Gettysburg Address

Abe Lincoln v. Madison Avenue

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Classic.  Bob Newhart’s bit from 1960 about a conversation between Abraham Lincoln and a then modern day press agent just prior to the Gettysburg Address.

I Am Shocked! Shocked!: Obama Omits Under God

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Obama reads a version of the Gettysburg Address that omits God?  Say it isn’t true!

 

President Obama irked some conservatives with his recitation of the Gettysburg Address, which he read aloud as part of a project celebrating the 150th anniversary of famous Lincoln speech.

For the project, spearheaded by documentarian Ken Burns, a number of politicians and other high-profile people recorded themselves reading the Gettysburg Address.

Some conservatives took offense to the president’s reading.

 “Lincoln added ‘Under God’ as he was looking out over battlefield. why would Obama remove?” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Twitter.

Conservative Christian leader Bryan Fischer added “Obama’s omission of ‘under God’ is more evidence of his anti-Christian bigotry. He honors Islam but disrespects Christianity.”

 White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday gave a simple explanation for the reading.

 “He read the version of the address that Ken Burns provided,” he said, noting that Burns is a “noted Civil War scholar.”

 Specifically, Carney said that Burns gave Mr. Obama the “Nicolay copy” of the Gettysburg Address — the first draft of the speech, named after John Nicolay, the White House staffer who preserved it.

 

Ken Burns is such a silly liberal squish that I can imagine him wanting to chase God out of the occasion.  However, in regard to Obama he either thought getting God out was a grand idea, or he was too unfamiliar with the Gettysburg address to realize the omission.  Here is the background story on the inclusion of the phrase under God in the original speech:

We have five drafts of the Gettysburg address that Lincoln wrote:  three have the phrase “under God” and two do not.  That Lincoln  spoke the phrase during the Gettysburg address we can be certain of, because three reporters were present when he gave the speech, and all three have “under God” in their accounts of Lincoln’s speech. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Get Thee Behind Abe, Editors!

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Hattip to Steven Hayward at Powerline.   Decades ago I recall watching a commercial, see the video below, where Abraham Lincoln is turned down for an executive position because he lacked a college degree.   I have often thought that Lincoln would not have been Lincoln without the arduous process of self education that he continued throughout his life.  (During his election campaign in 1860 he was pained to see that his campaign claimed that he had read Plutarch’s Lives.  He hadn’t, but he took time  out to do so before he was elected.)  Of course in his day it was not unusual for a self taught man to rise high politically.  In our day it is almost unthinkable, Harry Truman being the last president who did not attend college.  This is a great pity.  Self taught men and women can sometimes end up as town cranks or bores at bars, but sometimes they bring vitality and fresh insights that cannot be taught at any institution of higher learning, and their intellects are sharpened by their lonely quest for knowledge.  Lincoln regretted his lack of almost any formal education, but in his case I suspect his genius would have been lessened by it. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

November 19, 1863: Lincoln Delivers The Gettysburg Address

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Presidents during their presidencies make hundreds of speeches.  Most are utterly forgotten soon after they are delivered.  Even most of the speeches by a president who is also a skilled orator, as Lincoln was, are recalled only by historians and trivia buffs.  Yet the Gettysburg address has achieved immortality.

Lincoln was invited to say a few words at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.  The featured speaker was Edward Everett, one of the most accomplished men in American public life, who gave a two hour oration.  It is a fine example of nineteenth century oratory, full of learning, argument and passion.  It may seem very odd to contemplate in our sound bite age, but audiences in America in Lincoln’s time expected these type of lengthy excursions into eloquence and felt cheated when a speaker skimped on either length or ornateness in his efforts.

Lincoln then got up and spoke for two minutes.

We are not really sure what Lincoln said.  There are two drafts of the speech in Lincoln’s hand, and they differ from each other.  It is quite likely that neither reflects precisely the words that Lincoln used in the Gettysburg Address.  For the sake of simplicity, and because it is the version people usually think of when reference is made to the Gettysburg address, the text used here is the version carved on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle- field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate…we cannot consecrate…we cannot hallow…this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; 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.

Here was the masterpiece of Lincoln’s passion for concise, almost terse, argument.  No doubt many in the audience were amazed when Lincoln sat down, probably assuming that this was a preamble to his main speech.

