Ingersoll the Magnificent
by Joseph Lewis
Gems of Tribute
At His Brother's Grave
I am going to do that which the dead oft promised he would do for me.
The loved and loving brother, husband, father, friend, died where manhood's morning almost touches noon, and while the shadows still were falling toward the west.
He had not passed on life's highway the stone that marks the highest point; but being weary for a moment, he lay down by the wayside, and using his burden for a pillow, fell into that dreamless sleep that kisses down his eyelids still. While yet in love with life and raptured with the world, he passed to silence and pathetic dust.
Yet, after all, it may be best, just in the happiest, sunniest hour of all the voyage, while eager winds are kissing every sail, to dash against the unseen rock, and in an instant hear the billows roar above a sunken ship. For whether in mid-sea or 'mong the breakers of the farther shore, a wreck at last must mark the end of each and all. And every life, no matter if its every hour is rich with love and every moment jeweled with a joy, will, at its close, become a tragedy as sad and deep and dark as can be woven of the warp and woof of mystery and death.
This brave and tender man in every storm of life was oak and rock; but in the sunshine he was vine and flower. He was the friend of all heroic souls. He climbed the heights, and left all superstitions far below, while on his forehead fell the golden dawning of a grander day.
He loved the beautiful, and was with color, form, and music touched to tears. He sided with the weak, the poor, and wronged, and lovingly gave alms. With loyal heart and with the purest hands he faithfully discharged all public trusts.
He was a worshiper of liberty, a friend of the oppressed. A thousand times I have heard him quote these words: "For Justice all place a temple, and all season, summer." He believed that happiness is the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion, and love the only priest. He added to the sum of human joy; and were every one to whom he did some loving service to bring a blossom to his grave, he would sleep tonight beneath a wilderness of flowers.
Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death hope sees a star and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.
He who sleeps here, when dying, mistaking the approach of death for the return of health, whispered with his latest breath, "I am better now." Let us believe, in spite of doubts and dogmas, of fears and tears, that these dear words are true of all the countless dead.
The record of a generous life runs like a vine around the memory of our dead, and every sweet, unselfish act is now a perfumed flower.
And now, to you, who have been chosen, from among the many men he loved, to do the last sad office for the dead, we give his sacred dust.
Speech cannot contain our love. There was, there is, no gentler, stronger, manlier man.
Reverend Alexander Clark
Upon the grave of the Reverend Alexander Clark I wish to place one flower. Utterly destitute of cold, dogmatic pride, that often passes for the love of God; without the arrogance of the "elect"; simple, free, and kind -- this earnest man made me his friend by being mine. I forgot that he was a Christian, and he seemed to forget that I was not, while each remembered that the other was at least a man.
Frank, candid, and sincere, he practiced what he preached, and looked with the holy eyes of charity upon the failings and mistakes of men. He believed in the power of kindness, and spanned with divine sympathy the hideous gulf that separates the fallen from the pure.
Giving freely to others the rights that he claimed for himself, it never occurred to him that his God hated a brave and honest unbeliever. He remembered that even an Infidel had rights that love respects; that hatred has no saving power, and that in order to be a Christian it is not necessary to become less that a human being. He knew that no one can be maligned into kindness; that epithets cannot convince; that curses are not arguments, and that the finger of scorn never points toward heaven. With the generosity of an honest man, he accorded to all the fullest liberty of thought, knowing, as he did, that in the realm of mind a chain is but a curse.
For this man I felt the greatest possible regard. In spite of the taunts and jeers of his brethren, he publicly proclaimed that he would treat Infidels with fairness and respect; that he would endeavor to convince them by argument and win them with love. He insisted that the God he worshiped loved the wellbeing even of an Atheist. In this grand position he stood almost alone. Tender, just, and loving where others were harsh, vindictive, and cruel, he challenged the admiration of every honest man. A few more such clergymen might drive calumny from the lips of faith and render the pulpit worthy of esteem.
The heartiness and kindness with which this generous man treated me can never be excelled. He admitted that I had not lost, and could not lose, a single right by the expression of my honest thought. Neither did he believe that a servant could win the respect of a generous master by persecuting and maligning those whom the master would willingly forgive.
