OUTLINE OF A SPEECH BY CHAUNCEY M. DEPEW, ON A DECORATION [MEMORIAL] DAY.
This is one of the most interesting of national celebrations, appealing not to pride, but to tender personal memories. But we must not give ourselves up wholly to sadness or mourning. The story of issues and results must be told.
Why did our heroes die? On account of the cancer of slavery and the resulting doctrine of State Rights. Nationality and liberty, the opposite view. The former was the party of action, and, therefore, though in a minority, it was bolder and more determined. But the shell of materialism dropped from the North, and it was aroused with electric energy when Sumter was fired on; there was no passion, only such fervid resolve to preserve our nation as the world never before saw. The struggle over, there were no State trials, no prisons nor scaffolds, and the Republic, though bleeding at every pore, said to the conquered enemy, “Come and share fully with us all the blessings of our preserved institutions,” and thus won a second victory greater than the first.
The wonderful intelligence of the volunteer–story of Napoleon’s soldier–“Dead on the field of honor.”
The Grand Army of the elect–the heroes of history, some of whom are enumerated–the actual value to a nation of such heroism. To-day all that belongs to the strife is forgiven, but its lessons are too noble and precious ever to be forgotten. We can all, North and South, read with enthusiasm the story of each varied and romantic campaign.
The Confederate women first began decorating the graves of their dead with flowers, and did not pass by the Union graves near their late foes. This touched the heart of the nation as nothing else could have done, and enmity melted away, and the observance of the day has become universal.
The two great national heroes–Washington, with his wise, foresighted “Farewell Address;” Lincoln, with his gentle spirit, his martyr death, and his tender words, “With malice towards none, with charity for all.” Washington the Founder, Lincoln the Preserver.
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To Washington–to The Great Men of Revolutionary Times–to The Great Man who could not do what many modern Politicians can do–_tell a lie_–to The Childless Father of Eighty Millions of people–to The American Model Statesman–to The Greatest of Good Men and the Best of Great Men.
THOUGHTS FOR A SPEECH IN RESPONSE TO THE TOAST “WASHINGTON: GREAT AS A SOLDIER, GREATER AS A STATESMAN, GREATEST AS A PURE PATRIOT”
Indian, French, and English enemies. He had to make the armies with which he conquered. He was always a safe commander, but full of enterprise also–his character made the Union of the States and the Constitution possible. His character the best inheritance of the American people. Other men as great, possibly in some instances greater in a single field–his greatness shown in the wide union of the noblest kinds of greatness, all in harmony.
HUMOROUS RESPONSE BY BENJAMIN F. BUTLER TO THE TOAST, “OUR FOREFATHERS”
“While venerating their lofty patriotism, may we emulate them in their republican simplicity of manners.” He declared that a great deal had been said at one time and another about the democratic simplicity of our forefathers. Suppose that the gentlemen of the present day should go back to some of the customs of the forefathers. Suppose a man should go to a ball nowadays in the costume in which Thomas Jefferson, “that great apostle of democratic simplicity,” once appeared in Philadelphia. What a sensation he would create with his modest (?) costume of velvet and lace, with knee-breeches, silk stockings, silver shoe-buckles, and powdered wig. “Even the great father of his country had a little style about him,” said the speaker. “It was a known fact that he never went to Congress when he was President unless he went in a coach and six, with a little cupid on the box bearing a wreath of flowers. The coach must be yellow and the horses white, and then the President’s secretary usually followed in a coach drawn by four horses. When Washington ascended the steps to enter the doors, he always stopped for a moment and turned slowly around to allow an admiring people to see the father of their country. Oh! our forefathers were saturated with modesty and simplicity. The people of the present day have retrograded greatly from the simplicity of their Revolutionary ancestors. I can remember when it was impossible, years before the war, to hold a night session of Congress. It was impossible because the members of Congress attended dinners, and lingered over their wine. They attended dinners very like the one we have just enjoyed, and yet there is not a man in this company who is unfitted to attend to any public or private duties that might demand his attention. Yes, it is true that we have departed from the old customs, but we have advanced and not retrograded. The world has changed, but it has changed for the better. It is growing better every day, and don’t let anybody forget it.”
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