Page images
PDF
EPUB

government, the result of so much sacrifice and toil, and the last hope of free institutions on earth; a contest in reference to which the people from whom we have sprung, whose language we speak, whose religion we have inherited, and whose blood flows in our veins, seem most of all to rejoice at the prospect of our utter discomfiture, rupture and downfall ; exulting in our disasters, taunting us for å want of military and civil power and skill, and, under a pretense of neutrality, really in alliance with those who have risen in arms to overthrow the government, and strangely sympathizing with an organization based avowedly on the perpetual subjugation of one part of the race to the will of another-under circumstances such as these we meet to-day to inquire what there is to be thankful for ; what there is to encourage hope, what there is to cheer in the prospect of the future ; what should be done—what can we do for the afflicted land that we love ?

Without, I trust, any improper reference of a personal nature, I may be permitted to say that I have reached a period of life when a man ought to be able to make some suggestions of value in such a crisis as this; when he ought to be able to say something that might be well founded in regard to the causes of such a state of things ; to the evils which have brought so great calamities upon the land ; to the remedies for those evils ; to what may reasonably be hoped for in the future. I have, at any rate, reached a period of life when I have little to hope or to fear from my fellow-men ; yet a period. when a man, with any right feeling, is conscious of a stronger love for his country in proportion to the nearness of the time when he is soon to be withdrawn from it. In such circumstances a man may venture on suggestions which would have been less proper at an earlier period of life--suggestions, perhaps not put forward with as much boldness and confidence as the suggestions of earlier years, yet, if he has reflected at all aright, with a more comprehensive view of the great issues at stake, and with deeper solemnity. He who has little to hope for personally, in this world ; whose aspirations must be now so almost entirely in the world which he is soon to enter, may still cherish a hope for his country, for the Church, and for mankind, not the less intense because the great blessings of religion and liberty are hereafter to be enjoyed by others, not by himself.

I shall venture, therefore, on this occasion, to make some suggestions which, I trust may not be improper, and which I am sure will be well received so far as the intention goes, in reference to what our country has been as one of the family of nations ; to the grounds of grateful feelings to-day; and to what seems to me to be demanded for the restoration of peace. The suggestions will be loyal, but they will be free. In all my life I have defended freedom of speech, and fought many a

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors]

battle for it. I have felt no restraint on that subject hitherto; I feel none now. I believe that when freedom of speech shall be taken away, the last hope of the nation—the last remnant of liberty will be gone.

I believe that we have the best constitution, and the best mode of government in the world, and that it is the most wicked of all acts that man can do at home, and the most wicked of all things that nations can countenance abroad, to attempt to destroy that constitution, and to overthrow that government. And yet I believe that mistakes were made in framing that constitution, inevitable, it may have been, in the circumstances, which time has developed, and which have culminated in this most wicked rebellion ; that there are evils contained in the constitution which it is possible still to remedy and remove, and which must be remedied and removed, if the great purposes of the formation of the constitution shall be carried out in a restored and permanent Union. Our fathers were not ignorant of the existence of those evils. They could not, or they supposed they could not, remove them. They hoped that time and wisdom, that the experience and patriotism of the nation, would remove them. Time, progress, ambition, selfishness, conflicting interests, have developed the evil ; rebebellion has shown to us its magnitude ; the desolations of war, the tens of thousands slain on battle-fields, the tens of thousands maimed for life, the tens of thousands of families bereaved, the tens of thousands of graves newly made, where sleep those who have been called forth in defense of their country, show how great was the evil, and call on the nation to arise and readjust our institutions in accordance with the eternal principles of righteousness. It may be that those evils could be removed only by the baptism of fire and and of blood through which our nation is now passing.

The past in our history is fixed, and so fixed that, in the main, coming times will not reproach us; in such a way that foreign nations, however much they may now desire it, could not find occasion to exult over us. “The past,” said Mr. Webster, in relation to a part of our country-to Massachusetts" the past, at least, is secure. _There is Boston, and Concord, and Lexington, and Bunker Hill, and there they will remain forever. The bones of her sons, falling in the great struggle for independence, now lie mingled with the soil of every State, from New England to Georgia ; and there they will lie forever."* So we may say, in similar respects, of our whole country; of our whole history. There is Plymouth, there are Yorktown, and Saratoga, and Trenton, and Princeton, and there they will remain forever.

Thus, too, it is with the history of our fathers; with the

* Speeches, vol. i. p 407.

PUBLIC LIDHARI

434515

ASTOR, LENOX AND TILDENE AT ONS

1923

« PreviousContinue »