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Letter to the Gettysburg Committee on Memorial Day Exercises

May 20, 1898

Executive Mansion, Washington
May 20, 1898

Mr. Louis D. Wine of Committee Memorial Day Exercises, Gettysburg, 1898:

My Dear Sir:

Engagements here, the nature of which is well understood, will prevent my taking part in the Memorial Day ceremonies at Gettysburg this year, attendance upon which, under other circumstances, would have afforded me an especial gratification.

Time only enhances the lasting value and demonstrates anew the true significance of these inspiring patriotic observances. Whatever may be the character of its temporary problems, this liberty-loving Nation is not, and never can be, forgetful of the immortal heroes of the Civil War. For those who served as well as for those who fell at Gettysburg—now so peaceful and beautifully adorned with the highest creations of the sculptor’s art—our reunited fellow-countrymen, without regard to locality, creed, or political faith, have an abiding respect and the most cordial esteem.

To-day those who contended on this historic field nearly thirty-five years ago, and their descendants, are mustering under the same flag, enthusiastic in their devotion to the Nation and willing to make any sacrifice for its honor

The debt of gratitude which we owe to the Nation’s defenders can never be completely repaid either by this or future generations, yet the acknowledgment of this obligation each year, in various forms and in a multitude of places throughout this broad land, purifies our ideas and brings us all nearer together in sympathy of sentiment and unity of purpose.

No time could be more appropriate than the present to approach in a fitting spirit those sacred themes of the love of country and the rights of man. Generations come and go, and the issues for which they fought and died soon pass into history. But the living principles of undertakings worthily accomplished, for an unselfish purpose, abide forever and guide us to a nobler destiny and still greater achievements as a nation.

   Very sincerely yours,

 Source:  The New York Times, May 31, 1898, p. 5.

William McKinley, Letter to the Gettysburg Committee on Memorial Day Exercises Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/372140

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