Gettysburg fallacy

In this year of the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, it is worthwhile to consider the views of writers who have questioned the accuracy of Lincoln’s statements in the speech.

H.L. Mencken is one of those writers. In an article published in the magazine “The Smart Set” in May, 1920, Mencken said of Lincoln’s speech:

“It is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it. Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination — that government of the people, by the people, for the people, should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves.”

When the War Between the States ended in 1865, it was the Confederate soldiers who went into the Battle of Gettysburg free who no longer had their political liberty.

David R. Prichard