While this good man was living, his brethren blamed him for having treated me with fairness. But, I trust, now that he has left the shore touched by the mysterious sea that never yet has borne, on any wave, the image of a homeward sail, this crime will be forgiven him by those who still remain to preach the love of God.
His sympathies were not confined within the prison of a creed, but ran out and over the walls like vines, hiding the cruel rocks and rusted bars with leak and flower. He could not echo with his heart the fiendish sentence of eternal fire. In spite of book and creed, he read "between the lines" the words of tenderness and love, with promises for all the world. Above, beyond, the dogmas of his church -- humane even to the verge of heresy -- causing some to doubt his love of God because he failed to hate his unbelieving fellow-men, he labored for the welfare of mankind, and to his work gave up his life with all his heart.
Henry Ward Beecher
Henry Ward Beecher was born in a Puritan penitentiary, of which his father was one of the wardens -- a prison with very narrow and closely-grated windows. Under its walls were the rayless, hopeless and measureless dungeons of the damned, and on its roof fell the shadow of God's eternal frown. In this prison the creed and catechism were primers for children, and from a pure sense of duty their loving hearts were stained and scarred with the religion of John Calvin.
In those days the home of an orthodox minister was an Inquisition in which babes were tortured for the good of their souls. Children then, as now, rebelled against the infamous absurdities and cruelties of the creed. No Calvinist was ever able, unless with blows, to answer the questions of his child. Children were raised in what was called "the nurture and admonition of the Lord" -- that is to say, their wills were broken or subdued, their natures were deformed and dwarfed, their desires defeated or destroyed, and their development arrested or perverted. Life was robbed of its Spring, its Summer and its Autumn. Children stepped from the cradle into the snow. No laughter, no sunshine, no joyous, free, unburdened days. God, an infinite detective, watched them from above, and Satan, with malicious leer, was waiting for their souls below. Between these monsters life was passed. Infinite consequences were predicted of the smallest action, and a burden greater than a God could bear was placed upon the heart and brain of every child. To think, to ask questions, to doubt, to investigate, were acts of rebellion. To express pity for the lost, writhing in the dungeons below, was simply to give evidence that the enemy of souls had been at work within their hearts.
Among all the religions of this world -- from the creed of cannibals who devoured flesh, to that of Calvinists who polluted souls -- there is none, there has been none, there will be none, more utterly heartless and inhuman than was the orthodox Congregationalism of New England in the year of grace 1813. It despised every natural joy, hated pictures, abhorred statues as lewd and lustful things, execrated music, regarded nature as fallen and corrupt, man as totally depraved and woman as somewhat worse. The theatre was the vestibule of perdition, actors the servants of Satan, and Shakespeare a trifling wretch whose words were seeds of death. And yet the virtues found a welcome, cordial and sincere; duty was done as understood; obligations were discharged; truth was told; self-denial was practiced for the sake of others, and many hearts were good and true in spite of book and creed.
In this atmosphere of theological miasma, in this hideous dream of superstition, in this penitentiary, moral and austere, this babe first saw the imprisoned gloom. The natural desires ungratified, the laughter suppressed, the logic brow-beaten by authority, the humor frozen by fear -- of many generations -- were in this child, a child destined to rend and wreck the prison's walls.
Through the grated windows of his cell, this child, this boy, this man, caught glimpses of the outer world, of fields and skies. New thoughts were in his brain, new hopes within his heart. Another heaven bent above his life. There came a revelation of the beautiful and real. Theology grew mean and small. Nature wooed and won and saved this mighty soul.
Her countless hands were sowing seeds within his tropic brain. All sights and sounds -- all colors, forms and fragments -- were stored within the treasury of his mind. His thoughts were moulded by the graceful curves of streams, by winding paths in woods, the charm of quiet country roads, and lanes grown indistinct with weeds and grass -- by vines that cling and hide with leaf and flower the crumbling wall's decay -- by cattle standing in the summer pools like statues of content.
