Saturday, May 30, 1903
Dedication of the Soldier's Monument in Lone Fir Cemetery by David Solis-Cohen
printed in The Sunday Oregonian, May 31, 1903, page 1 and 9
In one of the most beautiful of Biblical allegories, the prophet Ezekiel is transported in spirit to the valley of bones. He hears a voice asking: “Son of man, can these bones live?” And he answers: “Thou, God, alone knowest.” Then the voice commands him to prophesy to the bones that they come together, that sinews grow upon them and flesh adhere to them and skin cover them, and, behold the semblance of man, the body physical, is restored. But there is no spirit, no life. Then the voice again commands: “Prophesy, son of man; thus saith the Lord: Come from the four winds, oh breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live,” and lo: they stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
My friends, upon this day hallowed to our Nation's dead in this sweet valley of their rest, we assemble to dedicate a monument in which their bones again shall live. From north, south, east and west we invoke the gracious spirit of patriotism which permeates our land, to give to this monument the breath of life. To endow it with a tongue, enduring as its stone and bronze, that it may speak to generations yet unborn. For we dedicate it, not only to the dead, but to the living and to those who are yet to live. To the dead—to those who gave the service of their manhood to their country, and who, in the discharge of duty or in the course of nature, have surrendered life, and here lie in the bosom of our common mother, we dedicate it as a memorial. To the living—their comrades who are still marching on in humanity's vast army towards the same rest, the reflection of the setting sun shedding heaven's glory upon so many whitened heads—we dedicate it as a witness to that honor and appreciation which is their due. To those who are yet to live, the coming sons and daughters of the Republic, we dedicate it as a reminder, a lesson, and incentive.
The blessings of peace and liberty are only to be earned through struggle and sacrifice. When the fathers of our now wondrous Nation, upon their narrow strip of country on the Atlantic Coast, devoted to the cause of freedom their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, they knew full well the cost of their resolve. As step by step, beneath the guiding hand which directs the universe, the 13 stars which graced their field of blue have brightened into the brilliant constellation of the flag which floats above us, so have the same elements of purpose, courage and self-sacrifice been necessary to the end that peace and freedom may at last become established. Established not as the possession of one land, the prerogative of one nation, but as the heritage of the sons of men beneath the spreading canopy of the heavens, everywhere and forever. For who can doubt the mission and destiny of our Republic. Who can doubt what courses guide its progress. The land of promise and example; the land of peace, of refuge and of brotherhood before the world, for all its peoples. It that progress every soldier who here lies buried has played his noble part, has served not alone his country, but humanity at large, and in the coming greatness of accomplishment every bone shall live. They fought not for the glory of triumph, nor for the material rewards of victory. For who lie here and in every consecrated dwelling of the dead throughout our land where flowers mark the soldier's resting place? Not the trained military of a nation relying for its safety upon bayonets and the sheltering wall of cannon. No. They who in their country's need left the plow, dropped tools and implements, threw down the pen, abandoned desks and shops to answer the call, and to return, if spared, when need was over to resume their civic occupations. The sons of sires who in the same need had answered in the same way—the sires of sons who in days to come, if need again shall be, will answer in the same spirit and with the same accord.
All war is cruel. No tongue may tell the misery it entails. No details, harrowing as they may be, express the fullness of suffering and dire disaster, nor can a lifetime assuage the bitterness and anguish of its train. Yet, glancing over the history of our land, its every clash of arms has tended towards that perfect peace which is the purpose of its life. Around about us in this hallowed ground lie the bones of those who served in the Mexican War; of those who protected the pioneers to whom we owe our fields and farms, cities and homes, from the onslaught of the savage; of those who unified our land forever at the fearful cost of brothers' flowing blood, and of those who aiding a struggling people to liberty, extended our country's service and responsibility beyond our Western sea. To each and every one this monument is dedicated. In the deeds of all, the irresistible course of our Nation in its relations to the world may be traced unerringly. Peace, refuge, brotherhood. At the time the Mexican War was in progress, the long-pending and serious negotiations which finally established the boundary of this great Oregon Country were brought to a conclusion. The result of the Mexican War added to that vast territory, through cession and purchase the princely domain between the Pacific and the Rio Grande, Upper California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and portions of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Both were triumphs in the cause of peace. The struggle with Mexico was inevitable. It ended the border feuds and contentions which had prevented the growth and development of our contiguous land, which presented the spectacle of continuous revolution and discord to our people. It enabled the Texan Republic, which had sought the privilege of our statehood through annexation, to enjoy the benefits of our governmental system. Yet, as in the recent war with Spain, in relation to the Philippines, our Government paid Mexico $12,000,000 for the ceded territory, which it might have claimed as the reward of