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Holiday Speeches - Fourth Of July

( Originally Published 1901 )

At a Fourth of July banquet, or celebration, toasts may be offered to " The Flag," to " The Day," to " Independence," to "Our Revolutionary Fathers," to " The Nation," to any Great Man of the Past, to " Liberty," to " Free Speech," to " National Greatness," to " Peace," to " Defensive War," to any of the States, to " Washington " or " Lafayette," to " Our Old Ally, France," to any of the " Patriotic Virtues," to " The Army and The Navy," to the " Memory of any of the Battles by Land or Sea." Appropriate sentiments for any of these may easily be devised or may be found in the miscellaneous list in this volume. " The Constitution and the Laws " or something similar should not be omitted.


Their order and character will depend upon the special topic.

Our present prosperity—the greatness and re-sources of our country as compared with those of the Revolutionary epoch—the slow growth of the colonies—the rapid growth of the States and the addition of new States continually—what was gained by independence—did we do more than simply pre-vent tyranny—the advantages an independent country possesses over a colony, such as Canada—the perils of independence and the responsibility of power—the romantic early history of the country—the wars that preceded the Revolutionary conflict—the character of the struggle—the slenderness of our resources compared with the mighty power of Britain—our ally, France—what that nation gained and lost by joining in our quarrel—the memories of Washington and Lafayette—the principles at stake in the Revolution—the narrow view our fathers took of the issue at first, and the manner in which they were led first to independence and then to nationality—some phases of the struggle—its critical points—Trenton and Valley Forge—Saratoga and Yorktown-our responsibilities and duties—the questions of that day enumerated and compared with the burning questions of the present day (which we do not enumerate here, but which the speaker may describe or even argue if the nature of his audience, or time at his disposal permits) — the future greatness of the nation—the probability of the acquisition of new territory.

Laughable incidents either from history or illustrations from any source, must not be forgotten, for if the speech be more than a few minutes long, they are absolutely indispensable.



The Fourth of July has been a great day ever since 1776. Before that year the Fourth of this month came and went like other days. But then a great event happened: an event which made a great difference to the entire world; the boundaries of many countries would be very different to-day if the important event of that day had not transpired. It was a terrible blow to the foes of humanity and even to many weak-kneed friends. The exhortation of one of the signers of the Declaration on that day, " We must all hang together," with the grim but very reasonable rejoinder, " If we do not, we will assuredly hang separately." The bloodshed and suffering which followed and which seem to be the only price at which human liberty and advancement can be procured. We had to deal with our old friends the English very much as the peace-loving Quaker did with the pirate who boarded his ship; taking him by the collar Broad-brim dropped him over the ship's side into the water, saying, " Friend, thee has no business on this ship." We have shown that we own and can navigate the ship of State our-selves, and now we are willing to welcome here not only John Bull but all nations of the world when they have any friendly business with us.

The gunpowder that has been consumed. First, during the Revolutionary war and the second war with England; and then the powder that has been exploded by small and large boys in the hundred and odd Fourths that have followed.


We are so far from home that we can't hear the eagle scream or see the lightning in his eye. Only from the almanac do we know that this is the day of all days on which he disports himself. He was a small bird when born, more than a hundred years ago, but has grown lively till his wings reach from ocean to ocean, and it only requires a little faith to see him stretch himself clear over the Western Hemisphere and the adjacent islands. Other birds despised him on the first great Fourth, but. these birds of prey, vultures, condors and such like, with crows, as well as the smaller Republican eagles born since, are humble enough to him now. The British lion him-self having been so often scratched and clawed by this fowl, has learned to shake his mane and wag his tail rather amiably in our eagle's presence, even if he has to give an occasional growl to keep his hand in. We are proud of this bird, though we are far from home, and to-day send our heartiest good wishes across the sea to the land we love the best.



The field here is very wide. All the history of the country is appropriate, but can only be glanced at, though a good speech might be made by dwelling at length on some romantic incident in its history. The size and richness of the country from the green pine forests of Maine to the golden orange groves of California; or the prophecy of the manifest greatness of coming destiny. Here the old but laughable story can be brought in easily about the raw Irishman who saw a pumkin for the first time, and was told that it was a mare's egg, and generously given one. He had the misfortune, however, to drop it out of his cart, when it rolled down-hill, struck a stump, burst and frightened a rabbit, which bounded away followed by Pat, shouting: " Shtop my colt; sure and if he is so big and can run so fast now, when just born, what a rousing horse he will be when grown up !"

But our country has more than merely a vast area. She has made advances in science, art, literature, and culture of all kinds, and is destined to play a chief part in the drama of the world's progress.

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