Address by Galusha A. Grow Presented in Montrose, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1877

Researched by James R. Heintze. American University, Washington, D.C.

Editor's note: Galusha A. Grow presented this speech at the unveiling of a Soldiers' Monument in Montrose, Pa. Thousands of persons attended the event which began after 9 a.m. Several military units were in review at Monument Square and a large parade proceeded through town to the delight of the spectators. The Brooklyn Cornet Band provided music. The ceremony for the unveiling of the monument began at 4 pm. After a prayer by "Rev. Mr. Cole of the Methodist church," William J. Turrell, "President of the day," introduced Grow with the following statement:

On the 4th day of July, 1861, Hon. G. A. Grow, then just elected Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States, before taking the chair, in his inaugural address, in view of the war then fully begun, uttered these almost prophetic words: "A government that cannot command the loyalty of its own citizens is unworthy the respect of the world; a government that will not protect its loyal citizens deserves the contempt of the world. No flag alien to the sources of the Mississippi will ever float permanently over its mouths till its waters are crimsoned with human gore; and not one foot of soil can ever be wrenched from the jurisdiction of the Constitution of the United States until it is baptised in fire and blood."

Sources: "The Fourth of July" and "Oration Delivered by Hon. G. A. Grow," The Republican (Montrose, Pa.), 16 July 1877, 1 and 4.

Four centuries ago a stranger stood at the gate of a Spanish convent. He begs a crust of bread and a glass of water to relieve the fatigue of a weary journey. Friendless, he wanders over Europe in search of a patron for the grand idea that absorbs yhis soul, too vast to be contained by a single hemisphere. He seeks an unknown world beyond the trackless sea. To the philosopher he is a visionary, to the priest a heretic, to the mass of his countrymen a wild fanatic.

After eighteen long years of importunity at the temple gates, at the portals of power and the palaces of wealth, and just as the last faint, flickering hope is about to expire in his bosom forever, the famished traveler drags from the mighty deep a new hemisphere, destined in the providences of God to be the theatre of the grandest drama in human existence, and bequeaths it, a legacy, to civilized man.

A quarter of a century passes away, and a devout monk sits in the cloister of a German convent, poring over a musty volume, till imbued with the teachings of his Divine Master he reiterates the great truth, first proclaimed on the sea shore and along the hill-sides of Judea, "The just shall live by faith."

The clock of Luther's hammer as he nails his thesis to the church door, rings round the world and echoes along the centuries. Henceforth man stands face to face with his Maker, requiring the interposition of neither priest, prelate, nor bishop, to secure his final salvation.

A century more passes away. Schisms in the church and dissensions in the State fill the mountain fastnesses of Swiss cantons with exiles from the homes of their kindred, until worn out with their wanderings among strangers, in strange lands, they seek a home in the New World, where they can rear their altars and worship their God unawed by the anathemas of a bigoted church or the edicts of a tyrannic state. And Plymouth Rock is consecrated forever by the exile, as he plants in the December snows the seeds of "a church without a bishop, and a state without a king."

A century and a half more passes away, and a delegate in the House of Burgesses of Virginia, in one of his bursts of impassioned eloquence, exclaims, "Give me liberty or give me death," and the New Republic is born.

The boom of cannon on the plains of Lexington shakes a continent, and bears an obsure militia colonel from the shades of Mount Vernon to the highest pannacle of earthly glory, to stand forever on that proud pedestal, peerless among men.

In the mids of the primeval forest of Columbus' new world, on the Fourth of July, seventeen hundred and seventy-six, fifty six bold merchants, farmers, lawyers, and mechanics, representing a few feeble colonists, inheriting naught but their rights on earth and their hopes in Heaven, hemmed in by the ocean in front, the wilderness and the savages in the rear, lay the foundations of a new Empire, based on the equality of all men in their inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They startle the conservatism of the ages and shake the thrones of the world by inscribing over its portals, "The just powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed."

To that hour mankind had been regarded as composed of two classes, the one born to rule, the other to be ruled; the one possessing all rights in the state, the other having no rights save such as might be conferred by the ruling class.

Seven years of bloody conflict ensues, and the Stars and Stripes, twined with the lilies of France, float out in triumph on the crimson fields of Yorktown, and the Young Republic takes its place at the fireside of nations.

But the hozannas to Liberty are echoed in the wail of the bondman. Three quarters of a century more, and the iron hail gbeating on the walls of Sumter again shakes a continent, and the prison doors of the house of bondage are sundered forever.

A half million of hero patriots sleep in carly graves. The Martyr President seals with his blood the emanicipation of a race, and grasping four millions of broken chains ascends from earth to Heaven, thus consecrating forever the land of Washington as the home of the emigrant and the asylum of the exile of every clime and of all races of men.

