Remembering 'Our Soldier deadAAE Excerpts of a Speech by President Calvin Coolidge on May 30, 1928

Article excerpt


This returning Decoration Day brings our entire nation in reverence and respect to the graves of our departed soldiers. Each year, their number has increased, as that long blue line which stood so valiantly for the cause of the Union has grown thinner and thinner, until today it has almost vanished from earthly view.

On FameAAEs eternal camping ground

Their silent tents are spread,

And Glory guards with solemn round

The bivouac of the dead.

We do not come to lament, but to give thanks. With one acclaim, the people bestow upon them all that divine salutation, Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

To express our devotion, we have come to the field of Gettysburg. It ranks as one of the great historic battlegrounds of this continent. In the magnitude of its importance, it compares with the Plains of Abraham, with Saratoga, and with Yorktown. It is associated with a great battle between the Union and Confederate forces and with one of the greatest addresses ever delivered by one of the greatest men ever in the world, Abraham Lincoln.

All the countries on earth in all their history, all put together, have not done as much for those who have fought in their behalf as our country alone had done in the past 50 years. Our appreciation and our devotion is evidenced by something more than tributes and monuments and yearly assemblages devoted to their praise.

The worldwide interests of the United States aside from the dictates of humanity make us view with peculiar disfavor not only any danger of being involved in war ourselves, but any danger of war among other nations. Our investments and trade relations are such that it is almost impossible to conceive of any conflict anywhere on earth which would not affect us injuriously. The one thing that we want above all else for ourselves and for other nations is a continuance of peace. Whether so intended or not, any nations engaging in war would thereby necessarily be engaged in a course prejudicial to us.

The strength of this nation, however, is not expressed merely in terms of an Army and Navy. A yet greater power is derived from the happiness and contentment of the people. During recent years, this has been our national position to a greater extent than ever experienced by any other people. A realization of the benefits derived from our political and economic institutions naturally results in patriotic devotion. The efforts made to establish a government free from tyranny, in which the fullest freedom consistent with order and justice would be granted, and where opportunity would be open and industry attended with the largest rewards, all have an important bearing on the subject of national defense.

But to the contentment and patriotism of the people there must be added the resources that are derived from prosperous industry, agriculture and commerce. Good credit, which is derived from sound financial conditions, is the principal foundation of national defense. That country which has so ordered its finances as to be in a position to furnish the largest amount of money will always be in the best position to protect itself. Reduction of our national debt, permitting a reduction of taxes, which stimulates private enterprise and increases our credit, is an important addition to our national strength. The industrial advance, the agricultural development, the financial resources, strengthened by wise policies in time of peace, are of inestimable value in time of war.

A people which gives itself over to great armaments and military display runs great danger of creating within itself a quarrelsome war spirit. But these other elements of power, although their importance is usually ignored, by contributing to the happiness and contentment of the people, are important influences for peace. …