THERE WAS A RIGHT SIDE IN THE LATE WAR: (1878-05-30)

ReadAboutContentsHelp

Pages

1
Complete

1

480 NEW YORK, NEW YORK

condition of the English-speaking race five hundred years ago, and compared it with the condition of that race now. He illustrated this part of his argument by quoting the instances of well-known black men who had risen to eminence, and was quite severe upon Professor John M. Langston for maintaining that the mulatto is the superior of the black man intellectually. He told the colored people that they must get money and keep it if they wished to elevate themselves. One trouble with them is that they always want to be going somewhere, and do not stay in one place or at one thing long enough to accumulate. A poor people are always a despised people. To be respected they must get money and property. Without money there’s no leisure; without leisure no thought, without thought no progress. Their preachers should tell them more about what to do and less about what to feel. They should cultivate their brains more and their lungs less. They should not depend upon being helped, but should do for themselves. He was tired of Ethiopia’s holding out her hands.⁴ The man that can get up would be helped to do it. They should not depend upon the Lord for everything. The Lord is good and kind, but is of the most use to those who do for themselves. No man has a right to live unless he lives honestly, and no man lives honestly who lives upon another.

He gave the colored pan of his audience some of the best advice and soundest instruction they have had for many a day. The only political allusion he made in his speech was in saying that the Southerners could control the votes of the negroes in the Southern States far more completely than Northemers could. The colored man turned instinctively for advice and assistance to those who had been raised with him and who are of his community.

THERE WAS A RIGHT SIDE IN THE LATE WAR: AN ADDRESS DELIVERED IN NEW YORK, NEW YORK, ON 30 MAY 1878

New York Times, 31 May 1878. Other texts in Fort Scott (Kans.) Colored Citizen, 14 June 1878; Speech File, reel 15, frames 297-303, 304-11, reel 19, frames 465-73, FD Papers, DLC.

In later years Douglass remembered with pride the invitation extended by the Abraham Lincoln Post No. 13, Department of New York, Grand Army of the Republic, to address its Memorial Day services at New York City’s Union

4. Douglass adapts Ps. 68 : 31.

Last edit 5 months ago by tarshalj
2
Complete

2

30 MAY 1878 481

Square on 30 May 1878. Despite rainy and windy weather, the day’s celebration commenced with a colorful procession of veterans from the post’s Decoration Day headquarters at the Delmonico Building, on the comer of Fourteenth Street and Fifth Avenue, to Union Square. At 9:00 A.M., as “the crowd grew denser and denser” around the statues of Abraham Lincoln and the Marquis de Lafayette in the square, General Schuyler Hamilton opened the ceremonies with brief remarks. The Reverend John P. Newman delivered the invocation and A. Hamilton Drake read a poem written for the occasion by Latham Cornell Strong. The assembly grew silent as Douglass approached the platform railing but “broke into enthusiastic shouts” when, at the beginning of his oration, he dramatically raised his hand toward the nearby statue of Lincoln. The New York Times hailed the “statesmanship and the insight into the spirits of human action” of Douglass’s address, which was applauded with the waving of regimental flags from the late war. Following Douglass’s speech, General Horace Porter spoke briefly before the Reverend William Fisher Dickerson pronounced the benediction. Douglass, Life and Times, 449; Holland, Frederick Douglass, 343.

FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS: In this place, hallowed and made glorious by a statue of the best man, truest patriot, and wisest statesman of his time and country,¹ I have been invited—I might say ordered—by Lincoln Post of the Grand Army of the Republic,² to say a few words to you in appropriate celebration of this annual national memorial day.³ Deeply

1. Douglass refers to a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln, erected in 1870 by the Union League Club of New York City. The statue is located in Union Square, established in 1811 as Union Place, at the intersection of Broadway and Bowery Road, now Fourth Avenue. In his autobiography, Life and Times, and in his manuscript text for this speech, Douglass mistakenly places the site of the statue and this speech at Madison Square, which extends off Fifth Avenue between Twenty-third and Twenty-sixth streets. A[rthur] Everett Peterson, Landmarks of New York: An Historical Guide to the Metropolis (New York, 1923), 63-65, 67-68; Douglass, Life and Times, 449.