There was within his words the subtle spirit of the season's change -- of everything that is, of everything that lies between the slumbering seeds that, half awakened by the April rain, have dreams of heaven's blue, and feel the amorous kisses of the sun, and that strange tomb wherein the alchemist cloth give to death's cold dust the throb and thrill of life again. He saw with loving eyes the willows of the meadow streams grow red beneath the glance of Spring -- the grass along the marsh's edge -- the stir of life beneath the withered leaves -- the moss below the drip of snow -- the flowers that give their bosoms to the first south wind that woos -- the sad and timid violets that only bear the gaze of love from eyes half closed -- the ferns, where fancy gives a thousand forms with but a single plan -- the green and sunny slopes enriched with daisy's silver and the cowslip's gold.
As in the leafless woods some tree, aflame with life, stands like a rapt poet in the heedless crowd, so stood this man among his fellow-men.
All there is of leaf and bud, of flower and fruit, of painted insect life, and all the winged and happy children of the air that Summer holds beneath her dome of blue, were known and loved by him. He loved the yellow Autumn fields, the golden stacks, the happy homes of men, the orchard's bending boughs, the sumach's flags of flame, the maples with transfigured leaves, the tender yellow of the beech, the wondrous harmonies of brown and gold -- the vines where hang the clustered spheres of wit and mirth. He loved the winter days, the whirl and drift of snow -- all forms of frost -- the rage and fury of the storm, when in the forest, desolate and stripped, the brave old pine towers green and grand -- a prophecy of Spring. He heard the rhythmic sounds of Nature's busy strife, the hum of bees, the songs of birds, the eagle's cry, the murmur of the streams, the sighs and lamentations of the winds, and all the voices of the sea. He loved the shores, the vales, the crags and cliffs, the city's busy streets, the introspective, silent plain, the solemn splendors of the night, the silver sea of dawn, and evening's clouds of molten gold. The love of Nature freed this loving man.
One by one the fetters fell; the gratings disappeared, the sunshine smote the roof, and on the floors of stone, light streamed from open doors. He realized the darkness and despair, the cruelty and hate, the starless blackness of the old, malignant creed. The flower of pity grew and blossomed in his heart. The selfish "consolation" filled his eyes with tears. He saw that what is called the Christian's hope is that, among the countless billions wrecked and lost, a meagre few perhaps may reach the eternal shore -- a hope that, like the desert rain, gives neither leaf nor bud -- a hope that gives no joy, no peace, to any great and loving soul. It is the dust on which the serpent feeds that coils in heartless breasts.
Day by day the wrath and vengeance faded from the sky -- the Jewish God grew vague and dim -- the threats of torture and eternal pain grew vulgar and absurd, and all the miracles seemed strangely out of place. They clad the Infinite in motley garb, and gave to aureoled heads the cap and bells.
Touched by the pathos of all human life, knowing the shadows that fall on every heart -- the thorns in every path, the sighs, the sorrows, and the tears that lie between a mother's arms and death's embrace -- this great and gifted man denounced, denied, and damned with all his heart the fanged and frightful dogma that souls were made to feed the eternal hunger -- ravenous as famine -- of a God's revenge.
Take out this fearful, fiendish, heartless lie -- compared with which all other lies are true -- and the great arch of orthodox religion crumbling falls.
To the average man the Christian hell and heaven are only words. He has no scope of thought. He lives but in a dim, impoverished now. To him the past is dead -- the future still unborn. He occupies with downcast eyes that narrow line of barren, shifting sand that lies between the flowing seas. But Genius knows all time. For him the dead all live and breathe, and act their countless parts again. All human life is in his now, and every moment feels the thrill of all to be.
No one can overestimate the good accomplished by this marvelous, many-sided man. He helped to slay the heart-devouring monster of the Christian world. He tried to civilize the church, to humanize the creeds, to soften pious breasts of stone, to take the fear from mothers' hearts, the chains of creed from every brain, to put the star of hope in every sky and over every grave. Attacked on every side, maligned by those who preached the law of love, he wavered not, but fought whole-hearted to the end.
