Veteran heroes of Iowa: We are all proud of the great achievements accomplished by the state of Iowa during her half century of existence, but let me assure you, my veteran friends, that in the minds and hearts of this great and intelligent people of Iowa, it all dwindles into insignificance beside the mighty heart swelling of glory and pride which every loyal citizen of Iowa takes in the glorious record of deeds of valor of that gallant young army, which over thirty years ago, she sent forth under the bright folds of these now tattered and faded battle flags.
The guns of Fort Sumter had hardly died away before an outraged people resolved to resent the insult made and to save the union. How well do I remember the stirring scenes that followed in the echoes of that fatal shot. The very air was charged with the spirit of patriotism. The fife and drum furnished the inspiration of liberty, while millions of loyal citizens kept step to the music of the union. Great war meetings were held in every community and crowded the largest halls to overflowing. Our cities and towns were thronged with a loyal and liberty-loving people. From the farms and workshops, from the counters and from the offices came the thousands ready to sacrifice their all for the glory and perpetuity of their country. I can hear those glorious songs of liberty now. I can hear the burning words of patriotism. I can see the thousands of young men in those great war meetings pushing their way down through the excited crowds, and amid storms of enthusiasm march out under the folds of their country's flag and sign the enlistment rolls to go forth to battle for their country's honor and the nation's life.
You, my brave friends, remember it all. You were all there. You remember how a few days later the company assembled in the public square to be mustered in. Everybody was there for miles around to see the boys march away. The fathers and mothers were there. The sisters and brothers, and sweethearts were all there. And amidst the cheers and tears, the sobs and heart-breakings, that gallant young company wheeled into line, keeping step to the roll of the beating drum and under the bright folds of these faded and tattered flags here to-day, marched away to battle and to die.
Four long and weary years the loyal hearts at home waited and prayed. With what earnestness did they scan the papers for the latest news from the front, and when the news came of another great battle, with what breathless eagerness did their eyes follow down the long list of dead and wounded to see if some of their own loved ones had fallen. How the hearts throbbed with joy over the news of a battle won. How they sank in anguish and dispair at the information of defeat and death. And, finally, what joy and happiness fills the land when news is received that rebellion is crushed, that the flag of our country is saved; that the boys are coming home again. And how they waited and hoped and prayed for the return of those boys.
And here they come up the street keeping step to the roll of the same old drum; under the folds of the same old flag, now riddled and rent with shot and shell and stained with dust and blood, and yet a flag redeemed and saved to float forever over one country and a united people. Everybody was there with outstretched arms to welcome the boys back again. The old fathers and mothers were all there. And what a welcome! And with it all what sadness and anguish!
The company wheels into line to be mustered out. Here and there are vacant places of those who never returned. Here and there are those with one leg or one arm; others sick and emaciated, just from the hells of Andersonville and Libby.
Veteran soldiers of Iowa, let me assure you that from the beginning to the end of that mighty struggle the great loyal heart of Iowa was always with you and for you. It was with you just thirty-three years ago to-day when the rebel forces at Wilson's creek formed ten different times and with glistening bayonets charged and recharged over the ground strewn with Iowa's dead and wounded, and ten times were hurled back to death and defeat by an Iowa regiment which stood there like a wall of adamant. How the great heart of Iowa throbbed and swelled with joy and pride over this first heroic defense of the honor of our state and the glory of our flag.
The heart of Iowa was with you at Shiloh, where Iowa soldiers fought with a heroism that is nursed only in the cradle of liberty, a heroism and bravery never surpassed in all the war history of the world.
It was with you at Donelson where the flag of an Iowa regiment waves in everlasting glory and honor. The heart of Iowa was with you at Belmont and Pea Ridge, at Corinth and Prairie Grove, at Missionary Ridge and Atlanta. It was with you as you laid there in the trenches before Vicksburg. Every heart-throb of the great loyal people of Iowa vibrated down into the very center of rebeldom, giving encouragement and cheer to the boys from Iowa. That great heart is still with you, veteran heroes of Iowa--only it is a bigger and a stronger heart. It's the heart of more than two millions of people, extending to you here to-day God's blessings along with its lasting love, its gratitude, and its honor.
