Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/374

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366 Sniiiln rn Historirul Sor/'

ument Association, to direct these exercises. We have met in this historic city to do honor to our beloved President. We lay to-day the corner-stone of the memorial to be erected to Jefferson Davis, who loved constitutional liberty dearer than life itself. We have chosen for our orator for this occasion one whose help and courage in time of war has only been surpassed by his devotion to the South in time of peace, and whose special fitness for the position as orator on this occasion is best attested by the distinguished services which he has given in the preservation of the history of the South. I take great pleasure, therefore, in presenting to you my comrade and your comrade, General Stephen D. Lee, of Mississippi.

ORATION OF GENERAL LEE.

General Lee was given a cordial reception, and was loudly cheered throughout the delivery of his beautiful oration. General Lee said:

We are here to-day to honor the memory of Jefferson Davis; to lay the corner-stone of a monument to one who needs no monument in our generation, beyond that in the hearts of his countrymen. But we think it due to erect one, that posterity may know the rev- erence felt for the great leader of a cause that failed.

It is fitting that he should rest here in Virginia that greatest of all States, the battle-scarred producer of warriors and statesmen fitting that he should rest here among her immortals. But for her generosity in ceding her vast territory to the Union, Kentucky would have still been hers, and he would have been born her son. Many presidents, statesmen, soldiers lie in Virginia soil from Washington to the present time none greater than Davis, but more fortunate.

A GLANCE BACKWARD.

Let us glance backward. Thirty-one years ago, on the soil of this very commonwealth, the man to whom we erect this monument lay manacled in a casement of a strongly-garrisoned fortress, charged with the most atrocious crimes known to man treason and murder. He had been the unanimously-chosen leader of a true people,- who, actuated by a pure and lofty patriotism, after exhausting every effort at compromise, made an attempt to establish a new nation ; and after a bitter struggle of four years, after nearly four million soldiers had met in the shock of battle, and over 2,000 battlefields had blazed with glorious deeds, went down in darkness and blood.

Success is the measure of merit applied alike to every man, to every cause; and even in our moral judgments we sentence the un-