150 years later, newspaper retracts editorial panning Gettysburg Address
In what might be one of the oldest corrections in the history of journalism, the editorial board of a Pennsylvania newspaper has retracted its predecessor’s famous panning of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as “silly remarks.”
“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,” the editors of The Patriot-News wrote Thursday, evoking the opening words and style of Lincoln’s most famous speech.
Back then, the editors of the Patriot & Union newspaper — an ancestor of today’s Harrisburg paper — thought so little of Lincoln’s “silly remarks” that they hoped “the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them, and that they shall be no more reposted or thought of.”
History didn’t cooperate.
While mildly received on its delivery, the November 19, 1863, speech marking the consecration of the national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, has gone on to become one of the most famous pieces of writing in the American canon — inscribed on monuments, taught to schoolchildren and frequently surfacing in cultural references.
“Four score and seven years ago,” Lincoln wrote in the speech’s famous opening line, “our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Filmmaker Ken Burns recently urged all Americans to learn and recite the speech, calling the address “some of the most important words ever spoken.”
And so, on Thursday, the newspaper set the record straight:
“The world will little note nor long remember our emendation of this institution’s record — but we must do as conscience demands,” the newspaper wrote.
“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.”
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