Friends of my boyhood - I thank you for this most hearty welcome. I am especially thankful for the kind words of the tried and valued friend of my family, Mr. Hunter, and for the warmth with which Colonel Connell and the soldiers have received me. With the latter, I can deal in very few words, for they know that with us words are few, and mean much, and that when the times comes again, we will go where the Stars and Stripes lead, without asking many questions.
My old friends and neighbors, I knew your fathers before you better than yourselves, for it is thirty years since I left here a boy, and now, in full
manhood, I find myself again among you, with a name connected with the history of our country. During the past four years my mind has been so intent upon but one thing - the success of our arms - that I have thought of nothing else. I claim no special honor, only to have done a full man's share;for when one's country is in danger, the man who will not defend it, and sustain it, with his natural strength, is not man at all. For this I claim no special merit, for I have done simply what all the boys in blue have done. I have only labored with the strength of a single man, and have used the brains I inherited and the education given by my country. The war through which we have just passed has covered a wide area of country, and imposed upon us a task which, like a vast piece of machinery, required many parts, all of which were equally important to the working of the whole. Providence assigned me my part, and, if I have done it, I am well satisfied.
The past is now with the historian, but we must still grapple with the future. In this we need a guide, and fortunately for us all, we can trust the constitution which has safely brought us through the gloom and danger of the past. Let each State take care of its own local interests and affairs, Ohio of hers, Louisiana of hers, Wisconsin of hers, and the best results will follow. You all know well that I have lived much in the South, and I say that though we have been bitter and fierce enemies in war, we must trust this people again during peace. The bad men among them will separate from those who ask for order and peace, and when the people do thus separate we can encourage the good, and if need be, we can cut the head of the bad off at one blow. Let the present take care of the present, and with the faith inspired by the past, we can trust the future to the future. The Government of the United States and the constitution of our fathers have proven the strength and power in time of war, and I believe our whole country will be even more brilliant in the vast and unknown future than in the past.
Fellow-soldiers and neighbors, again I thank you. I do not wish you to consider this a speech at all, for I do not profess to be a man of words. I prefer to see you separately, at your leisure, in a social way. I shall be with you for some days, and I shall be pleased to have you call in whenever you feel likeit, in the old familiar way, without any of the formality and reserve which were proper enough in the midst of the armies.