Fourth of July Address at La Salle.
(Delivered July 4, 1892.)
We have met to-day as American citizens. We come from our homes, from the fields, from the mines, from the workshops, from the counting room. We come from the vexations and annoyances of daily life, from the heat of partisan discussion, to gather around the stars and stripes, all proud of our country and of its history; come to celebrate an event which has been momentous in shaping the destinies of nations. It is sometimes said that Fourth of July celebrations have lost their interest. This can never be until civil and religious liberty cease to be cherished by mankind. But for the events which we to-day commemorate, those of you who were born under a foreign flag would, in all probability, not be here, and instead of being surrounded by the comforts, the prosperity which distinguish
231our land, you would still be amid the miseries and the poverty that are the fruit of ages of despotism; and you, my fellow citizens, who boast of a long line of American ancestry, were it not for the events of 1776, you would not be American citizens, but you would still be British subjects, and instead of governing yourselves and making and unmaking Governors, Congressmen and Presidents, instead of retiring to private life officials high and low, when they do not carry out your wishes, you would be humble suppliants at the throne of Great Britain — you would be humbly petitioning at the bar of the British Parliament — and that Parliament, not having been taught the salutary lessons which the Colonists taught it, would still be the rapacious, unjust and tyrannical body that it was a century ago, seeking only the enrichment and aggrandizement of the aristocracy of England, and the American continent would to-day be but little more than another edition of Ireland or of India. It is natural for us, when finding ourselves surrounded by all that makes up a high civilization, finding the affairs of the world moving day by day, to imagine that things have always been so, and that it required no great effort or suffering to bring them into existence; but a brief glance at the history of the world soon shows us how greatly we err. Every milestone that marks the path of religious liberty is wet with the tears and the blood of martyrs, and every footstep along the path of civil liberty is red with the blood of patriots. Let us glance at the conditions which led up to, and the results that followed, the Declaration of Independence, and some of the lessons which we may draw from them.
Attempts had been made at different times to found colonies on the American continent. The motive generally was love of gain — of gold — in some cases love of adventure. But in the meantime there had been developing in Europe, slowly but surely, the idea of civil and religious liberty, and there had finally grown up in England a band of earnest men and women — not of the rich or powerful, not of the fashionable or great, but of the common people — to whom the privilege of worshipping God according to the dictates of their own conscience was more than country or home or friends; who, when driven from that country, rested for a brief interval on the shores of Holland, and then embarked upon a wintry sea for a home in the American wilderness, not to win gold or fortune, but to have peace. Before they landed they adopted a form of government, and asked the blessings of the Almighty upon it. They landed upon the shores of New Egland, and there, in a fierce climate, on a sterile soil, amid savage beasts and more savage Indians, they made their home and laid the
232foundation of future greatness. They were a serious people; they were fearfully in earnest; they were industrious and frugal; they were actuated by stern morality and a strict adherence to principle — qualities which lie at the bottom of all human greatness. They soon prospered. They were educated and they cherished the cause of education. They founded schools; they built churches. Their very situation taught them to meet in council together to work for the common interests of the community. In short, it taught them the art of self-government. When, in 1755, there had sprung up a number of Colonies, the French and Indian war broke out, the necessity of the situation brought the Colonies to act together in their own common defense, thus laying the foundation for a subsequent union of the Colonies, and at the same time enabling them to drive the French from the American continent — an event, the far-reaching consequences of which no man can calculate — wresting a great portion of the continent from the Latin races and giving it over to the Anglo-Saxons.
Finally came the conflict with the mother country. The British aristocracy and government, actuated by the same motives which have in all times and in all countries shaped the actions of aristocracies, could not rise above the idea of utilizing the Colonies for personal aggrandizement and enrichment; and, devotedly as the Colonies were attached to the mother country, they felt the injustice that was being done them. Again and again they petitioned Parliament and the throne for redress, but in vain, and when it was finally attempted to tax them, without giving them the right of representation, they resorted to force, but still in the hope of a compromise.
