Celebration of the Fall of Vicksburg at Chicago — Speech of Gov. Yates.
Prominent among the demonstrations of joy upon the reception of the victorious news on Tuesday evening, was the serenade to his excellency, Gov. Yates. About ten o'clock the Great Western Band (accompanied by several thousand persons) appeared before the Tremont House, and played patriotic airs — the Star Spangled Banner, Red, White and Blue, Dixie, etc. Being loudly called for, Gov. Yates appeared upon the Lake street balcony, and was loudly cheered. He was introduced with a few pertinent remarks by Geo. W. Gage, Esq. The audience clamorously called for a light — "that they could see the face of their noble, patriotic Governor."
Fellow-citizens of Chicago: To say that I am highly gratified with the honor you have conferred upon me by these expressions of esteem, would be but a feeble expression of my gratitude. I well know that it is not to honor me that you have turned out in such vast numbers to-night, but to express those feelings of joy and gratitude that inspire the breast of every patriot, that the glad tidings of great victories on the 4th of July came to us to-day assuring us that the United States is safe now and forever. [Cheers.] Eighty-seven years ago to-day, fifty-six farmers, traders and merchants were assembled in an old hall in the city of Philadelphia, to deliberate upon great and important affairs; I cannot go into history, but suffice it to say, that after mature deliberation, they came to a most important conclusion, which was, that all men were created free and equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which were, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Since that declaration, we have grown to be the greatest nation in the world; have set before mankind the greatest government that ever existed since the beginning of time down to the present, in which there has been more peace and prosperity, and a wider diffusion of education; a higher appreciation of religion, and a purer and more exalted morality than in any government which has existed since the foundation of the world; our boundaries are far and wide; and, fellow-citizens, notwithstanding one million people are in arms against this glorious government of ours, notwithstanding we have traitors in the South and traitors in the North, that proud declaration stands — stands in the purity and grace of its native expression, not a jot or title erased, despite the opposition of traitors North or South; and by the blessing of God it shall stand forever. [Cheers.]
This Government was the very paradise of the nations of the earth, until the poisonous lizard of secession entered in. I love this Government. Oh! what undying memories cluster around it! What joys, hopes, fears and purposes are associated with it since it was first established by the men who, in 1776, struggled upon the glorious fields of American liberty. [Cheers.]
I love it because it is the best Government on the earth. I love it because it is based upon the great doctrine of the equal rights of man, and of the right of the majority to rule, and to elect their President, Congressmen and Supreme Judges. Because it asserts the dignity of man, vindicates the right of man to equal citizenship, not by virtue of birth or fortune, but of his inherent, God created manhood.
I love it because it confers upon every man equal privileges. No man is inferior to another, and each man is equally bound with his brother man to keep up an untiring vigilance against the exercise of designing aristocratic power, and maintain our efficiency in protecting the interest of the States. Where is there a Government so free as this? Where does the poor man enjoy such rights and privileges; where is labor so much respected, and where does it receive such ample rewards? I love it, fellow-citizens, because it gives every poor devil in this country a chance to get ahead. You have all heard of a rail-splitter down in your State, who managed to become President of the United States, and I recollect a poor boy who came out West several years ago, who by dint of his persevering energy and reckless presumption, is now the Governor of the fourth State in the Union. [Cheers.] I love this Government because it makes no distinction where a man is born. It opens wide its arms for the foreigner as well as the American.
Who would not live — aye, who would not die, if need be, for such a Government? [Traitors.] Yes, there are those who pretend to dispite this Government, yet I cannot understand how it is possible. And if there is one bolt of thunder, or one streak of lightning, in Heaven's grand battery, more terrific and death-dealing than another, let it light upon the head of any traitor or Copperhead, North or South, who opposes, or attempts to break down this Government. [Prolonged cheers.]
Whatever I have of body or mind, belongs to our glorious Government. [Cheers.] I am often asked whether we can subdue this rebellion. I say we will try — and from what I know of the patriotism and determination of our people, this land will flow in a sea of blood as deep as Lake Michigan, before we will yield this country to traitors! [Cheers.] According to my understanding, there are now but two parties in the North — Patriots and Tories, and the same stigma will hereafter, to all time, rest upon the names of the traitors in this war, that has attached to the traitors of the revolutionary war. And I would here suggest that any aspiring, loyal young man, who would hold a prominent position hereafter, must not only be in favor of this war but of all other wars that may be waged against traitors in his time. [Cheers.]
