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BOSTON, 26th September, 1863. MY DEAR SIR, — I have received your favor of the 23d instant, inviting me, on behalf of the Governors of the States interested in the preparation of a cemetery for the soldiers who fell in the great battles of July last, to deliver an address at the consecration. I feel much complimented by this request, and would cheerfully undertake the performance of a duty at once so interesting and honorable. It is, however, wholly out of
my power to make the requisite preparation by the 23d of October. I am under engagements which will occupy time from Monday next to the 12th of October, and, indeed, it is doubtful whether, during the whole month of October, I shall have a day at my command.
The occasion is one of great importance, not to be dismissed with a few sentimental or patriotic commonplaces. It will demand as full a narrative of the events of the three important days as the limits of the hour will admit, and some appropriate discussion of the political character of the great struggle, of which the Battle of Gettysburg is one of the most momentous incidents. As it will take me two days to reach Gettysburg, and it will be highly desirable that I should have at least one day to survey the battle-field, I cannot safely name an earlier time than the 19th of November.
Should such a postponement of the day first proposed be admissible, it will give me great pleasure to accept the invitation. I remain, dear sir, with much respect,
Very truly yours,
NOTE. In compliance with Mr. Everett's suggestions as expressed in the foregoing letter, Thursday, the 19th of November, was appointed for the ceremonial of the consecration.
HEAD-QUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
November 13, 1863. DAVID WILLS, Esq.,
Agent for the Governor of Pennsylvania, etc.: Sir, — I have the honor to acknowledge the invitation which, on behalf of the Governor of Pennsylvania and other States interested, you extend to me and the officers and men of my command, to be present on the 19th instant at the consecration of the burial-place of those who fell on the field of Gettysburg.
It seems almost unnecessary for me to say that none can have a deeper interest in your good work than comrades in arms, bound in close ties of long association and mutual confidence and support with those to whom you are paying this last tribute of respect; nor could the presence
be appropriate than that of those who stood side by side in the struggle, shared the peril, and the vacant places in whose ranks bear sad testimony to the loss they have sustained. But this army has duties to perform which will not admit of its being represented on the occasion ; and it only remains for me in its name, with deep and grateful feelings, to thank you and those you represent for your tender care of its heroic dead, and for your patriotic zeal, which, in honoring the martyr, gives a fresh incentive to all who do battle for the maintenance of the integrity of the government.
I am, very respectfully,
GEORGE G. MEADE,
New YORK, November 19, 1863. DAVID WILLS, Esq., Agent, etc.:
DEAR SIR, - I have had the honor to receive your invitation, on the part of the Governors of the loyal States, to be present at the consecration of the Military Cemetery at Gettysburg this day.
Besides the determination, on account of infirmities, never again to participate in any public meeting or entertainment, I was too sick at the time to do more than write a short telegram in reply to His Excellency Governor Curtin.
Having long lived with and participated in the hardships and dangers of our soldiers, I can never fail to honor
66 the brave, who sink to rest,
By all their country's wishes blest.” None deserve this tribute from their countrymen more than those who have fallen in defence of the Constitution and Union of the thirty-four United States.
I remain yours
BORDENTOWN, N. J., November 21, 1863. MY DEAR SIR, – I regret extremely, that, in consequence of the invitation you did me the honor to send me remaining for several days among the advertised letters in the Philadelphia post-office, I was not able to accept the same by appearing in person at the interesting consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg on the nineteenth of this month.
On an occasion so solemn, awakening every patriotic emotion of the human heart, I cannot but deplore that I was not able to be present, to shed a tear over the remains of these gallant men, who gave back their lives to their God in defence of their country.
Accept for yourself, my dear sir, and be pleased to present to the Committee, my thanks for your kind invitation, and believe me, with great respect,
Your obedient servant,
CHARLES STEWART. To David Wills, Esq., Agent, etc.
TREASURY DEPARTMENT, November 16, 1863. DEAR SIR, — It disappoints me greatly to find that imperative public duties make it impossible for me to be present at the consecration of the grounds selected as the last restingplace of the soldiers who fell in battle for their country at Gettysburg. It consoles me to think what tears of mingled grief and triumph will fall upon their graves, and what benedictions of the country saved by their heroism will make their memories sacred among men.
Very respectfully yours,
S. P. CHASE. DAVID Wills, Esq., Agent for the Governors of the States.
In the afternoon of the 18th, the President and the distinguished personages accompanying him arrived at Gettysburg, by a special train. In the course of the evening, the President and Secretary of State were serenaded, and the following remarks were made by Mr. Seward, in response to the
FELLOW-CITIZENS : I am now sixty years old and upward ; I have been in public life practically forty years of that time, and yet this is the first time that ever any people or community so near to the border of Maryland was found willing to listen to my voice ; and the reason was that I ago, that slavery was opening before this people a graveyard that was to be filled with brothers falling in mutual political combat. I knew that the cause that was hurrying the Union into this dreadful strife was slavery; and when during all the intervening period I elevated my voice, it was to warn the people to remove that cause while they could by constitutional means, and so avert the catastrophe of civil war which has fallen upon the nation. I am thankful that you are willing
to hear me at last. I thank my God that I believe this strife is going to end in the removal of that evil which ought to have been removed by deliberate councils and peaceful means. (Good.) I thank my God for the hope that this is the last fratricidal war which will fall upon the country which is vouchsafed to us by Heaven, — the richest, the broadest, the most beautiful, the most magnificent and capable of a great destiny, that has ever been given to any part of the human race. (Applause.) And I thank him for the hope that when that cause is removed, simply by the operation of abolishing it, as the origin and agent of the treason that is without justification and without parallel, we shall thenceforth be united, be only one country, having only one hope, one ambition, and one destiny. (Applause.) To-morrow, at least, we shall feel that we are not enemies, but that we are friends and brothers, that this Union is a reality, and we shall mourn together for the evil wrought by this rebellion.
We are now near the graves of the misguided, whom we have consigned to their last resting-place, with pity for their errors, and with the same heart full of grief with which we mourn over a brother by whose hand, raised in defence of his government, that misguided brother perished.
When we part to-morrow night, let us remember that we owe it to our country and to mankind that this war shall have for its conclusion the establishing of the principle of democratic government, — the simple principle that whatever party, whatever portion of the community, prevails by constitutional suffrage in an election, that party is to be respected and maintained in power until it shall give place, on another trial and another verdict, to a different portion of the people. If you do not do this, you are drifting at once and irresistibly to the very verge of universal, cheerless, and hopeless anarchy. But with that principle this government of ours — the purest, the best, the wisest, and the happiest in the world - must be, and, so far as we are concerned, practically will be, immortal. (Cheers.) Fellow-citizens, good-night.