Obstruction is but virtue's foil. From thwarted light leaps color's flame. The stream impeded has a song.
He passed from harsh and cruel creeds to that serene philosophy that has no place for pride or hate, that threatens no revenge, that looks on sin as stumblings of the blind and pities those who fall, knowing that in the souls of all there is a sacred yearning for the light. He ceased to think of man as something thrust upon the world -- an exile from some other sphere. He felt at last that men are part of Nature's self -- kindred of all life -- the gradual growth of countless years; that all the sacred books were helps until outgrown, and all religions rough and devious paths that man has worn with weary feet in sad and painful search for truth and peace. To him these paths were wrong, and yet all gave the promise of success. He knew that all the streams, no matter how they wander, turn and curve amid the hills or rocks, or linger in the lakes and pools, must some time reach the sea. These views enlarged his soul and made him patient with the world, and while the wintry snows of age were falling on his head, Spring, with all her wealth of bloom, was in his heart.
The memory of this ample man is now a part of Nature's wealth. He battled for the rights of men. His heart was with the slave. He stood against the selfish greed of millions banded to protect the pirate's trade. His voice was for the right when freedom's friends were few. He taught the church to think and doubt. He did not fear to stand alone. His brain took counsel of his heart. To every foe he offered reconciliation's hand. He loved this land of ours, and added to its glory through the world. He was the greatest orator that stood within the pulpit's narrow curve. He loved the liberty of speech. There was no trace of bigot in his blood. He was a brave and generous man.
With reverent hands, I place this tribute on his tomb.
Isaac H. Baily
In youth we front the sun; we live in light without a fear, without a thought of dusk or night. We glory in excess. There is no dread of loss when all is growth and gain. With reckless hands we spend and waste and chide the flying hours for loitering by the way.
The future holds the fruit of joy; the present keeps us from the feast, and so, with hurrying feet we climb the heights and upward look with eager eyes. But when the sun begins to sink and shadows fall in front, and lengthen on the path, then falls upon the heart a sense of loss, and then we hoard the shreds and crumbs and vainly long for what was cast away. And then with miser care we save and spread thin hands before December's half-fed flickering flames, while through the glass of time we moaning watch the few remaining grains of sand that hasten to their end. In the gathering gloom the fires slowly die, while memory dreams of youth, and hope sometimes mistakes the glow of ashes for the coming of another morn.
If there is, beyond the veil, beyond the night called death, another world to which men carry all the failures and the triumphs of this life; if above and over all there be a God who loves the right, an honest man has naught to fear. If there be another world in which sincerity is a virtue, in which fidelity is loved and courage honored, then all is well with the dear friend whom we have lost.
But if the grave ends all; if all that was our friend is dead, the world is better for the life he lived. Beyond the tomb we cannot see. We listen, but from the lips of mystery there comes no word. Darkness and silence brooding over all. And yet, because we love we hope. Farewell! And yet again, Farewell!
Praise for the noble dead is an inspiration for the noble living.
Loving words sow seeds of love in every gentle heart. Appreciation is the soil and climate of good and generous deeds.
At A Child's Grave
I know how vain it is to gild a grief with words, and yet I wish to take from every grave its fear.
Here in this world, where life and death are equal kings, all should be brave enough to meet what all the dead have met. The future has been filled with fear, stained and polluted by the heartless past. From the wondrous tree of life the buds and blossoms fall with ripened fruit, and in the common bed of earth, patriarchs and babes sleep side by side.
Why should we fear that which will come to all that is? We cannot tell, we do not know, which is the greater blessing -- life or death. We cannot say that death is not a good. We do not know whether the grave is the end of this life, or the door of another, or whether the night here is not somewhere else a dawn. Neither can we tell which is the more fortunate -- the child dying in its mother's arms, before its lips have learned to form a word, or he who journeys all the length of life's uneven road, painfully taking the last slow steps with staff and crutch.
Every cradle asks us "Whence?" and every coffin "Whither?" The poor barbarian, weeping above his dead, can answer these questions just as well as the robed priest of the most authentic creed. The tearful ignorance of the one, is as consoling as the learned and unmeaning words of the other. No man, standing where the horizon of a life has touched a grave, has any right to prophesy a future filled with pain and tears.
