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Robert Ingersoll Bangor Speech

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Bangor Speech (1876).

Robert Green Ingersoll

I HAVE the honor to belong to the Republican party; the grandest, the sublimest party in the history of the world. This grand party is not only in favor of the liberty of the body, but also the liberty of the soul. This sublime party gives to all the labor of their hands and of their brains. This party allows every person to think for himself and to express his thoughts. The Republican party forges no chains for the mind, no fetters for the souls of men. It declares that the intellectual domain shall be forever free. In the free air there is room for every wing. The Republican party endeavors to remove all obstructions on the highway of progress. In this sublime undertaking it asks the assistance of all. Its platform is Continental. Upon it there is room for the Methodist, the Baptist, the Catholic, the Universalist, the Presbyterian, and the Freethinker. here is room for all who are in favor of the preservation of the sacred rights of men.

I am going to give you a few reasons for voting the Republican ticket. The Republican party depends upon reason, upon argument, upon education, upon intelligence and upon patriotism. The Republican party makes no appeal to ignorance and prejudice. It wishes to destroy both.

It is the party of humanity, the party that hates caste, that honors labor, that rewards toil, that believes in justice. It appeals to all that is elevated and noble in man, to the higher instincts, to the nobler aspirations. It has accomplished grand things.

The horizon of the past is filled with the glory of Republican achievement. The monuments of its wisdom, its power and patriotism crowd all the fields of conflict. Upon the Constitution this party wrote equal rights for all; upon every statute book, humanity; upon the flag, liberty. The Republican party of the United States is the conscience of the nineteenth century. It is the justice of this age, the embodiment of social progress and honor. It has no knee for the past. Its face is toward the future. It is the party of advancement, of the dawn, of the sunrise.

The Republican party commenced its grand career by saying that the institution of human slavery had cursed enough American soil; that the territories should not be damned with that most infamous thing; at this country was sacred to freedom; that slavery had gone far enough. Upon that issue the great campaign of 1860 was fought and won. The Republican party was born of wisdom and conscience.

The people of the South claimed that slavery should be protected; that the doors of the territories should be thrown open to them and to their institutions. They not only claimed this, but they also insisted that the Constitution of the United States protected slave property, the same as other property every where. The South was defeated, and then appealed to arms. In a moment all their energies were directed toward the obstruction of this Government. They commenced the war — they fired upon the flag that had protected them for nearly a century.

The North was compelled to decide instantly between the destruction of the nation and civil war.

The division between the friends and enemies of the Union at once took place. The Government began to defend itself. To carry on the war money was necessary. The Government borrowed, and finally issued its notes and bonds. The Democratic party in the North sympathized with the Rebellion. Everything was done to hinder, embarrass, obstruct and delay. They endeavored to make a rebel breastwork of the Constitution; to create a fire in the rear. They denounced the Government; resisted the draft; shot United States officers; declared the war a failure and an outrage; rejoiced over our defeats, and wept and cursed at our victories.

To crush the Rebellion in the South and keep in subjection the Democratic party at the North, thousands of millions of money were expended — the nation burdened with a fearful debt, and the best blood of the country poured out upon the fields of battle.

In order to destroy the rebellion it became necessary to destroy slavery. As a matter of fact, slavery was the Rebellion. As soon as this truth forced itself upon the Government — thrust as it were into the brain of the North upon the point of a rebel bayonet — the Republican party resolved to destroy forever the last vestige of that savage and cruel institution; an institution that made white men devils and black men beasts.

The Republican party put down the Rebellion; saved the nation; destroyed slavery; made the slave citizen; put the ballot in the hands of the black man; forgave the assassins of the Government; restored nearly every rebel to citizenship, and proclaimed peace to, and for each and all.

For sixteen years the country has been in the hands of that great party. For sixteen years that grand party, in spite of rebels in arms — in spite of the Democratic party of the North, has preserved the territorial integrity, and the financial honor of the country. It has endeavored to enforce the laws; has tried to protect loyal men at the South; it has labored to bring murderers and assassins to justice, and it is working now to preserve the priceless fruits of its great victory.

The present question is, whom shall we trust? To whom shall we give the reins of power? What party will best preserve the rights of the people?

