United States Historical Text
We hold this truth to be self-evident: John Hancock’s signature on the Declaration of Independence was too big. But what if the problem wasn’t that Hancock’s signature was too large—it was that everyone else’s was unnecessarily small? What if Hancock’s only looks grandiose by comparison with the self-abnegating autographs of his fellow continental congressmen? There’s no question Hancock’s signature is the biggest, and by a wide margin. By my measurements, Hancock’s signature comes in at 1.3 inches tall and 4.7 inches wide. This makes the box needed to enclose the signature 6.1 square inches. Compare that with Sam Adams’ signature, which takes up a mere 0.6 square inches of surface area.
Every Fourth of July, some Americans sit down to read the Declaration of Independence, reacquainting themselves with the nation’s founding charter exactly as it was signed by the Second Continental Congress in 1776.
One-hundred-and fifty years is a long time to remember a speech, a speech in which the speaker stated that his words, uttered at the consecration of the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg, Pa, would neither be noted nor remembered.
It is rare that 273 words can have a profound impact. In just over two minutes on Nov. 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln reiterated the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and proclaimed the Civil War as a struggle for the preservation of the Union with a new birth of freedom.
John Hay woke with a severe hangover on the morning of Nov. 19, 1863. As one of Abraham Lincoln’s closest White House aides, Hay had spent the previous evening drinking copiously with the disparate crew of journalists and politicians who converged on the small town of Gettysburg, Penn., for the dedication of a new national cemetery later that day. A bystander remembered seeing the presidential party arrive after a long train ride from Washington, “a straggled, hungry set. Lincoln, with that weary smile … Seward, with an essentially bad hat; John Hay, in attendance upon the president, and much to be troubled by the correspondents, handsome as a peach, the countenance of extreme youth.”
This week marks the 150th Anniversary since Abraham Lincoln uttered those immortal words on November 19, 1863 at the dedication of the cemetery holding the remains of 40,000 soldiers who died at Gettysburg. While our country has made giant strides since Lincoln's address, we as a nation have yet to realize fully the goals of equality and liberty that Lincoln set forth.
On Tuesday, the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, President Barack Obama penned a letter commemorating the historic speech. In the letter, which was published on the White House website, Obama wrote that "the accumulated toil and sacrifice of ordinary men and women" serve as the foundation of our nation, and the basis of the preservation of freedom.
The site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War was host to a solemn tribute to history Tuesday as thousands gathered in Gettysburg, Pa., to mark the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
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