“Fourscore and seven years ago”

Lincoln starts out with an attention grabber.  Rather than the prosaic eighty-seven years, he treats his listeners to a poetic line that causes them to think and follow Lincoln back in time to the founding. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Gettysburg Address Medley

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a  new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men  are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any  nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great  battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a  final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might  live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not  hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have  consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will  little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what  they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the  unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It  is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us —  that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for  which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve  that these dead shall not have died in vain — 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.

The Prayer Before the Speeches

Stockton

 

Thomas H. Stockton in 1863 was pastor of the First Methodist Church in Philadelphia.  A man with many political connections, he had been chaplain of the United States House of Representatives in 1833, 1835, 1859 and 1861.  It was therefore no surprise that he was chosen to give the invocation on November 18, 1863 at the opening of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.  He was in ill health and looked older than his 55 years, but he would live another five years and he had energy enough for the task before him.  Here is his prayer: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

A Silly Retraction

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As faithful readers of this blog know, there are few bigger fans of Mr. Lincoln than me, and I completely concur with Sir Winston Churchill that the Gettysburg Address  is “The ultimate expression of the majesty of Shakespeare’s language.” 

That having been said I found profoundly silly a retraction which appears in the Patriot News newspaper:

We write today in reconsideration of “The Gettysburg Address,” delivered by then-President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the greatest conflict seen on American soil. Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time, called President Lincoln’s words “silly remarks,” deserving “a veil of oblivion,” apparently believing it an indifferent and altogether ordinary message, unremarkable in eloquence and uninspiring in its brevity.

The retraction goes on to state:

In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.

 

Go here to read the rest.  This rubs me the wrong way.  Apologizing for the actions of men long dead always strikes me as asinine.  The men who penned the original editorial cannot defend their opinion now.  If they could, they probably would note that they reflected a large body of Northern opinion that viewed the War as a tragic mistake, brought on by abolitionist fanaticism, which caused over a million homes in the North to be draped in mourning.  I view such arguments as being completely erroneous, but I leave to those who made such arguments the dignity to which they are entitled of being participants in the maelstrom of devastating events who were honestly stating their views.  To have successors a century and a half later glibly denouncing their views, even attributing such views to strong drink, insults them and insults the historical record.  It is part and parcel of a historical myopia which views the present as perfect and entitled to denounce the benighted individuals who had the misfortune to live before our enlightened times.  The simple truth is that we, just as much as those in the past we denounce, are in many ways prisoners of our times, often taking our attitudes and beliefs from those that enjoy popularity in our day.  I have absolutely no doubt that the successors of the papers which praised the Gettysburg Address one hundred and fifty years ago, might well be denouncing it today, if the War, and all our subsequent history, had turned out differently.  If one wishes to truly understand history, and the passions of the men and women who lived through it, one must be willing to understand what motivated them, why they did what they did.  This foolish retraction teaches us nothing about history, but quite a bit about how the Present usually is a bad judge of the Past, at least if we wish to understand the Past.  Here is a portion of the original editorial: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Red Skelton, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and One Nation Under God

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Red Skelton and his unforgettable rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Skelton rose out of abject poverty to become one of the great comedians of his time.  His comment about the phrase “under God”  reminds us how deeply this phrase is embedded in American history:

The addition of “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 of course echoes this sentence from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — 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.”

The Pledge was altered with that phrase of Lincoln’s specifically in mind.  The Knights of Columbus played an important role in getting the pledge changed, beginning in 1951 to say the Pledge with the phrase “under God” inserted at all Knights of Columbus functions.

Lincoln probably recalled the phrase from George Washington’s use of it in his order to the Continental Army on August 27, 1776 before the battle of Long Island:

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.

→']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Other Gettysburg Address

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Edward Everett was the main attraction at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.  He had led a distinguished life serving as Governor of Massachusetts and ambassador to Great Britain.  In 1860 he had run on the Constitutional Union Party ticket as vice-president, attempting to forestall the break up of the Union that he clearly saw coming.  After the election of Lincoln he became a vigorous supporter of Lincoln’s policies to preserve the Union by force.  He would die in 1865 prior to the end of the War, but with the knowledge that the Union would win and the Union would be preserved.

