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14 page printout Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. Contents of this file page DECORATION DAY ORATION -- 1882 1 DECORATION DAY ORATION -- 1888 7 **** **** This file, its printout, or copies of either are to be copied and given away, but NOT sold. Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 The Works of ROBERT G. INGERSOLL **** **** DECORATION DAY ORATION. 1882. THIS day is sacred to our heroes dead. Upon their tombs we have lovingly laid the wealth of Spring. This is a day for memory and tears. A mighty Nation bends above its honored graves, and pays to noble dust the tribute of its love. Gratitude is the fairest flower that sheds its perfume in the heart. To-day we tell the history of our country's life -- recount the lofty deeds of vanished years -- the toil and suffering, the defeats and victories of heroic men, -- of men, who made our Nation great and free. We see the first ships whose prows were gilded by the western sun. We feel the thrill of discovery when the New World was found. We see the oppressed, the serf, the peasant and the slave, men whose flesh had known the chill of chains -- the adventurous, the proud, the brave, sailing an unknown sea, seeking homes in unknown lands. We see the settlements, the little clearings, the blockhouse and the fort, the rude and lonely huts. Brave men, true women, builders of homes, fellers of forests, founders of States. Separated from the Old World, -- away from the heartless distinctions of caste, -- away from scepters and titles and crowns, they governed themselves. They defended their homes; they earned their bread. Each citizen had a voice, and the little villages became republics. Slowly the savage was driven back. The days and nights were filled with fear, and the slow years with massacre and war, and cabins' earthen floors were wet with blood of mothers and their babes. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 1 DECORATION DAY ORATION. But the savages of the New World were kinder than the kings and nobles of the Old; and so the human tide kept coming, and the places of the dead were filled. Amid common dangers and common hopes, the prejudices and feuds of Europe faded slowly from their hearts. From every land, of every speech, driven by want and lured by hope, exiles and emigrants sought the mysterious Continent of the West. Year after year the colonists fought and toiled and suffered and increased. They began to talk about liberty -- to reason of the rights of man. They asked no help from distant kings, and they began to doubt the use of paying tribute to the useless. They lost respect for dukes and lords, and held in high esteem all honest men. There was the dawn of a new day. They began to dream of independence. They found that they could make and execute the laws. They had tried the experiment of self-government. They had succeeded. The Old World wished to dominate the New. In the care and keeping of the colonists was the destiny of this Continent -- of half the world. On this day the story of the great struggle between colonists and kings should be told. We should tell our children of the contest -- first for justice, then for freedom. We should tell them the history of the Declaration of Independence -- the chart and compass of all human rights: -- All men are equal, and have the right to life, to liberty and joy. This Declaration uncrowned kings, and wrested from the hands of titled tyranny the scepter 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. England was then the mightiest of nations -- mistress of every sea -- and yet our fathers, poor and few, defied her power. To-day we remember the defeats, the victories, the disasters, the weary marches, the poverty, the hunger, the sufferings, the agonies, and. above all, the glories of the Revolution. We remember all -- from Lexington to Valley Forge, and from that midnight of despair to Yorktown's cloudless day. We remember the soldiers and thinkers -- the heroes of the sword and pen. They had the brain and heart, the wisdom and courage to utter and defend these words: "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed." In defence of this sublime and self-evident truth the war was waged and won. To-day we remember all the heroes, all the generous and chivalric men who came from other lands to make ours free. Of the many thousands who shared the gloom and glory of the seven sacred years, not one remains. The last has mingled with the earth, and nearly all are sleeping now in unmarked graves, and some beneath the leaning, crumbling stones from which their names have been effaced by Time's irreverent and relentless hands. But the Nation Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 2 DECORATION DAY ORATION. they founded remains. The United States are still free and independent. The "government derives its just power from the consent of the governed," and fifty millions of free people remember with gratitude the heroes of the Revolution. Let us be truthful; let us be kind. When peace came, when the independence of a new Nation was acknowledged, the great truth for which our fathers fought was half denied, and the Constitution was inconsistent with the Declaration. The war was waged for liberty, and yet the victors forged new fetters for their fellow-men. The chains our fathers broke were put by them upon the limbs of others. "Freedom for All" was the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, through seven years of want and war. In peace the cloud was forgotten and the pillar blazed unseen. Let us be truthful; all our fathers were not true to themselves. In