Henceforth the Goddess of Liberty can rear her altars without shuddering at the clank of the chain, riveted by her professed votaries. Wherever on earth's broad surface wrong may be done to bleeding humanity, every American heart will beat in sympathy, and it powerless to do aught else, will drop a tear o'er the sad fate of the oppressed.

Grievously the nation sinned; grievously it has atoned. God so ordained in the retribution of his providences, that for the sighs and tears wrung from the bondman, through his ages of sorrow, he exacted the sighs and tears of a nation, mourning its unreturning brave. The wealth coined in the sweat of the laborers unrequited toil he scattered to the winds, in the havoc and devastation of war.

Will the Republic learn from this terrible visitation of anguish and woe that the only sure foundation for social peace and national perpetuity is in equal and just laws, administered alike for the protection of every citizen.

National disasters are not the growth of a day, but the fruit of long years of injustice and wrong.

We are told by theorist on the rise and fall of empires that nations once great and powerful crumbled to decay by reason of the extent of their territory or the vastness of their population. And we read in the essays of scholars that the once proud mistress of the world, enthroned on her seven hills, fell to pieces by too great expansion of her territorial limits.

No nation ever yet died, or ever will, no matter what the extent of its territory or how vast its population, if governed by just laws and imbued with a humanity as broad as the race.

Rome died the day she marched in her triumphal processions long trains of captive from conquered provinces, to be consigned to cruel bondage on her soil. Her glory departed never more to return, when she hurled men, women and children, into the arena of her Colisseum, to be torn to pieces by wild beasts, as a gala-day spectacle for her populace.

Any nation will die that incorporates into its institutions, its customs, or its laws, a barbarism that blunts the sense of justice and chills the humanity of its people.

Every sigh wrung from crushed humanity by organized wrong ascends on the prayers of the victim to the throne of eternal justice, and sooner or later comes back in bitter retributions on the head of the wrong doer. If the rulers or the lawmakers of a people fail to profit by such lessons, then in the providences of God, Pharaoh-like, they must be taught by multipied woes.

A nation whose people shall practice the gret precept, "Whatsoever ye would that others should do to you do ye even so to them," will live forever.

The plans of an overruling providence, in the affairs of men, formed when the morning stars first sang together, are wrought out through the ages, and wwe trace the wisdom of the original design in the development of succeeding events. No matter how widely separated they may be as to time or place, they are but links in the grand chain of beneficent results.

God, in His wisdom, kept the New World a howling wilderness, so that, in the fullness of time, when new principles of action,new social organisms, were to be developed, it could be done on the ashes of the wilderness and the ruins of savage life, thus saving the labor of a long and possibly bloody conflict in snapping the ties of life-long prejudices, in supplanting the old by the new.

Most of the evils that afflict society have had their origin in violence and wrong, enacted into law by the experience of the past, and retained by the prejudices of the present.

Had the New World been peopled anterior to the moral earthquake of the Reformation, which shattered the time-consecrated formulas of religious ideas, and broke up the prevailing notions as to individual rights and duties, it would have been necessary to demolish the old before testing the new.

It was indispensable that the invention of the mariner's compass should precede the adventurous age, whose spirit led Columbis to brave the perils of an unknown and shorless waste of waters.

The mission of the homeless Nazarine, with his teaching from the manger to the cross, were, by reason of persecutions by the civil authorities, borne by His faithful disciples, as living witnesses, to the heart of the Roman empire; spread thence through the German forests of our Saxon ancestry, to be by them transplanted to their new homes in the British Isle, where the seeds of the new religion might germinate and ripen for its harvest home in the New World.

With the shadows of these mighty events hovering around us, we come on this anniversary of the nation's birth to dedicated this monument to the heroic dead, and lay on votive offerings upon their hallowed dust.

Not that blocks of stone or tablets of brass are necessary to perpetuate their memories. They live in the affections of the present, and will live in the gratitude of all time. Their tombs are the hearts of the great and the good, their monuments the granite hills of a nation rejoicing in freedom. Though wrapped in the shroud they are not dead. To live in the kindly remembrance of those who come after us, is not to die.

The period of existence allotted to each individual in this world's pilgrimage, is at best but a fleeting shadow on the dial-plate of time:

'Tis the wink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death.
Not days, nor years, but heroic trials, brave deeds, and deep feelings make up the calendar of life. He lives longest who lives most for his country and his race.
Whether on the scaffold high,
Or in the army's van,
The fittest place for man to die,
Is where he dies for man.
As we bedew the grass-grown mounds of our country's fallen heroes with affection's holiest tears, we do it in doubt whether most to mourn or rejoice at their fate. For
If there be on this earthly spehere,
A boom, an offering, Heaven holds dear,
'Tis the last libation liberty draws
From the heart that bleeds and breaks in her cause.
Over the Marathons and through the Thermopylaes of the world's history, nation's [sic} have achieved a more glorious mission and the race better development.

