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William McKinley's Masterpieces of Eloquence.


MEMORIAL DAY ADDRESS. “This day has been given to the dead, but its lessons are intended for the living. It has been the occasion for a generous manifestation on the part of the people of their gratitude to the men who saved the country in war. But its true intent will have been lost if it has failed to inspire in all our hearts a deeper sentiment of patriotism and a stronger attachment to those great ideas for which these men gave their lives. It is an impressive fact to contemplate that today millions of our fellow citizens from every part of the country have abandoned all thoughts of business, and turned their footsteps to the places where sleep our heroic dead, that they may with loving hands and grateful hearts pay tender tribute to their virtues and their valor. This consecration day is a popular demonstration of affection for the patriotic dead and bears unmistakable evidence that patriotism in the United States has not declined or abated.

“There was nothing personally attractive about any of the features of enlistment in the War of the Rebellion. It was business of the most serious sort. Every soldier took a dreadful chance. His offering was nothing short of his own life-blood if required. These, however, seemed insignificant in that overmastering love of country, in that fervent patriotism which filled the souls of the boys, in that high and noble resolve which they all possessed, that they were to save to themselves, to their families and their fellow countrymen, the freest and purest government, and to mankind the largest liberty and the highest and best civilization in the world. With that spirit more than two million men went forth to accept any sacrifice which cruel war might exact. The extent of that sacrifice exceeded human expectation, but it was offered, freely offered, for the country. Can we ever cease to be debtors to these men ? Is there anything they are not worthy to receive at our hands? Is there any emolument too great for them? Is there any benefaction too bountiful? Is there any obligation too lasting? Is there any honor too distinguished which a loving people can bestow that they ought not to receive? What the nation is or may become we owe to them. If there is one of these fighting patriots sick at heart and discouraged, the cheerful and the strong, who are the beneficiaries of his valor, should comfort and console him. If there is one who is sick or suffering from wounds, the best skill and the most tender nursing should wait upon and attend him.

"It is interesting to note the size of our armies in the several wars in which the United States has participated. The number of Colonial troops in the Revolution was 294,791. In the War of 1812 the total number of Americans was 576,622. In the Mexican War the troops engaged for the United States numbered 112,230. The number of Union troops engaged in the Rebellion was 2,859,000, or three times the combined force of the American army in all former wars. The magnitude of the struggle is also strikingly illustrated by a comparison of casualties. The casualties in the War of 1812 were 1,877 killed in battle, 3,739 wounded. In the Mexican War, 1,049 were killed, 904 died of wounds, and 3,420 were wounded. In the War of the Rebellion, 61,362 were killed outright, 34,627 died of wounds, and 183,287 died of disease. In other words, our casualties in the Rebellion in killed and those who died of wounds and disease were only 15,000 less in number than the entire army of the United Colonies in the war with Great Britain, and two and one-half times the entire force engaged on the part of the United States in the war with Mexico. But it gives as a truer idea of the dreadful sacrifices of the country to compare our casualties with the casualties of European wars. At the battle of Waterloo there were 80,000 French, with 252 guns, and of the Allies, 72,000 troops and 186 guns. The loss of the French was 26,000, estimated, and of the Allies, 23,185. At our battle of Gettysburg, the Union force engaged was 82,000 and 300 guns. The Confederates had 70,000 troops and 250 guns. The loss was 25,203 to the Union forces, and 27,525 to the Confederate forces. Gravelotte was the bloodiest battle of the Franco-Prussian War, and the German loss was in killed, 4,449, and wounded, 15,189, out of 146,000 troops engaged. Meade's loss at Gettysburg was greater in numbers, while he had only one-half as many men engaged.

“The pension list of the government tells well the story of the suffering of our great army. On June 30, 1893, pensions were paid to 725,742 invalid soldiers, and to 185,477 widows. In the navy pensions were paid to 16,901 invalid sailors and to 6,697 widows, making a grand total of 934,817 pensioners. Our pension roll on June 30, 1893, contained nearly as many pensioners as the entire muster rolls of the United States in the War of the Revolution, in the War of 1812, and the Mexican War combined. Within 50,000 as many names are now borne on our pension rolls as were contained on the enlistment rolls of all our armies in every war from the Revolution to the Civil War.

“My comrades, this long and highly honorable list is being diminished by death, and will rapidly decrease as the years go by. The pension roll has probably now reached its maximum. Hereafter it is likely to recede. Death will stalk through this patriotic list with increased rapidity as age overtakes it, as it is hourly doing, that great army of 1861. The older veterans cannot last a great while longer. Exposure has hastened to their door the steps of the pale messenger. God grant that while they are still with us they shall enjoy, without stint or grudge, the bounteous benefactions of the country they served and the tender care and the generous respect of their neighbors and fellow citizens! ‘Displaced from the pension roll' by death carries no taint or dishonor, raises no suspicion of unworthiness. If the pension roll is diminished, or displacement occurs from other causes, let it be for reasons just and honorable. Then the patriotic sentiment of the country will approve and the soldiers of the republic will be quick to applaud. Let us care for the needy survivors of that great struggle in the true spirit of him who promised that the nation would 'care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphans.'

