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DELIVERED ON JULY 4, 1863, AT PADUCAH, KY., TO THE CITIZENS, AND THE 111TH REG. ILL. VOL.
BY JAMES BASSETT, ESQ.
Fellow citizens! God intended us as one consolidated and great people, our physical geography so teaches. Whence our seaboard along the Atlantic, the Mexican Gulf and the Pacific, whence our lakes; whence our arterial rivers and our boundless plains, but to teach the lesson, that from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and from the sunny Mexican Gulf to frigid Canada, we are to be one people, having a grand mission of liberty, which is the exponent of Christianity, the only great idea of liberty to man promulgated by God.
Are you prepared to give up that great mission — to resign nationality — to serve under aristocratic or kingly rule, under the iron sceptre of despotism — to cease to be freemen — to give up the memory of the past — and instead of being citizens of the great nation of the United States, become, it may be, members of some small confederacy, as one has said become citizens not of the United States, whose flag is respected in every land, but become citizens of what? of a small American nation, whose flag, the Palmetto, or some other ensign, steals into the harbour of some ancient nationality, and when asked about, the answer be, it is the flag of one of the obscure republics of America. Are you prepared I ask to blot out the past, despise the future? I rather think you will adopt the sentiment of the Representative poet of American W.C. Bryant, and say “Not Yet”
“Oh! country, marvel of the earth,
Oh realm to sudden greatness grown,
The age that gloried in thy birth,
Shall it behold thee overthrown?
Shall traitors lay that greatness low?
No, Land of Hope and blessing, No!
And we who wear thy glorious name
Shall we, like cravens, stand apart,
When those whom thou hast trusted, aim
The death-blow at thy generous heart?
Forth goes the battle cry, and lo
Hosts rise in harness, shouting No!
And they who founded, in our land
The power that rules from sea to sea,
Bled they in vain, or vainly planned
To leave their country great and free!
Their sleeping ashes, from below,
Send up the thrilling murmur, No!
Knit they the gentle ties which long
These sister States were proud to wear,
And forged the kindly links so strong
For idle hands in sport to tear,
For scornful hands aside to throw?
No, by our fathers’ memory, No!
Our humming marts, our iron ways,
Our wind tossed woods on mountain crest,
The hoarse Atlantic, with its bays,
The calm, broad Ocean of the West,
And Mississippi’s torrent flow,
And loud Niagara, answer, No!
For now behold, the arm that gave
The victory in our fathers’ day,
Strong, as of old, to guard and save,
That mighty arm, which none can stay–
On clouds above, and fields below,
Writes in men’s sight, the answer, No!”
How glorious is Liberty! It is a perennial flower, ever blooming, ever fresh. Let the conqueror, the tyrant wrap the world in flames, so that the blood of millions can not quench them, the Spirit of Liberty still survives, and grows stronger and stronger, while the oppression dwindles and dies. And the tree of American liberty planted by Washington, and nurtured by the blood of the patriots in 1776, whose branches have so spread as to encircle this whole continent, and towered so high as to be seen by all the nations, shall spread wider, and rise higher and higher; so that the Eagle of Liberty perched on its topmost bough shall glory in freedom, and the desponding of every nation find shelter under its kindly branches. That tree which is like the tree in the amaranthine bowers of Paradise whose leaves are for the healing of the nations; shall never be uprooted from the soil of free America, of these United States.
Centralia Sentinel (Centralia, Illinois) Jul 26, 1863