Washington, July 3, 1865.
D. Wills, Chairman of Committee of Arrangements, Gettysburg Monument Association.
I had promised myself the pleasure of participating in person in the proceedings of to-morrow. That pleasure I am, by indisposition, reluctantly compelled to forego. I should have been pleased, standing on that twice consecrated spot, to share with you your joy at the return of peace; to greet with you the surviving heroes of the war, who come back with light hearts, though heavily laden with honors, and with you to drop grateful tears to the memory of those that will never return. Unable to do so in person, I can only send you my greetings, and assure you of my full sympathy with the purpose and spirit of your exercise to-morrow. Of all the anniversaries of the Declaration of Independence, none has been more important and significant than that upon which you assemble. Four years of struggle for our nation’s life have been crowned with success; armed treason is swept from the land; our ports are reopened; our relations with other nations are of the most satisfactory character; our internal commerce is free; our soldiers and sailors resume the peaceful pursuits of civil life; our flag floats on every breeze, and the only barrier to our national progress—human slavery —is forever at an end. Let us trust that each recurring Fourth of July shall find our nation stronger in number, stronger in wealth, stronger in the harmony of the citizens, stronger in its devotion to nationality and freedom. As I have often said, I believe that God sent this people on a mission among the nations of the earth, and that when he founded our nation, he founded it in perpetuity. That faith sustained me through the struggle that is passed—it sustains me now that new duties are devolved upon me and new dangers threaten us. I feel that whatever the means He uses, the Almighty is determined to preserve us as a people. And since I have seen the love our fellow-citizens bear their country, and the sacrifices they have made for it, my abiding strength has been stronger than ever that a government of the people is the strongest as well as the best of governments. In your joy to-morrow I trust you will not forget the thousands of whites as well as blacks whom the war has emancipated, who will hail this Fourth of July with a delight which no previous anniversary of the Declaration of Independence ever gave them. Controlled so long by ambitious, selfish leaders, who used them for their own unworthy ends, they are now free to serve and cherish the Government against whose life they in their blindness struck.
I am greatly mistaken if in the States lately in rebellion we do not henceforward have exhibitions of such loyalty and patriotism as were never seen or felt there before. When you have consecrated a national cemetery you are to lay the corner-stone of a national monument which in all human probability will rise to the full height and proportion of your design. Noble as this monument of stone may be, it will be be but a faint symbol of the monument which, if we do our duty, we shall raise among the nations of the earth upon the foundation laid nine-and-eighty years ago in Philadelphia. Time shall wear away and crumble this monument; but that, based as it is upon the consent, virtue, patriotism and intelligence of the people, each year shall make firmer and more imposing.
Your friend and fellow-citizen,