“Sumpter and Appomattox! What a flood of memories these names excite. How they come unbidden to every soldier as he contemplates the great events of the war! The one marked the beginning, the other the close of the great struggle. At one the shot was fired which threatened this Union and the downfall of liberty. The other proclaimed peace and wrote in history that the machinations which inaugurated war to establish a government with slavery as its corner-stone had failed. The one was the commencement of a struggle which drenched the nation in blood for four years; the other was its end and the beginning of a reunited country which has lasted now for twenty-nine years, and which, God grant, may last forever and forever more, blazing the pathway of freedom to the races of man everywhere, and loved by all the people of the world! The one marked the wild rush of mad passion; the other was the restoration of the cool judgment, disciplined by the terrible ordeal of four years' bloody war. Patriotism, justice and righteousness triumphed. The republic which God had ordained withstood the shock of battle, and you and your comrades were the willing instruments in the hands of that Divine power that guides nations which love and serve Him.

“Howells, thirty-two years ago, expressed the simple and sublime faith of the soldier, and the prophecy of the outcome of the war, in words which burn in my soul whenever I pass in review the events of that struggle. He said:

“'Where are you going, soldiers,

With banner, gun, and sword?' 'We're marching south to Canaan

To battle for the Lord !

“Yes, the Lord took care of us then. Will we heed His decrees and preserve unimpaired what He permitted us to win? Liberty, my countrymen, is responsibility; responsibility is duty; duty is God's order, and when faithfully obeyed will preserve liberty. We need have no fears of the future if we will perform every obligation of duty and citizenship. If we lose the smallest share of our freedom, we have no one to blame but ourselves. This country is ours—ours to govern, ours to guide, ours to enjoy. We are both sovereign and subject. All are now free, subject henceforth to ourselves alone. We pay no homage to an early throne; only to God we bend the knee. The soldier did his work and did it well. The present and the future are with the citizen, whose judgment in our free country is supreme.”—Music Hall, Canton, Ohio, May 30, 1894.

THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER SOLDIER. Mr. President and Comrades of the Grand Army of the Republic, and my Fellow Citizens:The Grand Army of the Republic is on duty today. But not in the service of arms. The storm and siege and bivouac and battle line have given place to the ministrations of peace and the manifestations of affectionate regard for fallen comrades, in which the great body of the people cheerfully and reverently unite. The service of the day is more to us—far more to us—than to those in whose memory it is performed. It means nothing to the dead, everything to the living. It reminds us of what our stricken comrades did and sacrificed and won. It teaches us the awful cost of liberty, and the price of national unity, and bids us guard with sacred and sleepless vigilance the great and immortal work which they wrought.

"The annual tribute which this nation brings to its heroic dead is, in part at least due to American thought and conception, creditable to the living and honorable to the dead. No nation in the world has so honored her heroic dead as ours. The soldiery of no country in the world have been crowned with such immortal meed or received at the hands of the people such substantial evidences of national regard. Other nations have decorated their great captains and have knighted their illustrious commanders. Monuments have been erected to perpetuate their names. Permanent and triumphal arches have been raised to mark their graves. Nothing has been omitted to manifest and make immortal their valorous deeds. But to America is mankind indebted for the loving and touching tribute this day performed, which brings the offerings of affection and tokens of love to the graves of all our soldier dead. We not only honor our great captains and illustrious commanders, the men who led the vast armies to battle, but we shower equal honors in equal measure upon all, irrespective of rank in battle or condition at home. Our gratitude is of that grand patriotic character which recognizes no titles, permits no discrimination, subordinates all distinctions; and the soldier, whether of the rank and file, the line or the staff, who fought and fell for liberty and union—all who fought in the great cause and have since died, are warmly cherished in the hearts, and are sacred to the memory of the people.

“Mr. President, from the very commencement of our Civil War we recognized the elevated patriotism of the rank and file of the army and their unselfish consecration to the country, while subsequent years have only served to increase our admiration for their splendid and heroic services. They enlisted in the army with no expectation of promotion; not for the paltry pittance of pay; not for fame or popular applause, for their services, however efficient, were not to be heralded abroad. They entered the army moved by the highest and purest motives of patriotism, that no harm might befall the republic. While detracting nothing from the fame of our matchless leaders, we know that, without that great army of volunteers, the citizen soldiery, the brilliant achievements of the war would not have been possible. They, my fellow citizens, were the great power. They were the majestic and irresistible force. They stood behind the strategic commanders, whose intelligent and individual earnestness, guided by their genius, gained the imperishable victories of the war. I would not withhold the most generous eulogy from conspicuous soldiers, living or dead—from the leaders, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Thomas, Meade, Hancock, McClellan, Hooker, and Loganwho flame out the very incarnation of soldiery valor and vigor before the eyes of the American people, and have an exalted rank in history, and fill a great place in the hearts of their countrymen. We need not fear, my fellow citizens, that the great captains will be forgotten.

“My fellow citizens, the rank and file of the old regular army was made of the same heroic mold as our volunteer army. It is a recorded fact in history, that when treason swept over this country in 1861—when distinguished officers, who had been educated at the public expense, who had taken the oath to support the constitution of the United States and defend this government against all its enemies, when they proved recreant to trust and duty, and enlisted under the banner of the Confederacy—the rank and file of that old army stood steadfast to Federal authority, loyal to the Federal government, and no private soldier followed his old com

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