What party is most deserving of our confidence? There is but one way to determine the character of a party, and that is, by ascertaining its history.

Could we have safely trusted the Democratic party in 1860? No. And why not? Because it was a believer in the right of secession — a believer in the sacredness of human slavery. The Democratic party then solemnly declared — speaking through its most honored and trusted leaders — that each State had the right to secede. This made the Constitution a ‘nudum pactum’, a contract without a consideration, a Democratic promise, a wall of mist, and left every State free to destroy at will the fabric of American Government — the fabric reared by our fathers through years of toil and blood.

Could we have safely trusted that party in 1864, when, in convention assembled, it declared the war a failure, and wished to give up the contest at a moment when universal victory was within the grasp of the Republic? Had the people put that party in power then, there would have been a Southern Confederacy to-day, and upon the limbs of four million people the chains of slavery would still have clanked. Is there one man present who, to-day regrets that the Vallandigham Democracy of 1864 was spurned and beaten by the American people? Is there one man present who, to-day, regrets the utter defeat of that mixture of slavery, malice and meanness, called the Democratic party, in 1864?

Could we have safely trusted that party in 1868?

At that time the Democracy of the South was tying to humble and frighten the colored people or exterminate them. These inoffensive colored people were shot down without provocation, without mercy. The white Democrats were as relentless as fiends. They killed simply to kill. They murdered these helpless people, thinking that they were in some blind way getting their revenge upon the people of the North. No tongue can exaggerate the cruelties practiced upon the helpless freedmen of the South. These white Democrats had been reared amid and by slavery. Slavery knows no such king as justice, no such thing as mercy. Slavery does not dream of governing by reason, by argument or persuasion. Slavery depends upon force, upon the bowie-knife, the revolver, the whip, the chain and the bloodhound. The white Democrats of the South had been reared amid slavery; they cared nothing for reason; they knew of but one thing to be used when there was a difference of opinion or a conflict of interest, and that was brute force. It never occurred to them to educate, to inform, and to reason. It was easier to shoot than to reason; it was quicker to stab than to argue; cheaper to kill than to educate. A grave costs less than a schoolhouse; bullets were cheaper than books; and one knife could stab more than forty schools could convert.

They could not bear to see the negro free — to see the former slave trampling on his old chains, holding a ballot in his hand. They could not endure the sight of a negro in office. It was gall and wormwood to think of a slave occupying a seat in Congress; to think of a negro giving his ideas about the political questions of the day. And so these white Democrats made up their minds that by a reign of terrorism they would drive the negro from the polls, drive him from all official positions, and put him back in reality in the old condition. To accomplish this they commenced a system of murder, of assassination, of robbery, theft, and plunder, never before equaled in extent and atrocity. All this was in its height when in 1868 the Democracy asked the control of this Government.

Is there a man here who in his heart regrets that the Democrats failed in 1868? Do you wish that the masked murderers who rode in the darkness of night to the hut of the freedman and shot him down like a wild beast, regardless of the prayers and tears ( wife and children, were now holding positions of honor and trust in this Government? Are you sorry hat these assassins were defeated in 1868?

In 1872 the Democratic party, bent upon victory, greedy for office, with itching palms and empty pockets, threw away all principle — if Democratic doctrines can be called principles — and nominated a lifelong enemy of their party for President. No one doubted or doubts the loyalty and integrity of Horace Greeley. But all knew that if elected he would belong to the party electing him; that he would have to use Democrats as his agents, and all knew, or at least feared, that the agents would own and use the principal. All believed that in the malicious clutch of the Democratic party Horace Greeley would be not a President, but a prisoner — not a ruler, but a victim. Against that grand man I have nothing to say. I simply congratulate him upon his escape from being used as a false key by the Democratic party.

During all these years the Democratic party prophesied the destruction of the Government, the destruction of the Constitution, and the banishment of liberty from American soil.

1864 that party declared that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, there should be a cessation of hostilities. They then declared "that the Constitution had been violated in every part, and that public liberty and private rights had been trodden down.

And yet the Constitution remained and still remains; public liberty still exists, and private rights are still respected.

