Gettysburg Address: Nicolay Copy, 1863


This document represents the earliest of the five known drafts of what is probably the most famous American speech. Delivered by President Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, at the dedication of a memorial cemetery on November 19, 1863, it is now familiarly known as “The Gettysburg Address.” Drawing inspiration from his favorite historical document, the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln equated the catastrophic suffering caused by the Civil War (1861–65) with the efforts of the American people to live up to the proposition that “all men are created equal.” This document is presumed to be the only working, or pre-delivery, draft and is commonly identified as the “Nicolay Copy” because it was once owned by John George Nicolay, Lincoln’s private secretary. The first page is on White House (then Executive Mansion) stationery, lending strong support to the theory that it was drafted in Washington, D.C. But the second page is on what has been loosely described as foolscap, suggesting that Lincoln was not fully satisfied with the final paragraph of the Address and rewrote that passage in Gettysburg on November 19, while staying at the home of Judge David Wills.

Last updated: April 13, 2012