2. Founded in December 1866, the Abraham Lincoln Post was one of the oldest posts of the Grand Army of the Republic in New York City. The national organization of Union veterans of the Civil War had been organized in Illinois in the spring of 1866, but membership grew slowly until the 1880s when it soared from 87,718 in 1881 to 409,489 in 1890. The Grand Army ofthe Republic used its large potential voting strength to lobby both parties on behalf of pensions and other veterans’ benefits. Mary R. Dearing, Veterans in Politics: The Story of the G.A.R. (Baton Rouge, 1952); Robert B. Beath, History of the Grand Army of the Republic (New York, 1888); G.A.R. Roster: Correct List of the Officers and Delegates of the Grand Army of the Republic, State of New York, 1885 (New York, 1885), 10.

3. Even before the final cessation of hostilities, local groups held spontaneous observations to pay tribute to the memory of those killed in the Civil War. A well-publicized grave-decorating ceremony in May 1865, in occupied Charleston, South Carolina, organized by abolitionist James Redpath, is widely credited with inspiring similar Observances nationwide. The designation of 30 May as the day for memorial services for the nation's war dead began in 1868 when the Grand Army of the Republic

Last edit 5 months ago by tarshalj
3
Complete

3

482 NEW YORK, NEW YORK

sensible of the honor thus conferred, and properly impressed with the dignity of this occasion, I accept the invitation cheerfully and gratefully; but not so much as an honor to myself, as a generous recognition of that class of our fellow-citizens to which I belong; a class hitherto excluded by popular prejudice from prominent participation in the memorial glories of our common country. Lincoln Post—most worthily named—will pardon me if I stop right here to commend it for this innovation upon an old custom; for its moral courage and soldierly independence. Abraham Lincoln was the first President of the United States brave enough to invite a colored gentleman to sit at table with him, and the post that bears his honored name is the first in this great City to invite any colored man to deliver an address on national memorial day.

But the duty you have imposed upon me is far more honorable in the distinction it confers upon me and my race, than easy of happy and successful performance. All that can be pertinently said on this occasion, has been said a thousand times before, and a thousand times better said, than anything I can now hope to say. Besides, and above all, the noble qualities and achievements to which we are here to do honor are of an order which transcends the narrow compass of speech. The eloquence of the most gifted orator of our country would fail to fitly and fully illustrate the heroic deeds and virtues of the brave men who volunteered, fought, and fell in the cause of the Union and freedom. “For greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”⁴ The topmost height of this greatness was touched by those who, in our national extremity, nobly died, that our Republic might live. We need something broader, more striking and impressive than speech, to express the thoughts and feelings proper to these memorial occasions. We need banners, badges, and battle flags; drums, fifes, and bugles; signs, sounds, and symbols; the clang of church-going bells; the heaven-shaking thunder of cannon; the steady and solemn tramp of armed men; the pomp and circumstance of glorious war; the shouts of a great nation rejoicing in its salvation, to express a proper sense of the worth of men to whose patriotic

Sponsored parades, speeches, and ceremonies across the country. In the southern states, Confederate veteran groups observed a variety of memorial days for their own Civil War dead. Frank Moore, comp., Memorial Ceremonies at the Graves of Our Soldiers: Saturday, May 30, 1868 (Washington, D.C. 1869), 9-3 1 ; Jane M. Hatch, The American Book of Days, 3d ed. (New York, 1978), 383-85, 501-04; Charles F. Homer, The Life of James Redpath and the Development of the Modern Lyceum (New York, 1926), 111-16; Dearing, Veterans in Politics, 177-79.

4. John 15:13.

Last edit 5 months ago by tarshalj
4
Complete

4

30 MAY 1878 483

devotion and noble self-sacrifice the integrity of the nation and the existence of free institutions on this great continent are due.

SCENES THE DAY RECALLS.

