Marching On: Miscellaneous Speeches on the Threshold of Ninety-Two

Marching On: Miscellaneous Speeches on the Threshold of Ninety-Two

Marching On: Miscellaneous Speeches on the Threshold of Ninety-Two

Marching On: Miscellaneous Speeches on the Threshold of Ninety-Two

Excerpt

Speech at the Twenty-Eighth Annual Dinner of the Montauk Club of Brooklyn, in Celebration of Mr. Depew's Eighty-fifth Birthday, April 26, 1919.

(Mr. Depew's birthday is the twenty-third of April, but club conditions made change of date necessary.)

Mr. President and Friends:

We are rapidly getting on. Every year that we meet adds to the significance, the originality and the uniqueness of this entertainment. We have so long passed the twenty-fifth, that we may look with some hope to the golden jubilee, which of all anniversaries that mark happy unions is the most cheerful and significant.

There is great dispute among historians as to the age of the world; that is, of the period during which human beings have inhabited it. When I was a boy, the calculation of Bishop Usher of six thousand years was universally accepted. Then Darwin upset all calculations and settled beliefs by tracing us back to the monkey. No one could tell when the simian lost his tail, walked upright and developed human intelligence. Later explorations, however, have aroused almost international antagonisms as to which country possesses the oldest human skull. The last contribution has been the unearthing of the home of the gray matter of a citizen who walked the earth thirty millions of years ago. Now thirty millions is a long period. Few of us have ever given thought to how many of the thirty millions are so distinguished, as several single years in our historic period. Those years are very few. The birth of Christ is the most significant in its influence upon modern history and life. In human affairs, the assassination of Caesar is felt today. When we come to more modern times, Magna Charta, which was forced from King John at Runnymede, is the foundation of our liberties. Waterloo marks another, because while it destroyed the ambitions of one of the most dangerous of conquerors, it destroyed also representative government and restored autocracy on the continent of Europe. All these epoch-making years, with their influence upon succeeding centuries, are comparatively of little account compared with the year since we met here twelve months ago.

As never before, the whole world was involved in the tragedy of a war which reached every continent and covered the seven seas; the most civilized and most barbarous peoples were equally involved. After three years of struggle and sacrifice beyond parallel and beyond imagination, the issue had become clearly defined. It was autocracy or self-government. It was a lawless power with ruthless methods, conquering and governing the world, or asurvival and expansion of civil and religious liberty and the sovereignty of peoples at liberty to work out their own destiny.

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