Monday, February 27, 2012

William H. Seward's Gettysburg Address

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

You really don't hear much about this one - but Lincoln's Secretary of State had his say at Gettysburg too. On the evening of November 18th, the night before the big show, Seward made a few impromptu remarks in response to a serenading crowd. At least one historian has suggested that he had had a few cocktails.

At any rate, while his words are not nearly as eloquent as his boss's far more famous Gettysburg Address, he is nevertheless direct on both the slavery issue and the fundamental principles of democratic government.

I thank my God that I believe this strife is going to end in the removal of that evil which ought to have been removed by deliberate councils and peaceful means. . . And I thank him for the hope that when that cause is removed, simply by the operation of abolishing it, as the origin and agent of the treason that is without justification and without parallel, we shall thenceforth be united, be only one country, having only one hope, one ambition, and one destiny.

When we part to-morrow night, let us remember that we owe it to our country and to mankind that this war shall have for its conclusion the establishing of the principle of democratic government;—the simple principle that whatever party, whatever portion of the community, prevails by constitutional suffrage in an election, that party is to be respected and maintained in power, until it shall give place, on another trial and another verdict, to a different portion of the people. If you do not do this, you are drifting at once and irresistibly to the very verge of universal, cheerless, and hopeless anarchy. But with that principle this government of ours — the purest, the best, the wisest, and the happiest in the world — must be, and, so far as we are concerned, practically will be, immortal.

To my amazement, I had a hard time finding this speech through the usual Internet searches. I finally found it in John Hay and John G. Nicolay, Abraham Lincoln: A History, Volume VIII, on page 191. So it seems books retain their usefulness. Hallelujah!



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