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30 MAY 1871 291

tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,² if I forget the difference between
the parties to that terrible, protracted and bloody conflict.

If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and
orphans, which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth,
sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutilated;
which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold—swept un-
counted thousands of men into bloody graves—and planted agony at a
million hearthstones;³ I say if this war is to be forgotten, I ask in the name
of all things sacred what shall men remember?

The essence and significance of our devotions here to-day are not to be
found in the fact that the men whose remains fill these graves were brave in
battle. If we met simply to show our sense of the worth of bravery, we
should find enough to kindle admiration on both sides. In the raging storm
of fire and blood, in the fierce torrent of shot and shell, of sword and
bayonet, whether on horse or foot, unflinching courage marked the rebel
not less than the loyal soldier.

But we are not here to applaud manly courage only as it has been
displayed in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory to the re-
bellion meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal
soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and
the nation’s destroyers. If today, we have a country not boiling in an agony
of blood like France;⁴ if now we have a united country no longer cursed by
the hell-black system of human bondage; if the American name is no longer
a bye word and a hissing to a mocking earth;⁵ if the star spangled banner
floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our
country has before it a long and glorious career, of justice, liberty, and

2. Douglass adapts Ps. 137 : 5—6.

3. Although official records are imprecise, scholars estimate the number of military deaths
during the Civil War as approximately 258,000 Confederate and 360,000 Union soldiers. The total
U.S. government debt accumulated through wartime borrowing was more than $2.6 billion. Battles
and Leaders of the Civil War, 4 vols. (New York, 1884—88), 4 : 767—68; Edward E. Barthell. .Jr.,
“Introduction,” in Livermore. Numbers and Losses. 4—9; Davis R. Dewey. Financial History of the
United States, 12th ed. (New York, 1936), 299.

4. After the armistice ending the Franco-Prussian War had been concluded. disputes between the
newly elected, promonarchist National Assembly and prorepublican Parisian leaders provoked a revolt
by the latter, who organized their own govemment. the Paris Commune. Two months of bitter fighting
ended in the destruction of the Commune by army elements loyal to the conservative national govem-
ment. More than twenty thousand Communards and other Parisians were killed in street fighting or by
firing squad during “Bloody Week" (21—28 May 1871), when the military finally regained control of
the capital. Binkley, Realism and Nationalism. 293—99.

5. Douglass perhaps paraphrases Mic. 6 : 16.

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