September 24, 1877

Lynchburg, Virginia


MY FRIENDS:--It is very gratifying to have the opportunity to make the acquaintance of so large a number of ladies and gentlemen and people of Lynchburg and of this section of the State of Virginia.  A week ago I entered what the speaker who then welcomed me was pleased to term the gateway to the South and Southwest.  Since then I have met the people of three great former slave-holding States—Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia.  I have the happiness to assure you that I met assemblages feeling and thinking as you do today.  Those audiences, like this one, were composed of representatives of all political parties, and in each there was a respectable sprinkling of veterans of both armies, and I felt by their welcome perfectly at home.


The gentleman who just now welcomed me to your city, I am glad to note, referred to the early history of my own State, a territory formerly belonging to his own Virginia.  I don’t forget how much indebted to Virginia are five of our great States, and remember with pride and with pleasure their origin.  Mr. Jefferson gave to us that which has proved the corner-stone of our morality, education and equity of rights before the law.  We have grown up and flourished in pursuing in the Constitution and laws the pathway Jefferson marked out.  In time the daughters and mothers came to differ, for causes for which we were not responsible, but we will have no discussion now.  It is enough to know that every cause for hostility, estrangement and alienation has been removed forever.  He who does not see the hand of Providence in this is not likely to ever notice any providential interference.  The restoration to ancient friendship is the result.  We have come to a result that every good man has prayed for.  The day is here.  There stand men who were against us from 1861 to 1865.  Today there is no shadow between us.  You risked your lives for your convictions.  Good men and good women respect those who risk their all in a cause which they believe to be right.  I know now you respect the men who fought against you for what they believed right.  There may be some among us; there may be some in the South; there may be many in both sections, who are not yet reconciled, but we all know that in the march of progress there are always some stragglers.  There is a front rank and a rear rank in all armies.  The great body of the people now move forward under the Constitution and Union, and all the rest will soon be glad to be with us.  Nobody yields any of their convictions.


We all believe that one Nation is better than two, that one Constitution is better than two, that one flag is better than two.  The question has been which was the right one, and that is settled.  That horse carries two men when one would be better.


Your honorable speaker said that all sections, all States and all citizens should have equal and exact justice.  The Government now regards all as equal citizens.  I rejoice that Virginia understands the Constitution as we do.  I have talked long enough.  My newspaper friends no doubt think so.  I could talk a great deal more, where I have such agreeable audiences, for how could I stop when they greet me as you do?  I desire to introduce to you some friends who are associated with me in the government of the country.  Let me present to you the Secretary of State, Mr. William M. Evarts, who will now address you.