The British Government in its attempt to force the Colonies into submission sent over an army, and on June 17th, 1775, was fought the battle of Bunker Hill. While the Colonists were not united, while there prevailed a difference of opinion as to the wisest course to take; yet step by step the majority were driven to demand independence and on July 2d, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution in favor of severing the ties with the mother country, and on July 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence as we now have it, which had been drafted by Mr. Jefferson, of Virginia, was adopted and promulgated to the world. If this Declaration of Independence had been simply the throwing off of a foreign yoke and the bending of the neck to a new master, it would have been unworthy of remembrance, it would simply have been one of the thousand cases in the history of mankind where there was a change of masters, but no improvement in the condition of the people, and no new principle given to the world. But this declaration contained two clauses, it enunciated two
233principles, — one that "All men are created equal," and the other that "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed." These were new to the world. While they had been broached in the speculations of philosophers they had never been carried into practice. It was looked upon as a dream. Kings jeered and courtiers sneered at the idea. Fashionable society throughout Europe and even in the States of America made sport of the whole matter. Let me say that the rich and the fashionable are always on the side of power. It was insisted by all the great influences of society and especially by the governing classes, that no country could exist without a standing army, that it could not repel invasion, that it could not suppress domestic insurrection, that it could not preserve order when conflicting interests met for settlement, and that without an established church men must relapse into barbarism; that man produced the best results with a yoke around his neck and a strong hand on him. Our fathers believed that the world had been governed too much, that instead of helping men It tended to cow them; that it prevented the development of the faculties and defeated the highest achievement possible. They believed that the country needed no standing army, that it was a menace to the liberty of the citizens; that a State Church was a weight and hindrance to the development of the loftier religious sentiment, and that if the strong hand of the government and a State Church were taken off the neck, the conscience and the mind of man would rise to moral and intellectual heights that he had yet never attained. While the world doubted, they were determined to make the experiment. They spoke of it as an experiment — they hoped it would succeed — they asked the blessings of the Almighty upon it. Under these circumstances the young Republic started upon its career. I will not recount the incidents of the war, the heroic endurance of the Colonists and the friendly aid of the French, you are familiar with all this.
In 1812 we had another conflict with the mother country, for although England had recognized our independence, she had never respected our government or our flag, but persisted in the practice of insolently boarding American ships on the high seas and forcibly taking from them all sailors which she claimed were Englishmen. A free people could not submit to this and the result was another war. Our government had no army, it had no navy, it had no money in its treasury. The English landed three armies, one near the entrance of the great lakes, one in the extreme south, another at the entrance of Chesapeake Bay. They captured Washington, burned the capitol. One would suppose that a government thus situated must succumb,
234but it had the love and the patriotism of its people to fall back on. It raised armies, it filled its treasury, it built navies and it drove the English, defeated and humiliated, from our shores.
From 1812 to 1860 as far as our internal affairs were concerned was a period of peace. During this time the Nation grew and the country developed as no Nation or country had done. The achievements of reality far surpassed the dreams of fiction. We grew in everything that tends to make a people great. The energies of men left unfettered and unrepressed leaped forth upon a career of invention, a career of development, of manufacture and of education that astounded the world. School houses sprang up everywhere and never was there seen such a general diffusion of intelligence. Instead of relapsing into barbarism for want of a State Church, there was no country upon earth where so many church steeples pointed to the ever-living God and where on Sunday morning so many church bells tolled over the hills, calling man to commune with his Maker.
In 1860 came the struggle with the slave power. Surrounded by enlightenment and the spirit of freedom, it could not long exist without a struggle. Strange as it may seem to us, the Southern people regarded slavery as an institution that was sanctioned by Divine Providence, regarding their slaves as property and determined to fight to maintain their property rights. Here again most of the rich and fashionable of the entire country sympathized with the South, that being the side of power. The North felt that to permit separation of the Union was to arrest and to a great extent destroy the prosperity and the development of the country, that we were inseparably bound together, that our interests were common and united, that we must either remain united or drift into anarchy. Then, again, we had no army, we had scarcely any navy, we had no money in the treasury, we had nothing to fall back on except the patriotic sentiment of the people, but this sufficed. We filled the treasury, we built a navy that stretched from Chesapeake Bay around to the Cape of Florida, and from there on around to the coast of Mexico — 2,400 miles of sea-coast; and instead of one army we equipped many armies, and instead of operating on a small territory and conducting one campaign, as had been the case with the great military chieftains of other countries, we conducted a number of campaigns simultaneously, carried on military operations that stretched over half the continent. Then was presented to the world one of the grandest spectacles ever beheld. A navy guarding 2,400 miles of sea-coast, a million men in the field, all actuated by one common purpose, all stepping to the same music, all moved by one motive, not of plunder, not of conquest,
235not of aggrandizement, but the one lofty sentiment: "This Union Forever." No monarchial, no aristocratic government ever presented such a spectacle to the world.
The Union was maintained, and when the war was over one of the most difficult problems was presented, namely, how to deal with the subdued South. To govern a people subdued by military operations has always been a most difficult task; in this case it was rendered more difficult by the fact that there were four million people who had formerly been slaves added to the citizenship and given the right of suffrage. They were to be citizens, standing on the same plane with their former masters. In other countries this condition of affairs would have been impossible. Russia maintained order in Warsaw, after the conquest of Poland, but it was the order of death — to shoot down men, women and children, and let them lie in heaps upon the street, was the only method of preserving order that military despotism could devise. But we relied upon the principles of self-government. We withdrew our armies; we asked these people to govern themselves, and they have succeeded to a degree which, under other conditions, would have been impossible. To be sure there were outrages, there were isolated cases of violence, but year by year the conditions were improving. The principle of self-government is triumphing again. Other countries had found the disbanding of a great army a source of danger. Soldiers who had been fighting for plunder or aggrandizement did not hold high ideas of citizenship. We disbanded a million of men. The generals laid down their swords; the privates laid down their muskets. They returned to their former occupations — to their shops, to their counting rooms, to their offices; yea, to their pulpits, and began again to make their living by the sweat of their brow. There was no disturbance, no disorder. The principle of self-government solved the question.
