February 24, 1862
Washington’s Birthday.—This occasion was celebrated appropriately in this city on Saturday. A salute of thirteen guns was fired at sunrise and one gun every half hour afterwards until 11 o’clock A. M. when the National Salute of thirty four guns were fired. The city was decked all over with flags, from the most diminutive to the most extensive and gorgeous.—The streets were crowded with people who seemed to have abandoned their ordinary associations and devoted themselves to the day which gave to the world its first man in war, in peace and in the hearts of his countrymen. In accordance with the order of Gen. Rosecrans, all the officers of his Staff and all other officers on duty here assembled at the General’s headquarters about ten o’clock in full dress uniform and mounted. The officers escorted by the Cavalry Company—Gen. Rosecrans’ body Guard—proceeded to the McLure House where they dismounted. After a few moments the procession headed by Gov. Pierpoint, his aid, Col. Crothers, the state officers, Gens. Rosecrans, Schenck, Denver, and other distinguished military gentlemen started on foot for the Atheneum, where according to previous arrangement, Washington’s Farewell Address was read in an impressive manner by Gen. Wheat to a large assemblage of patriotic ladies and gentlemen. After the reading of the address, Mayor Sweeny introduced to the audience Gov. Pierpoint, Gen. Schenck, Major McPhail, Gen. Rosecrans and Gen. Denver, all of whom responded in brief addresses, which appear elsewhere.
In the evening the city was fairly on fire with illuminated windows, pyrotechnics and torch lights. The Hope, Independence and Guards Fire Companies, headed by a band of music turned out in torch light procession and marching through the principal streets were greeted at prominent places with cheers and displays of fire works. We have never seen the city so brilliantly illuminated on any occasion. The block on the West side of Main and Union was particularly attractive, from it brilliant lamination and the fire works displayed. The streets were a perfect jam, men, women and children turning out to witness the patriotic demonstration.
The hundreds of citizens who illuminated their houses are entitled to much credit for their enterprise, for illuminating houses is not what is “cracked up to be,” if the business was ever cracked up to be anything in the way of sport.
The Meeting at the Athenaeum.
Speeches of Gov. Peirpoint, General Schenck, of Ohio, General Rosecrans, Major McPhail, and General Denver, of California.
At the meeting at the Athenaeum on Saturday, General Rosecrans and Staff, Gov. Peirpoint and Suite, Gen. Robert Schenck, of Ohio, Gen. Denver, of California, and several other visitors of distinction, were present. Mayor Sweeney presided. The Farewell Address was read by Gen. Wheat, of this city, after which Gov. Peirpoint was introduced by the Mayor, and said:
Fellow Citizens: To me this is a deeply interesting occasion. We are assembled here on the birthday of George Washington, the Father of his country. If we thought of Washington, as we know him by history, as child, boy and farmer, upon the banks of the Potomac, we should think of him, perhaps, as we do of a thousand other men who have lived and died in that region. But it is of Washington’s public life, in his connection with the liberties of his country that we think of him, and it is for that that he lives in our memories.
Washington comprehended in its fullest extent the inestimable value of the liberties secured to the people of this country by the patriots of the Revolution. Washington comprehended the importance of securing the people of the States (or colonies, they were then,) from the domination of the kings of Europe; to save them from the oppression, from the taxes, from the petty insults that are practiced by potentates for the purpose of crushing out the love of liberty in a people.
He wanted them to be free to possess the largest liberty, in order that they might enjoy the greatest amount of happiness; in order that they might enjoy the products of their own liberty, of their own skill, and give scope to the genius of the then rising nation, for the development of a great nation from one end of the continent to the other.
It is in this connection that we think of Washington; and, fellow-citizens, it is with that view that he labored in the field of battle, and in the councils of the nation with statesmen; and after having spent, as he says himself, forty-five years in the public service of his country, every aim of which, from the beginning to the end, was for the procurement of the liberties of the people of his country, he laid down the power he was invested with, and in doing so, he gives us this great Farewell Address that has been read to you on the present occasion.
