Speech at Belfast Encampment

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Speech at the Belfast Encampment
by Jefferson Davis
Delivered 1858.

Citizen Soldiers:--I feel pleased and gratified at the exhibition I have witnessed of the military spirit and instruction of the volunteer militia of Maine. I acknowledge the compliment which has been paid to me, and I welcome it as the indication of the liberality and national sentiment which makes the militia of each State the effective, as they are the constitutional defenders of our whole country.

To one who loves his country in all its parts, it is natural to rejoice in whatever contributes to the prosperity and honor, and marks the stability and progress of any portion of its people. I therefore look upon the evidence presented to me of the soldierly enthusiasm and military acquirements displayed on this occasion, with none the less pleasure because I am the citizen of another and distant State. It was not the policy of our government to maintain large armies of navies in time of peace. The history of our past wars established the fact that it was not needful to do so. The militia had bee found equal to all the emergencies of war. Their patriotism, their intelligence, their knowledge of the use of arms, had given to then all the efficiency of veterans, and on many bloody fields they have shown their superiority over the disciplined troops of their enemies. A people morally and intellectually equal to self-government, must also be equal in self-defence. My friends, your worthy General has alluded to my connection with the military service of the country. The memory arose to myself when the troops this day marched past me, and when I looked upon their manly bearing and firm step. I thought could I have seen them thus approaching the last field of battle on which I served, where the changing tide several times threatened disaster to the American flag, with what joy I would have welcomed those striped and starred banners, the emblem and the guide of the free and the brave, and with what pride would the heart have beaten when welcoming the danger's hour, brethren from so remote an extremity of our expanded territory.

One of the evidences of the fraternal confidence and mutual reliance of our fathers was to be found in their compact or mutual protection and common defence. So long as their sons preserve the spirit and appreciate the purpose of their fathers, the United States will remain invincible, their power will grow with the lapse of time, and their example show brighter and brighter as revolving ages roll over the temple our fathers dedicated to constitutional liberty, and founded upon truths announced to their sons, but intended for mankind. I thank you, citizen soldiers, for this act of courtesy. It will long and gratefully be remembered, as a token of respect to the distant State of which I am a citizen, and I trust will be noted by others, as indicating that national sentiment which made, and which alone can preserve us a nation.