Title: Tribute to our Nation's Dead
Publisher: The Peabody Press
Date Published: 1884
Keywords: Joshua Chamberlain, Lawrence Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Oration, Speech, Memorial Day, states rights, reasons for going to war
Permissions: Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington D.C. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Papers, Container 9
Tribute to our Nation's Dead
Memorial Day, 1884

Chamberlain discusses the reasons that led the North into war. He states, "...the reasons of our going into the war may not be the very reasons of the war itself."

I do not think that many went into the war with the motive, distinctly and directly to overthrow slavery by force of arms. Our people were more accustomed to correct evils by reason and conscience and law and equity. The destruction of slavery was more than we dreamed of, -most of us. The attempt of the South to carry slavery into the free territory of the U.S. had made it a burning question. But the American Congress in 1861, by unanimous vote declared that neither the Federal government nor the people had the right to legislate upon or interfere with slavery in any of the slave-holding states of the Union. And even President Lincoln, in his inaugural message, declared that he had no right, nor power, nor purpose to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists.
    No, Friends, - we did not assume when we took the field and the sea in the country's defence, [sic] that we were going to settle by force a moral question which had baffled all the wisdom and the patriotism of our fathers - but that was one of the results which the developments of the conflict and the orderings of the Divine Providence made greater than we had dared or dreamed. No; we did not take up arms for the conscious purpose of fighting slavery down; but God, - in his providence, in his justice, in his mercy to this country, consecrated to freedom, allowed the champions of slavery to set it in the fore front of their defiance, and it was swept aside from the path as the mighty pageant of the people passed on to its glory.


For more on the causes of the war see: Loyalty, Dedication of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument Boothbay and Last Campaign of the War