There is something delightful in the contemplation of the life and character of Washington, both as a military chief and as a civilian; and when he laid down his power as a civilian, as if to perpetuate his own fame and his own glory, (though he had no other idea in this than to perpetuate the glory and fame of his country,) he left as a precious legacy this address, read on this occasion, which seems to point out the future honor and future glory of the country, while, at the same time it points out with prophetic ken the future destruction that would be sought to be brought upon it. And, fellow-citizens, listenening as you have to this Address on the present occasion, you see where Washington looked in the greatness of the nation as the home and refuge of the old world, where they could find liberty and enjoy the privileges of a free people And he looked to partisans that were going to rise up in this country for the purpose of breaking down the liberties of the country, and pointed them out in a manner that designates them wherever you can think of them or see them in any part of the country.
But, fellow-citizens, I did not design—I know that you are all listening and waiting for other speakers to address you, and I do not design to extend my remarks, but shall give way to other gentlemen on this occasion. [Applause.]
Calls were made for Rosecrans and Schenck. Mayor Sweeney then introduced Gen. Schenck, of Ohio, who came forward amid applause and spoke as follows:
Fellow-citizens:--My friend, your Mayor has been guilty of a little military impropriety (he would not have violated it intentionally I think) in not permitting my General commanding to respond when called upon by the people. I have but little to say to you on this occasion. I am happy to be here with you, and gratified I should feel, as every one must, to meet loyal citizens anywhere within the limits of these United States to commemorate the day which gave birth to George Washington. [Applause.] The day which gave not only to our country but to the world the greatest man of all time. [Applause.] But I have been invited—indeed by my military commander [turning to Gen. Rosecrans] commanded—to be here not for the purpose of addressing you myself, and had not supposed that I should be called on to do so. I came here to hear the farewell address of that great and good man, the Father of his country, read as it has been, in the presence of loyal citizens, as strengthening them for all time to come I trust in the performance of their duties as citizens.
We are here to-day, in this year 1862, distracted and tried as our Government and people now are, under very peculiar circumstances. We are assembled, as it were, round the tomb of Washington, to listen to the voice which comes to us from the grave—the voice of the past,--the very political gospel of this country. [Applause] And I trust we have all listened, not only with proper emotion and feeling, as your reader passed from paragraph to paragraph, but have realized how strange it was that any one great mind should have sent down a lesson to us so marked with clear calm judgment and warm, earnest affection for the people whose liberties they transmitted to us.
But we have listened with a resolution, as the reading went on, that the precepts of that great paper shall be marked on the history of this country hereafter, even with hands and hearts, determined that they shall ever be our instructor and guide. [Applause.]
I have been thinking all this morning of another meeting to-day, within the limits of this, that was once called, Old Dominion. Fancy yourselves at Richmond to-day, where a band of dark conspirators are now, this very hour, perhaps, assembled and desecrating this day by an attempt to break down every obligation which that paper of our great and good Father sought to impress on the minds and hearts of this people.
To-day the conspiracy is understood to have culminated, in the opinion of those who are deepest engaged in it, in the establishment of a government antagonistic in every respect to that which Washington labored to establish for us. [Applause.] He impressed upon us that the Union of these States was the palladium of the liberty of these States; that the one could not be preserved without the other. They meet for its destruction and overthrow. He pressed upon us as his last message to his fellow citizens the necessity of avoiding geographical distinction, setting up the interests and the prejudices and the doctrine of the people or community living one part of the country, against the United States, and above all things, desired that this people of his should be built up on a platform of independence for themselves, and be guided in all their progress towards prosperity by American principles, as American citizens, and warned us most impressively against entangling alliances with other nations. They meet there for the purpose of creating a petty republic, to be tied to the tails of European sovereignties, in order to become “hewers of wood and drawers of water” for them, rather than remain here in this Government. Great God! upon what possible ground do they meet this day, under the auspices of this man, to do so dark a deed as this? How is it that people in Virginia the mother of Washington, can select the 22d of February to consummate a deed like that?
It would seem to me as if the very oath that Jefferson Davis takes on this day should blister his traitor tongue and lips as he utters it. [Applause. It seems to me the very arm raised there to invoke the blessing of Providence on so foul a deed might expect to be palsied—(applause)—and yet in a blasphemous, sacreligious [sic] temper like this they have assembled on this 22d of February for the consummation of their miserable plots! But I think even before that is consummated—even before the oath to support what they consider will be the permanent government of the Southern Confederacy, is taken by the lips of the arch fiend, the great conspirator who leads the movement, the hand of Good already anticipating their doom by the success of our armies has made that a poor driveling performance. [Cheers.] It will be no holiday in Richmond. [Renewed applause.]
