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Remarks at an Afternoon Banquet at the Bennington Monument in Bennington, Vermont

August 18, 1890

Mr. President and Fellow-Citizens:

Whatever temporary injury my voice has suffered was not at the hands of Vermont. New York is responsible. In Albany I spoke in the rain to a large assemblage. Perhaps, if it were worth while to trace this vocal infirmity further, I might find its origin at Cape May, for I think I started upon this trip with the elements of a cold that has to some degree marred the pleasure which I had anticipated to-day. But, notwithstanding what my friend, General Veazey, has described as "the dilapidated condition "of my voice, I will respond to his request to say a word to you. I know that General Veazey had been put in charge of the transportation lines of the country; but I did not expect to find him in charge of what the boys used to call the "cracker line." It seems that his capacity for usefulness in the public service is so great and so diversified that you have called upon him to conduct the exercises of this magnificent occasion. He is a most excellent Interstate Commerce Commissioner, an honor to your State, and I have no criticism of him as president of the day, except that he calls too much attention to me.

This scene, these tables so bountifully and so tastefully spread, was one full of beauty when we entered, but it seems now to have taken on some of that "dilapidation" which General Veazey ascribed to my voice. I am sure that if the supplies gathered at Bennington to-day had been here in 1777 that struggle would have been much more obstinate. But, my fellow-citizens, there is much in this occasion that is full of instruction to the strangers who by your hospitable invitation have the privilege of meeting with you. Wherever men may have been born within this galaxy of great States, which makes the greater Union, there is respect and honor for the New England character. It has been a source of strength to the nation in its development in material things. It has furnished to literature and to invention some of the largest contributions; but, more than all this, it has done a great work for all the States, and especially those States of the West and Northwest in which its enterprising sons have found new homes, in establishing everywhere a love of social order and a patriotic devotion to the Union of States. If we seek to find the institutions of New England that have formed the character of its own people and have exercised a stronger molding influence than that of any other section upon our whole people we shall find them, I think, in their temples, in their schools, in their town meetings, and in their God-fearing homes. The courage of those who fought at Bennington, at Concord, Lexington, Bunker Hill, and Saratoga was born of a high trust in God. They were men who, fearing God, had naught else to fear. That devotion to local self-government which originated and for so long maintained the town meeting, establishing and perpetuating a true democracy, an equal, full participation and responsibility in all public affairs on the part of every citizen, was the cause of the development of the love of social order and respect for Law which has characterized your communities, has made them safe and comemorable abodes for your people. These migrations between the States have been to your loss, but there is now a turning back to these States of New England and to some of its unused farms, which I believe is to continue and increase. The migration which you have sent into the South to develop its industries, to open its mines, to set up factories and furnaces, is doing marvelous work in unifying our people. As I journeyed recently across the continent this oneness of our people was strongly impressed upon me. I think these centennial observances which have crowded one upon another from Concord to the centennial of the adoption of the Constitution and the organization of the Supreme Court have turned the thought of our people to the most inspiring incident in our history, and have greatly intensified and developed our love of the flag and our Constitution. I do not believe there has been a time in our history when there has been a deeper, fonder love for the unity of the States, for the flag that emblematizes this unity, and for the Constitution which cements it.

I believe we have come to a time when we may look out to greater things. Secure in our institutions, enriched almost beyond calculation, I believe we have reached a time when we may take a large part in the great transactions of the world. I believe our people are prepared now to insist that the American flag shall again be seen upon the sea, and that our merchants and manufacturers are ready to seize the golden opportunity that is now offered for extending our commerce into the States of Central and South America. I believe that conservative views of finance will prevail in this country. I am sure discontent and temporary distress will not tempt our people to forsake those safe lines of public administration in which commercial security alone rests. As long as the general Government furnishes the money of the people for their great business transactions I believe we will insist, as I have said before, that every dollar issued, whether paper or coin, shall be as good and be kept as good as any other dollar that issues. The purity, the equality of what we call dollars must be preserved, or an element of uncertainty and of bankruptcy will be introduced into all business transactions. This I may say without crossing lines of division. How this end is to be attained I will not attempt to sketch, but I do not hesitate to say that I feel myself, in the public interest, pledged so far as in me lies to maintain that equality between our circulating money that is essential to the perfect use of all.

I have gone beyond the promise of the president of the day, and have been betrayed by your friendliness into speaking two or three words. May I, in closing, tender to these good women of Vermont my thanks for the grace and sweetness which their services and their presence have lent to this happy occasion? May I say to them that the devoted services of their mothers, their courage and patience and helpfulness shown by the women in the great struggle for liberty can not be too highly appreciated? It was an easier fate to march with bared breasts against the Hessian ramparts at Bennington than to sit in the lonely homestead awaiting the issue with tearful eyes uplifted to God in prayer for those who periled their lives for the cause. All honor to the New England mother, the queen of the New England home! There, in those nurseries of virtue and truth, have been found the strongest influences that have molded your people for good and led your sons to honor.

Benjamin Harrison, Remarks at an Afternoon Banquet at the Bennington Monument in Bennington, Vermont Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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