Mr. Cuyler:?I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing
here in the place where were collected together the wisdom, the
patriotism, the devotion to principle, from which sprang the institutions
under which we live. You have kindly suggested to me that in my
hands is the task of restoring peace to our distracted country. I can
say in return, sir, that all the political sentiments I entertain have been
drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them, from the sentiments
which originated, and were given to the world from this hall in which
we stand. I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring
from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.
I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by
the men who assembled here and adopted that Declaration of
Independence?I have pondered over the toils that were endured
by the officers and soldiers of the army, who achieved that
I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was
that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere
matter of the separation of the colonies from the mother land; but
something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people
of this country, but hope to the world for all future time.
It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights should
be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an
equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in that Declaration
Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can,
I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world if I can
help to save it. If it can?t be saved upon that principle, it will be truly
awful. But, if this country cannot be saved without giving up that
principle?I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on
this spot than to surrender it.
Now, in my view of the present aspect of affairs, there is no need
of bloodshed and war. There is no necessity for it. I am not in favor
of such a course, and I may say in advance, there will be no blood
shed unless it be forced upon the Government. The Government
will not use force unless force is used against it.
My friends, this is a wholly unprepared speech. I did not expect to
be called upon to say a word when I came here?I supposed I was
merely to do something towards raising a flag. I may, therefore,
have said something indiscreet, but I have said nothing but what
I am willing to live by, and, in the pleasure of Almighty God, die by.
(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, February 22, 1861.)