My friends, I came not here to talk. [“Go on! go on! go on!”] These men sustain themselves in this traitorous movement by one affected political principle, or one that they affect to believe. Of that I will say a word or two, and then I will detain you no longer.
If you will, go back in your minds to that you have heard this morning—what is contained in the farewell address of the great Washington—you will remember that all through the whole tenor and spirit and temper of the paper, there runs the idea that we were building up here as an experiment, in this western continent, a government which was to have a unity as its distinguishing character, making us one government and one people. You will recollect, too, that in order to the sustaining of this unity of government, he impresses upon you the necessity of giving to that government such vigor and power that it will be able to maintain itself against any turbulent movements, or the mistaken attacks that should be made upon it at any time, caused by passion or misconception of its character, from part of its citizens.—Yet what these men at Richmond would teach you is that instead of being one people and having one government, Washington and the great men who co-operated with him were only able to establish a mere confederacy, a rope of sand, subject to be torn to pieces at any time by the will, the wishes, the passions, of its citizens.
This doctrine of secession is at war with everything contained in that wonderful paper—is at war with all the spirit and temper and purpose which seems to have animated the mind of Washington, and those who laid the foundations of this republic. The doctrine of secession would teach us that wherever the people of any State should become discontented with the Union of which they had hitherto formed a part, they should array themselves in opposition to that government and withdraw at their pleasure, and thus so far break up its integrity—that when any number of them are thus disposed, they may in succession withdraw and form any other alliance they please. The first thing that attracts us is, that in such a case the reverse of the old adage is likely to prove true, and that we could hardly expect there would be “honor among thieves.” [Laughter.] That if unwilling to remain in a government except on condition that they should control it, how in the name of all that is reasonable can they expect any government that they can erect on its ruins to be more durable? If South Carolina and Virginia may withdraw from the United States, they may withdraw from the Southern Confederacy. And when they talk, therefore, of being now engaged in establishing a permanent government, founded on such principles as these, they write themselves down fools and asses who are making no government at all. [Applause.]—Withdraw at their pleasure? We are not then, as Washington thought and intended, one people nor one government? It was bad enough when Virginia, one of the old States of the original thirteen, so far forgot her history and obligations, as by a miserable trick and fraud upon her people, to hurry them not merely into separation but revolution and rebellion before they had been heard on the subject, by their action at Richmond; but how supremely ridiculous all this becomes when you look at some other States of this miserable so-called Southern Confederacy, which is no government at all! What is Florida?—Bought under treaty by federal treasure, an acquisition of the common government, she sets herself up by her ordinance of secession and says she is going to withdraw from the United States government, and throw herself back upon her “original rights!” [Laughter.] Original rights of Florida! [Renewed laughter.] To become again, I suppose, a poor, miserable, swampy province of Spain! [Laughter and applause.] True, we attach no particular value to Florida except as an acquisition to round out our possessions on the South. Look at Texas, having the most citizens run away in the first place from public justice, (and for the public good) from various parts of the United States. Texas set up a government of her own, declared her independence, and finally solicited to be taken back, with the country which they had stolen, within the limits of the United States and become a member of this Union. She was accepted, and one would have thought that if any people—and such I remember to be the language of old Sam Houston—if any people would have valued and appreciated the Union it would be the Texans; for they stood out in the cold for awhile, and understood what it was not to belong to the Union. [Laughter.] And Texas is infected of the rest, and she claims by her ordinance of secession to withdraw again like Virginia and the rest, and throws herself on her “original rights.” [Laughter.]—What are those? She become again, I suppose, if stolen property is to be restored, a part of Mexico, and most of her citizens return to plead, and be plead for, in your courts in answer to old indictments that have been standing a long time.—[Laughter.]
Now I will not undertake to discuss this question—and this is running into something like argument. This is no day for an argument; but only a day to surround, as I said before, the tomb of this man, and listen to his voice as a voice coming to us from Heaven. This is no time for discussion. One of your citizens suggested to me, a few evenings ago, (he is rather inclined to secession, I believe, not the secession per se, as was explained to me,--that is secession not taken in the original way,--but only by inoculation.) [laughter.] that we discuss this doctrine of secession. Well, I said, then what I say now, that I am out for purposes of discussion. [Laughter.] There is but one way to discuss this question, and [laying his hand upon his sword and clutching the hilt in a determined manner,] I am prepared to discuss it in that way. [Vociferous cheers.] I know of but one field in which the argument can go fairly on. [Laughter and applause.] We had a small specimen of our debating society down at Fort Donelson, the other day. [Tremendous cheering.] I trust the debate will be kept up. [Laughter.] That it will be sharp, incisive and very pointed. [Renewed Laughter.]