In 1868, growing more desperate, and being still filled with the spirit of prophecy, this same party in its platform said "Under the repeated assaults of the Republican party, the pillars of the Government are rocking on their base, and should it succeed in November next, and inaugurate its President, we will meet as a subjected and conquered people, amid the ruins of liberty and the scattered fragments of the Constitution."

The Republican party did succeed in November, 1868, and did inaugurate its President, and we did not meet as a subjected and conquered people amid the ruins of liberty and the scattered fragments of the Constitution. We met as a victorious people, amid the proudest achievements of liberty, protected by a Constitution spotless and stainless — pure as the Alpine snow thrice sifted by the northern blast.

You must not forget the condition of the Government when it came into the hands of the Republican party. Its treasury was empty, its means squandered, its navy dispersed, its army unreliable, the offices filled with rebels and rebel spies; the Democratic party of the North rubbing its hands in a kind of hellish glee and shouting, "I told you so."

When the Republican party came into power in 1861, it found the Southern States in arms; it came into power when human beings were chained hand to hand and driven like cattle to market; when white men were engaged in the ennobling business of raising dogs to pursue and catch men and women; when the bay of the bloodhound was considered as the music of the Union. It came into power when, from thousands of pulpits, slavery was declared to be a divine institution. It took the reins of Government when education was an offence, when mercy, humanity and justice were political crimes.

The Republican party came into power when the Constitution of the United States upheld the crime of crimes, a Constitution that gave the lie direct to the Declaration of Independence, and, as I said before, when the Southern States were in arms.

To the fulfillment of its great destiny it gave all its energies. To the almost superhuman task, it gave its every thought and power. For four long and terrible years, with vast armies in the field against it; beset by false friends; in constant peril; betrayed again and again; stabbed by the Democratic party, in the name of the Constitution; reviled and slandered beyond conception; attacked in every conceivable manner — the Republican party never faltered for an instant. Its courage increased with the difficulties to be overcome. Hopeful in defeat, confident in disaster, merciful in victory; sustained by high aims and noble aspirations, it marched forward, through storms of shot and shell — on to the last fortification of treason and rebellion — forward to the shining goal of victory, lasting and universal.

During these savage and glorious years, the Democratic party of the North, as a party, assisted the South. Democrats formed secret societies to burn cities — to release rebel prisoners. They shot down officers who were enforcing the draft; they declared the war unconstitutional; they left nothing undone to injure the credit of the Government; they persuaded soldiers to desert; they went into partnership with rebels for the purpose of spreading contagious diseases through the North. They were the friends and allies of persons who regarded yellow fever and smallpox as weapons of civilized warfare. In spite of all this, the Republicans succeeded. The Democrats declared slavery to be a divine institution. The Republican party abolished it. The institution of the United States was changed from a sword that stabbed the rights of four million people to a shield for every human being beneath our flag.

The Democrats of New York burned orphan asylums and inaugurated a reign of terror in order to co-operate with the raid of John Morgan. Remember, my friends, that all this was done when the fate of our country trembled in the balance of war; that all this was done when the great heart of the North was filled with agony and courage; when the question was, "Shall Liberty or Slavery triumph"?

No words have ever passed the human lips strong enough to curse the Northern allies of the South.

The United States wanted money. It wanted money to buy muskets and cannon and shot and shell, it wanted money to pay soldiers, to buy horses, wagons, ambulances, clothing and food. Like an individual, it had to borrow this money; and, like an honest individual, it must pay this money. Clothed with sovereignty, it had, or at least exercised, the power to make its notes a legal tender. This quality of being a legal tender was the only respect in which these notes differ from those signed by an individual. As a matter of fact, every note issued was a forced loan from the people, a forced loan from the soldiers in the field — in short, a forced loan from every person that took a single dollar. Upon every one of these notes is printed a promise. The belief that this promise will be made good gives every particle of value to each note that it has. Although each note, by law, is a legal tender, yet if the Government declared that it never would redeem these notes, the people would not take them if revolution could hurl such a Government from power. So that the belief that these notes will finally be paid, added to the fact that in the meantime they are a legal tender, gives them all the value they have. And, although all are substantially satisfied that they will be paid, none know at what time. This uncertainty as to the time, as to when, affects the value of these notes.

