DECORATION DAY SPEECH
May 29, 1875
This annual celebration, with its beautiful and interesting ceremonies, with its processions, its music and its flowers, in honor of the men who died for the Union and for liberty, springs from and gratifies the noblest sentiments of the best side of human nature.† Admiration, gratitude, and everlasting remembrance are due to all men who with unselfish courage devote their lives, in obedience to duty, to the right side of a good and great cause.† The man who meets the last enemy with calmness and unflinching courage will find many admirers, even if he dies in the conscious mission of crime.† If a man goes bravely to his end in obedience to his convictions of duty, all men honor him even if his cause is unworthy of the sacrifice or even wrong.† Still more will he command respect, if with coolness and self-possession in the trying hour he gives his life in defense of the rights or interests of individuals or of a united number of his fellowmen.† In the common occurrences of life we have frequent occasion to feel this sentiment.† The policemen, who in the protection of life or property risks and loses life, we do not do him too much honor.† The fireman who fights the destroying element, the engineer, the brakemen, the conductor, the captain and crew of the vessel imperiled in river or lake or ocean, wherever life is lost in defense of the interests or rights or lives of others, this sentiment is---
The Centennials already begun at Concord and Lexington, to follow on the day of Bunker Hill, to culminate the 4th of July one hundred years from the greatest date in the secular annals of our race, where would have been the pride, the happiness, the exalted emotions which belong to these centennials, if the men we honor today had failed to do their duty?† Shame and mortification and deepest sorrowódust and ashes.† Now with gladness and exaltation, with music and banners, with flags old and new.
Concord and Lexington and Bunker Hill, Princeton and Yorktown, Sumter and Vicksburg and Gettysburg and the Appomattox.† Valley Forge.†
Washington and Lincoln.
The enchantment which distance lends to cover with a halo of renown, a holy light, all those scenes and events of one hundred years ago, we think often with delight and gratitude.† If we had an ancestor bearing a part in those great days, we rejoice and are lifted up.† But if my brother or son or father or husband perished in the great war for Liberty and Union, may we not now, that the sharpness of a recent grief has been mellowed by time, think of our sacrifice with something of the same feelings.