Lincoln and “Under God” | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Lincoln and “Under God”

February 7, 2014
“Under God” was first added by Lincoln to his Gettysburg Address while at Gettysburg. All of Lincoln’s preliminary drafts of the Gettysburg Address contained no mention of “under God,” while all newspaper reports and copies of the address thereafter included the words “under God.”

Why did Lincoln add “under God” at Gettysburg? Perhaps his reason might be best understood through the words of his minister, Dr. Phineas D. Gurley of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Gurley noted that “in the latter days of his chastened and weary life, after the death of his son Willie and his visit to the battlefield at Gettysburg, he said to me with tears in his eyes, that he had lost confidence in everything but God.”

Years later, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address inspired the historic Under God sermon that was preached on Lincoln Sunday, February 7, 1954, by Dr. George M. Docherty at Lincoln’s Church, the New York Avenue congregation. Dr. Docherty noted “there was something missing” in our Pledge of Allegiance, and that was “under God." President Eisenhower was in attendance. The President immediately prompted Congress to pass legislation adding the wording “under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance. So Lincoln’s need for God at Gettysburg led to the addition of “under God” to his Gettysburg Address and, later, to our Pledge.

--By guest blogger Deborah L. Kramm, Deacon, Brick Presbyterian Church, New York, NY 


Lithograph print. Published by Sherwood Lithograph Co., 1905. From the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-19926.