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POETRY AND PROSE.
Introduction to Patriotic Readings: delivered in the
Senate-Chamber of the United States.
(EXTRACT FROM MR. MURDOCH'S LECTURES.)
It is my ambition to illustrate and defend the great cause in which our country is now engaged, by presenting such specimens of patriotic poetry, written by my own countrymen, and by others, as may be influential in exciting national pride, and in keeping alive that feeling, without which no nation has ever been able to defend and preserve itself.
The great and good cause for which the Administration is battling against a host of traitors and factious enemies at home and a legion of interferers abroad, aroused my deepest sympathies from the very onset, and induced me to give up the profession of the actor for the time being, and to devote myself to such efforts as would contribute relief to the sick and wounded soldiers of the Republic. I feel assured that the offices of the good physician and surgeon can be wonderfully aided and advanced by pleasant and cheerful thoughts in the patient, which are often excited and maintained by the tone of the nurse or the sprightly comrade; and hence the home-like ditty, or the time-loved hymn, when sung by lips of hopeful sympathy, expands and secures the good effects produced by the probe and the knife, the potion and the ointment. Hence I have sought occasion to raise my voice, to give utterance to patriotic poetry and prose, together with scriptural recitations, in our hospitals and “Homes,” wherever the judgment of the surgeons attending sanctioned the perform
I know, too, what good results have been attained to the toiling and patient soldier, when he joins in, or listens to, the strains of song or hymn chanted during the long and weary march. How often have I observed, in the bivouac or at the camp-fire, after reading a poem of which the soldier's suffering and the honor of his flag have been the theme, the hitherto separate groups of officers and men mingle together, while the silent tear, and the glow of patriotic pride, spoke in eloquent terms of the presence of that generous sympathy which binds man to man, and is, indeed, the corner-stone of all nationality.
To cherish this spirit, and assist in cementing that bond of unity which should bind us together in this orisis by indissoluble bands, I have attempted, through the medium of my elocutionary and dramatic experience, to interpret, and to intensify, the glorious lyrics, poems, and ballads that have been written by our loyal bards to commemorate the noble deeds of our soldiers and sailors, and dedicated by them to that soul of heroism and self-sacrifice now so beautifully and potently expressed in the spirit and acts of the noblest army ever marshalled to save a suffering and imperilled people.
I have tendered my services to the cause of the Republic in a spirit arising from a conviction that the citizen is bound to make the music of the nation's war or fight to it. I prefer to help as the trumpeter was accused of doing in Æsop's fable. I am constrained to say that I have been in a measure impelled to my present course from a sense of gratitude in return for the ample remuneration of the labors of a long professional career so generously tendered by my fellow-citizens. I have striven by my professional donations to prove to my countrymen that, though from physical inability I was unable to continue in the field during a regular campaign, I am still willing to labor that I may help to revive and sustain the proper tone and unity of the free and loyal States in support of our Government.
It is merely justice to myself to affirm, here, that whatever I may say or do in defence of the nation and the Administration 'arises from a deep-seated conviction that my duties as an American citizen are inseparably connected with my duties to my Maker, and that I am bound to defend the former in order to obey the commands of the latter,—my country first, my friends afterwards. I oppose the enemies of my country and Government as I would hurl back the intruder on my hearth-stone.
The man who stands at my door with the torch and the axe, I am impelled by the promptings of self-preservation to strike down. I acknowledge no tie of kindred and blood under such circumstances; I strike in defence of that which God has given me to protect, -of all that is dear to man on earth. In the language of the law, my house is my castle: the Government is the rock on which my house is built; the hand that undermines the one destroys the other. The Government is the law; the law is the creation of the people, in their sovereign capacity as a tribe or a nation. Therefore, that body to which the people