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In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
When the war began thousands of young men, the flower of American youth, were looking out of college halls upon a future bright with professional honors. They flung books aside and seized rifles. They became “History's Graduates.” Hundreds of thousands of young Americans were anticipating a future replete with the profits and emoluments which reward business genius and integrity. Straightway they abandoned cherished life plans in order to defend free institutions.
Did the officer love his home? With an equal tenderness the private soldier loved his. He knew, should a bullet prostrate him, it would shatter the strong staff upon which the aged father had hoped to lean in his declining years. It gave him a heart-break to see his mother's pale face and quivering lip as he kissed her good-by, holding in one arm his rifle, and with the other tenderly embracing her trembling form. There were tears in his voice” when he said farewell, perhaps a final farewell, to the fair friend with whom he had hoped to stand at the marriage altar. Thousands of husbands and fathers realized that their enlistment might leave wives widowed, and little children fatherless. When the private soldier rushed into the battle's fire and smoke, he knew that, after victories were won, the names of officers would be heralded over the land; but should he fall, the type would print after his name only one word—“missing," or wounded,” or “ dead.” And when that one dread word should be read in the distant Northern home, loved faces would "grow white instantly, as if sprinkled with the dust of ashes by an unseen hand.”
Yet for the old banner the soldier made the sacrifice. As a lonely vidette he kept faithful watch in the dark ness, while death lurked near, with foot of velvet and hand of steel.” He helped drag heavy cannon through deep mud; he trudged weary miles on forced marches, and endeavored to sleep, when hungry and cold, on the wet ground. Or he tossed on a hospital cot with a "band of pain around his brow." And now, we twine a laurel wreath for that brow. Thousands of those brave men fell, not knowing what would be the result of the conflict. Other thousands were permitted to return and enjoy for a period the blessings they purchased for their countrymen. Then they, too, fell by the wayside, weary with the march of life. They fought for freedom, not for fame, yet honor claims them as her own:
On Fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread,
The bivouac of the dead."
Who can estimate the value of their splendid services? The Union Army demonstrated the stability of representative government. In the estimation of Europe the American Republic was an experiment. Would it go to pieces by the earthquake shock of civil war? Jealous kings said “Yes," but when the red lips of Grant's cannon thundered “No!” thrones trembled. Should a government of and for and by the people perish from the earth?
The army demonstrated the solidity of the Nation's credit. At one period the war expenses aggregated $2,000,000 a day, but victories inspired confidence, and many of the soldiers poured their own silver and gold into the coffers of the Nation to sustain the government.
Soldiers of the Union, what shall a grateful people render you in return for your priceless services ? Surely the government should care for the aged and the crippled veteran. A wealthy nation should not permit a soldier's deserving widow or orphan to suffer want. But we are confident that your sentiments are voiced by this declaration. The return for their services which veterans desire is a determination on the part of their fellow-citizens to protect faithfully the free institutions the Grand Army fought to preserve.
Underneath yonder polished pillar is a granite die inscribed with patriotic sentences. For us that lettered die shall symbolize popular education, which sustains the Republic. Books are better than bayonets. Giant truths are mightier than giant powder. The strongest fortresses are school-houses. The mightiest standing army in the world is the great host of American school-children. The seal of the Board of Education in this city is a pictured pen lying across a broken sword. The pen is mightier than the sword. The pens of Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, and Hamilton broke the sword of tyranny in 1776. The pens of Webster, Sumner, Phillips, Garrison, Beecher, Seward, and Lincoln broke the swords of secession and slavery. The men in bronze find firm footing on yonder lettered block of granite. They carry thinking weapons. No man
scoops out the brains ” of the American civilian or soldier. He has the Bible, and thinks for himself. He has the ballot, and governs himself. The only scepter to which he bows is the scepter of truth.
This is a nation of readers—a nation of sovereigns. “We live under a government of men and morning newspapers. The talk of the sidewalk to-day is the law of the land to-morrow.” Who shapes public thought is the uncrowned king. His pen is his scepter. Public schools and newspapers are the people's university. When Louis Napoleon was in this country he expressed surprise because he saw a farmer reading a newspaper. Germany has about 5,500 newspapers, Great Britain about 5,000. France about 2,000, Italy about 1,400, Asia-exclusive of Japan-about 850, Russia about 800, and the United States more than 15,000. The enemy of the American public school system is the enemy of the Commonwealth. If you would realize how unstable governments are without public schools, read the history of Mexico and of South America. Taught by costly experience, they have now introduced public education.
Thousands of the youth in our public schools come from homes where they learn little or nothing about the history and the spirit of American institutions. Let the public schools teach them that history, and inspire them with that spirit. Teach the public school youth, that it is a high honor to be able to say, “I am an American citizen." Let them hear the shot which the embattled farmers fired at Lexington—"the shot that was heard around the world.” Let them catch the peals of the old Liberty bell and the spirit of Independence Day. Let them hear the nightwatchman in Philadelphia calling out: “Ten o'clock and Cornwallis taken.” Let them hear Washington's soldiers singing on the banks of the Hudson: “No King but God." Let them hear again and again the shining story of the valor and the victories of the men who, uniformed in Heaven's livery, fought with Hooker, Hancock, Mead, Thomas, Foote, Farragut, Kilpatrick, with the chivalrous Kitching, and Fremont, the free-hearted. Teach them that when they arrive at manhood's estate, they should never absent themselves from the polls, preferring private gain to the welfare of city, state, or nation. Let them always vote-and vote for principle.
Underneath yonder carved die are four massive granite blocks, a solid base, on which the stable structure rests, as the American Republic rests secure upon the solid foundations of a true Christianity. Palsied be the vandal hands which would attempt to remove those tons of granite, and substitute as a base rotten timber. Palsied be the hands which would attempt to remove the Bible, the Sabbath, the Church, and the Christian home, and substitute, as a foundation for our Republic, infidelity, anarchy, and the rotten saloon!
Gladstone, the illustrious Englishman, said to an eminent American: “Talk about questions of the day, there is but one question, and that is the Gospel. It can and will correct everything needing correction. All men at the head of great movements are Christian men. During the many years I was in the Cabinet I