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[176]

The first article of the constitution of the Association declares: ‘The object and purpose of this organization will be strictly social, literary, historical and benevolent. It will endeavor to unite in a general federation all associations of the Confederate veterans, soldiers and sailors, now in existence or hereafter to be formed; to gather authentic data for an impartial history of the war between the States; to preserve the relics or mementoes of the same; to cherish the ties of friendship that should exist among the men who have shared common dangers, common suffering and privations; to care for the disabled and extend a helping hand to the needy; to protect the widow and orphan and to make and preserve the record of the services of every member, and as far as possible, of those of our comrades who have preceded us in eternity.’

The last article provides that neither discussion of political or religious subjects nor any political action shall be permitted in the organization, and any association violating that provision shall forfeit its membership.

Good objects.

Comrades, no argument is needed to secure for those objects your enthusiastic endorsement. They have burdened your thoughts for many years; you have cherished them in sorrow, poverty and humiliation. In the face of misconstruction you have held them in your hearts with the strength of religious convictions. No misjudgments can defeat your peaceful purposes for the future. Your aspirations have been lifted by the mere force and urgency of surrounding conditions to a plane far above the paltry consideration of partisan triumphs. The honor of the American republic, the just powers of the Federal Government, the equal rights of States, the integrity of the constitutional union, the sanctions of laws and the enforcement of order have no class of defenders more true and devoted than the ex-soldier of the South and their worthy descendants. But you realize the great truth that a people without the memories of heroic suffering and sacrifices are a people without a history.

To cherish such memories and recall such a past, whether crowned with success or consecrated in defeat, is to idolize principle and strengthen character, intensify love of country and convert defeat and disaster into pillars of support for future manhood and noble womanhood. Whether the Southern people under their changed conditions may ever hope to witness another civilization which shall equal that which began with their Washington and ended with their Lee,


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Robert Edward Lee (1)
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