war they had been generous, noble and self- sacrificing; with peace came selfishness and greed. They were not great enough to appreciate the grandeur of the principles for which they fought. They ceased to regard the great truths as having universal application. "Liberty for All" included only themselves. They qualified the Declaration. They interpolated the word "white." They obliterated the word "All." Let us be kind. We will remember the age in which they lived. We will compare them with the citizens of other nations. They made merchandise of men. They legalized a crime. They sowed the seeds of war. But they founded this Nation. Let us gratefully remember. Let us gratefully forget, To-day we remember the heroes of the second war with England, in which our fathers fought for the freedom of the seas -- for the rights of the American sailor. We remember with pride the splendid victories of Erie and Champlain and the wondrous achievements upon the sea -- achievements that covered our navy with a glory that neither the victories nor defeats of the future can dim. We remember the heroic services and sufferings of those who fought the merciless savage of the frontier. We see the midnight massacre, and hear the war-cries of the allies of England. We see the flames climb around' the happy homes, and in the charred and blackened ruins the mutilated bodies of wives and children. Peace came at last, crowned with the victory of New Orleans -- a victory that "did redeem all sorrows" and all defeats. The Revolution gave our fathers a free land -- the War of 1812 a free sea. To-day we remember the gallant men who bore our flag in triumph from the Rio Grande to the heights of Chapultepec. Leaving out of question the justice of our cause -- the necessity for war -- we are yet compelled to applaud the marvelous Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 DECORATION DAY ORATION. courage of our troops. A handful of men, brave, impetuous, determined, irresistible, conquered a nation. Our history has no record of more daring deeds. Again peace came, and the Nation hoped and thought that strife was at an end. We had grown too powerful to be attacked. Our resources were boundless, and the future seemed secure. The hardy pioneers moved to the great West. Beneath their ringing strokes the forests disappeared, and on the prairies waved the billowed seas of wheat and corn. The great plains were crossed, the mountains were conquered, and the foot of victorious adventure pressed the shore of the Pacific. In the great North all the streams went singing to the sea, turning wheels and spindles, and casting shuttles back and forth. Inventions were springing like magic from a thousand brains. From Labor's holy altars rose and leaped the smoke and flame, and from the countless forges ran the chant of rhythmic stroke. But in the South, the negro toiled unpaid, and mothers wept while babes were sold, and at the auction-block husbands and wives speechlessly looked the last good-bye. Fugitives, lighted by the Northern Star, sought liberty on English soil, and were, by Northern men, thrust back to whip and chain. The great statesmen, the successful politicians, announced that law had compromised with crime, that justice had been bribed, and that time had barred appeal. A race was left without a right, without a hope. The future had no dawn, no star -- nothing but ignorance and fear, nothing but work and want. This was the conclusion of the statesmen, the philosophy of the politicians -- of constitutional expounders: -- this was decided by courts and ratified by the Nation. We had been successful in three wars. We had wrested thirteen colonies from Great Britain. We hid conquered our place upon the high seas. We had added more than two millions of square miles to the national domain. We had increased in population from three to thirty-one millions. We were in the midst of plenty. We were rich and free. Ours appeared to be the most prosperous of Nations. But it was only appearance. The statesmen and the politicians were deceived. Real victories can be won only for the Right; The triumph of justice is the only Peace. Such is the nature of things. He who enslaves another cannot be free. He who attacks the right, assaults himself. The mistake our fathers made had not been corrected. The foundations of the Republic were insecure. The great dome of the temple was clad in the light of prosperity, but the corner-stones were crumbling. Four millions of human beings were enslaved. Party cries had been mistaken for principles -- partisanship for patriotism -- success for justice. But Pity pointed to the scarred and bleeding backs of slaves; Mercy heard the sobs of mothers raft of babes, and justice held aloft the scales, in which one drop of blood shed by a master's lash, outweighed a Nation's gold. There were a few men, a few women, who had the courage to attack this monstrous crime. They found it entrenched in constitutions, statutes, and decisions -- barricaded and bastioned by every department and by every party. Politicians were its servants, statesmen its attorneys, judges its menials, presidents its puppets, and upon its cruel altar had been sacrificed our country's honor. It was the crime of the Nation -- of the whole country -- North and South responsible alike. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 DECORATION DAY ORATION. To-day we reverently thank the abolitionists. Earth has no grander men -- no nobler women. They were the real philanthropists, the true patriots. When the will defies fear, when the heart applauds the brain, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death, -- this is heroism. The abolitionists were heroes. He loves his country best who strives to make it best. The bravest men are those who have the greatest fear of doing wrong. Mere politicians wish the country to do something for them. True patriots desire to do something for their country. Courage without conscience is a wild beast. Patriotism without principle is the prejudice of birth, the animal attachment to place. These men, these women, had courage and conscience, patriotism and principle, heart and brain. The South relied upon the bond, -- upon a barbarous clause that stained, disfigured and defiled the Federal pact, and made the monstrous claim that slavery was the Nation's ward. The spot of shame grew red in Northern cheeks, and Northern men declared that slavery had poisoned, cursed and blighted soul and soil enough, and that the Territories must be free. The radicals of the South cried No Union without Slavery! The radicals of the North replied: "No Union without Liberty!" The Northern radicals were right. Upon the great issue of free homes for free men, a President was elected by the free States. The South appealed to the sword, and raised the standard of revolt. For the first time in history the oppressors rebelled. But let us to-day be great enough to forget individuals, -- great enough to know that slavery was treason, that slavery was rebellion, that slavery fired upon our flag and sought to wreck and strand the mighty ship that bears the hope and fortune of this world. The first shot liberated the North. Constitution, statutes and decisions, compromises, platforms, and resolutions made, passed, and ratified in the interest of slavery became mere legal lies, base and baseless. Parchment and paper could no longer stop or stay the onward march of man. The North was free. Millions instantly resolved that the Nation should not die -- that Freedom should not perish, and that Slavery should not live. Millions of our brothers, our sons, our fathers, our husbands, answered to the Nation's call. The great armies have desolated the earth. The greatest soldiers have been ambition's dupes. They waged war for the sake of place and pillage, pomp and power, -- for the ignorant applause of vulgar millions, -- for the flattery of parasites, and the adulation of sycophants and slaves. Let us proudly remember that in our time the greatest, the grandest, the noblest army of the world fought, not to enslave, but to free; not to destroy, but to save; not for conquest, but for conscience not only for us, but for every land and every race. With courage, with enthusiasm, with a devotion never excelled, with an exaltation and purity of purpose never equaled, this grand army fought the battles of the Republic. For the preservation of Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 DECORATION DAY ORATION. this Nation, for the destruction of slavery, these soldiers, these sailors, on land and sea, disheartened by no defeat, discouraged by no obstacle, appalled by no danger, neither paused nor swerved until a stainless flag, without a rival, floated over all our wide domain, and until every human being beneath its folds was absolutely free. The great victory for human rights -- the greatest of all the years -- had been won; won by the Union men of the North, by the Union men of the South, and by those who had been slaves. Liberty was national, Slavery was dead. The flag for which the heroes fought, for which they died, is the symbol of all we are, of all we hope to be. It is the emblem of equal rights. It means free hands, free lips, self-government and the sovereignty of the individual. It means that this continent has been dedicated to freedom. It means universal education, -- light for every mind, knowledge for every child. It means that the schoolhouse is the fortress of Liberty. It means that "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed;" that each man is accountable to and for the Government; that responsibility goes hand in hand with liberty. It means that it is the duty of every citizen to bear his share of the public burden, -- to take part in the affairs of his town, his county, his State and his country. It means that the ballot-box is the Ark of the Covenant; that the source of authority must not be poisoned. It means the perpetual right of peaceful revolution. It means that every citizen of the Republic -- native or naturalized -- must be protected; at home, in every State, -- abroad, in every land, on every sea. It means that all distinctions based on birth or blood, have perished from our laws; that our Government shall stand between labor and capital, between the weak and the strong, between the individual and the corporation, between want and wealth, and give the guarantee of simple justice to each and all. It means that there shall be a legal remedy for every wrong. It means national hospitality, -- that we must welcome to our shores the exiles of the world, and that we may not drive them back. Some may be deformed by labor, dwarfed by hunger, broken in spirit, victims of tyranny and caste, -- in whose sad faces may be Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 6 DECORATION DAY ORATION. read the touching record of a weary life; and yet their children, born of liberty and love, will be symmetrical and fair, intelligent and free. That flag is the emblem of a supreme will -- of a Nation's power. Beneath its folds the weakest must be protected and the strongest must obey. It shields and canopies alike the loftiest mansion and the rudest but. That flag was given to the air in the Revolution's darkest days. It represents the sufferings of the past, the glories