He was a good choice to be the main speaker, still vigorous at sixty-nine, one of the most eloquent orators of his time, a time which included such speakers as Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John Calhoun.  As he spoke it was as if the past of the country was commenting on its turbulent present.  He spoke for two hours and his listeners would have felt cheated if he had not done so, as lengthy speeches were expected at that time in American history on important occasions, unlike our own time where any statement that goes over three minutes is considered long-winded.

After his address he wrote Lincoln a famous letter in which he included this sentence that almost all Americans would agree with:   “I should be glad if I could flatter myself, that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”

Lincoln replied:

Executive Mansion Washington November 20, 1863

Hon. Edward Everett. My dear Sir:

Your kind note of to-day is received. In our respective parts yesterday,  you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one. I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the  little I did say was not entirely a failure. Of course I knew Mr.  Everett would not fail; and yet, while the whole discourse was  eminently satisfactory, and will be of great value, there were passages  in it which transcended my expectation. The point made against  the theory of the general government being only an agency, whose  principals are the States, was new to me, and, as I think, is one of  the best arguments for the national supremacy. The tribute to our  noble women for their angel-ministering to the suffering soldiers,  surpasses, in its way, as do the subjects of it, whatever has gone  before.

Our sick boy, for whom you kindly inquire, we hope is past the  worst. Your Obt. Servt.

A. Lincoln

Here is Everett’s speech, interspersed with my commentary.  It is completely our of step with our sound bite age, but it is worthy of our close attention as it sheds light upon his time: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Thank You Mr. President

Lincoln

 

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.

Abraham Lincoln, August 27, 1858

 

 

 

 

 

In nine days, this town will commemorate the 150th  anniversary of Lincoln’s speech with a ceremony at the same Soldiers’ National  Cemetery featuring the U.S. Marine Band, Gov. Tom Corbett and a reading of the  Gettysburg Address.

One person who will not be among those honoring  Lincoln is President Barack Obama. The White House gave no reason why the  president would not attend.

  According to the National Park Service, Obama  has never visited the battlefield as president.

 

Gettysburg Address: First Draft

 

The news of the surrender of Vicksburg did not reach Washington until July 7, 1863.  On top of Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg, the town went wild with rejoicing.  A jubilant crowd went to the White House.  President Lincoln made an impromptu speech that contained many of the themes and thoughts that he would flesh out in his Gettysburg Address delivered on November 19, 1863:

Fellow-citizens: I am very glad to see you to-night.  But yet I will not say I thank you for this call.  But I do most sincerely thank Almighty God for the occasion on which you have called. [Cheers.]  How long ago is it?  Eighty odd years since, upon the Fourth day of July, for the first time in the world, a union body of representatives was assembled to declare as a self-evident truth that all men were created equal. [Cheers.]

That was the birthday of the United States of America.  Since then the fourth day of July has had several very peculiar recognitions.  The two most distinguished men who framed and supported that paper, including the particular declaration I have mentioned, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the one having framed it, and the other sustained it most ably in debate, the only two of the fifty-five or fifty-six who signed it, I believe, who were ever President of the United States, precisely fifty years after they put their hands to that paper it pleased the Almighty God to take away from this stage of action on the Fourth of July.  This extraordinary coincidence we can understand to be a dispensation of the Almighty Ruler of Events.

Another of our Presidents, five years afterwards, was called from this stage of existence on the same day of the month, and now on this Fourth of July just past, when a gigantic rebellion has risen in the land, precisely at the bottom of which is an effort to overthrow that principle “that all men are created equal,” we have a surrender of one of their most powerful positions and powerful armies forced upon them on that very day. [Cheers.] And I see in the succession of battles in Pennsylvania, which continued three days, so rapidly following each other as to be justly called one great battle, fought on the first, second and third of July; on the fourth the enemies of the declaration that all men are created equal had to turn tail and run. [Laughter and applause.] ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

An Invitation to Speak

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One hundred and fifty years ago President Lincoln received an invitation to say “a few appropriate remarks”.  Lincoln while he was President received many invitations to speak and accepted very few of them.  This one, however, he did accept.  It was an invitation from David Wills, a Gettysburg attorney, who had been appointed by Andrew Curtin, governor of Pennsylvania, to spearhead the ceremony for the opening of the national cemetery at Gettysburg.