For such high discourse, pageantry is better than oratory. It can be heard and seen by all. It speaks alike to the understanding and the heart. It carries us dreamily back to that dark and terrible hour of supreme peril, when the heart and the hope of a great people were smitten, stunned, and almost crushed by the stern pressure of a determined and wide-spread rebellion; when the enemies of free government all over the world watched, waited, desired, and expected the downfall of the grandest Republic in the world. It tells us of a time of trial and danger, when the boldest held their breath and the hearts of strong men failed them through fear; when the very earth seemed to crumble beneath our feet; when the sky above us was dark, and sinister whispers filled the air; when one star after another in rapid succession shot madly from the blue ground of the national flag, and this grand experiment of self-govemment, not yet 100 years old, torn and rent by angry passions, had fallen asunder at the centre, and our once united country was converted into two hostile camps. It is well once a year to contemplate that dismal panorama. But not alone to the gloom and disaster of rebellion and treason does this grand display recall us. It is the province of rampant evil to call out the latent good, and this day reminds us of the good as well as of the evil. It reminds us of patriotic fervor, of quenchless ardor, of heroic courage, of generous self-sacrifice, of patience, skill, and fortitude, of clearness of vision to discern the right, and invincible determination to sustain it at every cost. It brings to mind the time when each day of the week saw thousands of brave men in the full fresh bloom of youth and manly vigor, the very flower and hope of the hearths and homes of the loyal and peaceful North, deliberately sundering the ties that bound them, leaving friends and families, and periling all that was most precious to them for the sake of their country. The spectacle was solemn, sublime, and glorious, and will never be forgotten. New-York was the grand centre where these patriotic legions rallied. They arrived and departed through her hundred gates of sea and land. They came from the East, the West, and the North; from the Empire State⁵ with its millions of people; from the Old Bay

5. This popular nickname for New York suggested the state's preeminence in wealth, population, and enterprise, and might have been inspired by George Washington's allusion to it, in 1784, as “at present the seat of Empire." Mathews, Dictionary of Americanisms, 1:556.

Last edit 5 months ago by tarshalj
5
Complete

5

484 NEW YORK, NEW YORK

State, the heart and brain of New-England, the State of Sumner, Andrew, and Wilson;⁶ from the icy slopes and beetling crags of stalwart Maine; from the beautiful lakes, winding rivers, and granite hills of NewHampshire, where Webster was born, and the spirit of John P. Hale still lives; from the Green Mountains of Vermont,⁷ whence no slave, panting for liberty, was ever returned, to his master; from the land of Roger Williams,⁸ and the land of steady habits;⁹ from counter, farm, and factory; from schools, colleges, and courts of law they came; they came with blue coats on their backs, with eagles on their buttons and muskets on their shoulders, timing their high foot-steps to the music of the Union, and making the streets of this great Metropolis like rivers of burnished steel.

Never was there a grander call to patriotic duty, and never was there a more enthusiastic response to such a call; and both the call and the response showed that a Republic with no standing army to fight its battles, could, nevertheless, safely depend upon its patriotic citizens for defense and protection in any great emergency of peril. Brave and noble spirits! living and dead! May your memory never perish! We tender you on this memorial day the homage of the loyal nation, and the heartfelt gratitude of emancipated millions. If the great work you undertook to accomplish is still incomplete; if a lawless and revolutionary spirit is still abroad in the country; if the principles for which you bravely fought are in any way compromised or threatened; if the Constitution and the laws are in any measure dishonored and disregarded; if duly elected State Governments are in any way overthrown by violence; if the elective franchise has been overborne by intimidation and fraud; if the Southern States, under the idea of local self-govemment, are endeavoring to paralyze the arm and shrivel the body of the National Government so that it cannot protect the humblest citizen in his rights, the fault is not yours. You, at least, were faithful and did your whole duty.

6. Douglass alludes to Charles Sumner, John A. Andrew, and Henry Wilson from the state of Massachusetts, nicknamed the Old Bay State on account of its original name, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, derived from its earliest settlements on the Cape Cod Bay. Mathews, Dictionary of Americanisms, 2 : 1155.

7. The Green Mountain range of the Appalachian Mountains bisects the state of Vermont from its Massachusetts to its Canadian border. Lippincott's Gazetteer, 1: 903.

8. Douglass refers to the state of Rhode Island and to Roger Williams (c.1603-82/83), its founder. DAB, 20 : 286-89.

9. Connecticut’s nickname, “the land of steady habits," reflected the allegedly staid deportment and excellent morals of its citizenry. Mathews, Dictionary of Americanisms, 1 : 954.

Last edit 5 months ago by tarshalj
Displaying pages 1 - 5 of 13 in total