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An Official Invitation to Gettysburg

letter Judge David Wills to Abraham Lincoln
Judge David Wills to
Abraham Lincoln

Holograph letter,
Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4
November 2, 1863
Manuscript Division
Gift of Robert Todd Lincoln, 1923

Judge David Wills's letter to Abraham Lincoln is the official invitation to the president to participate in the dedication of Gettysburg Memorial Cemetery. Wills carefully explained to Lincoln that this was a state initiative. The proposed cemetery was planned and financed by states represented in death at Gettysburg. Wills, who had conceived the idea of a national cemetery and had organized the dedication, made it equally clear to the president that he would have only a small part in the ceremonies. Although there is some evidence Lincoln expected Wills's letter, its late date makes the author appear presumptuous, especially when one realizes that Edward Everett, the principal speaker for the occasion, received his invitation in September. Seventeen days was extraordinarily short notice for presidential participation even by nineteenth-century standards.

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