Why are you here, fellow-citizens, to rejoice to-night? Because you cherish a love for the dear old Government — the noblest and best the world ever saw, and as such you would preserve it, and hand it down to your posterity. We are all proud of our country. That's so. What important destinies hang upon the result of this important contest — what hopes, and at times what fears, are entertained as to the result! The eyes of the whole world are upon us, eagerly watching the progress of the war, and calculating the result. America is a beacon light to all the earth.
The speaker alluded to the news received from Pennsylvania, from Arkansas and from Vicksburg. We have for many years celebrated the 4th of July as the birth-day of our national independence. We now meet to celebrate three of the most important victories, all achieved upon the glorious 4th.
Five thousand of our soldiers have whipped fifteen thousand rebels in Helena, Ark. [Cheers.] In Pennsylvania, after the many reverses that had befallen the army of the Potomac, we had begun to fear that the old Keystone State had gone, body and soul, to the rebels — that they might triumph, temporarily at least. But I am happy to say that the soldiers from New England and the Middle and Western States, though oft repulsed before impregnable fortifications, as soon as they met the enemy in open field, triumphed most gloriously. Our Western troops have never quailed. [Cheers.] Vicksburg, too, is ours. [Prolonged cheers.] That battle, of which her surrender is the result, is the most important of the war.
To have taken Richmond or Charleston would have been glorious, but to possess Vicksburg is far more so, as this was the most important position they could hold on the Mississippi river. Here was to be decided the question who should hold the Mississippi and control her immense commerce — the North or the South, and it strikes me we have decided the question satisfactorily.
Fellow-citizens, I am sorry to tell you to-day that peace is impossible. I was conversing with a distinguished leader of the Democratic party the other day, and says I to him, "Let us see how this nation can be divided." "Well," said he, "in the first place, we will kick off New England." "There," said I, "I cannot agree with you. There is Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill, and there they will remain. — There was the home of the pilgrim fathers, who escaped in the Mayflower and erected in this land the temple of everlasting freedom and Christianity. And, although I am a Southern man myself, yet New England is mine, and all her glories are mine."
Again, could we abandon the Mississippi to a foreign power? In 1804 we purchased the Mississippi river from France, at a cost of twenty-five millions of dollars. We purchased Florida, all the territory bordering on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, at a cost of twenty-five millions, and every inch of this territory belongs to the Union. It was purchased by the Union when it was a solitary wilderness, and do you suppose the people of the North will surrender the Father of Waters to the traitors who would trample upon American liberty? The battlefields of Belmont and of Island No. 10, and the splendid battles at Vicksburg are forever trumpet-tongued evidence that there is an unalterable determination of the nation never to surrender the Mississippi to a foreign jurisdiction.
No, fellow-citizens! the Mississippi Valley must be held and controlled by loyal, patriotic citizens, or else it must be one vast sepulchre of the honored bones of the loyal men who have contended for the right. This country must either be a dissevered country ["Never!"], or we must enjoy it as our fathers gave it to us — one, undivided and forever! [Cheers.]
There are gentlemen who talk about compromise — talk about compromise, when the enemy is upon you hills, and thundering at our very gates! At that great Peace Congress, in Washington, in February, 1861, when it was proposed to pass resolutions in favor of Union, secessionists voted it down. And when our Northern friends got in the dirt, and abjectly begged them to have the question referred to a Convention of the States, for such measures to be adopted as should secure each the full and equal enjoyment of its rights and privileges, they voted it down by thirteen yeas to eight nays, every slave State voting nay. Talk about compromise, when not a single message of the President of the so-called Confederate States, or of any Governor of a Southern State, not a public speaker in the South, has proposed it! Talk about compromise, when they defy the Government, and ridicule the idea of any form of free and independent government; when they call our glorious stars and stripes a hated rag; when they say that if peace was established, they would not associate with Northern Copperheads without holding their noses! [Laughter.]
Peace is impossible upon any other terms than upon the entire subjugation of the rebels. The man, whoever he be, North or South, who is in favor of peace or a compromise under the president circumstances — a peace or a compromise that shall acknowledge the so-called Southern Confederacy, is a traitor, and as richly deserves a hempen promotion as Jeff. Davis. [Cheers.] We of the West swear by the Eternal to make no terms of peace, expect by an unconditional surrender by the traitors. There is but one way out of this war, and that is the way through it. We must move upon the enemy's works. [Cheers.] We must each sacrifice personal preferences, personal property, and if required, our lives —sacrifice anything, everything, that the grand old Republic may live. [Loud cheers.]
