The Gettysburg Address in legalese – Full version

Legalese is a professional deformity of lawyers; it is a characteristic style of legal documents that is entirely unnecessary. It conceals rather than reveals meaning, confuses the reader, and suffocates communication and persuasiveness.

I made this translation in part to amuse those who love fine writing and hate bad writing, in part to further bury legalese, and in part to help educate lawyers who want to improve their writing.

The Gettysburg Address, as it was given:

Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address

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 battlefield 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 cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot 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.

The Gettysburg Address, in legalese:

On or about July 4, 1776, John Hancock, Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry, Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery, Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott, William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross, George Read, Caesar Rodney, Thomas McKean, Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton, William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton (hereinafter “our fathers”), constituting a majority of the Second Continental Congress, caused to be issued a Declaration to the United Kingdom of Great Britain, which commenced certain legal and extralegal proceedings ultimately culminating in the creation on the North American continent of a new nation, viz., the United States of America (hereinafter “the United States”), which nation was conceived in due relation to various states or qualities including, without limitation, liberty, and was dedicated, inter alia, to the proposition that all men are created equal.

At the present time, the government of the United States of America (hereinafter “USG”) and the criminal conspiracy styling itself “the Confederate States of America” (hereinafter “CSA”), are engaged in conflict, including civil unrest involving armed force, which conflict may eventuate in a challenge to whether the United States, being a nation constituted in the hereinbefore-described manner, can continue its existence for an appreciable length of time into the future. Those who are present at this time (hereinafter “we” or “us”) are assembled at the location of a more-or-less defined locus belli, constituting all or portions of the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the adjacent geographic features known as Cemetery Hill, Culp’s Hill, Seminary Ridge, Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top, and Round Top, together with the northernmost portions of the Emmitsburg Road, Taneytown Road, and Baltimore Pike which run through and/or are adjacent to these geographic features, at which locations armed civil conflict occurred on or about July 1, 1863 through July 3, 1863, in connection with the aforementioned civil unrest (hereinafter “the Gettsyburg battlefield”). We are assembled in order that we may pursue a ceremony of dedication with regard to a portion of the Gettysburg battlefield for the purpose of constituting said portion a location of terminal repose for those persons who, on the Gettysburg battlefield, became deceased in pursuit of the objective of causing the United States to continue its existence. It is appropriate and proper for us to pursue this course of action.

Notwithstanding what has been said above, and with regard to a more inclusive perspective, it is not within our power to effectuate a dedication or otherwise to achieve the intended effect of a ceremony of dedication with regard to the portion of the Gettysburg battlefield that is the subject of this discourse. The persons with the quality of physical courage who engaged in conflict at this location, including those who became deceased in the course of said conflict and those who did not, have achieved such effect to a degree substantially in excess of our capacity to increase or decrease the efficacy thereof. It is not to be expected that the content of our communications in the present place will be heeded by posterity to any substantial extent, nor remembered for any substantial period of time, but the contrary is true with regard to the actions of the aforesaid persons. Rather than seek to achieve such an impact on posterity, it is advisable that we should proceed with resolve to the accomplishment of that task which said persons began and in an honorable fashion pursued the progress of to a substantial degree, but did not complete. To this end we should make a commitment as regards said task—that with regard to the aforementioned deceased persons we resolve to an increased degree than previously to effectuate that for which they showed resolve to the maximum degree possible—that we resolve to a substantial degree that said deceased persons shall not have become deceased to no effect or purpose—that this nation, i.e., the United States, which is in a subordinate relationship to the supreme being or entity known as “God,” will enjoy the benefit of an additional dispensation of that quality or complex of rights known as “freedom”—and further that the existence of a polity constituted from those persons within the jurisdiction of said polity, through the actions of said persons, and functioning for the benefit of said persons, shall not be caused to cease to exist.

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You may also enjoy the Gettsyburg Address in Powerpoint (by Peter Norvig).