Gettysburg Address: 5 famous quotes explained

Story highlights

  • President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at a turning point in the Civil War
  • Meant to mobilize the nation in a time of crisis, the speech went viral in its day

(CNN)The Gettysburg Address was a quick-hitting speech that was built to last.

Length: A little over two minutes.
    Message: Stay the course of a difficult war. If Democracy won't work here, it won't work anywhere.
    On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln was able to get straight to the point and deliver a punchy speech in part because he came after Edward Everett's marathon presentation about the war, explains James Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln Collection in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
    Everett had been the main attraction, but Lincoln's speech started picking up steam afterward and seemed to "go viral" in the manner of its day.
    Newspapers wrote about the speech. In some cities, people could buy commemorative event pamphlets that contained the speech, and key phrases were incorporated into Lincoln's 1864 election posters and memorials after his death.
    His words are some of the most memorable in American history, forever stamping our collective minds with "four score and seven years ago," and "all men are created equal," and of course a "government of the people, by the people, for the people."
    Here is a nonexhaustive rundown of some of the most popular phrases in the speech, in order of appearance.

    'Four score and seven years ago'

    Pretty much everyone knows this part of the Gettysburg Address, even if they think a score is just something from sports. But no, in this case a score is 20 of something. Here, a span of 20 years.
    This line is a bit of an inside remark shared with the audience, believed by most historians to be a reference to Psalm