yet to be; and like the bow of heaven, it is the child of storm and sun. This day is sacred to the great heroic host who kept this flag above our heads, -- sacred to the living and the dead -- sacred to the scarred and maimed, -- sacred to the wives who gave their husbands, to the mothers who gave their sons. Here in this peaceful land of ours, -- here where the sun shines, where flowers grow, where children play, millions of armed men battled for the right and breasted on a thousand fields the iron storms of war. These brave, these incomparable men, founded the first Republic. They fulfilled the prophecies; they brought to pass the dreams; they realized the hopes, that all the great and good and wise and just have made and had since man was man. But what of those who fell? There is no language to express the debt we owe, the love we bear, to all the dead who died for us. Words are but barren sounds. We can but stand beside their graves and in the hush and silence feel what speech has never told. They fought, they died; and for the first time since man has kept a record of events, the heavens bent above and domed a land without a serf, a servant or a slave. **** **** DECORATION DAY ORATION. 1888. THIS is a sacred day -- a day for gratitude and love. To-day we commemorate more than independence, more than the birth of a nation, more than the fruits of the Revolution, more than physical progress, more than the accumulation of wealth, more than national prestige and power. We commemorate the great and blessed victory over ourselves -- the triumph of civilization, the reformation of a people, the establishment of a government consecrated to the preservation of liberty and the equal rights of man. Nations can win success, can be rich and powerful, can cover the earth with their armies, the seas with their fleets, and yet be selfish, small and mean. Physical progress means opportunity for Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 7 DECORATION DAY ORATION. doing good. It means responsibility. Wealth is the end of the despicable, victory the purpose of brutality. But there is something nobler than all these -- something that rises above wealth and power -- something above lands and palaces -- something above raiment and gold -- it is the love of right, the cultivation of the moral nature, the desire to do justice, the inextinguishable love of human liberty. Nothing can be nobler than a nation governed by conscience, nothing more infamous than power without pity, wealth without honor and without the sense of justice. Only by the soldiers of the right can the laurel be won or worn. On this day we honor the heroes who fought to make our Nation just and free -- who broke the shackles of the slave, who freed the masters of the South and their allies of the North. We honor chivalric men who made America the hope and beacon of the human race -- the foremost Nation of the world. These heroes established the first republic, and demonstrated that a government in which the legally expressed will of the people is sovereign and supreme is the safest, strongest, securest, noblest and the best. They demonstrated the human right of the people, and of all the people, to make and execute the laws -- that authority does not come from the clouds, or from ancestry, or from the crowned and titled, or from constitutions and compacts, laws and customs -- not from the admissions of the great, or the concessions of the powerful and victorious -- not from graves, or consecrated dust -- not from treaties made between successful robbers -- not from the decisions of corrupt and menial courts -- not from the dead, but from the living -- not from the past but from the present, from the people of to-day -- from the brain, from the heart and from the conscience of those who live and love and labor. The history of this world for the most part is the history of conflict and war, of invasion, of conquest, of victorious wrong, of the many enslaved by the few. Millions have fought for kings, for the destruction and enslavement of their fellow-men. Millions have battled for empire, and great armies have been inspired by the hope of pillage; but for the first time in the history of this world millions of men battled for the right, fought to free not themselves, but others, not for prejudice, but for principle, not for conquest, but for conscience. The men whom we honor were the liberators of a Nation, of a whole country, North and South -- of two races. They freed the body and the brain, gave liberty to master and to slave. They opened all the highways of thought, and gave to fifty millions of people the inestimable legacy of free speech. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 8 DECORATION DAY ORATION. They established the free exchange of thought. They gave to the air a flag without a stain, and they gave to their country a constitution that honest men can reverently obey. They destroyed the hateful, the egotistic and provincial -- they established a Nation, a national spirit, a national pride and a patriotism as broad as the great Republic. They did away with that ignorant and cruel prejudice that human rights depend on race or color, and that the superior race has the right to oppress the inferior. They established the sublime truth that the superior are the just, the kind, the generous, and merciful -- that the really superior are the protectors, the defenders, and the saviors of the oppressed, of the fallen, the unfortunate, the weak and helpless. They established that greatest of all truths that nothing is nobler than to labor and suffer for others. If we wish to know the extent of our debt to