47.-President King's address to the Graduating class of Columbia college, June 26, 1861.
Young gentlemen :--I salute you as trained athletes
, just entering upon the strifes of life.
If we have at all succeeded with you in our efforts at education, you have learned how to use your faculties.
It will now devolve upon you to make their use subservient to the highest aims and the largest good.
So only shall you prove yourselves worthy of your alma mater
--worthy of your glorious country.
Life is real — life is earnest, to all and at all times; but at the particular juncture at which it is your fortune to be called to act, it is more than usually real and earnest — and it is this exceptional condition of affairs that seems to demand from me at this time and on this, our most solemn academic exercises, a plain and frank expression of opinion, as to matters concerning which it is criminal not to have an opinion, and cowardly not to express it when fitting occasion offers.
You put on the garment of manhood, and assume its obligations in the midst of the most wanton, wicked, unprovoked, and unpardonable rebellion that has been witnessed in the annals of the human race.
It has no parallel but in the rebellion of the fallen angels; and it has the same source — disappointed ambition and malignant hate.
Against the most beneficial Government, the most equal laws, and a system carrying within itself a recognized and peaceful mode of adjusting every real or imaginary wrong or hardship, a portion of the people of the United States
--the least civilized, the least educated, the least industrious, without a single wrong specified on the part of the National Government
— have risen in rebellion against it, robbing its treasuries, and even its hospitals; firing upon and treading under foot the flag of our country; menacing its Capital with armed hordes, led by the double-dyed traitors, who, educated at the cost of the nation, and sworn to defend its laws, have deserted in the hour of need and turned their arms against their nursing mother; and appealed to all the scoundrels of the world to come and take service under the Rebel
flag, against the commerce of the United States
Honor, Loyalty, Truth, stool aghast for a while, incredulously in the presence of this enormous crime; but when Sumter
fell the free people of this nation rose — yes!
rose as no like uprising has been witnessed before — and now who shall stay the avenging arm?
Who, with traitor lips, shall talk of compromise, or with shaking knees clamor for peace?
Compromise with what?--peace with whom?
It is no question of this or that system of policy — of free-trade or tariff, of slavery or anti-slavery — it is a question of existence.
To be or not to be — it is all there.
There is no such thing as half being and half not being.
Either we are a nation, or a band of anarchical outlaws.
A grand continental Anglo-Saxon Republic, such as our fathers made, one and indivisible, E Pluribus Unum
, under a Constitution equal for all, and supreme over all — or an accidental assemblage of petty, jealous, barbarous, warring tribes, who acknowledge no law but the sword, and from among whom the sword will not depart.
My young friends, you enter upon life at the very moment this great question is under the issue of war. Shrink not back from it. We must be decided now and forever.
The baleful doctrine of secession must be finally and absolutely renounced.
The poor quibble of double allegiance must be disavowed.
An American--and not a New Yorker, nor a Virginian — is the noble title by which we are to live, and which you, my young friends, must, in your respective spheres, contribute to make live, however it may cost in blood and money.
Go forth, then.
my young friends — go forth as citizens of the Great Continental American Republic
— to which your first, your constant, your latest hopes in life should attach — and abating no jot of obedience to Municipal or State authority within the respective limits of each — bear yourselves always, and everywhere, as Americans
— as fellow-countrymen of Adams
, and Ellsworth
, and Jay
, and Jefferson
, and Carroll
, and Washington
, and Pinckney
— as heirs of the glories of Bunker Hill
, and Saratoga
, and Monmouth
, and Yorktown
, and Eutaw Springs
, and New Orleans, and suffer no traitor hordes to despoil you, of such rich inheritance or so grand and glorious a country.