Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
A Forecast of Peace and Reunion
By William Henry Seward (18011872)
[Speech at Gettysburg, Penn., 18 November, 1863.]
FELLOW-CITIZENS: I am now sixty years old and upward. I have been in public life, practically, forty years of that time, and yet this is the first time that ever any people or community so near to the border of Maryland was found willing to listen to my voice; and the reason was that I saw, forty years ago, that slavery was opening before this people a graveyard that was to be filled with brothers falling in mutual political combat. I knew that the cause that was hurrying the Union into this dreadful strife was slavery; and when during all the intervening period I elevated my voice, it was to warn the people to remove that cause while they could by constitutional means, and so avert the catastrophe of civil war which has fallen upon the nation. I am thankful that you are willing to hear me at last. I thank my God that I believe this strife is going to end in the removal of that evil which ought to have been removed by deliberate councils and peaceful means. I thank my God for the hope that this is the last fratricidal war which will fall upon the country which is vouchsafed to us by Heaven,the richest, the broadest, the most beautiful, the most magnificent, and capable of a great destiny, that has ever been given to any part of the human race. And I thank him for the hope that when that cause is removed, simply by the operation of abolishing it, as the origin and agent of the treason that is without justification and without parallel, we shall thenceforth be united, be only one country, having only one hope, one ambition, and one destiny. To-morrow, at least, we shall feel that we are not enemies, but that we are friends and brothers, that this Union is a reality, and we shall mourn together for the evil wrought by this rebellion. We are now near the graves of the misguided, whom we have consigned to their last resting-place, with pity for their errors, and with the same heart full of grief with which we mourn over a brother by whose hand, raised in defence of his government, that misguided brother perished.
When we part to-morrow night, let us remember that we owe it to our country and to mankind that this war shall have for its conclusion the establishing of the principle of democratic government,the simple principle that whatever party, whatever portion of the community prevails by constitutional suffrage in an election, that party is to be respected and maintained in power until it shall give place, on another trial and another verdict, to a different portion of the people. If you do not do this, you are drifting at once and irresistibly to the very verge of universal, cheerless, and hopeless anarchy. But with that principle this government of oursthe purest, the best, the wisest, and the happiest in the worldmust be, and, so far as we are concerned, practically will be, immortal.