these heroes, these soldiers of the right, we must know what we were and what we are. A few years ago we talked about liberty, about the freedom of the world, and while so talking we enslaved our fellow-men. We were the stealers of babes and the whippers of women. We were in partnership with bloodhounds. We lived on unpaid labor. We held manhood in contempt. Honest toil was disgraceful -- sympathy was a crime -- pity was unconstitutional -- humanity contrary to law, and charity was treason. Men were imprisoned for pointing out in heaven's dome the Northern Star -- for giving food to the hungry, water to the parched lips of thirst, shelter to the hunted, succor to the oppressed. In those days criminals and courts, pirates and pulpits were in partnership -- liberty was only a word standing for the equal rights of robbers. For many years we insisted that our fathers had founded a free Government, that they were the lovers of "liberty, believers in equal rights. We were mistaken. The colonists did not believe in the freedom of to-day. Their laws were filled with intolerance, with slavery and the infamous spirit of caste. They persecuted and enslaved. Most of them were narrow, ignorant and cruel. For the most part, their laws were more brutal than those of the nations from which they came. They branded the forehead of intelligence, bored with hot irons the tongue of truth. They persecuted the good and enslaved the helpless. They were believers in pillories and whipping-posts for honest, thoughtful men. When their independence was secured they adopted a Constitution that legalized slavery, and they passed laws making it the duty of free men to prevent others from becoming free. They followed the example of kings and nobles. They knew that monarchs had been interested in the slave trade, and that the first English commander of a slave-ship divided his profits with a queen. They forgot all the splendid things they had said -- the great principles they had so proudly and eloquently announced. The sublime truths faded from their hearts. The spirit of trade, the greed for office, took possession of their souls. The lessons of history were forgotten. The voices coming from all the wrecks of Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 9 DECORATION DAY ORATION. kingdoms, empires and republics on the shores of the great river were unheeded and unheard. If the foundation is not justice, the dome cannot be high enough, or splendid enough, to save the temple. But above everything in the minds of our fathers was the desire for union -- to create a Nation, to become a Power. Our fathers compromised. A compromise is a bargain in which each party defrauds the other, and himself. The compromise our fathers made was the coffin of honor and the cradle of war. A brazen falsehood and a timid truth are the parents of compromise. But some -- the greatest and the best -- believed in liberty for all. They repeated the splendid sayings of the Roman: "By the law of nature all men are free;" -- of the French King: "Men are born free and equal;" -- of the sublime Zeno: "All men are by nature equal, and virtue alone establishes a difference between them." In the year preceding the Declaration of Independence, a society for the abolition of slavery was formed in Pennsylvania and its first President was one of the wisest and greatest of men -- Benjamin Franklin. A society of the same character was established in New York in 1785: its first President was John Jay -- the second, Alexander Hamilton. But in a few years these great men we're forgotten. Parties rivaled each other in the defence of wrong. Politicians cared only for place and power. In the clamor of the heartless, the voice of the generous was lost. Slavery became supreme. It dominated legislatures, courts and parties; it rewarded the faithless and little; it degraded the honest and great. And yet, through all these hateful years, thousands and thousands of noble men and women denounced the degradation and the crime. Most of their names are unknown. They have given a glory to obscurity. They have filled oblivion with honor. In the presence of death it has been the custom to speak of the worthlessness, and the vanity, of life. I prefer to speak of its value, of its importance, of its nobility and glory. Life is not merely a floating shadow, a momentary spark, a dream, that vanishes. Nothing can be grander than a life filled with great and noble thoughts -- with brave and honest deeds. Such a life sheds light, and the seeds of truth sown by great and loyal men bear fruit through all the years to be. To have lived and labored and died for the right -- nothing can be sublimer. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 10 DECORATION DAY ORATION. History is but the merest outline of the exceptional -- of a few great crimes, calamities, wars, mistakes and dramatic virtues. A few mountain peaks are touched, while all the valleys of human life, where countless victories are won, where labor wrought with love -- are left in the eternal shadow. But these peaks are not the foundation of nations. The forgotten words, the unrecorded deeds, the unknown sacrifices, the heroism, the industry, the patience, the love and labor of the nameless good and great have for the most part founded, guided and defended States. The world has been civilized by the unrewarded poor, by the untitled nobles, by the uncrowned kings who sleep in unknown graves mingled with the common dust. They have thought and wrought, have borne the burdens of the world. The pain and labor have been theirs -- the glory has been given to the few. The conflict came. The South unsheathed the