September 20, 1877
FELLOW-CITIZENS—It is a great pleasure to be so heartily greeted by this large assemblage of the people of this part of the United States. There are many circumstances of interest connected with your city of Chattanooga. Geographically, it is interesting. Historically, it is extremely interesting. It is interesting, also, from the character of its inhabitants. This assembly I regard with increased interest because of the variety of the people which compose it. I suppose a large proportion of those who now hear me are citizens of Tennessee, many of Alabama, and it is suggested some, or many, perhaps, of Georgia and of other States. It is very obvious that there are men and women here of both races. I am told, also, that many of those present, perhaps pretty equally divided, are people who adhered to the Confederate cause, and people who adhered to the Union cause during the late great civil contest. There are here, I know, some brave soldiers who fought on the Confederate side. And we are altogether in favor of peace and harmony in our beloved country. Now, there are two leading ideas, two important things to be accomplished. We want all sections to have equal rights and we want all citizens to have equal rights before the law. We want the Government to regard alike and equal all sections of the country. We want the governments, National and State, to regard alike and equal all citizens of races. Now these are the things to be accomplished. The measure, the pathway, we may differ about, but, my fellow-citizens, if we concur heartily as to the ends we are sure to accomplish them. I did not, therefore, discuss at all in my remarks before the people at various points, the measures that have been adopted, the measures we wish hereafter to be adopted. But I do undertake to say a few things to all the audiences which honor me with their attention, which I hope are calculated to increase their desire that all in this country, in all sections, shall have equal and exact justice. Now, my friends, the particular of it all is to bring back to the country the ancient harmony, the ancient concord, and the reasons for it are numerous; but I must not detain you with any longer detail of them. Part of them are material, part of them we may call, perhaps, sentimental. Look at the first. Here is the State of Tennessee. I have tried to find out this morning how long from its eastern point to its western; and the eminent gentlemen who have met me as your committee, and ought, I suppose, to know how large Tennessee is, vary from three hundred to six hundred miles in length. I have concluded to average; call it four hundred and fifty miles from the eastern to the western end of the State. It is better than I supposed, perhaps a hundred miles in width. Still better. Now this State of Tennessee contains, as I suppose, about one-fourth as many people in proportion to its territorial extent as Pennsylvania or Ohio, and yet it has identically the same advantages to sustain it, as dense a population as possessed by Pennsylvania and Ohio, and in addition it raises cotton and other products which we cannot raise in those States. Now, if you want to build up Chattanooga, you want to settle this whole country as densely at least as Ohio or Pennsylvania. Whatever, therefore, will attract to you the capital and labor and enterprise, that, other things being equal, you wish. To make this country attractive to labor and to capital and to enterprise, is to restore peace and harmony in your midst between the Confederate and the Union people. Between the colored people and the white people. Now these are the ends to be accomplished, for you should have the state of society which will draw to you the best emigrants of the North, and of Europe. I have spoken at other places of an additional incentive, that which has come by having here an opportunity for the free education of all the people, black as well as white. Place in every neighborhood, I have said, in some shady grove, a comfortable little school-house, with a competent instructor, nine months in the years, and you have a better advertisement of your advantages than you can possibly get by any other equal expenditure of money. Well, my friends, these are the material considerations. You have forests, coal, iron, space, plenty of untilled land, and, with peace and harmony restored, you will have, nay, I am sure you are already getting, the best immigrants of this country and of Europe. But, my friends, we are made up of something besides that which is material. It is not alone the pocket nerve that governs man. That is very interesting, but that does not entirely control. We all of us rejoice when we see reviving again the old feeling of friendship, harmony and patriotism that enabled the fathers to build this Constitution and this nation. They framed a Constitution with a wisdom of architecture which Webster says united national sovereignty with, State rights, individual security with public welfare. They did it because they were all of one mind, one heart. Because men like Washington and Jefferson met men like Franklin, John Adams and Samuel Adams, with precisely the same end in view, We wish to revive the ancient spirit and feeling throughout this whole country. I have been delighted since I crossed the Ohio river with the evidences everywhere of reviving patriotism and restored peace and harmony. In Louisville and in Nashville we saw girls and boys sitting in front of their school-houses, each with his little American flag, that flag of which we were so fond—which I hope now we are fond of styling the old flag. We have seen these assemblages of young people by the hundreds, waving their flags and singing in beautiful harmony their sacred and patriotic songs. This shows that that is coming, nay, that it has already come, which every true patriot desires. That is the feeling throughout the country when every man everywhere who is an American feels a pride in his flag and an attachment to the Union and an affection for the principles of a republican Government. I have detained you longer than I expected. I did think at one time, as I picked up the paper called the Chattanooga Times, and read the editorial in it, that I would simply hold that paper up and say “ditto”, for it has in it a very excellent speech which I was supposed to make, and really it is so good a speech that I do not like exactly for this speech I have made to be in competition with it.
My friends, having heard enough of me, I will gratify you, I am sure, by introducing to you the Secretary of State of the United States, Mr. Evarts, of New York.
My friends, I have heard that tune before. President Lincoln, you know, said that we captured that tune; and now, as those who were fond of hearing it during the war like to hear it, and as we having captured it like to hear it, we are all glad to hear it. I was about to say that the distinguished honor belongs, I believe, to Chattanooga, through the action of the soldiers of the Confederate army and the soldiers of the Union army, bringing together the patriots of all shades of opinion in the interesting and important ceremonies of decorating the graves of the dead heroes. Thinking you for the beginning of a good work, I now propose to show you that we also are engaged in it, by palpable, tangible witnesses. You have heard from one distinguished man of New York, and now will be glad, I know, to hear form another distinguished man—Governor Hampton, of South Carolina.