It seems to be a part of the plans of divine providence that every marked advance in civilization must begin in mighty convulsions. the moral law was first proclaimed in the thunders of Sinai, and the earthly mission of the Saviour of mankind closed with the rending of mountains and the throes of the earthquake. the Goddess of Liberty herself was born in the shock of battle, and amidst its carnage has carved out her grandest victories, while o'er its crimsoned fields the race has marched on to higher and nobler destinies.--Asthe lightnings of Heaven rend and destroy only to purify and reinvigorate, so freedom's cannon furrows the fields of decaying empires, and seeds them anew with human gore, from which springs a more vigorous race, to cherish the hopes and guard the rights of mankind.

Some things are worthless, and some so good
That nations who buy them pay only in blood.
the long promised millenium of the race will come when all governments are based on the consent of the governed, and every human being is in the enjoyment of liberty, protected by law. then, and not till then, can the sword be beaten into plowshares and the spear into pruning hooks. The lion and the lamb will lie down together when liberty and oppression, justice and injustice shall cease to struggle for supremacy in the affairs of men. Till that time the ear of humanity will be pained with the roar of histile cannon, and the angels must weep over the martyred brave.

Never was sword unsheathed in holier cause than that of the perpetuity of the American Union. For if the time shall ever come that, torn by faction and internal strife, it falls, rent and dismembered, it will be the knell of man's political hopes, the death sigh of liberty on earth. The last great experiment of free elective government among men will then have been tried; and the Goddess of Liberty, heaving her last sigh, may wing her way back from earth to Heaven; and the downtrodden of the world can hug their chains as the only legacy they can bequeath to their children.

Soldiers' Orphans--Your fathers died that the Republic might live. Though it brought anguish to your young hearts and clouded the morning of your days with sadness, yet, through life, you will bear the proud consciousness that in the hour of the country's direst peril it was your kindred who gave their lives to save it from destruction. The Commonwealth, though it can shed no tears, takes you to its bosom, and in its effort to supply, so far as it can, the place of those you mourn, provides you a home in its orphan shcools, where you are to be fitted, so far as education can do it, for the trials and the duties of life.

Let all the ends thou almst at be thy country's,
Thy God's, and truth's.
And so live that when called at the close of life to pass the dark shadow of the valley you may be buoyed in that trying hour by the consciousness that in no way have you added to the weight of human woe; but have, in some slight degree at least, alleviated the sufferings of the race.
May life be for thee one summer's day,
And all that thou wishest, and all that thou lovest,
Come smiling around thy sunny way.
Veteran Soldiers--This monument will stand, till time crumbles it to dust, a memento of the heroic sacrifices of you and your copatriots in arms, also as a fisible incentive, stimulating the living to emulate the patriotic devotion of the dead, thus purifying the thoughts and enobling the ambitions of the living, while consecrating the memoris of the dead. They sleep in honored graves, and as you go, one by one, to your final resting place the tears of the great and the good will moisten your ashes, and the benison of coming times will rest upon your urn.

Your deeds will live, long after the marble crumbles and the brass fades. In the gloom of future national disasters--should such be in store for us--

When the battle's distant wail
Breaks the Sabbath of our vale;
When the clarion's music thrills,
To the heart of these lone hills.
Calling upon freemen, to strike,
For liberty, for country, and right.
your example will nerve the arm and steel the heart for the conflict.

All nations have had their days of disaster; all civil war has strewn the pathway of empires with mouldering ruins. The founders of the Republic, though canonized as the wisest of men that ever laid the corner stone of an empire, yet in the grand temple of liberty which they reared they left the coaker worm of human bondage to gnaw at the vitals of free institutions till the crisis hour came when one or the other must die. In that deadly conflict twenty millions of freemen vowed, Hannibal-like, at the altar of their country, that whatever else might perish it should not be the institutions of their fathers.

The night of our first great disaster is passed, and the foundations of our national greatness still stand strong. Turning from the shades of a sorrowful past, let us hail the sun-lit dawn of a glorious future.

A victorious party, in a carnival of blood, can not in this age convert itself into a party of perpetual hates. Hates and rancors must of course some day have an end. Standing, then, by the green graves of the fallen heroes of both sections, and dropping a tear at the disconsolate fireside where affection still mourns the unreturning brave, let us bury with the heroic dead the animosities engendered in the conflict; and while pointing to the past as a beacon-warning for the future, let us remember that we are all American citizens, glorying in the traditions of a common ancestry, and vieing with each other in deeds of patriotic devotion for the advancement of the greatness and the glory of the republic, henceforth bound together as one people, homogeneous in ideas and institutions, from the gulf to the lakes, and from ocean to ocean, with one union and one destiny, now and forever.

This page last updated July 2009.

Go back to the Fourth of July homepage