Grand Army of the Republic
Memorial Day Sermon
NEWS AND CITIZEN: JUNE 6, 1901
Delivered by Rev. G.N. Kellogg May 25, to the G.A.R.
And Kindred Societies
It is eminently fitting, and proper, that you, gentlemen of the G.A.R., as a part of the memorial services, should present yourselves in a body in the house of God, thus gratefully recognizing his hand in the preservation of your lives, your country, and your liberty. I esteem it a privilege and an honor to bear a humble part in the tribute to the memory of our patriotic dead. You were citizen soldiers and were actuated by a patriotism as pure and exalted as that of the Greeks at Themopolar, the Swiss at Margarton the praying warriors of Cromwell at Marston, or our God fearing fathers on Bunker Hill.
When Demosthenes would find a fitting word which to characterize to the honors of Marathon he could choose but one, from the rich and unladious Greek that he dared use, and so standing by the pillar erected at Athens to perpetuate the memory of their dead, and inscribed with the names, he called them brave men, but while I heartily re-echo that name I ask myself, have the centuries since with their rich fruitage of knowledge, their abundant enrichment of life, their development of a loftier type of manhood, better social conditions, truer conceptions of freedom, and a more perfect realization of Democratic government, with their surprising expansion of peaceful industries, extension of commerce, and multiplication of the comforts of life and the refinements, thus vastly augmenting the value of life, and the importance of stable government; have they taught us to find no more pregnant word than brave with which to characterize your sleeping comrades? Yea, from that same rich and uniadiou Greek I am able to select a word which, for us, means infinitely more than "brave", and which never in the history of the world had a more perfect exemplification then the conduct of our citizen soldiering. That word is "Patriots", they were patriots.
We have read with wondering admiration the story of the siege and capture of Troy, the valor of Agamemnon and Menelaus of Ajax and Priamus, recounted in the Illiad of Homer, have listened while Virgil rehearsed in graceful verse the peril and adventures of Aeneas and the fortunes of the Latin war, have been delighted with the legendary tales of Wm. Tell, have read with enthusiastic ardor of how Herrman and his Saxon comrades the 9th year of the 6th era, annihilated the Romans Legions of Versus at Winnifield and secured Germany for the Germans, English for the English, and in course of time New England for the Puritans; Have read with a flash of pride of Concord and Lexington, of Valley Forge and Yorktown, of the heroic valor and unparalleled suffering of our ancestors, but we never dreamed that the grand tragedy of patriotic devotions would be a thousand times repeated in our own day and land; that those old heroes and demigod who thundered in Greek, lightened in Latin, and flashed an flamed in ancient history, should stand aside while common men of plain English speech upon whose shoulders we had laid our hands, whose toil hardened palms we had grasped in friendly greeting, set and kept in motion the machinery of the grandest epic of the world. But so it has been, we have seen classic American History unfold itself, our companions, brothers, brothers, husbands, sons neighbors have been the heroes of many hard fought battle, soldiers who have no need to blush in the presence of those of any land or age, soldiers whose valor, sufferings, deeds, and death on the fugitive lines of that sublime epic which some American Homer will collect into stately and immortal verse.
There is something grand, solemn and eminently appropriate in this spectacle of an entire nation pausing to do honor to the memory of those "from whose offered lives humanity breathes a larger liberty"'. The world looks on in silent approval. Greece and Rome gave to the successful government a barbonic triumph but commonly overlooked the private soldiers. Other nations have in various ways preserved the memory and celebrated the praises of their civic military heroes. France has several times decorated the graves of her father soldiers, but we alone of nations make yearly pilgrimages to the graves of our patriotic dead. Others chiefly memorialize the great, the illustrious, but we, in true Democratic spirit, celebrate the praises of all; the slain private is a fallen patriot, the officer sleeping by his side is no more, heroes both, who fought under the same flag,, in the same sacred cause.