I am decidedly in favor of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but there is a wide difference between the right to talk freedom and the right to talk treason. Vallandigham's arrest for expressing treasonable sentiments, will furnish a text for traitors to harp upon for months and years. But the rights of Vallandigham are not to be considered to the rights of the Republic. A deserter was shot some time since, and upon examining his knapsack afterwards there was found his mental pabulum, in the shape of Vallandigham's speech, as published in the New York World, (and the Chicago Times, too.) I did not intend to mention the Times, and do not propose to notice it now further than to mention that they say some hard things about me. I acknowledge that I have many of the weaknesses of poor human nature, and prominent among them, if I know myself, and the weakness they most detest in me, is that I am determined to stand by my country, against its foes at home or abroad. [You are all right, Gov. Yates. You have cared for the country and our wounded soldiers.] I thank you, fellow-citizens, but I claim no honor for what I have done for the sick and wounded soldiers in camp, or on the battle-field. I have done what I could, but that is no more than my duty — and were we all of us to do our utmost for them, we would fall far short of compensating them for what they are enduring for us.
But to resume: Every nation is entitled to the right of self-preservation, and if these arrests are unconstitutional, then your Constitution itself is unconstitutional, because it says that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except in cases of rebellion or invasion, and it shall be suspended in that case. Rely upon the courts with their slow, crude processes, listening to ingenious arguments of their counsel and the doubtful and ambiguous instruction of the court to the jury! Rely upon them, while your country is bleeding at every pore, and the enemy thundering at your gates!
The Constitution says that the writ of habeas corpus shall be suspended whenever in case of insurrection or rebellion the public safety shall require it. The President has the power to suspend it, if there is a traitor in the land he has not only the power, but it is his duty to arrest him and send him South, where he belongs, as in the case of Vallandigham.
That man Vallandigham does not possess one warm, patriotic impulse. It was he who in Congress voted against all measures providing for supplies for the United States Government; who by his disloyal sentiments has been discouraging enlistments, and who, in every place, has been talking against this glorious Government of Washington's and ours, and yet he is nominated by a certain party as the candidate for Governor of Ohio! If Ohio shall doom herself to the everlasting infamy of his election, then the star that answers to her name shall have no association in the everlasting cluster that proclaims the freedom and power of this American Government. [Cheer.] We are not to talk about arrests; no, we must quiet treason when and wherever found; there is no crushing out this rebellion until we extinguish the fire in the rear — I will take that back, (cries, "don't take it back,") yes, because the country will be saved anyhow. [Cheers.]
Fellow-citizens, I speak upon this subject with feeling and emotion, I am for the Union, and will spend what little of life Heaven has blessed me with before the ever glorious stars and stripes shall trail in the dust. I am a Southern man, and there in Kentucky is the grave of my mother, the home of my childhood; and so help me God, before one jot or title of Southern rights shall be torn from them, I would lay down my life. I could ask for them, that when this glorious nation shall be restored, that it shall be free from the everlasting curse of human slavery.
Northern traitors have stigmatized this as the Abolitionists' war. I firmly believe that the Almighty Ruler intended of obliterating slavery; the first shot fired into Fort Sumter was the first shot into slavery, and the traitorous slavery oligarchy can take the credit of it if they will, but cannot blame the war upon the Abolitionists or the North. But I am prone to confess that I shall have no regrets if, in the great conflicts which are going on to preserve this nation, slavery is forever blotted out. No; sooner than see this glorious Government destroyed, I would see every plantation desolated, and every slave set free. I firmly believe that the day is not far distant when the nations of the earth will hail with gliddening shouts the unfurled banner of universal emancipation. [Great cheering.] I have never though that a public man need fear to express his sentiments, and the truer to the suggestions of his own heart, the warmer will be the response of the popular heart. I have never feared to express mine, and now proclaim that I have always been an anti-slavery man, and there is no terror for me in the cry of "Abolitionist." The proudest summit of human power which the popular voice ever placed man in could not induce me to give up these sentiments of liberty and humanity.