Like many others, I was sometimes styled, in my time, “conservative.” I was for peace as long as there was a hope of peace. I was for adjusting by reason, by argument, by persuasion, by appeals to the sense of duty, and by a proper appreciation of our obligations to each other, to bring excited communities back to their allegiance; but when that failed, and they threw themselves with all the traitors’ purpose which was manifested, into the field, with a determination to strike down and crush this good Government of ours, under which, as I believe in God, I believe only our happiness and prosperity is to be secured—there was but one argument, and that was the argument of the sword.—[Applause.] I hold that now. There is but one ground upon which peace can ever be re-established, and that must be when this rebellion is so crushed, these traitors so punished that they shall sue humbly, themselves, for a restoration to their duty, and never until then. [Applause.] There can be no platform upon which we can begin to build up anything that will promise quiet, prosperity and happiness for this people under their Government in the future, except the platform of unconditional submission to the Constitution and the laws of the country.—[“That’s it!” “That’s it!” and cheers.] Whenever these men have been brought to a proper appreciation of that face, and will meet us on that ground, then we will begin to consider, and not till then, how we may allay the differences and re-unite the torn fragments of this country. And I believe that these fragments will be reunited [applause] with the entire and complete restoration of this Union; and I apprehend, it is not, perhaps, so far off as many people have supposed. Events will go on with extraordinary rapidity now, and history will be made within the next few months, faster than history on this continent has ever been made before.—[Applause.]
But to the day, I have not attempted to say anything about the character of history of Washington. I have not, because I feel restrained in my approach to that subject, so sacred in the American heart. I have said that his precepts delivered in that farewell address, appear to me such, that without irreverence we may call them the political gospel of this country; and surely there is no irreverence in it, when an American utters a sentiment of that kind, if we remember what has been the estimation in which that great and good man (equally good as great) has been held abroad. He was the man not merely of our nation, but he was the man of the whole world.
I wish to repeat a little anecdote—authentic because it occurred within the range of my own experience—in relation to the sort of feeling that is entertained abroad about our Washington. I mention it the other night on a little festive occasion given by your citizens. [Complimentary supper to the Legislature and Convention.] It is to me so impressive, so pleasant a remembrance, that I think you will agree with me that it will bear repetition.
It was my fortune some ten or twelve years ago to find myself upon one occasion in the island of Madeira. Among other places I was invited to visit the Convent immediately back of the city. There is among the sisters there, one who is accustomed,--bright, entertaining and lady like as she is—to come forward and receive visitors and give them explanations. Sister Clara I think is her name, though I may have forgotten it. I remember of a party of American citizens, headed by myself, calling at the Convent one day. We were drawn into a conversation with Sister Clara about the United States. She seemed particularly interested in the leading citizens of our country, “the great Republic,” as she said, and remarked in course of conversation:
“I have read a good deal about your country. I know something about your great men.”
“Ah! Sister Clara,” said I, “I am very happy to hear that. And, pray, which of our men do you admire most?”
“Well,” said she, “I have read about Jefferson, and Madison, and among your men now, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster; and I think them very great men indeed.”
“But, sister Clara,” I said, “you forget the greatest of them all.”
“Who is that?”
“O, your Washington!” said she, “it was your men I was speaking of: Washington is a Saint.” [Vociferous applause.]
Let us go from here feeling that this “Saints day” has been well spent, if we revive in our minds the proper emotion that will carry a remembrance along with it to the guidance of our actions hereafter, according to the precepts read here to-day, which have been delivered to us as coming from the grave. [Great applause.]
Major McPhail was next introduced by the Mayor, and coming forward holding in his left hand a tattered and faded banner he said:
My Countrymen: I present to you the first victorious flag over the rebellion—[applause]—the flag that first floated victorious over the American arms—victorious under Virginia’s Kelley, at Phillippi [sic]. [Cheers.]