This memorial, these solemn and impressive ceremonies, this bearing sorrow ,is expressive of our appreciation of of the blessings of good government and is a pledge to preserve and transmit them, if need be ,by a like sacrifice, and is calculated to produce a most salutary impression upon the minds of the young, to foster in them the growth of sentiments of patriotic devotion.
National celebrations are the thermometer of National life, whenever they are allowed to pass unobserved then ordinarily? will find the spirit of liberty well nigh extinguished; while the regular and enthusiastic observance of such anniversaries is prophetic of continued prosperous peace, Believe me! So long as this memorial is regularly and religiously observed, so long shall we enjoy peace, prosperity and permanency of our institutions. But when from any cause, the people shall generally neglect or become indifferent to this grateful duty, the flowers of that springtime will plead extermination of a voluptuous and embecile people or else again, drop with the blood of patriots battling for their heritage. Most earnestly do I say to you, honor reward, beautify patriotism, and thus preserve it from decay. Suffer not this memorial to pass unobserved or to become an empty form if you would not have patriotism become an empty name.
Fellow Citizens! Those whose supreme sacrifice we this day honor fought armed rebellion. We must combat other and more deadly, because more insiduous and widely different evils, ignorance immorality, irreligion, it is the same warfare of self-preservation, as sacred now as then; a bloodless, but by no means a dangerless and easy struggle. Then the nation called for good soldiers, thousands answered the call; now she calls for good citizens. God grant other thousands answer this call.
Our government must, of necessity, trust either in good bayonets, or in good ballots in the hands of her citizen electors; may they never fail her. The Richmond of this conflict, with ignorance, immorality, irreligion, with industrial, social, political evils in the ballot box. At the poles we must yet fight some of the most important battles with the enemies of good government that have yet been fought; shall good ballots and insufficient numbers be wanting? With them we have nothing to fear; without them nothing to hope.
Popular sovereignty has both peculiar advantages and disadvantages, the ballot is at once a priceless and dangerous boon. It is the mightiest and most effective weapon against tyranny and corruption when in the hand of intelligent and conscientious citizens, but in the hands of the opposite class it is a terrible weapon of destruction. Both classes have it and it has become a case of absolute necessity that the intelligent and conscientious should be able to out-rate the opposite class. It will not do for us to drift along in easy security, we must bestir ourselves, must meet this danger in the old war time spirit. No personal preferences or party sympathies whatever must be suffered to come between us and the full preservation of the intelligence and integrity of the ballot We must throw around it every possible safe-guard, must plant schools, colleges, institutions of learning, and support them liberally and earnestly. We must demand and reward honesty and efficiency in all public servants, and one and all of us, whatever our party proclivities, not our faces as a flint against any and every form of political corruption and shickanery. Every man of us must thoughtfully, honestly and prayerfully exercise his selective franchise ; let there be no skulking. The man who skulged in the rear in time of battle was not one whit more deserving of a coward's drumming out of ranks then is the elector who skulks from the polls deserving of being drummed from his party and deprived of his right to vote.
We honor the dead to benefit the living, to keep alive in their breasts, all holy passions all skyward aspirations. We are divinely called to companionship with the men and women of the 20th century, who are the boys and girls of today. I bid you believe in the infinite possibilities of tomorrow, but achieve them today, for today is the matrix of tomorrow. The ages past and the people gone have property in the rightful calm upon us, for countless generations have traveled in pain and anguish in thought, speculation, discovery, inventions; in love, hate, passion, and play to produce the men and women of today.
Every great discovery, evolution, resolution, reformation, in short every advance of every sort is tributary to our greatness, and our freedom; and so, all the generations of the vanished ages, call upon on us in grateful recognition of our indebtedness to them, and in humble recognition of the generations unborn, to pour all those confluent strains of heredity, these vast accumulations of practical wisdom, these splendid conquests of human liberty of great volume into the channels of tomorrow, nor is this all In the manifest provinces of God this nation is destined hence-forth, for a longer or shorter term of years, to play a leading role in the drama of international life. All the signs of the times unmistakably point that way. "America is the country of destiny. As she goes, so will the world go."
