OHIO SOLDIERS' REUNION
August 11, 1880
The citizens of Ohio who were soldiers in the Union Army, and who have assembled here in such large numbers, have many reasons for mutual congratulations as they exchange greetings and renew old friendships at this State Reunion. We rejoice that we had the glorious privilege of enlisting and serving on the right side in the great conflict for the Union and for equal rights.
The time that has passed since the contest ended, is not so great but that we can without effort recall freshly and vividly the events and scenes and feelings and associations of that most interesting period of our lives. We rejoice, also, that we have been permitted to live long enough to see and to enjoy the results of the victory we gained, and to measure the vast benefits which it conferred on our country and on the world. I shall not attempt to make a catalogue of those benefits, or to estimate their value. A single fact, to which I call your attention, will sufficiently illustrate, for my present purpose, the immeasurable blessings conferred upon the United States by the success of the Union arms.
The statistics of emigration showing the movements of population which are going on in the world, afford a very good test of the comparative advantages and prosperity of the various civilized nations. People leave their own country and seek new homes in foreign lands to better their condition. Immigration into a country, therefore, is an evidence of that country's prosperity. It is also a most efficient cause of the progress of the country which receives it. During our civil war, and during the disturbed and troubled years which immediately preceded and followed it, immigration fell off and became of comparatively small importance. But now, our country's prosperity, the stability of our Government, and the permanent prevalence of peace at home and with foreign nations, blessings which could not have been enjoyed by this country if the Union arms had failed, have given to the world a confidence in the future welfare and greatness of the United States which is pouring upon our shores such streams of immigration as were never know before.
This is a fact of the most pregnant significance in our present condition. If we take a survey of the globe we shall find everywhere, among civilized nations especially, many people who are eagerly looking forward to the time when they can emigrate to some more favored land. Only one of the great nations is no danger of losing its capital and labor and skill by emigration. We find only one which, by immigration, is gaining rapidly in numbers, wealth, and power. All are losing by this cause except the United States. The United States alone is gaining. Other nations see their people going, going. We see, from every quarter, the people of other countries, coming, coming, coming.
There is one flag, and in all the world only one, whose protection, good men and women born under it will never willingly leave. There is one flag, and only one in the world, whose protecting folds, good men and women born under every other flag that floats under the whole heavens, are eagerly and gladly seeking. That flag, so loved at home, so longed for by millions abroad, is the old flag under which we marched, to save, what in our soldier days we were fond of calling "God's country!"
It is easily seen what it is that chiefly attracts this immigration. It goes where good land is cheap; where labor and capital find profitable employment; where peace and social order prevail; and where civil and religious liberty are secure. If we draw nearer to the subject, and ask where in our own country does this immigration mainly go, the recent census, whose results we are now getting, gives us the answer. That census shows us parts of our country, where land is cheap and where capital and labor are needed, that are not rapidly increasing in population. In these States it will e found that two things are wanting: the means for popular education are not sufficiently provided, and the good order of society is disturbed by a practical popular refusal to accept the results of the war for the Union. These two defects, wherever they prevail in our American society, are hostile to the increase of population and to prosperity. They are found generally to exist together. Where popular education prevails, the equal-rights "amendments to the Constitution of the United States, embodying the results of the war, are inviolable."
It must, perhaps, be conceded that there was one great error in the measures by which it was sought to secure the results-to harvest the fruits of our Union victory. The system of slavery in the South of necessity kept in ignorance four millions of slaves. It also left unprovided with education, a large number of non-slaveholding white people. With the end of the war the slaves inevitably became citizens. Thus the grave duties and responsibilities of citizenship were devolved largely in the States lately in rebellion, upon uneducated people, white and colored. And with what result? Liberty and the exercise of the rights of citizenship are excellent educators. In many respects, we are glad to believe, that encouraging progress has been made at the South. The labor system has been reorganized, material prosperity is increasing, race prejudices and antagonisms have diminished, the passions and animosities of the war are subsiding, and the ancient harmony and concord, and patriotic national sentiments are returning. But, after all, we cannot fail to observe that immigration, which so infallibly and instinctively finds out the true condition of all countries, does not largely go into the late slaveholding region of the United States. A great deal of cheap and productive land can there be found where population is not rapidly increasing. When our Revolutionary Fathers adopted the ordinance of 1787, for the government of the Northwest Territory, out of which Ohio and four other great States have been carved, they were not content with merely putting into that organic law a firm prohibition against slavery, and providing effectual guarantees of civil and religious liberty, but they established, as the corner-stone of the free institutions they wished to build, this Article: "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, SCHOOLS AND THE MEANS OF EDUCATION SHALL FOREVER BE ENCOURAGED." Unfortunately for the complete success of reconstruction in the South, this stone was rejected by its builders. Slavery had been destroyed by the war; but its evils live after it, and deprive many parts of the South of that intelligent self-government without which, in America at least, great and permanent prosperity is impossible.
To perpetuate the Union and to abolish slavery were the work of the war. To educate the uneducated is the appropriate work of peace. As long as any considerable numbers of our countrymen are uneducated, the citizenship of every American in every State is impaired in value and is constantly imperilled. It is plain that at the end of the war the tremendous change in the labor and social systems of the southern States, and the ravages and impoverishment of the conflict, added to the burden of their debts, and the loss of their whole circulating medium, which died in their hand, left the people of those States in no condition to provide for universal popular education. In a recent memorial to Congress on this subject, in behalf of the trustees of the Peabody Education Fund Hon. A. H. H. Stuart, of Virginia, shows that "two millions of children in the Southern States are without the means of instruction;" and adds, with great force, "Where millions of citizens are growing up in the grossest ignorance, it is obvious that neither individual charity nor the resources of impoverished States will be sufficient to meet the emergency. Nothing short of the wealth and power of the Federal Government will suffice to overcome the evil."
The principle applied by general consent to works of public improvements is in point. That principle is, that wherever a public improvement is of national importance, and local and private enterprise are inadequate to its prosecution, the General Government should undertake it. On this principle I would deal with the question of education by the aid of the National Government. Wherever in the United States the local systems of popular education are inadequate, they should be supplemented by the General Government, by devoting to the purpose, by suitable legislation and with proper safeguards, the public lands, or if necessary, appropriations from the Treasury of the United States.
The soldier of the Union has done his work, and has done it well. The work of the schoolmaster is now in order. Wherever his work shall be well done, in all our borders, it will be found that there, also, the principles of the Declaration of Independence will be cherished, the sentiment of Nationality will prevail, the equal-rights amendments will be cheerfully obeyed, and there will be "the home of freedom and the refuge of the oppressed of every race and of every clime."
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