They must be paid, unless a promise can be delayed so long as to amount to a fulfillment. They must be paid. The question is, "How?" The answer is, "By the industry and prosperity of the people." They cannot be paid by law. Law made them; labor must pay them; and they must be paid out of the profits of the people. We must pay the debt with eggs, not with goose. In a terrible war we spent thousands of millions; all the bullets thrown; all the powder burned; all the property destroyed, of every sort, kind, and character; all the time of the people engaged — all these things were a dead loss. The debt represents the loss. Paying the debt is simply repairing the loss. When we as a people, shall have made a net amount, equal to the amount thrown, as it were, away in war, or somewhere near that amount, we will resume specie payment; we will redeem our promises. We praised on paper, we shall pay in gold and silver. we asked the people to hold this paper until we get the money, and they are holding the paper and we are getting the money.

As soon as the slaves were free, the Republican party said, "They must be citizens, not vagrants." The Democratic party opposed this just, this generous measure. The freedmen were made citizens. The Republican party then said, "These citizens must vote; they must have the ballot, to keep what bullet has won." The Democratic party said "No." The negroes received the ballot. The Republican party then said, "These voters must be educated, so that the ballot shall be the weapon of intelligence, not of ignorance." The Democratic party objected. But schools were founded, and books were put in the hands of the colored people, instead of whips upon their backs. We said to the Southern people, "The colored men are citizens; their rights must be respected; they are voters, they must be allowed to vote; they were and are our friends, and we are their protectors."

All this was accomplished by the Republican party.

It changed the organic law of the land, so that it is now a proper foundation for a free government; it struck the cruel shackles from four million human beings; it put down the most gigantic rebellion in the history of the world; it expunged from the statute books of every State, and of the Nation, all the cruel and savage laws that Slavery had enacted; it took whips from the backs, and chains from the limbs, of men; it dispensed with bloodhounds as the instruments of civilization; it banished to the memory of barbarism the slave-pen, the auction block, and the whipping-post; it purified a Nation; it elevated the human race.

All this was opposed by the Democratic party; opposed with a bitterness, compared to which ordinary malice is sweet. I say the Democratic party, because I consider those who fought against the Government, in the fields of the South, and those who opposed in the North, as Democrats — one and all. The Democratic party has been, during all these years, the enemy of civilization, the hater of liberty, the despiser of justice.

When I say the Democratic party sympathized with the Rebellion, I mean a majority of that party. I know there are in the Democratic party, soldiers who fought for the Union. I do not know why they are these, but I have nothing to say against them. I will never utter a word against any man who bared his breast to a storm of shot and shell, for the preservation of the Republic. When I use the term Democratic party, I do not mean those soldiers.

There are others in the Democratic party who are there just because their fathers were Democrats. They do not mean any particular harm. Others are there because they could not amount to anything in the Republican party. A man only fit for a corporal in the Republican ranks, will make a leader in the Democratic party. By the Democratic party, I mean that party that sided with the South — that believed in secession — that loved slavery — that hated liberty — that denounced Lincoln as a tyrant — that burned orphan asylums — that gloried in our disasters — that denounced every effort to save the nation — they are the gentlemen I mean, and they constitute a large majority of he Democratic party.

The Democrats hate the negro to-day, with a hatred begotten of a well-grounded fear that the colored people are rapidly becoming their superiors in industry, intellect and character.

The colored people have suffered enough. They were and are our friends. They are the friends of this country, and cost what it may they must be protected. The white loyal man must be protected. They have been ostracized, slandered, mobbed, and murdered. Their very blood cries from the ground.

These two things — payment of the debt and protection of loyal citizens, are the things to be done. Which party can be trusted?

Which will be the more apt to pay the debt?

Which will be the more apt to protect the colored and white loyalist at the South?

Who is Samuel J. Tilden?

Samuel J.Tilden is an attorney. He never gave birth to an elevated, noble sentiment in his life. He is a kind of legal spider, watching in a web of technicalities for victims. He is a compound of cunning and heartlessness — of beak and claw and fang. He is one of the few men who can grab a railroad and hide the deep cuts, tunnels and culverts in a single night. He is a corporation wrecker. He is a demurrer filed by the Confederate congress. He on the shores of bankruptcy to clutch the drowning by the throat. He was never married. Democratic party has satisfied the longings of his heart. He has looked upon love as weakness. He has courted men because women cannot vote. He has contented himself by adopting a rag-baby, that really belongs to Mr. Hendricks, and his principal business at present is explaining how he came adopt this child.