sword. Then rose the embattled North, and these men who sleep to-night beneath the flowers of half the world, gave all for us. They gave us a Nation -- a republic without a slave -- a republic that is sovereign, and to whose will every citizen and every State must bow. They gave us a Constitution for all -- one that can be read without shame and defended without dishonor. They freed the brain, the lips and hands of men. All that could be done by force was done. All that could be accomplished by the adoption of constitutions was done. The rest is left to education -- the innumerable influences of civilization -- to the development of the intellect, to the cultivation of the heart and the imagination. The past is now a hideous dream. The present is filled with pride, with gratitude, and hope. Liberty is the condition of real progress. The free man works for wife and child -- the slave toils from fear. Liberty gives leisure and leisure refines, beautifies and ennobles. Slavery gives idleness and idleness degrades, deforms and brutalizes. Liberty and slavery -- the right and wrong -- the, joy and grief -- the day and night -- the glory and the gloom of all the years. Liberty is the word that all the good have spoken. It is the hope of every loving heart -- the spark and flame in every noble breast -- the gem in every splendid soul -- the many-colored dream in every honest brain. This word has filled the dungeon with its holy light, -- has put the halo round the martyr's head, -- has raised the convict far above the king, and clad even the scaffold with a glory that dimmed and darkened every throne. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 11 DECORATION DAY ORATION. To the wise man, to the wise nation, the mistakes of the past are the torches of the present. The war is over. The institution that caused it has perished. The prejudices that fanned the flames are only ashes now. We are one people. We will stand or fall together. At last, with clear eyes we see that the triumph of right was a triumph for all. Together we reap the fruits of the great victory. We are all conquerors. Around the graves of the heroes -- North and South, white and colored -- together we stand and with uncovered heads reverently thank the saviors of our native land. We are now far enough away from the conflict -- from its hatreds, its passions, its follies and its glories, to fairly and philosophically examine the causes and in some measure at least to appreciate the results. States and nations, like individuals, do as they must. Back of revolution, of rebellion, of slavery and freedom, are the efficient causes. Knowing this, we occupy that serene height from which it is possible to calmly pronounce a judgment upon the past. We know now that the seeds of our war were sown hundreds and thousands of years ago -- sown by the vicious and the just, by prince and peasant, by king and slave, by all the virtues and by all the vices, by all the victories and all the defeats, by all the labor and the love, the loss and gain, by all the evil and the good, and by all the heroes of the world. Of the great conflict we remember only its glory and its lessons. We remember only the heroes who made the Republic the first of nations, and who laid the foundation for the freedom of mankind. This will be known as the century of freedom. Slowly the hosts of darkness have been driven back. In 1808 England and the United States united for the suppression of the slave-trade. The Netherlands joined in this holy work in 1818. France lent her aid in 1819 and Spain in 1820. In the same year the United States declared the traffic to be piracy, and in 1825 the same law was enacted by Great Britain. In 1826 Brazil agreed to suppress the traffic in human flesh. In 1833 England abolished slavery in the West Indies, and in 1843 in her East Indian possessions, giving liberty to more than twelve millions of slaves. In 1846 Sweden abolished slavery, and in 1848 it was abolished in the colonies of Denmark and France. In 1861 Alexander II., Czar of all the Russians, emancipated the serfs, and on the first day of January, 1863, the shackles fell from millions of the citizens of this Republic. This was accomplished by the heroes we remember to-day -- this, in accordance with the Proclamation of Emancipation signed by Lincoln, -- greatest of our mighty dead -- Lincoln the gentle and the just -- and whose name will be known and honored to "the last syllable of recorded time." And this year, 1888, has been made blessed and memorable forever -- in the vast empire of Brazil there stands no slave. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 12 DECORATION DAY ORATION. Let us hope that when the next century looks from the sacred portals of the East, its light will only fall upon the faces of the free. [NOTE -- By request, Col. Ingersoll closed this address with his "Vision of War", to which he added "A Vision of the Future."] 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 farces 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 answer, 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 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! Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 13 DECORATION DAY ORATION. 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 school-houses and books, and where all was want and crime and cruelty and fear, we see the faces of the free. These heroes are 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 rises 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. **** **** Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 14


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