The marvelous development and progress of this republic is due to the fact that in rigidly adhering to the advice of Washington for absolute neutrality and non-interference in the politics and policies of other governments we have avoided the necessity of depleting our industries to feed our armies, of taxing and impoverishing our resources to carry on war, and of limiting our liberties to concentrate power in our government.
The development of liberty was impossible while she was shackled to the slave.
With sublime trust it left to liberty the elevation of the freedmen to political rights and the conversion of the rebel to patriotic citizenship.
Peace and its opportunities for material progress and the expansion of popular liberties send from here a fruitful and noble lesson to all the world.
[The Marquis de Lafayette] was a young officer of nineteen, stationed at Metz, when he met at the table of his commander the Duke of Gloucester, the brother of George the Third. The Duke brought news of an insurrection which had broken out in the American colonies, and read, to the amazement of his hearers, the strange dogmas and fantastic theories which these “insurgents,” as he called them, had put forth in what they styled their Declaration of Independence.
Henceforth his life was dedicated to *’ Liberty Enlightening the World.” . . . ‘ Thus far you have seen my zeal only; now it shall be something more. I will purchase and equip a vessel myself. It is while danger presses that I wish to join your fortunes.”
Lafayette flees France at age 20 and writes to his wife: “”I hope for my sake you will become a good American. This is a sentiment proper for virtuous hearts. Intimately allied to the happiness of the whole human family is that of America, destined to become the respectable and sure asylum of virtue, honesty, toleration, equality, and of tranquil liberty.”
” I wish to serve you as a volunteer and without pay,” and at twenty took his place with Gates and Green and Lincoln as a Major-General in the Continental Army. As a member of Washington’s military family, , sharing with that incomparable man his board and bed and blanket, Lafayette won his first and greatest distinction in receiving from the American chief a friendship which was closer than that bestowed upon any other of his compatriots, and which ended only in death. The great commander saw in the reckless daring with which he carried his wound to rally the flying troops at Brandywine, the steady nerve with which he held the column wavering under a faithless general at Monmouth, the wisdom and caution with which he maneuvered inferior forces in the face of the enemy, his willingness to share every privation of the illy clad and starving soldiery, and to pledge his fortune and credit to relieve their privations, a commander upon whom he could rely, a patriot he could trust, a man he could love.
The fight for liberty in America was won. Its future here was threatened with but one danger, the slavery of the negro. The soul of Lafayette, purified by battle and suffering, saw the inconsistency and the peril, and he returned to this country to plead with State Legislatures and with Congress for the liberation of what he termed “my brethren. the blacks.”
Lafayette to Washington: ; “You are the most beloved of all the friends I ever had or shall have anywhere. I regret that I cannot have the inexpressible pleasure of embracing you in my own house and welcoming you in a family where your name is adored. Everything that admiration, respect, gratitude, friendship, and filial love can inspire is combined in my affectionate heart to devote me most tenderly to you. In your friendship I find a delight which no words can express.”
Lafayette to Congress: ” May this immense temple of freedom ever stand a lesson to oppressors, an example to the oppressed, a sanctuary for the rights of mankind; and may these happy United States attain that complete splendor and prosperity which will illustrate the blessings of their government, and for ages to come rejoice the departed souls of its founders.”
American liberty has been for a century a beacon light for the nations.
It means that with the abolition of privileges to the few and the enfranchisement of the individual, the equality of all men before the law, and universal suffrage, the ballot secure from fraud and the voter from intimidation, the press free and education furnished by the State for all, liberty of worship and free speech; the right to rise, and equal opportunity for honor and fortune, the problems of labor and capital, of social regeneration and moral growth, of property and poverty, will work themselves out under the benign influences of enlightened law-making and law-abiding liberty, without the aid of kings and armies, or of anarchists and bombs.
The rays from this beacon, lighting this gateway to the continent, will welcome the poor and the persecuted with the hope and promise of homes and citizenship. It will teach them that there is room and brotherhood for all who will support our institutions and aid in our development; but that those who come to disturb our peace and dethrone our laws are aliens and enemies forever. I