Recently, while studying Chinese translations of this classic speech,
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.
I noticed that four different translations translated the phrase to something approximating "with the blessings of God" or "with the protection of God." This ran counter to my prior belief that, as enshrined in the Pledge of Allegiance, the phrase refers to the fact that the USA is (at least according to those who added it) a Christian nation first and foremost, a 'subsidiary of God's domain', if you will. This prior belief is essential to the interpretation of the Library of Congress when consulted on the addition in the 1950's:
The Library of Congress reported the following recommendation:
". . . Under the generally accepted rules of grammar, a modifier should normally be placed as close as possible to the word it modifies. In the present instance, this would indicate that the phrase 'under God,' being intended as a fundamental and basic characterization of our Nation, might well be put immediately following the word 'Nation.' Further, since the basic idea is a Nation founded on a belief in God, there would seem to be no reason for a comma after Nation; 'one Nation under God' thus becomes a single phrase, emphasizing precisely the idea desired by the authors . . ."
The reason I feel gaslit is that I have also encountered evidence that it was used as a phrasal idiom to mean something like "with God's help" or, as we say might say today, "God-willing." Reference: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001090.html
Therefore, there exist several distinct possibilities:
- The purveyors of this phrase today have rewritten history (intentionally)
- The purveyors of this phrase today have rewritten history (ignorantly)
- Lincoln actually meant what we believe this phrase to mean today.
EDIT: With these interesting asides out of the way, the thrust of my inquiry is for the purpose of translation to another language (Chinese).
Indeed, what was the meaning behind his utterance at the time? Since my historical knowledge is limited to a cursory high school treatment, any answer that can shed some light or add a source would be appreciated.