conquest. Thus was this mighty Pacific Empire, the home of millions of freemen, which is to become the home and refuge of millions upon millions more, cemented and consolidated. Thus did it become established the Western border of the grand march of our country, its privileges, its responsibilities, its sublime heritage, from the Atlantic Coast across a continent whose rule of peace shall in the course of time control the world. And the service of those who took part in the Indian troubles, wars if we so term them, not of aggression, but of defense, was not that service for peace? That the land might be tilled; that homes might be built; that children might be reared and women protected; that the blessing of civilized rule might be extended alike to Indian and white, and law and order supersede the tomahawk and scalping knife. And call to witness that greatest of all struggles, in which the majority of the soldiers, who here lie buried, participated. The struggle in which the majority of the honored veterans who stand before me, you of the Grand Army of the Republic, who have so earnestly striven for the erection of this monument as a tribute to your comrades gone before, the struggle in which you risked life and all that life holds dear. Out of that dark night of discord burst in refulgent beauty the never-sinking sun of a reunited and harmonious land. And if, perchance, beneath this sod should rest the bones of one who wore the gray, who is there among you, oh wearers of the blue, who will not say, “Yes, in this monument, speaking peace, refuge, brotherhood, let his bones live with mine.” Was it not in the cause of brotherhood that the brave young volunteers, in the war with Spain, following your example left home and ease and comfort to uphold the promise and dignity of their flag? Has their service not deepened indeed,if that were possible, the responsibilities of our brotherhood? They planted our flag, with all its meaning, above a people bred in ignorance, weak and untutored in mind. Millions of people apart and distinct in all particulars from the civilization and spirit which has been the impulse of our prowess. Truly, the test of our destiny is upon us! In the hands of the Great Potter, nations take new shapes. Will the changing conditions strengthen and broaden our liberal spirit, will they imbue us with patience, forbearance, that the light and influence of our Constitution typified in National and individual action shall in time make these millions and their children our citizen brothers, or will the passions and weaknesses of humanity so overcome us that beneath the folds of that flag shall dwell a discontented and inharmonious people? The first great step beyond the confines of our seas, by marching columns, has been taken. If it be asked, “Where, what will be the next?” we can but answer in the words of Ezekiel, “Thou, God, alone knowest.” But this much we know; that so long as our country produces such sons as those whose memory we this day honor, so long will we be able to meet the work, the growth, the expanding influence marked out for us in the coming ages. That as long as the citizens of our country are mindful of the lesson this monument shall teach, the spirit in which these bones shall live again, we shall not fall below the glorious accomplishments of the past. And these are the words of the tongue we give this monument today, the words it speaks today, to speak on day by day the while it shall endure.
We fought to secure a land of peace, where the arrogance of the aristocrat, the ambition of the despot, and the malevolence of the tyrant should be unknown. Where the souls, hearts and minds of men might be developed without fear, in absolute freedom, for the general progress and the general good. Where boys and girls might grow to manhood and womanhood with an understanding and appreciation of individual responsibility and with a part and portion in the life God sends. A land of refuge, extending its borders and developing its powers to meet the requirements of time. A land open to the oppressed of all the world, a peaceful home to all who earn and deserve it. The avowed purpose of those who first peopled its Eastern Coast was to found a government beneath which each could worship God in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience. To worship God presupposes the acknowledgement of God, and God is law as well as love. Therefore, this was not to be a lawless or a godless land. Wide open ever be its ports, its homes, its privileges, its protection, to all who came for liberty, for peace, for refuge, for brotherhood—to encourage and upbuild that freedom which is the guardian of law. Let them be poor and needy—the land has home and shelter for all who will earn it. Let their form of faith be what it may—one God hears every prayer. But let there be no place among us for the anarchist or the man who reviles another's faith. To justify our sacrifice, throughout our land must live and breath and act a brotherhood of equality before God and law so strong that its voice shall be a rebuke to wrong and oppression under any flag, a protest against tyranny in any clime, strong for justice before the God of nations. Thus it will become so eminent in character, so sure in its accomplishment, so just in its own affairs, that the voice of its people shall truly be the voice of God.
And so we dedicate this monument to those who fought and those who yet may fight for peace, refuge, brotherhood. The dead, the living and those who are yet to live. As the tree is nurtured by the leaves that fall from it, so liberty is sustained and strengthened by the life of those who fall in her holy cause. In the spirit of solemn gratitude for the past and with prayerful confidence in the future, let us who have profited by the service of the brave express the parting hope that to these dead, to the friends who mourn them and were near to them in life, the mothers, sisters, wives, may come and abide that peace which surpasseth all—the peace of God. May it rest forever with our Nation and always in our hearts.