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The Saratoga Monument Begun

( Originally Published 1927 )


(From Address delivered October 17, 1877.)

ONE hundred years ago, on this spot, American independence was made a great fact in the history of nations. Until the surrender of the British army under Burgoyne, the Declaration 0f Independence was but a declaration. It was a patriotic purpose asserted in bold words by brave men, who pledged for its maintenance their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. But here it was made a fact by virtue of armed force. It had been regarded by the world merely as an act of defiance, but it was now seen that it contained the germs of a government which the event we celebrate made one of the powers of the earth. Here rebellion was made revolution. Upon this ground, that which had in the eye of the law been treason, became triumphant patriotism. At the break of day, in the judgment of the world, 0ur fathers were rebels. When the echoes of the evening gun died away along this valley, they were patriots who had rescued their country from wrong and outrage. We had passed through the baptism of blood, and gained a name among the nations of the earth.

Before the Revolution the people of the several colonies held but little intercourse. They were estranged from each other by distance, by sectional prejudices, by differences of lineage and religious creeds. But when the men of Virginia went to Massachusetts to rescue Boston, when the men of the East and South battled side by side with those from the Middle States, when Greene and Lincoln went to the relief of the Southern colonies, all prejudices not only died-away, but more than fraternal love animated every patriotic heart from the bleak forests of New England to the milder airs of Georgia. And now that a hundred years have passed, and our country has become great beyond the wildest dreams of our fathers, will not the story of their sufferings revive in the breast of all the love of our country, of our common country, and all who live within its boundaries?

It was the most remarkable fact of the Revolutionary War and of the formation of state and national governments, that although the colonists were of different lineages and languages, living under different climates, with varied pursuits and forms of labor, cut off from intercourse by distance, yet, in spite of all these 0bstacles to accord, they were from the outset animated by common views, feelings, and purposes. When the independence was gained, they were able, after a few weeks spent in consultation, to form the constitution under which we have lived for nearly one hundred years. There can be no stronger pr00f that American institutions were born and shaped by American necessities. This fact should give us new faith in the lasting nature of 0ur government.

Monuments make as well as mark the civilization of a people. The surrender of Burgoyne marks the dividing line between tw0 conditions of our country : the one the colonial period of dependence, and the other the day from which it stood full-armed and victorious here, endowed with a boldness t0 assert its in-dependence, and endowed with a wisdom to frame its own system of government. We are told that during more than twenty centuries of war and bloodshed, only fifteen battles have been decisive of lasting results. The contest of Saratoga is one of them. Shall not some suitable structure recall this fact to the public mind? Neither France, nor Britain, nor Germany could spare the statues or works of art which keep alive the memory of patriotic services or of personal virtues. Such silent teachers of all that ennobles men, have taught their lessons through the darkest ages, and have done much to save society from sinking into utter decay and degradation. If Greece or Rome had left no memorials of private virtues or public greatness, the progress of civilization would have been slow and feeble. If their crumbling remains should be swept away, the world would mourn the loss, not 0nly to learning and the arts, but to virtue and patriotism. It concerns the honor and welfare of the American people that this spot should be marked by some structure which should recall its history and animate all, who l00k upon it, by its grand teachings. No people ever held lasting power or greatness who did not reverence the virtues of their fathers, or who did not show forth this reverence by material and striking testimonials.

Let us, then, build here, a lasting monument, which shall tell of our gratitude to those who, through suffering and sacrifice, wrought out the independence of our country.

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