Maybe death gives all there is of worth to life. If those we press and strain within our arms could never die, perhaps that love would wither from the earth. Maybe this common fate treads out from the paths between our hearts the weeds of selfishness and hate.
I had rather live and love where death is king, than have eternal life where love is not.
Another life is nought, unless we know and love again the ones who love us here.
They who stand with breaking hearts around this little grave, need have no fear. The larger and the nobler faith in all that is, and is to be, tells us that death, even at its worst, is only perfect rest. We know that through the common wants of life -- the needs and duties of each hour -- their grief will lessen day by day, until at last this grave will be to them a place of rest and peace -- almost of joy. There is for them this consolation: The dead do not suffer. If they live again, their lives will surely be as good as ours. We have no fear. We are all children of the same mother, and the same fate awaits us all. We, too, have our religion, and it is this: Help for the living -- Hope for the dead.
Gems of Orations
Declaration Of Independence
I say, all things considered, [The Declaration of Independence] was the bravest political document ever signed by man. And if it was physically brave, the moral courage of the document is almost infinitely beyond the physical. They had the courage not only, but they had the almost infinite wisdom, to declare that all men are created equal.
Such things had occasionally been said by some political enthusiast in the olden time, but, for the first time in the history of the world, the representatives of a nation, the representatives of a real, living, breathing, hoping people, declared that all men are created equal. With one blow, with one stroke of the pen, they struck down all the cruel, heartless barriers that aristocracy, that priestcraft, that kingcraft had raised between man and man. They struck down with one immortal blow that infamous spirit of caste that makes a god almost a beast, and a beast almost a god. With one word, with one blow, they wiped away and utterly destroyed, all that had been done by centuries of war -- centuries of hypocrisy -- centuries of injustice.
They laid down the doctrine that governments were instituted among men for the purpose of preserving the rights of the people. The old idea was that people existed solely for the benefit of the state -- that is to say, for kings and nobles.
For the first time it made human beings men.
This declaration uncrowned kings, and wrested from the hands of titled tyranny the sceptre of usurped and arbitrary power. It superseded royal grants, and repealed the cruel statutes of a thousand years. It gave the peasant a career; it knighted all the sons of toil; it opened all the paths to fame, and put the star of hope above the cradle of the poor man's babe.
I thank every one of them from the bottom of my heart for signing that sublime declaration. I thank them for their courage -- for their patriotism -- for their wisdom -- for the splendid confidence in themselves and in the human race. I thank them for what they were, and for what we are -- for what they did, and for what we have received -- for what they suffered, and for what we enjoy.
The soldiers of 1776 did not march away with music and banners. They went in silence, looked at and gazed after by eyes filled with tears. They went to meet, not an equal, but a superior -- to fight five times their number -- to make a desperate stand to stop the advance of the enemy, and then, when their ammunition gave out, seek the protection of rocks, of rivers, and of hills.
The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.
The history of civilization is the history of the slow and painful enfranchisement of the human race. In the olden times the family was a monarchy, the father being the monarch. The mother and children were the veriest slaves. The will of the father was the supreme law. He had the power of life and death. It took thousands of years to civilize this father, thousands of years to make the condition of wife and mother and child even tolerable. A few families constituted a tribe; the tribe had a chief; the chief was a tyrant; a few tribes formed a nation; the nation was governed by a king, who was also a tyrant. A strong nation robbed, plundered, and took captive the weaker ones. This was the commencement of human slavery.
It is not possible for the human imagination to conceive of the horrors of slavery. It has left no possible crime uncommitted, no possible cruelty unperpetrated. It has been practiced and defended by all nations in some form. It has been upheld by all religions. It has been defended by nearly every pulpit. From the profits derived from the slave trade churches have been built, cathedrals reared and priests paid. Slavery has been blessed by bishop, by cardinal, and by pope. It has received the sanction of statesmen, of kings, and of queens. It has been defended by the throne, the pulpit and the bench. Monarchs have shared in the profits. Clergymen have taken their part of the spoils, reciting passages of Scripture in its defense at the same time, and judges have taken their portion in the name of equity and law.
