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Proceedings of the Fourth Congress at Atlanta, GA., April 28 to May 1, 1892
An Address by Mr. Helm Bruce, of Louisville, Ky.


Mr. President, Ladies, and Gentlemen: I feel that I am performing a patriotic duty to the Society of which I am a member in appearing before you to-night in the role of a speaker; for not until I entered the hall this evening was an intimation given to me that I would be called upon to express any sentiments in the presence of this audience, but now the task so difficult to accomplish is given me to take the place of one who was expected to be here but has not appeared.

Ladies and gentlemen, though I am a stranger within the gates of Atlanta, there is an association tender and sweet that binds me to your city. Out yonder in that silent abode of the dead which is near your limits there rested for twenty-one years the dust of one that was very near and very dear to me, one who had given his life for the cause he loved, and who, far distant from home, was buried beneath the sod of Georgia, where he lay until loving hands carried him back and laid him to rest where the sun shines bright on his old Kentucky home.

I am here to-night meeting friends from all parts of the Union on an occasion when state lines have been wiped out and political parties forgotten in the celebration and glorification of the fact that we all sprang from a noble ancestry of whom we are justly proud. A gentleman once said to me: "I am not Scotch-Irish nor Huguenot, neither French nor English, Spanish nor German, but I am an American citizen." There was, however, in the covert criticism of that remark but little wisdom; and it showed that the speaker had not traced back the streams of human action to the great wellsprings from which they flow; that he knew but little of the motives that move men's souls, whether at home or in public, whether in war or in peace. Once while traveling in Texas I met a gentleman, older than myself, but still young, who was then occupying an honorable position in the community in which he lived. In the course of a conversation I learned that he was from Kentucky. Then came some exchanges of confidence and of friendship which were more intimate than might have been justified on ordinary occasions from so short an acquaintance; and he told me something of his life and of the temptations he had undergone. "But," said he, "my mother when I was young used constantly to say, 'My boy, remember that you are a Baxter,' and," he continued, "although I have often been where I would blush to admit, although sometimes my deeds have been those that the light should not fall upon, yet I have never forgotten that I was and am a Baxter." And so the memory of noble ancestry, as our learned Vice President, Dr. Macintosh, said last year in Louisville, the recollection of responsibilities to an ancestry of whom we are proud, never debased, never unfitted any man or woman that ever lived for the highest duties of home or of public life. [Applause.] No one can contemplate the sublime, no man or woman can feel through his heart and soul the thrill of a generous emotion or a noble sentiment, I care not by what it may be awakened, whether by the contemplation of the glorious present or a study of the magnificent past, without being better for it; and no one can recollect those who have gone before, and to whom he should be true, without being truer to himself and truer to them.

In the cultivation of the mind this principle is recognized, then why not in that of the soul? To the lawyer who would become imbued with the love of his profession we say: Go read the life of Marshall, of Story, and of Kent. To him who would give life to canvas and make cold marble speak, we say: Go, cross the great waters, pass through the British museum, walk through the salons of Paris, and there, in the presence of the works of the great masters, study and contemplate and drink into your souls the genius of Raphael, of Michael Angelo, and! of Phidias. To him who would call forth the sweetest melodies of sound, we say: Listen, whenever you can, to the swell of rapturous music, to the grand resounding harmonies of Beethoven, of Mozart, and of Mendlesshon. And so to-night I say to him who would learn the great lessons of life, to him who would learn the price of civil and; religious liberty: Go over to the moors and fens of Scotland, cross to the North of Ireland, and stand beneath the walls of historic Derry, turn back the page of time, read down its course for two hundred years, study the history of the Scotch-Irish race, and learn how sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong. [Applause.]

My friends, for one, I believe not only in the pleasure, but in the practical good that springs from the commemoration of the deeds of noble dead; and I would not for all I possess or ever expect to have wipe out from my memory impressions that have been made by the contemplation of nobility, in whatever form it may have appeared.

If Athens could have kept before her the scenes of Salamis and of Marathon, if she could have preserved before the eyes of her citizens the figure of Leonidas and his immortal band, the words of Demosthenes would not have fallen on deaf ears. Could her citizens have remembered the days of Xerxes when they withstood the Persian hosts, they would never have bowed in submission before the sword of Philip. Had the Roman people kept bright in memory the lives of Cato and of Regulus, had Roman maids and matrons remembered the story of Lucretia, the Vandals and the Goths had not found in the Eternal City so easy a prey. It was not outside arms, but the internal weakness of Rome that caused her fall. What the great Carthaginian, backed by the grandest army of antiquity, failed to accomplish for the city by the Tiber was worked out within her own walls, when her Prętorian Guard subjugated the Roman Senate and filled the chair of the Cęsars. And so here, my friends, to-night I would that I could call before us the forms of the great dead whose histories we celebrate, that we might stand here in the presence of that sublime past, and on the altar of their memories take an oath that we will be true to them. [Applause.]


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