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As Mainers prepare for a new year, it is fitting to remember messages that appeal to the country’s better nature.
Here are quotes from Civil War icon Joshua Chamberlain, who served as Maine governor from 1867 to 1871. His words below are excerpted from a speech in 1866 to the Military Order of the Loyal Legion. The legion formed in response to the death of President Abraham Lincoln to preserve the memories of that day and the war.
In his speech, Chamberlain grapples with conveying the reasons soldiers went to war, and explores the dimensions of loyalty and patriotism — reminding people still today of the sacrifices that made their current life possible.
The quotes are used with gratitude from joshualawrencechamberlain.com, which has made Chamberlain’s writings public online.
— “For I see along these balconies shadows and veils of mourning. The divineness of sorrow permeates this regenerated life, wherein the love and strength of each being given for all, the love and strength of all should return to each. For it is such high cause that he who shall lose even his life, finds it again in the other lives made blessed.”
— “The sky is still aglow, as with dying conflagration. Yet beyond it rises the dawn, diffusing the phantoms, broadening into the broad truth of day. Under it, things will take on their right form and relation. What all this was for will be made manifest; what we shall be will appear. These are the days of great things. After the slow travail of the centuries we celebrate the deliverance of the Nation.”
— “We may ask the question What is Country? And may answer it in a word by saying it is the highest organization of the human forces for widest human ends.”
— “Loyalty then, is not mere conformity. It is fidelity; truth to faith; constancy of soul. Its true action is not constrained obedience to a superior, but the keeping of a covenant; free forthgiving to an answering ideal of right and good, to which one is spiritually bound.”
— “For neither law nor life is the end; the realization of human worth, that is the end, and the justification of life and of law. By no other law than this was our loyalty bounded and bound.”
— “Constitutions do not make a people; they are made by a people. They are called organic law — that is to say, they are the reflection of its interior life, but not a mere creation of its will as law.”
— “Knowing not what should be for us to do or suffer in the fulfilling of our days, we were holding ourselves true to such ideals as we saw, striving to be building up that steadfastness of soul which meets with level eyes whatever assails our honor or our peace, ready for what duty should summon, or fate unroll. We were studying patriotism and loyalty as best we could, unconscious that we were preparing to take part in completing their definition.”
— “A great and difficult duty is laid upon us all to help the poor, surprised race among us, whose enfranchisement was the signal incident of the war, to make themselves truly free.”
— “The nation must make her heart ready to receive her lessons; that she be able to do her work. She must cherish reverence, honor, truth, justice and brotherly love, that she may be able to fulfill the part for which she has been ordained by so mighty a hand.”
— “Be it ours still to keep faithful watch against wrong or weakness, within or without, with our loins girded, ready for the summons. Loyal to great memories; loyal to our new-plighted faith; loyal to the greater hope that this world’s advancing edge shall touch the better one.”