, as they term it, from the Federal Union; and certain persons, professing to act in their name, have extemporized what they call the Southern Confederacy, elected a president, Jefferson Davis
, and a vice-president, Alexander H. Stephens
, organized an army, issued letters of marque, and declared war on the people and the Government
of the United States
; and they have publicly announced, through Walker
, the secretary of Davis
, their intention of speedily seizing our capital at Washington
, with its national archives and muniments of title.
To meet the rebel force arrayed against the capital, President Lincoln
has called upon the loyal States, and at the word, fresh from the plough, the loom, and the workshop, fresh from college seats and the professor's chair, from the bar, the pulpit, and the counting-house, fresh from every department of American industry, the army of the Union
is in the field, and the world awaits the impending crisis.
looks on with undisguised and wondering interest, and while France
seem instinctively to appreciate our situation, the British
cabinet and the British
press have strangely blundered, and have muttered something we do not understand, about “rights of belligerents,” “a wicked war,” and the “bursting of the bubble of democracy.”
Such in brief is our position at home and abroad, and this day is destined to be memorable — perhaps as memorable in history as that which we have met to celebrate.
The action of the Congress
now assembled will decide whether the national independence, established against the united strength of the British
empire in ‘76, is to fall ignominiously before the attacks of a rebel minority of our own countrymen in ‘61.
It is to decide the question, whether in the next century our descendants shall refer to the Fourth of July as the forgotten birthday of an extinct republic, or whether, when we shall sleep with our fathers, and our children shall slumber by our side, their grandsons shall meet as we do this day to bless our memories as we bless those of our revolutionary sires; to spread to the breeze from the Atlantic
to the Pacific
, on every hill-side and in every valley, the flag of our Union, the Stars and Stripes that we so proudly love, and join their voices in swelling the cry of Adams
--“Independence now, and Independence forever!”
While the great issue, the success or failure of the American
experiment, the continuance of our Union or its disintegration, rests immediately with the President
and with Congress, it rests in an almost equal degree upon each one of us. The American people are at once citizens and sovereigns — the fountain and source of the supreme authority of the land, and to us, the people, will our servants in Congress naturally and properly look for guidance in this extremity.
Already have you seen how fairly an honest Executive represents the sentiments of the majority of his countrymen, availing himself of their counsels, gathering strength from their energy and determination, and so directing the Government
that its action keeps time to the beating of the national pulse.
Already in response to the nation's call has the national Government arisen in gigantic strength from the depths of imbecility to which it had fallen, to a position of grandeur, dignity and power, which has silenced the half-uttered sarcasms of European
declaimers about the internal weakness of popular institutions.
Most of you, perhaps all of you, have made up your minds deliberately, intelligently, and dispassionately, in regard to your duty; and it is a general and proper sentiment among us that this is a time for energetic action, not for discussion.
But still as I am here, honored by your appointment, to say something befitting the occasion, I think you will permit me, if indeed you do not regard it as my especial province, to speak frankly of our present duty; to say something of the great theme which engrosses the nation; of which we think when we rise in the morning and when we retire at night, as we go to our work and return to our meals, when we open the morning paper for news and close it for reflection, when we kneel at the family altar and by our own bedsides — the one great overwhelming subject, the issue of this rebellion, the destiny of our country.
I can speak to you about it more familiarly perhaps than I should speak to strangers; for you are familiar with the whole matter, you know by heart the history of the revolutionary war in which the county of Westchester
bore from the beginning so prominent a part, and from boyhood our thoughts and associations have been intimately connected with the facts of our colonial dependence and the incidents that marked the struggle by which that dependence was at length terminated.
Let me refer for an instant to some of the local memories which linger all around us. On the angle of Connecticut
, which juts into the State of New York
close by this town of Newcastle
, stands the boundary rock still bearing the initials “G. R.,” brief memento of King George III., whose sovereignty over our fathers, loyal subjects though they were, and backed as was the crown by the armies of Great Britain
, faded before the steadfastness of their resistance to unconstitutional usurpation.
New York in ‘76 being selected by the British
as the centre of their operations, commanding, as they did, the Hudson Riher
, and acting in connection with a force from Canada
, their march into Westchester
was designed to control the two principal routes to New England
, by the way of Rye and Bedford
, and so out off the American
army from its eastern supplies.
, penetrating their designs, skilfully conducted his forces northwardly from King's Bridge
, moving in a line parallel with the British
, keeping a little in advance, facing them constantly with the Bronx