National Geographic Magazine/Volume 31/Number 4/Their Monument is in Our Hearts
Their Monument is in Our Hearts
By René Viviani, President of the French Commission to the United States
We could not remain longer in Washington without accomplishing this pious pilgrimage. In this spot lies all that is mortal of a great hero. Close by this spot is the modest abode where Washington rested after the tremendous labor of achieving for a nation its emancipation.
In this spot meet the admiration of the whole world and the veneration of the American people. In this spot rise before us the glorious memories left by the soldiers of France led by Rochambeau and Lafayette; a descendant of the latter, my friend, M. de Chambrun, accompanies us.
And I esteem it a supreme honor, as well as a satisfaction for my conscience, to be entitled to render this homage to our ancestors in the presence of my colleague and friend, Mr. Balfour, who so nobly represents his great nation. By thus coming to lay here the respectful tribute of every English mind he shows, in this historic moment of communion which France has willed, what nations that live for liberty can do.
When we contemplate in the distant past the luminous presence of Washington, in nearer times the majestic figure of Abraham Lincoln; when we respectfully salute President Wilson, the worthy heir of these great memories, we at once glance measure the vast career of the American people.
It is because the American people proclaimed and won for the nation the right to govern itself, it is because it proclaimed and won the equality of all men, that the free American people at the hour marked by fate has been enabled with commanding force to carry its action beyond the seas; it is because it was resolved to extend its action still further that Congress was enabled to obtain within the space of a few days the vote of conscription and to proclaim the necessity for a national army in the full splendor of civil peace.
In the name of France, I salute the young army which will share in our common glory.
Fighting for Washington's ideals
While paying this supreme tribute to the memory of Washington, I do not diminish the effect of my words when I turn my thought to the memory of so many unnamed heroes. I ask you before this tomb to bow in earnest meditation and all the fervor of piety before all the soldiers of the allied nations who for nearly three years have been fighting under different flags for some ideal.
I beg you to address the homage of your hearts and souls to all the heroes, born to live in happiness, in the tranquil pursuit of their labors, in the enjoyment of all human affections, who went into battle with virile cheerfulness and gave themselves up, not to death alone, but to the eternal silence that closes over those whose sacrifice remains unnamed, in the full knowledge that, save for those who loved them, their names would disappear with their bodies.
Their monument is in our hearts. Not the living alone greet us here; the ranks of the dead themselves rise to surround the soldiers of liberty.
At this solemn hour in the history of the world, while saluting from this sacred mound the final victory of justice, I send to the Republic of the United States the greetings of the French Republic.