Remarks at the Saengerfest in Baltimore, Maryland

June 15, 1903

My fellow citizens:

Let me in the first place congratulate the city of Baltimore upon what she has done and upon the way she has done it; and then let me welcome the members of the Saengerfest Association and all the guests of Baltimore this evening. Since the beginning of our country's his tory many different race strains have entered to make up the composite American. Out of and from each we have gained something for our national character; to each we owe something special for what it has contributed to us as a people.

It is almost exactly two hundred and twenty years ago that the first marked immigration from Germany to what were then the colonies in this Western Hemisphere began. As is inevitable with any pioneers those pioneers of the German race on this side of the ocean had to encounter bitter privation, had to struggle against want in many forms; had to meet and overcome hardship; for the people that go forth to seek their well-being in strange lands must inevitably be ready to pay as the price of success the expenditure of all that there is in them to overcome the obstacles in their way. It was some fifty years later that the great tide of German immigration in colonial times began to flow hither; one of the leaders in it being Muhlenburg, the founder of a family which has contributed to military and civil life some of the worthiest figures in American history. The first of the famous speakers of the House of Representatives was Muhlenburg, of German ancestry.

Baltimore is a centre in that region of our land where from the earliest days there was that intermingling of ethnic strains which finally went to the making of the Americans who in '76 made this country a nation. Within the boundaries of this State was founded that colony which first of all on this western continent saw a government modeled upon these principles of religious freedom and toleration which we now regard as the birthrights of American citizens.

Throughout our career of development the German immigration to this country went steadily onward, and they who came here, and their sons and grandsons, played an ever-increasing part in the history of our people—a part that culminated in the Civil War; for every lover of the Union must ever bear in mind what was done in this commonwealth as in the commonwealth of Missouri, by the folk of German birth or origin who served so loyally the flag that was theirs by inheritance or adoption.

And here in this city I would be unwilling to let an occasion like this pass without recalling the part of incalculable importance played by the members of the Turn Verein of Baltimore in saving Baltimore to the Union. In congratulating every man here to whom it was given to fight in the great Civil War, in congratulating the men of Baltimore who in those dark days followed the lead of Sigel, Rapp, and Blumenberg in playing well and nobly their part in upholding the hands of Abraham Lincoln, I congratulate them thrice over be cause it was given to them to fight in a contest where the victors and the vanquished alike have bequeathed to us as a heritage the memory of the valor and the loyalty to the right as to each it was given to see the right, shown alike by the men who wore the blue and the men who wore the gray, in the great days of the Civil War. Terrible though that contest was, in which with blood and tears and sweat, with the suffering of men and the sorrow of women, the generation of Lincoln and Grant purchased for us peace and union, it paid for itself over and over again by what it left to us—not merely a reunited land, not merely a land in which freedom was a fact instead of only a boast, but above all the right as Americans to feel within us the lift toward lofty things which must come to those who know that their fathers and forefathers have in the supreme crisis entirely shown them selves fit to rank among the men of all time.

I want to say just one thing more. I feel that the men of this Association and of kindred associations are not only adding to the common fund of pleasure, but are doing genuine missionary work of a needed kind when they hold such a festival as this. I wish that everywhere in our country we could see clubs and associations including all our citizens, similar in character to that Society which has furnished the reason for the assembling of this great audience to-night. No greater contribution to American social life could possibly be made than by instilling into it the capacity for Gemüthlichkeit. No greater good can come to our people than to encourage in them a capacity for enjoyment which shall discriminate sharply between what is vicious and what is pleasant. Nothing can add more to our capacity for healthy social enjoyment than, by force of example no less than by precept, to encourage the formation of societies which by their cultivation of music, vocal and instrumental, give great lift to the artistic side, the æsthetic side of our nature; and especially is that true when we re member that no man is going to go very far wrong if he belongs to a society where he can take his wife with him to enjoy it.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at the Saengerfest in Baltimore, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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