Robert Green Ingersoll
SUMTER'S GUN. 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. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 13 SUMTER'S GUN. 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 continent. 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 away? 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. END
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