The Writings of Carl Schurz/To G. Washington Warren, May 20th, 1875

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Hamburg, Germany, May 20, 1875.

Your kind letter inviting me to participate in the celebration of the first centennial anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill reached me on the eve of my departure for Europe. From these distant shores I can only offer you my cordial thanks for the distinction you have conferred upon me by that invitation which, I regret to say, circumstances render me unable to follow.

The event you are going to celebrate does not, in the military annals of the world, by the side of other armed conflicts, appear remarkable either for the number of men arrayed in battle, or for the professional skill displayed. But in the history of those struggles which mark the epochs of human progress, it stands as an achievement of inspiring significance, a shining illustration of that simplicity of patriotic spirit which then was and always will be the mainspring of true greatness in a free people. We cannot too reverently commemorate that spirit as, a hundred years ago, it led the men of the American Revolution, plain and modest citizens, without the coercion of established authority, without the ambition of fame, without ostentatious proclamation, poor, feeble and at first unaided, to bid defiance to the most formidable power of their times, in their devotion to the duty of asserting their sacred rights as freemen and of securing the liberties of their children. Painfully struggling through disaster and discouragements, sorely distracted sometimes by the meaner impulses of human selfishness, but bravely overcoming them, and, in the darkest hours of failure, disappointment and threatening ruin, lifted up by the consciousness of a just cause and illumined by the prophetic presentiment of a great destiny, that simple-minded spirit of patriotic duty gave birth to the Republic of the New World, the grandest creation of this age.

Doing honor to the memory of the Revolutionary Fathers, the American people will surely not permit the splendor of later successes to make them forget that the same dutiful spirit of patriotism which victoriously struggled through the agonies of their first contest will also in our days have to overcome the dangers brought forth by the very power and greatness of the Republic; and it will be the greatest glory of the men who founded the great Commonwealth by their dutiful heroism for the right that they still continue to aid in preserving its integrity, guiding its progress and developing its blessings by the inspiration of their example.