I want you to go away with an eternal hatred in your breast of injustice, of aristocracy, of caste, of the idea that one man has more rights than another because he has better clothes, more land, more money, because he owns a railroad, or is famous and in high position. Remember that all men have equal rights. Remember that the man who acts best his part -- who loves his friends the best -- is most willing to help others -- truest to the discharge of obligation -- who has the best heart -- the most feeling -- the deepest sympathies -- and who freely gives to others the rights that he claims for himself is the best man. I am willing to swear to this.
What has made this country? I say again, liberty and labor. What would we be without labor? I want every farmer when plowing the rustling corn of June -- while mowing in the perfumed fields -- to feel that he is adding to the wealth and glory of the United States. I want every mechanic -- every man of toil, to know and feel that he is keeping the cars running, the telegraph wires in the air; that he is making the statues and painting the pictures; that he is writing and printing the books; that he is helping to fill the world with honor, with happiness, with love and law.
Our country is founded upon the dignity of labor -- upon the equality of man. Ours is the first real Republic in the history of the world. Beneath our flag the people are free. We have retired the gods from politics. We have found that man is the only source of political power, and that the governed should govern. We have disfranchised the aristocrats of the air and have given one country to mankind.
We want, not only the independence of a State, not only the independence of a nation, but something far more glorious -- the absolute independence of the individual. That is what we want. I want it so that I, one of the children of Nature, can stand on an equality with the rest; that I can say this is my air, my sunshine, my earth, and I have a right to live, and hope, and aspire, and labor, and enjoy the fruit of that labor, as much as any individual or any nation on the face of the globe.
We want every American to make to-day, on this hundredth anniversary, a declaration of individual independence. Let each man enjoy his liberty to the utmost -- enjoy all he can; but be sure it is not at the expense of another. The French Convention gave the best definition of liberty I have ever read: "The liberty of one citizen ceases only where the liberty of another citizen commences." I know of no better definition. I ask you to-day to make a declaration of individual independence. And if you are independent to be just. Allow everybody else to make his declaration of individual independence. Allow your wife, allow your husband, allow your children to make theirs. Let everybody be absolutely free and independent, knowing only the sacred obligations of honesty and affection. Let us be independent of party, independent of everybody and everything except our own consciences and our own brains. Do not belong to any clique. Have the clear title deeds in fee simple to yourselves, without any mortgage on the premises to anybody in the world.
It is a grand thing to be the owner of yourself. It is a grand thing to protect the rights of others. It is a sublime thing to be free and just.
To-day we remember the heroic dead, those whose blood reddens the paths and highways of honor; those who died upon the field, in the charge, in prison pens, or in famine's clutch; those who gave their lives that liberty should not perish from the earth. And to-day we remember the great leaders who have passed to the realm of silence, to the land of shadow. Thomas, the rock of Chickamauga, self-poised, firm, brave, faithful; Sherman, the reckless, the daring, the prudent and the victorious Sheridan, a soldier fit to have stood by Julius Cæsar and to have uttered the words of command; and Grant, the silent, the invincible, the unconquered; and rising above them all, Lincoln, the wise, the patient, the merciful, the grandest figure in the Western world. We remember them all to-day and hundreds of thousands who are not mentioned, but who are equally worthy, hundreds of thousands of privates, deserving of equal honor with the plumed leaders of the host.
And what shall I say to you, survivors of the death-filled days? To you, my comrades, to you whom I have known in the great days, in the time when the heart beat fast and the blood flowed strong; in the days of high hope -- what shall I say? All I can say is that my heart goes out to you, one and all. To you who bared your bosoms to the storms of war; to you who left loved ones to die, if need be, for the sacred cause. May you live long in the land you helped to save; may the winter of your age be as green as spring, as full of blossoms as summer, as generous as autumn, and may you, surrounded by plenty, with your wives at your sides and your grandchildren on your knees, live long. And when at last the fires of life burn low; when you enter the deepening dusk of the last of many, many happy days; when your brave hearts beat weak and slow, may the memory of your splendid deeds; deeds that freed your fellow-men; deeds that kept your country on the map of the world; deeds that kept the flag of the Republic in the air -- may the memory of these deeds fill your souls with peace and perfect joy. Let it console you to know that you are not to be forgotten. Centuries hence your story will be told in art and song, and upon your honored graves flowers will be lovingly laid by millions of men and women now unborn.