What a pleasure it would be for me here to-day, had I the time, to rehearse the glorious deeds of valor of Iowa regiments and Iowa soldiers. My first thought was to select some of the principal engagements during the war in which the Iowa troops participated, but after a careful investigation of the conspicuous part Iowa troops took in nearly all the great battles of the rebellion, I can tell you frankly that my task would be much shorter and lighter were I to relate to you that part of the war's history in which Iowa troops were not participants. Out of a population of a little over six hundred thousand, the young state of Iowa sent forth over seventy thousand to the defense of the flag. "It was Iowa soldiers that marched from the Des Moines river to the Atlantic ocean, and penetrated the interior of every rebel state in the union. It was an Iowa regiment that marched into South Carolina, tore down the rebel flag from her capitol, hoisted the stars and stripes, and brought the treasonable trophy back to Iowa, and it is here to-day, the property of our state."
In the language of a gallant Iowa soldier, from the beginning until the end the story of Iowa valor was the same as that of tired comrades from other states. Not greater, for all were brave; but the Iowa soldiers were conspicuously so. Their fortune kept them at the front, they were the first everywhere. These tattered and precious battleflags floated at the front in every battle and were always found where the conflict was the thickest and the danger greatest. At Wilson's Creek, Iuka, Donelson and Shiloh, at Vicksburg, Atlanta, Allatoona, Chattanooga and Mobile, wherever Grant and Sherman led they followed and to victory. They were the heroes, the history makers of the state; their deeds will live on forever. From the beginning to the end these scarred and tattered flags floated over as brave an army as ever trod the face of the earth; over a hundred battlefields they waved in triumph.
Ours was a war for freedom, a war for the unchaining of millions of human beings. Fortunate the people to whom is given such a glorious opportunity to strike a blow for human liberty. And this is the record of but one young and vigorous state in behalf of freedom.
Increase these 135 battleflags by those furnished by other loyal states of this union, until they reach into the thousands, and then merge them all into one great and glorious flag of liberty, increase the awful sacrifice of human life until the blood of a million men has been freely poured upon the altar of our civil liberty, add to this a treasure of more than two billion of dollars, and then you have only the tangible sacrifices made by the loyal people of this great union in behalf of liberty.
What is this great flag of ours for which so much blood and treasure has been spent? It is the emblem representing the will of sixty millions of American freemen, the uncrowned king of this great republic. I saw a regiment of soldiers a few days ago assemble for parade. I saw as a distinction of honor a company selected to escort the colors to the parade grounds and present them to the regiment, to the music of "The Star Spangled Banner." I saw the flag escorted between two platoons of soldiers in front of the line and received at "present arms" by the entire regiment--the highest honor that is given in military tactics.
That flag is the uncrowned king of the American army. In line of review when passing before the president of the United States, or the chief executive of the state, the flag is received with greater honor and distinction than is accorded any human being on the face of this earth. With uncovered heads it is received, because it stands for the majesty of law and for the will of the people. Surely that flag is the uncrowned king of the American people.
The flag of governments other than republics may represent the will of some of the people, but invariably there is a personality along with it represented in the arbitrary will of the ruler. Thank God the stars and stripes has no personality in it. It represents only the will of all the people. The chief executive who is selected temporarily to administer and enforce the law has no more personality in our flag than has the humblest citizen who stands beneath its protective folds. It is therefore a matter of surprise and regret that after more than a hundred years of national existence there are still citizens of this republic who fail to comprehend the relations of the citizen to the flag. It would seem as if the prejudice of centuries against the personality of the flag in despotic forms of government still exists here in America, and exists, too, against a flag that has no personality whatever. The stars and stripes stand for law, and that law made by the people, and in the making of that law every voter in the great land has had an exact and equal opportunity. How foolish it is then for American citizens to hurl personal epithets against the chief executive of the nation or state who is temporarily charged with the duty of maintaining the honor of the flag by enforcing the law which the people themselves have made. A wanton violation of law, whether by one person or a thousand, is not an insult to the executive of a state or nation, but an insult to the people themselves who made the law. And that insult is no greater so far as defying the will of the people and insulting the majesty of their law, in the commission of the crime of murder, than it is in the commission of a simple breach of the peace. The will of the people has been insulted, the majesty of law defied, the flag spurned and humiliated, as much in the one case as in the other. Violation of law has been fixed by the will of the people as the starting point for putting the machinery in motion for the enforcement of law. Not a violation resulting in bloodshed, not a violation that destroys millions of property, but violation of law. No discretionary power is given the executive to wait for bloodshed or destruction of property before the machinery for enforcement shall be used. The commencement of violation is the signal for starting in motion the machinery for its enforcement.
