their beds they go gently to their fathers, or to be esteemed as favored above those other generations that lived in times that tried men's souls, times that showed the stuff that men were made of, times that developed the heroic qualities of honor, truth and strength, that are so often consumed by the “cankers of a long peace.”
The dead past of history lies along its wide deserts and level plains of quiet and abundance, while its living past is among its hills and hollows of unrest and want, and its heroic past is on its eminences, laboriously attained, from whose lofty heights of toil and strife, sun-illumined and heaven-touched, look out the men and shine forth the deeds that place man beside the immortals and lift him toward the eternal.
Were I a Jew — whose records are the grandest — and were I asked in what period of my people's history it was most an honor to have lived, I would select, not David's glorious day, when surrounding nations bowed to Israel
's conquering arms, nor Solomon's golden time — Israel
's high noon of peace and plenty — but I would choose, rather, the life time of that generation that camped forty years in the wilderness, their eyes not suffered to see Canaan
nor their feet to press its sacred soil; for in that day God came down and talked with Moses
in the mount, and gave to them that law that is the basis of the truth and right and justice that to-day prevail throughout Christendom.
And so with us, in that seven years struggle that made us a nation.
It was well worth “twice ten years of peaceful life” to have lived and labored with Washington
, to have fought at Bunker's Hill
, at Princeton
, and to have suffered and endured at Valley Forge
But it may be said that these gained and ours lost.
Well, be it so. Were the lives of ours, therefore, wasted, and did our dead die in vain?
As well say so of the martys, whose blood was the seed of the church.
And, drawing reverently the parallel, when Jesus died in agony and ignominy, Pilate and Herod
In that eclipse of the God-man, was his cause lost?
Why, in three centuries he became the world's master, his name ruling that empire whose subordinate official had delivered him to death.
Ah! men die, but principles live, and truth,
Though struck to earth revives again.
The eternal years of God are her's.
And, to-day, the principles of constitutional right and individual liberty, of State sovereignty, and local self-government, for which our men warred and died, find assertion and advocacy throughout the land.