During our 4th of July celebrations yesterday we checked out some antique stores in the town of Braselton, GA. Obviously we all know how much I love old books, and I was lucky enough to find two old books that I was excited about. Coincidentally, both books are semi-patriotic.
I was very excited to find an 1894 copy of a Washington Irving book that contained many of his short stories.
I know what you're thinking, how is Irving patriotic? Well first off, he's an American author and what's more American than reading American literature? Secondly, he's known for the great patriotic piece Rip Van Winkle, which is included in the book.
Forgetting your high school lit classes? Well, Rip Van Winkle is about a guy who "sleeps" through the Revolutionary War (also known as a draft dodger) and then returns to his quiet town, spots a picture that looks like King George, claims allegiance to the king, is mobbed and wipes egg off his face when he's told that that depiction is not the king but the president George Washington. Anyone could have made that mistake when the new leader looks so much like the old leader...oh well. Everything works out in the end as Rip finds that his nagging wife has passed since he left town and now he can live out his days being lazy and having his daughter financially support him. Okay, fine. I see a lot of spoofing patriotism in it but I digress. My second find was much more patriotic.
The Perfect Tribute was one book in a collection of stories on the life of Abraham Lincoln. Zing! Try to find a lack of patriotism with this one!
One thing that sold me on this book was the picture printed in the front of the book. I don't find a lot of old books with pictures in them so when I do find stuff like that it grabs my eye.
The text is pretty much about Lincoln arriving at Gettysburg and giving his famous Gettysburg address and then hanging out with some dying soldiers. (Like the one in the picture to whom he is giving solace.) The address itself is relatively short and can be seen printed in the following pages.
For those of you who do not care to read from the photos, this is what the address says:
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.
Lincoln's speech, although terribly short, reminds us to, frankly, remember. The celebrations on the 4th are the same every year. Some of these traditions were established in the hope of remembering the history, the sacrifices and the potential we all have because of what we fought for. I wonder how many people take time of the 4th to reflect on these things or how many people are just glad to get a day off from work.