Chester A. Arthur

Address at the Yorktown Centennial Celebration

October 19, 1881

Upon this soil, one hundred years ago, our forefathers brought to a successful issue their heroic struggle for independence. Here and then was established, and as we trust made forever secure upon this continent that principle of government which is the very foundation of our political system—the sovereignty of the people.

The resentments that attended and for a time survived the clash of arms have long since ceased to animate our breasts. It is with no feeling of exultation over a defeated foe that we summon up today remembrance of the events that have made holy the ground whereon we tread. Surely no such unworthy sentiment could find harbor in our hearts, profoundly thrilled as they are by the expressions of sorrow and sympathy which our national bereavement has lately evoked from the people of England and from their august sovereign.

It is well that we have gathered here to refresh our souls with the contemplation of the unfaltering patriotism, the sturdy zeal, the sublime faith which achieved the results we now commemorate; for so, if we learn aright the lesson of the hour, shall we be incited to transmit to the generations that shall follow, the precious legacy which our fathers transmitted to us—the love of liberty protected by law.

Of the historic scene that was here enacted no feature was more prominent, and none more inspiring than the participation of our gallant allies from across the sea. It was their presence that gave fresh and vigorous impulse to the hopes of our countrymen when well nigh disheartened by a long series of disasters. It was their noble and generous aid, extended in the darkest period of the struggle, that sped the coming of our triumph and made the capitulation at Yorktown possible a century ago. To their descendants and representatives who are present as the honored guests of the Nation, it is my glad duty to offer welcome. You have a right to share with us the associations that cluster about the day when your fathers fought side by side with our fathers in the cause which was here crowned with success; and none of the memories awakened by this anniversary are more grateful to us all, than the reflection that the international friendships here so closely cemented, have outlasted the mutations of a changeful century. God grant, my countrymen, that those friendships may remain unshaken, and that from this time forth, with ourselves and with all the nations of the earth, we may be at peace.

Source: State Papers, Etc., Etc., [sic] of Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States. Washington, 1885.

Chester A. Arthur, Address at the Yorktown Centennial Celebration Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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