially asserting that if the Union does not fight this Civil War, government of the people, by the people, for the people” will “perish from the earth.” Is this assertion correct?  Why or why not?    

Support provided by:

Brown & Fortunato PBS Learning Media