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Robert Ingersoll Sumters Gun

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Sumters Gun

Robert Green Ingersoll


1861 -- April 12th -- 1891.

FOR about three-quarters of a century the statesmen, that is
to say, the politicians, of the North and South, had been busy
making compromises, adopting constitutions and enacting laws; busy
making speeches, framing platforms and political pretenses, to the
end that liberty and slavery might dwell in peace and friendship
under the same flag.

Arrogance on one side, hypocrisy on the other.

Right apologized to Wrong for the sake of the Union.

The sources of justice were poisoned, and patriotism became
the defender of piracy. In the name of humanity mothers were robbed
of their babes.

Thirty years ago to-day a shot was fired, and in a moment all
the promises, all the laws, all the constitutional amendments, and
all the idiotic and heartless decisions of courts and all the
speeches of orators inspired by the hope of place and power, were
blown into rags and ravelings, pieces and patches.

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The North and South had been masquerading as friends, and in
a moment, while the sound of that shot was ringing in their ears,
they faced each other as enemies.

The roar of that cannon announced the birth of a new epoch.
The echoes of that shot went out, not only over the bay of
Charleston, but over the hills, the prairies and forests of the

These echoes said marvelous things and uttered prophecies that
none were wise enough to understand.

Who at that time had the slightest conception of the immediate
future? Who then was great enough to see the end? Who then was wise
enough to know that the echoes would be kept alive and repeated for
years by thousands and thousands of cannon, by millions of muskets,
on the fields of ruthless war?

At that time Abraham Lincoln, an Illinois lawyer, was barely
a mouth in the President's chair, and that shot made him the most
commanding and majestic figure of the nineteenth century -- a
figure that stands alone.

Who could have guessed the names of the heroes to be repeated
by countless lips before the echoes of that shot should have died

There was at that time a young man at Galena, silent,
unobtrusive, unknown; and yet, the moment that shot was fired he
was destined to lead the greatest host ever marshaled on a field of
war, destined to receive the final sword of the Rebellion.

There was another, in the Southwest, who heard one of the
echoes of that shot, and who afterward marched from Atlanta to the
sea; and another, far away by the Pacific, who also heard one of
the echoes, and who became one of the immortal three.

But, above all, the echoes were heard by millions of men and
women in the fields of unpaid toil, and they knew not the meaning,
but felt that they had heard a prophecy of freedom. And the echoes
told of death and glory for many thousands -- of the agonies of
women -- the sobs of orphans -- the sighs of the imprisoned, and
the glad shouts of the delivered, the enfranchised, the redeemed.

They who fired that gun did not dream that they were giving
liberty to millions of people, including themselves, white as well
as black, North as well as South, and that before the echoes should
die away, all the shackles would be broken, all the constitutions
and statutes of slavery repealed, and all the compromises merged
and lost in a great compact made to preserve the liberties of all.


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