What did Lincoln really say at Gettysburg?


Gay and lesbian rights


Study of rights








Bishop Oxnam of the Methodist Church told a group of us in the 1950's of quoting in a sermon the famous words Abraham Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg that he quoted with the usual emphasis:

"…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."

After the meeting among those who came to speak to him was an elderly man who waited his chance to have Bishop Oxnam's attention. When he did, he first said, "You misquoted the President." Oxnam told us he thought of the current president whom he had not quoted, so asked the elderly man what he meant. He responded, "You misquoted President Lincoln." Oxnam told us he had heard that quote so often he was deeply puzzled, but asked the man what he meant. "I was there, and I heard the President speak." Oxnam asked him what President Lincoln said, and the elderly man spoke clearly as he said,

"The President said … government of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE, for the PEOPLE, shall not perish from the earth."

Bishop Oxnam told us he spoke the words strongly, forcefully. Oxnam thanked the elderly gentleman, and said he would thereafter remember to say those words correctly.

America started, inspired by Enlightenment thinkers, to craft a nation of equal rights for people because they are humans! No special rights to royalty or church. But these became the rights for property-owning white men. As we know from their writings, they were often gracious and respectful with others, but that is not enough. Within decades the property-owning began falling away.

With the activities of some freed African-Americans these rights began to be seen as belonging to non-white men, though it was not until the mid twentieth century that full rights finally came to African-Americans and Hispanics across our nation by student sit-ins and SNCC, Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Lyndon Johnson.

Beginning with a convention on July 19, 1848 at Seneca Fall, N. Y., under the inspiration of Mary Wollstonecraft, Frances Wright, Eernestine Rose, George Sand, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many others the limitation of rights to men began to erode. While women received the vote a century later and the right to be on juries, full equal rights are not yet fulfilled. For specifics see: http://www.momsrising.org/ and other sites.

The American ideal enunciated by Abraham Lincoln will fully come, I think, only when we eliminate all vestiges of a dominator society and replace that tyranny with a partnership society that respects and supports all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, religions/agnostics, and ages, requesting and welcoming the contributions that each can make for a society of all the PEOPLE … by all the PEOPLE … for all the PEOPLE that shall not perish from the earth.

And Supremes please note: Lincoln said "people" as enunciated by Enlightenment thinkers and not corporations and their wealth of Citizens United!

Copyright © 2007, 2011 John F. Yeaman