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Monday, April 28, 2014
MEDIA MONDAY / LIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY FOR 150 YEARS
NEWSPAPER APOLOGIZES: NEVER TOO LATE TO GET IT
Editor's note: In 1863, The ancestor newspaper of today's Patriot & Union devoted all of one paragraph to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "We pass over the silly remarks
of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of
oblivion shall be dropped over them, and that they shall be no more repeated or
RECENTLY, THE HARRISBURG, PA BASED NEWSPAPER
APOLOGIZED FOR ITS REMARKS ABOUT PRESIDENT LINCOLN’S GETTYSBURG ADDRESS 150 YEARS EARLIER.
GUEST BLOG—By Deputy Opinion Editor Matthew Zencey,
Harrisburg Patriot & Union
Seven score and ten years ago, the forefathers of
this media institution brought forth to its audience a judgment so flawed, so
tainted by hubris, so lacking in the perspective history would bring, that it
cannot remain unaddressed in our archives.
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
In the fullness of time, we have come to a
different conclusion. No mere utterance, then or now, could do justice to the
soaring heights of language Mr. Lincoln reached that day. By today’s words
alone, we cannot exalt, we cannot hallow, we cannot venerate this sacred text,
for a grateful nation long ago came to view those words with reverence, without
guidance from this chagrined member of the mainstream media.
The world will little note nor long remember our
emendation of this institution’s record – but we must do as conscience demands:
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.
Below is an excerpt of the opinion piece that was
published in the Patriot & Union onNovember 24, 1863:
A Voice from the Dead
We have read the oration of Mr. Everett. We have
read the little speeches of President Lincoln, as reported for and published in
his party press, andwe have read the
remarks of the Hon. Secretary of State, Wm. H. Seward, all delivered on the
occasion of dedicating the National Cemetery, a plot of ground set apart for
the burial of the dead who fell at Gettysburg in the memorable strife which
occurred there between the forces of the Federal Government and the troops of
the Confederacy of seceded States.
To say of Mr. Everett's oration that it rose
to the height which the occasion demanded, or to say of the President's remarks
that they fell below our expectations, would be alike false.
Neither the orator
nor the jester surprised or deceived us. Whatever may be Mr. Everett's failings
he does not lack sense - whatever may be the President's virtues, he does not
Mr. Everett failed as an orator, because the occasion was a
mockery, and he knew it, and the President succeeded, because he acted
naturally, without sense and without constraint, in a panorama which was gotten
up more for his benefit and the benefit of his party than for the glory of the
nation and the honor of the dead.
readily conceive that the thousands who went there went as mourners, to view
the burial place of their dead, to consecrate, so far as human agency could,
the ground in which the slain heroes of the nation, standing in relationship to
them of fathers, husbands, brothers, or connected by even remoter ties of
marriage or consanguinity, were to be interred.
To them the occasion was
solemn; with them the motive was honest, earnest and honorable. But how was it
with the chief actors in the pageant, who had no dead buried, or to be buried
there; from none of whose loins had sprung a solitary hero, living or dead, of
this war which wasbegotten of their
fanaticism and has been ruled by their whims?
They stood there, upon that
ground, not with hearts stricken with grief or elated by ideas of true glory,
but coldly calculating the political advantageswhich might be derived from the solemn ceremonies of the
dedication.We will not include in this
category of heartless men the orator of the day;but evidently he was paralyzed by the
knowledge that he was surroundedby
unfeeling, mercenary men, ready to sacrifice their country and the liberties of
their countrymen for the base purpose of retaining power...
Source: Penn Live/The Patriot & Union: