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The Saratoga Lesson

( Originally Published 1927 )



(From an Address delivered October 17, 1877.)

BY GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS

THE drama of the Revolution opened in New England, culminated in New York, and closed in Virginia. It was a happy fortune that the three colonies which represented the various territorial sections of the settled continent were each, in turn, the chief seat of war. The common sacrifice, the common struggle, the common triumph, tended to weld them locally, politically, and morally together. Doubtless there were conflicts of provincial pride and jealousy and suspicion. In every great crisis of war, however, there was a common impulse and devotion, and the welfare of the continent obliterated provincial lines.

It is by the few heaven-piercing peaks, not by the confused mass of upland, that we measure the height of the Andes, of the Alps, of the Himalaya. It is by Joseph Warren not by Benjamin Church, by John Jay not by Sir John Johnson, by George Washington not by Benedict Arnold, that we test the quality of the Revolutionary character. The voice of Patrick Henry from the mountains answered that of James Otis by the sea. Paul Revere's lantern shone along through the valley of the Hudson, and flashed along the cliffs of the Blue Ridge. The scattering volley of Lexington green swelled to the triumphant thunder of Sara-toga, and the reverberation of Burgoyne's falling arms in New York shook those of Cornwallis in Virginia from his hands. Doubts, jealousies, prejudices, were merged in one common devotion. The union of the colonies to secure liberty, foretold the union of the States to maintain it, and wherever we stand on Revolutionary fields, or inhale the sweetness of Revolutionary memories, we tread the ground and breathe the air of invincible national union.

So, upon this famous and decisive field, let every unworthy feeling perish ! Here, to the England that we fought let us now, grown great and strong with a hundred years, hold out the hand 0f fellowship and peace ! Here, where the English Burgoyne, in the very moment of his bitter humiliation generously pledged George Washington, let us, in our high hour of triumph, of power, and of hope, pledge the queen ! Here, in the grave of brave and unknown foemen, may mutual jealousies and doubts and animosities lie buried forever ! Henceforth, revering their common glorious traditions, may England, and America press forward side by side, in noble and inspiring rivalry to promote the welfare of man !

Fellow-citizens, with the story of Burgoyne's surrender, the Revolutionary glory of the State of New York, still fresh in our memories, I am glad that the hallowed spot on which we stand compels us to re-member not only the imperial State, but the national Commonwealth, whose young hands here together struck the blow, and on whose older head descends the ample benediction of the victory. On yonder height, a hundred years ago, Virginia and Pennsylvania lay encamped. Beyond, and further to the north, watched New Hampshire and Vermont. Here, in the wooded uplands at the south, stood New Jersey and New York, while across the river to the east, Connecticut and Massachusetts closed the triumphant line. Here was the symbol of the Revolution, a common cause, a common strife, a common triumph; the cause, not of a class, but of human nature ; the triumph, not of a colony, but of united America.

And we who stand here proudly remembering, we who have seen Virginia and New York, the North and the South, more bitterly hostile than the armies whose battles shook this ground, we who mutually proved in deadlier conflict the constancy and courage of all the States, which, proud to be peers, yet own no master but their united selves, we renew our heart's imperishable devotion to the common American faith, the common American pride, the common American glory ! Here America stood and triumphed. Here Americans stand and bless their memory. And here, for a thou-sand years, many grateful generations of Americans come to rehearse the glorious story, and to rejoice in a supreme and benignant American nationality !



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