When I contemplate, my countrymen, the state of things, as existing in our country, and then look into that volume and read there the prophecy of the Father of his Country, I am irresistibly forced to the conclusion that Providence, in giving us Washington, gave us a country that traitors can never break down. [Cheers.]—The flag is the flag of our country. Our Union was cemented by the blood of our sires. This banner bears upon it marks of the blood of their descendants, shed in perpetration of our government. That legacy is ours—is the last will and testament of the Father of his Country delivered u[n]to us. And is there one here to-day, who can honestly say that has not received his due, given to him by that legacy. If there [is] one here in this audience to-day, I call upon him to come upon this stand, and say to him, “let us reason together.”
My countrymen, the Father of his country has said that there will rise up at some day those who will claim immunities that are not found in the institutions under which we live. He has endeavored to guard us in that last will and testament against such. We are here to-day to celebrate his birthday; and you said that there was another assembly [turning to General Schenck] in this State to-day, and that at Richmond. Why, sir, they only mean to swear Jeff. Davis down there to-day and then “let him go again,” if we don’t catch him. [Laughter and applause.] That’s all they mean, sir.
I hardly know what to say here to-day. After what has been read to you, I cannot conceive the idea in my heart, my countrymen, that there is a disloyal individual in the country of Washington. I cannot conceive the idea that there is within the metes and bounds of the United States of America a disloyal heart. Hence, I hardly know what to say first while I hold here the banner of my country.
But, ah, we have fallen upon those evil times that he prophesied; and on this, the hundred and thirtieth anniversary of Washington’s birthday, we are meeting the enemy of our country, to which he alluded, with the argument of the sword. [Applause.] And is there a heart yet within the metes and bounds of this corporation, that is not willing to draw that sword in defence of that Union to which he has made allusion in that will and testament of his to the only free people on this green earth? Aye, there is! Yes, there is within the metes and bounds surrounded by these hills of ours here, some who are yet willing to be rebels. Let me say to any such, if they be here to-day, that this Union will be preserved, [Applause] and
“Whilst the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return.”
[Laughter.] Let me say to them, repent, and do your first works over. You once loved the Union. If you do not love it now, there will be a time of retribution. [Applause.] The Union will be preserved[.] This flag will be victorious beyond a peradventure; and I exhort you who think otherwise, to come to the altar and make your confession; bow to the “powers that be,” and thank God that you have got the opportunity to do so. [Laughter.]
Loud calls for “Rosecrans” at length brought the General to the front of the stage and he said, after the applause at his appearance had subsided:
Ladies and Gentlemen:--I find it so arranged that I am compelled to say a few words to you. It will probably close the ceremonies of the day. I say I feel compelled to do so by your kind call and at the request of your Mayor, much against my own inclinations; because after the eloquent address which we have had from General Schenck, and the fiery remarks of my friend the bachelor Major, (laughter) I feel that in closing the celebration, I have but one thought which I think worthy of speaking to you, and which I think will find a response in every heart.
When that Farewell Address was being read the impression upon my mind was: that man is a type of the American freeman; a model man for a free government; calm, reasonable, determined; seeing in history what had been the means whereby the liberties of former people had been destroyed, and perceiving and pointing out the modes by which we are to avoid those dangers. I think you cannot help but feel impressed with two leading ideas in his Address. One was that in order to preserve our liberties we must be one nation. I noticed that in the commencement of the Address, and it seems to me that idea runs through the whole of it. The other was, that in order that this nation should remain free, the people must be good. And I would simply repeat what I said before—these two ideas, namely: that in order that we may be a free people, we must be one; and in order that we may preserve that freedom even with unity we must be a virtuous people. This I hope will not only forever remain impressed on our minds but that it will continue to be the American idea, and will be taught from father to son so long as our nation shall stand, and that, I hope in God, will be forever. [Hearty applause.]
“Denver! Denver!” was then the yell that went up from all parts of the house.
General Denver at length came forward and was introduced by the Mayor. He said:
It would be impossible for me to add anything to what has been said on this interesting occasion. This is not the time now, either, for making speeches. When we have restored the Union in all its unity, when it has returned, and acknowledges the same flag that it has always acknowledged—then we can afford to make speeches; but until then we require action. [Applause.]
Mayor Sweeney then proposed: “Three cheers for the Constitution, the Union, and the Enforcement of the Laws,” and such a yell went up as almost raised the roof off the old Athenaeum.
Somebody in the audience proposed “three cheers for Gen. Grant,” and it was no sooner said than done. Up went the hats again and a thousand throats responded in honor of the hero of Donelson.
The audience then dispersed.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: February 1862