The 86th Illinois Regiment
In the name of humanity, in the name of progress, in the name of freedom, in the name of America, in the name of the oppressed of the whole world, we thank you again and again. We thank you, that in the darkest hour you never despaired of the Republic, that you were not dismayed, that through disaster and defeat, through cruelty and famine, through the serried ranks of the enemy, in spite of false friends, you marched resolutely, unflinchingly and bravely forward. Forward through shot and shell! Forward through fire and sword! Forward past the corpses of your brave comrades, buried in shallow graves by the hurried hands of heroes! Forward past the scattered bones of starved captives! Forward through the glittering bayonet lines, and past the brazen throats of the guns! Forward through the din and roar and smoke and hell of war! Onward through blood and fire to the shining, glittering mount of perfect and complete victory, and from the top of your august hands unfurled to the winds the old banner of the stars, and it waves in triumph now, and shall forever, from the St. Lawrence to the Rio Grande, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific!
We thank you for the lesson that has been taught the Old World by your patriotism and valor; believing that when the people shall have learned that sublime and divine lesson, thrones will become kingless, kings crownless, royalty an epitaph, the purple of power the shroud of death, the chains of tyranny will fall from the bodies of men, the shackles of superstition from the souls of the people, the spirit of persecution will fly from the earth, and the banner of Universal Freedom, with the words "Civil and Religious Liberty for the World" written upon every fold, blazing from every star, will float over every land and sea under the whole heavens.
We thank you for the glorious past, for the still more glorious future, and will continue to thank you while our hearts are warm with life. We will gather around you in the hour of your death and soothe your last moments with our gratitude. We will follow you tearfully to the narrow house of the dead, and over your sacred remains erect the whitest and purest marble. The hands of love will adorn your last abode, and the chisel will record that beneath rests the sacred dust of the Heroic Saviors of the Great Republic. Such ground will be holy, and future generations will draw inspiration from your tombs, courage from your heroic examples, patience and fortitude from your sufferings, and strength eternal from your success.
I cannot stop without speaking of the heroic dead. It seems to me as though their spirits ought to hover over you to-day -- that they might join with us in giving thanks for the great victory, -- that their faces might grow radiant to think that their blood was not shed in vain -- that the living are worthy to reap the benefits of their sacrifices, their sufferings and death, and it almost seems as if their sightless eyes are suffused with tears. Then we think of the dear mothers waiting for their sons, of the devoted wives waiting for their husbands, of the orphans asking for fathers whose returning footsteps they can never hear; that while they can say "my country," they cannot say "my son," "my husband," or "my father."
My heart goes out to all the slain, to those heroic corpses sleeping far away from home and kindred in unknown and lonely graves, to those poor pieces of dear, bleeding earth that won for me the blessings I enjoy to-day.
A Toast To The Civil War Veterans
The soldiers of the Union saved the South as well as the North. They made us a Nation. Their victory made us free and rendered tyranny in every other land as insecure as snow upon volcanoes' lips.
And now let us drink to the volunteers -- to those who sleep in unknown, sunken graves, whose names are only in the hearts of those they loved and left -- of those who only hear in happy dreams the footsteps of return. Let us drink to those who died where lipless famine mocked at want; to all the maimed whose scars give modesty a tongue; to all who dared and gave to chance the care and keeping of their lives; to all the living and to all the dead, -- to Sherman, to Sheridan, and to Grant, the laureled soldier of the world, and last, to Lincoln, whose loving life, like a bow of peace, spans and arches all the clouds of war.