Our fathers prepared a government for three millions of people, scattered along the Atlantic coast. To them the Alleghany Mountains were far in the West. They thought that in the course of centuries the people might reach the mountains. They stood, as it were, upon the threshold of a new continent, a new century and a new era. They could not see the wonderful and the rapid development of either. Could they return to-day and stand, not on the Atlantic coast, but on the great mountains that seemed so far west to them, and gaze out over the great Mississippi Valley, see it covered with States any one of which is greater, in all that goes to make a nation, than any of the empires of the past; could they see the wonderful cities, the vast extent of railroads, the school houses, the churches,
236the colleges; could they see all the agencies of this civilization; could they see how far-reaching have been the principles which they promulgated, of equality and of government by the consent of the governed, reaching out not only over the whole Western Hemisphere, but stirring up the nations of the Old World, they would be speechless with amazement.
Now, my fellow citizens, after the Revolution there continued a tide of immigration from the countries of the Old World. The immigrants who came were not of the nobility, not of the rich, but they were of the poor, whose lot had been made hard by the operations of despotism. They came in great numbers to our shore. They did not settle in the Southern States, but sought homes in the Northern free States. These people brought with them many of the qualities and characteristics of the Pilgrim Fathers. They were industrious; they had strong arms and great endurance; they were frugal in their habits; they were accustomed to observe law and order; they were honest and loved liberty; they came over here to better their condition, to make homes for themselves and their children; and it is a remarkable fact that the development, the prosperity and the greatness of the different States of the Union is in proportion to the number of immigrants that settled in them.
It is in these States that we find the largest cities, the most splendid architecture, the most railroads, the greatest factories, the greatest development of nature's resources, the most schools, the best schools, the most churches, the most libraries, the most printing presses. It is in these States that we find the highest development of our civilization, and those States which have few or no immigrants have the least development and are behind in everything that makes a great State; and in the great struggle for the Union, the men who fought to maintain the institution of slavery, and the men who fired upon the American flag — who sought to destroy our government — were, almost without exception, not only Americans, but the sons of Americans; while, on the other hand, nearly one-half of the men who fought to maintain the Union — who defended our flag in the days of its peril, and who helped to perpetuate free institutions, were either foreign-born or were the sons of foreign-born parents. One-half the men who filled Southern graves because they cherished freedom and abhorred slavery, were of foreign origin. Fifty years ago there was a cry of "America for Americans," a cry directed against the foreign-born citizens. It failed of its purpose. Now we hear it renewed, and strangely enough, it comes from among the ranks of one of the great parties that has been kept in power bv these foreign-born citizens. Need I say that
237this cry must fail again in its purpose? For no honest patriot and no liberal man can read the history of this people without being convinced of the injustice of such a cry. It comes from a set of men who boast of no great deed done for their country — men who avoid the sun and hide under the mask of secrecy.
Now, my fellow-citizens, the lessons we gather from this brief survey of our history are, first, the necessity for universal intelligence. Resting upon the patriotism and the good judgment of the people it is indispensable that they should be intelligent and well informed, and our very existence depends upon the maintenance of our schools and of all the agencies that tend to enlighten or elevate mankind. We learn further to respect opposing opinions. At every stage in the career of our country there have been differences between men equally honest, equally patriotic. Generally, coming generations accepted a part of the theory of each and rejected a part of the theory of each. For example: After the Revolutionary War, when it was sought to establish a permanent government, there were two schools of men. There was the school of Hamilton, leaning toward a monarchy, believing in aristocracy, having no confidence in the people, believing that the people were incapable of self-government, and holding that the Union between the States was one and inseparable. There was the school of Jefferson, which believed in the people, which abhorred kings and aristocracy, believing that the people were capable of self-government, and holding to the theory that the Union was a mere compact between the States, from which any State could withdraw.
Subsequent generations have accepted a part of the theory of each. They have said to Hamilton: "We repudiate your monarchial and aristocratic leaning, we repudiate your distrust of the people, but we accept your doctrine that the Union is one and inseparable." They have said to Jefferson: "We repudiate your theory of the right of. secession, but we accept with all our hearts your doctrine that the people can be trusted and are capable of self-government." When Abraham Lincoln said that the government should be "Of the people, for the people and by the people," he virtually added another line to the Declaration of Independence as drafted by Jefferson, and when Lee surrendered at Appomattox there died forever the doctrine of the right of secession.
We learn further, that to reach the highest intellectual and moral development the government should leave its hands off the neck of the citizen. There should be no interference with the private affairs of the individual; that to attempt to interfere with the private affairs