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 To preserve in some permanent form the original and authentic evidence of what these men achieved was a high and sacred duty which we owed not to them only, but to ourselves and to our children. For no more melancholy sight can meet the eye of the patriot than to see a teacher in our public schools engaged in teaching the children of these dumb and silent martyrs that their fathers died under some manner of cloud, or that they needed some sort of pardon, other than the free grace of the everlasting God whom they served. Neither can there be any moral or national necessity that the first axiom of mathematics, which is that the sum of all the parts is only equal to, and cannot exceed, the whole, should be untaught in the vain effort to prove that when an aggregate of twenty-seven hundred thousand Federal soldiers engaged six hundred thousand Confederates, the latter in every separate engagement, from Manassas to the Wilderness, outnumbered their Federal antagonists. No; thank God, the first duty which we owe to these dead heroes is the same which we owe to truth. The simplest form of annals, unadorned by political disquisition, as unwarped as mathematics and impartial as a sun-dial, would embody all that we should need to excite our just pride in their almost superhuman achievements; all that our children need to keep alive the flame of patriotism or the love of glory. They do not need any depreciation of their adversaries, nor, as Chief-Justice Chase expressed it, any detraction from ‘the heroism of our countrymen who fell upon the other side.’ This unreasonable, not to say unholy sentiment, that to do justice to one side implies detraction from the other, should be given over to the sounding brass and tinkling cymbals with which we amuse ourselves in political harangues or popular assemblies. But here, as it were in the presence of our dead, we can do most honor to them, while at the same time we do full justice to the motives and courage of those who confronted them. We can divest ourselves of every suspicion of clap-trap, and, standing face to face with our dead, say, in all clearness of conscience, that having accepted the umpirage of the sword we have also accepted its award, and mean to abide by it. This much for the outcome or actual result. But may God do so to us and more, if ever we fail when occasion demands the expression of conviction, to assert the simple truth, that these dear, darling dead were right; that on the plane of clear reason,
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