Beginning on October 17 the Union dead had been removed from their makeshift graves and reburied.  We must not think of Gettysburg then as it is now.  Now, it is a national park, a symbol of national pride.  Then it was a scene of almost unspeakable horror, bearing the raw scars of a huge battle where over 8,000 Americans had recently been killed and over 27,000 had been wounded, many maimed for life.  It had been a Union victory, but the War went on with no end in sight.  Lincoln seized upon the opportunity to explain to the American people, perhaps to also explain to himself, what Gettysburg meant.  Here is the text of the invitation: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Gettysburg Closed

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In the never ending effort of the Obama administration to see just how absurd they can be over the fake government shutdown, they have attempted to close down the Gettysburg battlefield.  I say attempted because a lot of tourists are engaging in civil disobedience and touring the battlefield, playing catch me if you can with National Park Service Rangers.  Go here to read all about it.

This of course is all part of a carefully orchestrated plot by the Obama administration:

A U.S. park ranger, who did not wish to be identified, told FoxNews.com that supervisors within the National Park Service overruled plans to deal with the budget cuts in a way that would have had minimal impact on the public. Instead, the source said, park staff were told to cancel special events and cut “interpretation services” — the talks, tours and other education services provided by local park rangers.

“Apparently, they want the public to feel the pain,” the ranger said.

 

Instead of feeling pain the public has had a glimpse into just how mean, petty and spiteful the gangsters currently in power in the White House can be.

 

 

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Fortnight for Freedom: July 4, 1863

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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have proclaimed a second Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4th, and, as last year, The American Catholic will participate with special blog posts each day.

I confess that I am not likely to see the Hand of God very much in most human events.  Where some can clearly see Divine handiwork, I do not, perhaps because, in the words of Saint Paul, I “see as in a glass, darkly.”  However, even I find it hard not to look at the events on the Fourth of July one hundred and fifty years ago, with the retreat of Lee from Gettysburg and the surrender of Vicksburg and not suspect that God was saying something through his human instrumentalities.  At any rate it was left to Mr. Lincoln on November 19, 1863 to attempt to make sense of the terrible crisis that the nation was living through.

Presidents during their presidencies make hundreds of speeches.  Most are utterly forgotten soon after they are delivered.  Even most of the speeches by a president who is also a skilled orator, as Lincoln was, are recalled only by historians and trivia buffs.  Yet the Gettysburg address, given 146 years ago today, has achieved immortality.

Lincoln was invited to say a few words at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.  The featured speaker was Edward Everett, one of the most accomplished men in American public life, who gave a two hour oration.  It is a fine example of nineteenth century oratory, full of learning, argument and passion.  It may seem very odd to contemplate in our sound bite age, but audiences in America in Lincoln’s time expected these type of lengthy excursions into eloquence and felt cheated when a speaker skimped on either length or ornateness in his efforts.

Lincoln then got up and spoke for two minutes.

We are not really sure precisely what Lincoln said.  There are two drafts of the speech in Lincoln’s hand, and they differ from each other.  It is quite likely that neither reflects  the exact words that Lincoln used in the Gettysburg Address.  For the sake of simplicity, and because it is the version people usually think of when reference is made to the Gettysburg address, the text used here is the version carved on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle- field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate…we cannot consecrate…we cannot hallow…this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; 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. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Gettysburg Address: November 19, 1863

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Johnny Cash in the above video does a superb job of reading the Gettysburg Address.  Go here to read my analysis of the Gettysburg Address.  Winston Churchill, certainly the greatest orator of the English language in the last century, deemed the Address, “The ultimate expression of the majesty of Shakespeare’s language.”  Lincoln’s masterpiece of concision packed with thought will endure as long as our American republic does, and the truths it contains will endure far beyond that time period. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Red Skelton, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and One Nation Under God

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Red Skelton and his unforgettable rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Skelton rose out of abject poverty to become one of the great comedians of his time.  His comment about the phrase “under God”  reminds us how deeply this phrase is embedded in American history:

The addition of “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 of course echoes this sentence from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — 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.”

The Pledge was altered with that phrase of Lincoln’s specifically in mind.  The Knights of Columbus played an important role in getting the pledge changed, beginning in 1951 to say the Pledge with the phrase “under God” inserted at all Knights of Columbus functions.

Lincoln probably recalled the phrase from George Washington’s use of it in his order to the Continental Army on August 27, 1776 before the battle of Long Island:

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.

 

 

 

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