Remarks in Hagerston, Maryland

September 17, 1903

I am on my way to accept on behalf of the United States Government the monument erected to the New Jersey troops who fought at Antietam, but in a larger sense I go to commemorate the valor of every man who in the day that tried men's souls proved their truth by their endeavor in the service of the national government.

It is a peculiar pleasure, either to-day or any other day, to see in the audience the men who wear the button which shows that they fought in the Grand Army of the Republic. They left to us not only a reunited country, but a memory of the great deeds by which it was made united. The times are easy now compared to what they were in the days from 1861 to 1865, but we need to display just exactly the same qualities that made you win out under the lead of Abraham Lincoln.

I want to say how glad I am to see the Grand Army of the Re public, and, next to the Grand Army I want to greet the future—I want to say how glad I am to see the children.

Just one word in closing. As I said, we need to display the same qualities now that you needed in 1861. A man was not worth any thing then if he was not patriotic and decent. That was first and that was not enough. No matter how patriotic he was, if he ran away he was no good. In addition to decency he had to have the qualities that would make the decency effective.

It is just the same way now in civil life. A man must be decent, honest, upright, or he is a bad citizen; and if he has not the qualities of honesty and decency in him, then the abler he is the worse he is. I do not care how able a man is if he has not the root of clean living in him, if he is not a decent and honest man, if he is a bribe giver or a bribe taker, if he is a man who defrauds in public or private life, if he is a bad husband, bad father, bad son, then he is poor stuff out of which to make a citizen.

You of the Grand Army left us what the victory in no other war left us. You left us the right of comradeship with the vanquished, you left us the right of brotherhood with the men who wore the gray, and nothing pleases me more than the fact that to an audience comprising Union veterans one can always make the appeal for appreciation of the men who fought against you, and whose sons are now as loyal as we are to the flag of our common country.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks in Hagerston, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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