We are then, fellow citizens, called upon to do our part toward achieving the coming perfection of America, for her own sake and for that of the nations whose future is so largely in her keeping. May the God who has set before us the great and effectual door of opportunity, help us to enter it and to play the man.
Veterans of the G.A.R., yours ia a rare and enviable privilege. You played a conspicous and honored part in that great war, which preserved the union and which settled the question of human slavery in this country, thus opening the way for a career of unparalled national prosperity. You have lived to see our once divided country united more cordially and firmly than ever before. You have lived to clasp hands in friendship with the men you whom you met and fought on the flaming battle-front, to see fields that were trampled by the feet of contending armies blossom as a garden, and to heartily rejoice with your whilom enemies over the brilliant outlook for the new south. To see the deer old flag, dearer than of erst by far, float once more over an undivided and prosperous country. Have lived to see sons of the blue and the gray march and fight side by side under the same flag, and thus you have witnessed and aided the garnering and enjoyment of the fruits of your victories. I rejoice with you over the victories of the past, but let us remember, they have simply cleared the field and marshaled the forces for the battles of the future. We must defend our free school system from every attack, from whatsoever sources, upon whatsoever pretext. Must by every means in our power, further the general diffusion of intelligence, for popular intelligence is absolutely indispensable to the safety of a self-governed people. The educational problem will be an unsolved problem and a grave peril until every elector can read his ballot and intelligently understand the responsibilities it involves, as well as the power it covers.
We must guard our homes and society in general from every attack of vice, multiform and pestiferous; must stoutly resist the hosts of irreligion. As irreligious people can not long be a free people. Our fathers would have no state religion, but they never dreamed of an irreligious State. A Godless conscienceless Republic is a contradiction of terms A self-governing people must of necessity as a conscientiously moral and sincerely religious people or there can be no safety for them. The church is the only organized and efficient teacher of morals and religion. Our Pilgrim Fathers erected the school house and the meeting house in the midst of their dwelling houses. In a majority of cases the meeting house served also as a town house and a court house. From the sacred desk whence the minister of a Sabbath-day expounded Divine law the judge or the justice of a week day be expounded civil law and administered civil justice. On election day the moderator of the town meeting occupied the same desk, the ballot box was placed beneath the pulpit on the communion table. The proceedings were opened with prayer and the voting was done in the presence and the reverend fear of d. This to their minds was no desecration of the sanctuary, but a hallowing of the election franchise, indeed of all political life.
Then, fellow citizens, you have the four elements which properly combined make possible safe, popular government. Namely: Good homes, good schools, a spiritual church and a clean ballot box. Preserve that Union of states and guarantee the peaceful prosperity of our beloved country.
Thirty-five years ago, in the same cause of liberty the bugles of Shiloh, Antietam and Gettysburg sounded at the front; today in that same cause, as holy now as then the sound of factory bells, the rumble of the----??-----, the shrill whistle of the engine- all the confused sounds of toil. Fellow citizens, one and all; Must we not in the same spirit of self-devotion in which the boys in blue answered the bugles of Antietam and a hundred other battle fields-answer the call of the hour from the front? Must we not prove ourselves patriots in the common walks of life, in the fields of productive industry, in the conscientious discharge of every duty of citizenship? Here is need and the largest room for the display of the virtues of patriotism.
Let us here and now clasp hands, and, calling God to witness our oath, swear by the memory of the dead, by the tears of the Rachel is now weeping, by the sufferings of the living, by the love of the dear old flag, for the peace of our beloved country, for the hope of mankind, for the honor of Heaven, " We will finish the work our brothers began. Then these too their sleeping, and those to their weeping, and or flag, and our faith for our federal union. God of our Fathers hear our prayer.
O make thou us, through centuries long
In peace secure, in justice strong;
Around our gift of freedom draw,
The safe-guards of thy righteous law,
And, cast in some diviner mould,
Let new cycle shame the old.
Submitted By: Deanna French