I am not here to deny that, by the war, in the words of a great thinker and writer of the North, ‘a result and settlement were come by, which few now regret and none resist.’ I am not here to suggest that, in the course of history, Omniscient and Almighty God has blundered. But I am here to insist and to remind you, in the words of the same great writer, that ‘possibly’ the question that divided us ‘was one of those many questions that arise in history that cannot be answered unanimously by the intellect or reason or conscience of erring, finite man. Appeal must be had to force. Offences must needs come.’ I cannot forbear quoting at length from this truly monumental oration, delivered on the field of Gettysburg, on the 3d day of July, 1888, by the Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, younger brother of the famous Henry Ward, at the dedication of a monument to the ‘Brooklyn Phalanx,’ Sixty-seventh Regiment New York Volunteers. My only regret is that it would not be altogether seemly for me to give you the address entire, substituting it in place of my own feeble utterances. While I read, do you marvel at and admire the audacious grasp of intellect, the dauntless courage of heart, the majestic elevation of soul, which could, upon such an occasion, in such presence, and amid such surroundings, so handle this great theme, surpassing even the balanced view of the historian a century hence, and attaining almost the absolute impartiality of the disembodied spirit clean escaped from the distorting atmosphere and relations of earth. Says Mr. Beecher:
The facts recited shall be as colorless as the items of a bookkeeper's balance-sheet. In 1776, thirteen colonies, by their representatives in Congress or convention, called “God to witness the rectitude of our (their) intentions,” and declared themselves “free and independent States.” In 1787, these free and independent States proposed a “more perfect Union” in the name of the people. “We, the people,” they said in their preamble to the proposed Constitution. But:In the last article, of the same Constitution, we read of “the States ratifying the same” as establishing the Constitution between the States so ratifying. In 1788, by June, the States had so ratified the Constitution; and in 1789, an orderly Constitutional Government came into power, George Washington its executive.