Skip to main content

150 years later, newspaper retracts editorial panning Gettysburg Address

By Michael Pearson, CNN
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Crowds attend the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address.
Crowds attend the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pennsylvania newspaper called Lincoln's remarks "silly words" 150 years ago
  • That newspaper's successor has retracted its editorial
  • The 150th anniversary of the speech is November 19

(CNN) -- In what might be one of the oldest corrections in the history of journalism, the editorial board of a Pennsylvania newspaper has retracted its predecessor's famous panning of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as "silly remarks."

"Seven score and ten years ago, the forefathers of this media institution brought forth to its audience a judgment so flawed, so tainted by hubris, so lacking in the perspective history would bring, that it cannot remain unaddressed in our archives," the editors of The Patriot-News wrote Thursday, evoking the opening words and style of Lincoln's most famous speech.

Back then, the editors of the Patriot & Union newspaper -- an ancestor of today's Harrisburg paper -- thought so little of Lincoln's "silly remarks" that they hoped "the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them, and that they shall be no more reposted or thought of."

Oopsie.

History didn't cooperate.

While mildly received on its delivery, the November 19, 1863, speech marking the consecration of the national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, has gone on to become one of the most famous pieces of writing in the American canon -- inscribed on monuments, taught to schoolchildren and frequently surfacing in cultural references.

"Four score and seven years ago," Lincoln wrote in the speech's famous opening line, "our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Filmmaker Ken Burns recently urged all Americans to learn and recite the speech, calling the address "some of the most important words ever spoken."

Americans reciting the Gettysburg Address

And so, on Thursday, the newspaper set the record straight:

"The world will little note nor long remember our emendation of this institution's record -- but we must do as conscience demands," the newspaper wrote.

"In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln's speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Gettysburg Address anniversary
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1720 GMT (0120 HKT)
The Gettysburg Address was a quick-hitting speech that was built to last.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1830 GMT (0230 HKT)
150 years later, document experts are going to great lengths to make sure that copies, handwritten by Lincoln himself, hold up as well as the words themselves.
September 25, 2013 -- Updated 2140 GMT (0540 HKT)
An image possibly showing Abraham Lincoln moments before his historic speech at Gettysburg emerges.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1636 GMT (0036 HKT)
It is a lesson from the ages: Lawmakers like to talk.
November 18, 2013 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Revisit the day when President Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address through photographs.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 2026 GMT (0426 HKT)
Catherine Woodard visited Gettysburg on the 150th anniversary of that decisive Civil War battle. For the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, she wrote two poems.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 0210 GMT (1010 HKT)
Festivities celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address are bringing in some big bucks to nearby towns.
November 18, 2013 -- Updated 2324 GMT (0724 HKT)
Lincoln went on to embolden the Union cause with some of the most stirring words ever spoken.
November 13, 2013 -- Updated 1247 GMT (2047 HKT)
Ken Burns talks to CNN's Piers Morgan about the power and meaning behind the Gettysburg Address.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
The nation commemorates the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. All 278 words.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
The editorial board of a Pennsylvania newspaper has retracted its predecessor's famous panning of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as "silly remarks."
ADVERTISEMENT