Unfortunate it is for the American people that there seems to be a sentiment among some of them in direct opposition to their own laws; a sentiment demanding the executive to wait until somebody is killed or some vast amount of property destroyed before the enforcement of law begins. Study and reflection on behalf of these people I am convinced will result in the gradual advancement of this unwise public sentiment in some localities, up to those very wise laws, which these same people have made, which require the executive to commence the enforcement of the law at the instant law is violated. The insult to the flag and the people's law is no greater, made by the red handed anarchists in placing the torch where it destroys life and property, than it is by the so-called industrial army traveling through the country intimidating and holding up communities for food and shelter. Both are violations of law, both wanton insults to the people who made the law. A public sentiment which shall demand a rigid enforcement of all law by the executive of the nation, of states and of counties, is essential to the progress and perpetuity of our American government. A public sentiment which fails to demand the same swift and rigid enforcement of law against a thousand violators that it does against a single individual is a sickly sentiment, indicative of governmental weakness, a maudling sentimentality, dangerous alike to the freedom, happiness, and prosperity of the people. I am convinced that the strong and healthy sentiment of the American people demands that all the laws shall be obeyed, and that they shall be rigidly enforced whether it be against a single violator or a mob of ten thousand.
The blood and treasure expended to preserve this mighty fabric of civil liberty, is too awful a sacrifice to have it endangered now by a weak and sickly sentiment. A government, the best ever devised by mankind for the protection of the people's liberty, a government which gives the poor man better opportunities for advancement in life than any other government known to civilization, must not and will not be endangered and its usefulness impaired by the failure of a small portion of the American people to discern the difference between liberty in its broadest sense and license. Patriotism and loyalty in the enforcement of all law by the American people means the continual and lasting glory of the American republic.
Like an echo of the past comes the words of inspiration from the immortal Lincoln: "Let reverence of law be breathed by every mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in the schools, seminaries and colleges; let it be written in primers, spelling-books and almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpits and proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. In short, let it become the political religion of the American people."
These loved and honored battleflags--how dear they are to the heart of Iowa. Once so bright and beautiful, now so ragged and tattered and faded. But we love them, revere them and honor them for what they are and for all they represent. We love them because that grand old patriot, Iowa's war governor, sent you forth under the folds of these bright flags to battle and to die for liberty. We love them because their bright stars caught the last dying look of Iowa heroes on the field of glory. We love them with all their rags and tatters, because they are stained with the blood of Iowa's noblest, bravest and best. We love them because they waved in triumph over a hundred battlefields and because they always stood for liberty and for right.
In again assuming the care and protection of these precious emblems of liberty, let me assure you, veteran heroes, that the state of Iowa fully realizes and appreciates their priceless value. Here in Iowa's beautiful capitol they shall remain forever, forming a sacred altar around which will gather in loving remembrance the grateful hearts of more than two millions of people. As long as their faded folds shall hang together they shall teach the generations that are to follow, the loyalty and bravery of Iowa's soldiers. And when the hand of time shall have brushed away the last faded shred of these precious and priceless emblems, their memory shall remain forever an inspiration to deeds of honor, of heroism and of glory.
Last update: Sun Dec 24 00:57:33 CST 1995