Samuel J. Tilden has been for years without number a New York Democrat.

New York has been, and still is, the worst governed city in the world. Political influence is bought and sold like stocks and bonds. Nearly every contract is larceny in disguise — nearly every appointment is a reward for crime, and every election is a fraud. Among such men Samuel J. Tilden has lived; with such men he has acted; by such men he has been educated; such men have been his scholars, and such men are his friends. These men resisted the draft, but Samuel J. Tilden remained their friend. They burned orphan asylums, but Tilden’s friendship never cooled. They inaugurated riot and murder, but Tilden wavered not. They stole a hundred millions, and when no more was left to steal — when the people could not even pay the interest on the amount stolen — then these Democrats, clapping their hands over their bursting pockets, began shouting for reform. Mr. Tilden has been a reformer for years, especially of railroads. The vital issue with him has been the issue of bogus stock. Although a life-long Democrat, he has been an amalgamationist — of corporations. While amassing millions, he has occasionally turned his attention to national affairs. He left his private affairs (and his reputation depends upon these affairs being kept private) long enough to assist the Democracy to declare the war for the restoration of the Union a failure; long enough to denounce Lincoln as a tyrant and usurper. He was generally too busy to denounce the political murders and assassinations in the South — too busy to say a word in favor of justice and liberty; but he found time to declare the war for the preservation of the country an outrage. He managed to spare time enough to revile the Proclamation of Emancipation — time enough to shed a few tears over the corpse of slavery; time enough to oppose the enfranchisement of the colored man; time enough to raise his voice against the injustice of putting a loyal negro on a political level with a pardoned rebel; time enough to oppose every forward movement of the nation.

No man should ever be elected President of this country who raised his hand to dismember and destroy it. No man should be elected President who sympathized with those who were endeavoring to destroy it. No man should be elected President this great nation who, when it was in deadly peril, did not endeavor to save it by act and word. No .should be elected President who does not believe that every negro should be free — that the colored people should be allowed to vote. No man should be placed at the head of the nation — in command of the army and navy — who does not believe that the Constitution, with all its amendments, should be sacredly enforced. No man should be elected President of this nation who believes in the Democratic doctrine of "States Rights;" who believes that this Government is only a federation of States. No man should be elected President of our great country who aided and abetted her enemies in war — who advised or countenanced resistance to a draft in time of war, who by slander impaired her credit, sneered at her heroes, and laughed at her martyrs. Samuel J. Tilden is the possessor of nearly every disqualification mentioned.

Mr. Tilden is the author of an essay on finance, commonly called a letter of acceptance, in which his ideas upon the great subject are given in the plainest and most direct manner imaginable. All through this letter or essay there runs a vein of honest bluntness really refreshing. As a specimen of bluntness and clearness, take the following extracts:

How shall the Government make these notes at all times as good as specie? It has to provide in reference to the mass which would be kept in use by the wants of business a central reservoir of coin, adequate to the adjustment of the temporary fluctuations of the international balance, and as a guaranty against transient drains, artificially created by panic or by speculation. It has also to provide for the payment in coin of such fractional currency as may be presented for redemption, and such inconsiderable portion of legal tenders as individuals may from time to time desire to convert for special use, or in order to lay by in coin their little store of money. To make the coin now in the treasury available for the objects of this reserve, to gradually strengthen and enlarge that reserve, and to provide for such other exceptional demands for coin as may arise, does not seem to me a work of difficulty. If wisely planned and discreetly pursued, it ought not to cost any sacrifice to the business of the country. It should tend, on the contrary, to the revival of hope and confidence.