The war has been carried forward as fast as possible under the circumstances. We had no army or navy to speak of. Had to enlist troops, and drill and equip them — had all the arms and uniforms to manufacture — to build vessels and gunboats, instead of those stolen by the rebels, to increase our navy — to replenish a Treasury impoverished by robbery — we had all to do, yet we have done it, and now have a navy that will vie with any on the globe, and the most extensive and bravest army that was ever brought together, composed of the very flower and chivalry of all the country. When we reflect that we have had naval battles 2,000 miles apart, and at the same time maintained a blockade 2,000 miles in extent — when we take a retrospective view of our military condition at the commencment of the war, as compared with our present army and navy, and remember what we have accomplished, there is certainly no sane thinking man who can complain. The great aim of the Government is being carried out, and we now see the beginning of the end. We are soon to see, I trust, the greatest succession of victories mortals ever beheld! [Cheers.]
You did me the honor a few minutes ago, to play "Dixie" — that beautiful air composed by a Northern man, and so universally popular. When I was last with our brave boys, on the field — there were Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin soldiers — as patriotic a set of men as ever lived — many of them suffering from disease, and others from wounds received in the late battle, yet they all join in the determined words,
"In Dixie's land I'll take my stand!"
I would say to my Democratic friends and my Republican friends and Union men everywhere, there is no longer any Republican party or Democratic party. It is now union or disunion, and, fellow-citizens, I know no party except my country! In all my appointments I have appointed more persons whose political faith is opposite to mine than those of my own party. I have received every man who will bring a good honest heart and a strong, valient arm in the defense of his government. The news comes of this 4th of July that our armies are gloriously triumphant.
I pray you, without distinction of party, to send to those brave boys in the army — send to them the undivided sentiment — one, glorious, one universal cheer from all the inhabitants of the North. I ask those men who are now making every effort in opposition to the Government, if they have sunk so low as to be considered enemies of their country, that they would not say one solitary word of hope and cheer for the poor soldiers who are pouring out their blood for them to-day. Is this the Democratic party, who have brought themselves down so low as to be considered enemies of their country in this her trying hour? Will they be ready to do the work of traitors?
He said he had spoken too long: [Go on, go on — what about the Copperhead Legislature — Wabash Railroad.) The Legislature from the beginning had attempted to usurp the powers of the executive by appointing all officers to office, created by the Constitution, and by laws, when the Constitution in express terms conferred that power on the executive, and said that "in no case should the General Assembly make such appointments." That Legislature also aimed by adjourning over from time to time for periods longer than was contemplated by the Constitution, aimed to constitute itself a body in perpetuity. Afraid to commit themselves for or against the war, they were for adjourning over to see the signs of the times. If victory perched upon our eagles, they would be all over for the war; if defeat, then they were against it. They also treated me with personal discourtesy by refusing in an unprecedented manner to print my message, till near two months of the session had expired. If they for a moment entertained the idea that I would not avail myself of the opportunity to adjourn a body guilty of the opportunity to adjourn a body guilty of such gross usurpations, and from whom the country expected no good, they have found out that they miscalculated the metal and the patriotism of Richard Yates. [Loud cheers.] — Well knowing that their peace resolutions were pending, and lots more being "hatched up," I sent my polite note to them, telling them, in the language of the soldiers to the rebels, to "skeedaddle." [Loud laughter, and three cheers for Governor Yates.]
They had been in session for nine days, and it was a sight good for the sore eyes to see them leaving with their nine dollars and postage stamps. [Laughter.] Horse railroads, peace resolutions and fillibustering speeches have all gone to that bourne whence no traveler returns. — [Laughter.] They deserve the strong sympathies of the country for thus being caught in the clutches of an Abolition Governor. [Loud laughter.] They took vengeance upon him at their grand State mass meeting by furious resolutions against him, and immortalized themselves by passing a famous resolution that they were opposed to any further offensive prosecution of the war — for which they are now heartily ashamed of themselves. [Cheers and laughter.]
I rejoice that we are now here, and live to commemmorate the second Declaration of American Independence, achieved by our brilliant victories on the 4th of July, 1863. Let us now and henceforth send back to our brave soldiers one undivided sentiment of encouragement — and one universal cheer from the loyal millions of the North.
Fellow-citizens: I have unfaltering faith in the restoration of the Union. From very early boyhood I have had a bright dream that God had showered down his blessings upon this, our native land, and had made it his chosen heritage where railroads, commerce, and all the charms of civilization were to be established. And, by the blessings of God, the memory of our fathers and the love of liberty, I will still continue to cherish that dream, and still believe that from the Saint Lawrence to the Gulf, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so long as Lake Michigan shall heave beneath the surging billows, so long as we shall speak the same language, living under the same constitution, and high over all shall float forever the same glorious star-spangled banner. [Enthusiastic cheers.]