previous next

Doc. 171.-General Butler's speech, at Washington, May 16, 1861.

Fellow-citizens :--Your cheers for the old Commonwealth of Massachusetts are rightly bestowed. Foremost in the rank of those who fought for the liberty of the country in the Revolution were the men of Massachusetts. It is a historical fact, to which I take pride in now referring, that in the Revolution, Massachusetts sent more men south of Mason and Dixon's Line to fight for the cause of the country, than all the Southern Colonies put together; and in this second war, if war must come, to proclaim the Declaration of Independence anew, and, as a necessary consequence, establish the Union and the Constitution, Massachusetts will give, if necessary, every man in her borders — aye, and woman! (Cheers.) I trust I may be excused for speaking thus of Massachusetts; but I am confident there are many within the sound of my voice, whose hearts beat with proud memories of the old Commonwealth. There is this difference, I will say, between our Southern brothers and ourselves, that while we love our State with the true love of a son, we love the Union and the Country with an equal devotion. (Loud and prolonged applause.) We place no “States' rights” before, above, or beyond the Union. (Cheers.) To us our country is first, because it is our country, (three cheers,) and our State is next and second, because she is a part of our country and our State. (Renewed applause.) Our oath of allegiance to our country, and our oath of allegiance to our State, are interwreathed harmoniously, and never come in conflict or clash. He who does his duty to the Union does his duty to the State; and he who does his duty to the State, does his duty to the Union--“one and inseparable, [255] now and forever.” (Renewed applause.) As I look upon this demonstration of yours, I believe it to be prompted by a love of the common cause, and our common country — a country so great and good, a Government so kind, so beneficent, that the hand from which we have only felt kindness is now for the first time raised in chastisement. (Applause.) Many things in a man's life may be worse than death. So, to a Government there may be many things, such as dishonor and disintegration, worse than the shedding of blood. (Cheers.) Our fathers purchased our liberty and country for us at an immense cost of treasure and blood, and by the bright heavens above us, we will not part with them without first paying the original debt, and the interest to this date! (Loud cheers.) We have in our veins the same blood as they shed; we have the same power of endurance, the same love of liberty and law. We will hold as a brother him who stands by the Union; we will hold as an enemy him who would strike from its constellation a single star. (Applause.) But, I hear some one say, “Shall we carry on this fratricidal war? Shall we shed our brothers' blood, and meet in arms our brothers in the South?” I would say, “As our fathers did not hesitate to strike the mother country in the defence of our rights, so we should not hesitate to meet the brother as they did the mother.” (Sensation.) If this unholy, this fratricidal war is forced upon us, I say, “Woe, woe to them who have made the necessity. Our hands are clean, our hearts are pure; but the Union must be preserved, (Gen. Butler was interrupted here by an intense cheering. When silence was restored, he continued:) at all hazard of money, and, if need be, of every life this side the Arctic Regions.” (Cheers.) If the 25,000 Northern soldiers who are here are cut off, in six weeks 50,000 will take your place; and if they die by fever, pestilence, or the sword, a quarter of a million will take their place, till our army of the reserve will be women with their broomsticks, to drive every enemy in the Gulf. (Cheers and laughter.) I have neither fear nor doubt of the issue. I feel only horror and dismay for those who have made the war. God help them I we are here for our rights, for our country, for our flag. Our faces are set South, and there shall be no footstep backward. (Immense applause.) He is mistaken who supposes we can be intimidated by threats or cajoled by compromise. The day of compromises is past.

The Government must be sustained, (cheers;) and when it is sustained, we shall give every one in the Union his rights under the Constitution, as we always have, and every one outside of the Union the steel of the Union, till he shall come under the Union. (Cheers, and cries of “Good, go on.” ) It is impossible for me to go on speech-making; but if you will go home to your beds, and the Government will let me, I will go South fighting for the Union, and you will follow me.--N. Y. Times, May 17.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (5)
Mason, N. H. (New Hampshire, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Benjamin F. Butler (2)
Doc (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 16th, 1861 AD (1)
May 17th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: