With the orator chosen, invitation began to be sent out. They went to house and senator members, diplomats, the cabinet, and to general Meade and Scott. With these, Lincoln received his invitation to attend but not to speak. Many of these invitation were quickly declined. Although President Lincoln promptly responded and asked as many cabinet members to attend that could. Lincoln clearly wanted a part of the ceremony. The commission was alarmed and shocked to hear of Lincolns acceptance. It was then brought up that it could not be permitted to have the President appear and not to make any remarks. (Barondess 34) Therefore the decision to invite Lincoln to speak was an afterthought. The invitation read, "it is the desire that after the orator, you, as Chief Executive of the Nation, formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks." The invitation to speak was "not sent until November 2nd more than six weeks after Mr. Everett had been invited to speak, and a little more than two weeks before the exercises were held." (Sandburg 439)
Lincoln's Invitation To Speak
It was also given to Lincoln that this was a solemn and serious ceremony with no room for humor for which he was accustomed. (Barondess 35) Lincoln clearly understood his task for he stated that, "in his position it is important not to say any foolish things." (Randall 308) Lincoln had less than three weeks to compose his address and thus began writing. Most would agree that he wrote at least the first page in Washington. However, the rest is still being debated. What Lincoln had written he was not pleased and wished he had done a better job. (Bardoness 34-35).
Upon learning of Lincoln's planned trip to Gettysburg much of the public began to wonder why. There seemed no special reason for his presence especially considering it was not a national event. It was an occasion that the state of Pennsylvania was sponsoring with the help of members from other states. However, the majority of the crowd was thought to be local. The question on everyone's mind was why would the President of the United States involve himself in a celebration of such small significance. Lincoln had also previously, "required a reputation of exhibition of bad taste in a cemetery." He had visited one of the first battle sites which was Antietam and was, "charged with unbecoming levity in the presence of the nation's dead." For these reason many were curious as to why the President would involve himself in such ceremonies and risk another attack on his character. (Barton 598-600)
Lincoln's reasons for attending and speaking at the Gettysburg ceremonies may have had more to do with his character than with political correctness. He was a man of great character as evidence by his proclivity toward doing the right thing when it was far easier to do the wrong thing. He believed that a union could not survive as long as slavery divided it. Lincoln was willing to go to war and risk his own political future for the preservation of the union. This ceremony represents the worst part of war, burying the dead, yet Lincoln did not turn away from it, he accepted it. According to Strozier in Lincoln's Quest for Union, Lincoln concluded, "the deaths were not in vain and that the nation under his leadership in a war for which, he personally assumed responsibility." (63) Lincoln therefore due to his personal character and convictions was a part of the Gettysburg ceremonies.