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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Call of Freedom
By George William Curtis (1824–1892)
 
From ‘Orations and Addresses’

INTO how many homes along this lovely valley came the news of Lexington and Bunker Hill eighty years ago; and young men like us, studious, fond of leisure, young lovers, young husbands, young brothers, and sons, knew that they must forsake the wooded hillside, the river meadows golden with harvest, the twilight walk along the river, the summer Sunday in the old church, parents, wife, child, mistress, and go away to uncertain war. Putnam heard the call at his plow, and turned to go without waiting. Wooster heard it, and obeyed.  1
  Not less lovely in those days was this peaceful valley, not less soft this summer air. Life was as dear and love as beautiful to those young men as to us who stand upon their graves. But because they were so dear and beautiful, those men went out bravely to fight for them and fall. Through these very streets they marched, who never returned. They fell and were buried; but they never can die. Not sweeter are the flowers that make your valley fair, not greener are the pines that give your river its name, than the memory of the brave men who died for freedom. And yet no victim of those days, sleeping under the green sod of Connecticut, is more truly a martyr of Liberty than every murdered man whose bones lie bleaching in this summer sun upon the silent plains of Kansas.  2
  Gentlemen, while we read history we make history. Because our fathers fought in this great cause, we must not hope to escape fighting. Because two thousand years ago Leonidas stood against Xerxes, we must not suppose that Xerxes was slain, nor, thank God! that Leonidas is not immortal. Every great crisis of human history is a pass of Thermopylæ, and there is always a Leonidas and his three hundred to die in it, if they cannot conquer. And so long as Liberty has one martyr, so long as one drop of blood is poured out for her, so long from that single drop of bloody sweat of the agony of humanity shall spring hosts as countless as the forest leaves and mighty as the sea.  3
  Brothers! the call has come to us. I bring it to you in these calm retreats. I summon you to the great fight of Freedom. I call upon you to say with your voices, whenever the occasion offers, and with your votes when the day comes, that upon these fertile fields of Kansas, in the very heart of the continent, the upas-tree of slavery, dripping death-dews upon national prosperity and upon free labor, shall never be planted. I call upon you to plant there the palm of peace, the wine and the olive of a Christian civilization. I call upon you to determine whether this great experiment of human freedom, which has been the scorn of despotism, shall by our failure be also our sin and shame. I call upon you to defend the hope of the world.  4
  The voice of our brothers who are bleeding, no less than our fathers who bled, summons us to this battle. Shall the children of unborn generations, clustering over that vast western empire, rise up and call us blessed or cursed? Here are our Marathon and Lexington; here are our heroic fields. The hearts of all good men beat with us. The fight is fierce—the issue is with God. But God is good.  5
 
 
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