May 25, 1886
MR. PRESIDENT, LADIES, AND GENTLEMEN: In rising before an audience of this description I am in the habit of saying Comrades; I rather think that the members of the Grand Army of the Republic feel as though the members of the Mexican Armies are also members of our Grand Army.
This is to assure you, Mr. President, of this meeting, that the comrades of the Grand Army and the citizens of Fremont welcome you with warm hearts. They are glad to hear that you find your visit with us so pleasant.
I am under double obligations not to waste your time. I know that some must leave, soon, upon the trains; but that is not so dangerous a matter to me as the other fact; my wife is up there (pointing homeward) expecting you and if I should keep you so long that the coffee would get cold I know that if you did not lecture me she will.
We need not discuss, after the very instructive and eloquent and satisfactory address to which we have listened, anything in regard to the cause and history of the Mexican War. I think our committee of arrangements have been very fortunate in securing so admirable an address as to the one which you have listened.
Your Mexican War is a great deal better understood now after forty years than at the time you fought it. I suppose nothing is better settled than this. I have been talking in regard to this matter to the soldiers of the Union, and I think that history must decide the merits of the war by its results.
Now the lessons of that war are plain enough. If there was something in our Government that we of to-day consider an evil, your conduct and the result of the war furnished a complete remedy for it; and if there is now another evil that afflicts us, or a danger that threatens us, it is that there are in this country too many men are not quite willing to stand by the supremacy of the laws that people make.
We are taught constantly in this country that those who make laws should not break them.
All Americans join in making the laws; they should not, any of them, be excused if they break the laws.
Now the Mexican War was the law of the land. Whatever might be any man’s opinion about the cause or effects, he was called upon to maintain the supremacy of the law of the United States, and to uphold its flag which was our representative. This is the example for us all to remember, now.
And then again, as to the results. There is one of those old flags, (pointing to an old flag on the wall) I cannot count the stars, but if you compare it with the new flags, you see the new has many more stars.
We know that a number of grand, rich, States have been added to our country, that California, stretching along the grand Pacific Ocean, with its mines of wealth, now belongs to us as the fruit of our victories.
It is not merely that we have wider states and territories because of what you did but also because every acre of American soil is better for what you did.
Let us see: If ever the hand of God was visible in the affairs of men it is in the way that war led to those other results that dedicated to Freedom, forever, every inch of American soil.
You, Comrades of the Mexican War, opened the gate; Gen. Buckland and the rest of us marched in, and the result is a free country for free men in the land of Washington and of Lincoln.