Remarks at The Weirs, New Hampshire

August 28, 1902

An American who has a proper sense of the relative proportion of things must realize that to the men who fought for the Union in the dark days of the Civil War there is owing a greater debt of gratitude than to any others. Great were the deeds you did and vital the need of doing them, and many were the lessons taught the rest of us; both by what you accomplished in the war and by the way in which when the war was over you turned to the work of peace with the same spirit which had led you to triumph on the battlefields. During the life time of our Republic each generation has had its allotted task. States man and soldier, the man in public life and the man in private life, each has had work to do for the nation. We have moved forward swiftly or have stumbled and halted according as the work as a whole, was well or ill done.

We have encountered many crises of importance, and from time to time have been brought face to face with great problems, upon the rightful solution of which much of the nation's welfare depended. But to you alone it was given to face with victorious valor the one crisis in which not merely the nation's wellbeing but the nation's life was at stake. To you it was given to solve the one problem, which, if not solved aright, meant death for our people. All of the work of the men who founded this republic would have gone for nothing had you not done your part well. It was the statesmanship of Lincoln, the soldiership of Grant and the loyal valor of those who upheld the arms of the one and followed the sword of the other which made permanent the work of Washington, of Marshall and their compeers.

We won in the great trial of the Civil War and came through the fiery furnace unscathed. We sprang level to the height of our opportunity instead of sinking into the gulf of ignoble failure, because in the early sixties you and those like you—in the flower of youth and early manhood—had in you the stuff that knows how to prize certain ideals more than material wellbeing, more than life itself. There was no money reward for what you did. There was hardly one of you who did not during those four years receive far less than he could have earned at home, in safety. But you were driven to the work by the lash of your own hearts. You were spurred onward by the lift which only comes to a people of great and generous soul. You felt instinctively that there were causes far greater than anything that has to do merely with wealth or bodily wellbeing. You were willing to wager all for the prize of death in righteous war.

We are now in a time of abundant peace, and not in time of war; but woe to us if in peace we do not have ideals as lofty as yours, and if we do not live up to them as you lived up to yours in the dark days of defeat and in the golden glory of the hour of triumph. Courage and loyalty, the stern determination to do exact justice, the high purpose to struggle for the right, and the common sense to struggle for it in practical fashion—all these qualities we must show now in our civil and social and business life, as you showed them when, in the days of your youth and lusty strength, you marched forth an army with banners and brought back the peace that comes not to the weak ling and the craven but to those whose proud eyes tell of triumph tasted.

Among the greatest benefits of what you did is that you have also left us the right of hearty and loyal comradeship with your gallant opponents, who in fighting for what they conscientiously deemed to be right, fought against the stars in their courses. We are all loyal Americans now—North, South, East and West—all alike jealous of the nation's honor and welfare, proud of the nation's past and resolute that her future shall stand even higher than her past.

Besides what you actually did, besides the reunited country, the undivided nation, which we have received at your hands, we have received also the lesson of the doing of the deed. There is a great need now that we should show, if not in degree, at least in kind, the spirit that you showed. We need, in order successfully to face the difficult and complex problems of our industrial civilization, all the courage and loyalty, and all the faith, and clearsighted sanity and purpose which there is at our command. Above all, we need to learn aright and to apply the great lesson of brotherhood which you taught and practiced in the four grim years that began with Sumter and ended with Appomattox.

We have just brought to a conclusion a war in the Far East—a war which sprang up as a sequel to our short struggle with Spain. The army which has done its work so well in the Philippine Islands has had a task which was small indeed, compared with yours, but which, nevertheless, was fraught with hardship and difficulty peculiarly its own. The men who, after three years of painful, harassing, in credibly laborious warfare in the tropical jungles against a treacherous and savage foe, have finally brought peace and order and civil government in the Philippines are your sons and your successors. They claim their share in your glory by inheritance, and by their valor and their steadfast endurance have added new lustre to that glory. They have been cruelly maligned, even by some who should have known better.

In an army, in the best army, and especially in an army doing its work under such well-nigh intolerable conditions as those which confronted our troops in the Philippines, there are bound to be instances of occasional wrongdoing. The temptation to retaliate for the fearful cruelties of a savage foe is very great, and now and then it has been yielded to. There have been a few, and only a few, such instances in the Philippines, and punishment has been meted out with unflinching justice to the offenders. But the real marvel is that under such conditions there should have been so little wrongdoing. As time goes by and we get our sense of the proper proportion of things these instances will be forgotten, but there will remain for all time new pages on the honor roll of our history because of what has been done for the nation in the Philippines. Our officers and men on the march and in battle showed themselves not unworthy of you, the men of the great war. They have added to the memories of which Americans are proud, and by their labor they have brought the peaceful light of civilization into one of the world's darkest places.

We feel that we have a right to demand the support of all good citizens for the army in the Philippines because of what it has done, and we ask it also for the civil officers of the government who, with faithful toil and wisdom, are building a structure of orderly liberty on the ground made ready for them by the soldierly courage of the troops wearing the American uniform.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at The Weirs, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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