In other words, the way to pay the debt is to get the money, and the way to get the money is to provide a central reservoir of coin to adjust fluctuations. As to the resumption he gives us this:

The proper time for the resumption is the time when wise preparation shall have ripened into perfect ability to accomplish the object with a certainty and ease that will inspire confidence and encourage the reviving of business The earliest time in which such a result can be brought about is best. Even when preparations shall have been matured, the exact date would have to be chosen with reference to the then existing state of trade and credit operations in our own country, and the course of foreign commerce and condition of exchanges with other nations. the specific measure and actual date are matters of details, having reference to ever- changing conditions. They belong to the domain of practical, administrative statesmanship. the captain of a steamer, about starting from New York to Liverpool, does not assemble a council over his ocean craft, and fix an angle by which to lash the rudder for the whole voyage, A human intelligence must be at the helm to discern the shifting forces of water and winds. A human mind must be at the helm to feel the elements day by day and guide to a mastery over them. Such preparations are everything. Without them a legislative command fixing a day — an official promise fixing a day, are shams. They are worse. They are a snare and a delusion to all who trust them. They destroy all confidence among thoughtful men whose judgment will at last sway public opinion. An attempt to act on such a command, or such a promise without preparation, would end in a new suspension. it would be a fresh calamity, prolific of confusion, and distress.

That is to say, Congress has not sufficient intelligence to fix the date of resumption. They cannot fix the proper time. But a Democratic convention has human intelligence enough to know that the first day of January, 1879, is not the proper date. That convention knew what the state of trade and credit in our country and the course of foreign commerce and the condition of exchanges with other nations would be on the first day of January, 1879. Of course they did, or else they never would have had the impudence to declare that resumption would be impossible at that date.

The Government of the United States, in my opinion, can advance to a resumption of specie payments on its legal tender notes by gradual and safe processes tending to relieve the present business distress. If charged by the people with the administration of the executive office, I should deem it a duty so to exercise the powers with which it has or may be invested by Congress, as the best and soonest to conduct the country to that beneficent result.

Why did not this great statesman tell us of some gradual and safe process"? He promises, if elected, to so administer the Government that it will soon reach a beneficent result. How is this to be done? What is his plan? Will he rely on "a human intelligence at the helm," or on "the central reservoir," or on some "gradual and safe process"?

I defy any man to read this letter and tell me what Mr. Tilden really proposes to do. There is nothing definite said. He uses such general terms, such vague and misty expressions, such unmeaning platitudes, that the real idea, if he had one, is lost in fog and mist.

Suppose I should, in the most solemn and impressive manner, tell you that the fluctuations caused in the vital stability of shifting financial operations, not, to say speculations of the wildest character, cannot be rendered instantly accountable to a true financial theory based upon the great law that the superfluous is not a necessity, except in vague thoughts of persons unacquainted with the exigencies of the hour, and cannot, in the absence of a central reservoir of coin with a human intelligence at the head, hasten by system of convertible bonds the expectation of public distrust, no matter how wisely planned and discreetly pursued, failure is assured whatever the real result may be.

Must we wage this war for the right forever? Is there no time when the soldiers of progress can rest? Will the bugles of the great army of civilization never sound even a halt? It does seem as though there can be no stop, no rest. It is in the world of mind as in the physical world. Every plant of value has to be cultivated. The land must be plowed, the seeds must be planted and watered. It must be guarded every moment. Its enemies crawl in the earth and fly in the air. The sun scorches it, the rain drowns it, the dew rusts it. He who wins it must fight. But the weeds they grow in spite of all. Nobody plows for them except accident. The winds sow the seeds, chance covers them, and they flourish and multiply. The sun cannot burn them — they laugh at rain and frost — they care not for birds and beasts. In spite of all they grow. It is the same in politics. A true Republican must continue to grow, must work, must think, must advance. The Republican party is the party of progress, of ideas, of work. To make a Republican you must have schools, books’ papers. To make a Democrat, take all these away. Republicans are the useful; Democrats the noxious — corn and wheat against the dog fennel and Canada thistles.

Republicans of Maine, do not forget that each of you has two votes in this election — one in Maine and one in Indiana.

Remember that we are relying on you. There is no stronger tie between the prairies of Illinois and the pines of Maine — between the Western States and New England, than James G. Blaine.

We are relying on Maine for from twelve to fifteen thousand on the 12th of September, and Indiana win answer with from fifteen to twenty thousand, and hearing these two votes the Nation in November will declare for Hayes and Wheeler.*

*This being a newspaper report and never revised by the author, is of necessity incomplete, but the publisher feels that It should not be lost.

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