A Vision Of War
The past rises before me like a dream. Again we are in the great struggle for national life. We hear the sounds of preparation -- the music of boisterous drums -- the silver voices of heroic bugles. We see thousands of assemblages, and hear the appeals of orators. We see the pale cheeks of women, and the flushed faces of men; and in those assemblages we see all the dead whose dust we have covered with flowers. We lose sight of them no more. We are with them when they enlist in the great army of freedom. We see them part with those they love. Some are walking for the last time in quiet, woody places, with the maidens they adore. We hear the whisperings and the sweet vows of eternal love as they lingeringly part forever. Others are bending over cradles, kissing babes that are asleep. Some are receiving the blessings of old men. Some are parting with mothers who hold them and press them to their hearts again and again, and say nothing. Kisses and tears, tears and kisses -- divine mingling of agony and love! And some are talking with wives, and endeavoring with brave words, spoken in the old tones, to drive from their hearts the awful fear. We see them part. We see the wife standing in the door with the babe in her arms -- standing in the sunlight sobbing. At the turn of the road a hand waves -- she answers by holding high in her loving arms the child. He is gone, and forever.
We see them all as they march proudly away under the flaunting flags, keeping time to the grand, wild music of war -- marching down the streets of the great cities -- through the towns and across the prairies -- down to the fields of glory, to do and to die for the eternal right.
We go with them, one and all. We are by their side on all the gory fields -- in all the hospitals of pain -- on all the weary marches. We stand guard with them in the wild storm and under the quiet stars. We are with them in ravines running with blood -- in the furrows of old fields. We are with them between contending hosts, unable to move, wild with thirst, the life ebbing slowly away among the withered leaves. We see them pierced by balls and torn with shells, in the trenches, by forts, and in the whirlwind of the charge, where men become iron, with nerves of steel.
We are with them in the prisons of hatred and famine; but human speech can never tell what they endured.
We are at home when the news comes that they are dead. We see the maiden in the shadow of her first sorrow. We see the silvered head of the old man bowed with the last grief.
The past rises before us, and we see the four millions of human beings governed by the lash -- we see them bound hand and foot -- we hear the strokes of cruel whips -- we see the hounds tracking women through tangled swamps. We see babes sold from the breasts of mothers. Cruelty unspeakable! Outrage infinite!
Four million bodies in chains -- four million souls in fetters. All the sacred relations of wife, mother, father and child trampled beneath the brutal feet of might. And all this was done under our own beautiful banner of the free.
The past rises before us. We hear the roar and shriek of the bursting shell. The broken fetters fall. These heroes died. We look. Instead of slaves we see men and women and children. The wand of progress touches the auction block, the slave pen, the whipping post, and we see homes and firesides and schoolhouses and books, and where all was want and crime and cruelty and fear, we see the faces of the free.
These heroes are not dead. They died for liberty -- they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Palace of Rest. Earth may run red with other wars -- they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death. I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead: cheers for the living, tears for the dead.
A vision of the future arises: I see our country filled with happy homes, with firesides of content -- the foremost land of all the earth.
I see a world where thrones have crumbled and where kings are dust. The aristocracy of idleness has perished from the earth.
I see a world without a slave. Man at last is free. Nature's forces have by Science been enslaved. Lightning and light, wind and wave, frost and flame, and all the secret, subtle powers of earth and air are the tireless toilers for the human race.
I see a world at peace, adorned with every form of art, with music's myriad voices thrilled, while lips are rich with words of love and truth; a world in which no exile sighs, no prisoner mourns; a world on which the gibbet's shadow does not fall; a world where labor reaps its full reward, where work and worth go hand in hand, where the poor girl trying to win bread with the needle -- the needle that has been called "the asp for the breast of the poor," -- is not driven to the desperate choice of crime or death, of suicide or shame.
I see a world without the beggar's outstretched palm, the miser's heartless, stony stare, the piteous wail of want, the livid lips of lies, the cruel eyes of scorn.
I see a race without disease of flesh or brain, -- shapely and fair, -- the married harmony of form and function, -- and, as I look, life lengthens, joy deepens, love canopies the earth; and over all, in the great dome, shines the eternal star of human hope.