Mes racines / my roots

Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre


Adéline Albina Lesieur


Napoléon Mallette


Louis Émery Beaulieu


Guillaume Saint-Pierre


Joseph Bélanger


Geneviève Saint-Pierre


Jeanne Beaulieu Casgrain


Jean Casgrain


Simone Aubry Beaulieu


Marcel Malépart


Jaque Masson


Édouard Trudeau


Rolland Labrosse


Jacques Cousineau



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Oration pronounced on Memorial Day,

Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre

Ce document, qui se trouve à la Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec,
a été transcrit par Jacques Beaulieu, arrière-petit-fils de son auteur
ainsi que Paul Beaulieu, arrière-arrière-petit-fils de son auteur


ORATION

Pronounced at the

MOUNT ROYAL CEMETERY

BY

H. C. SAINT PIERRE, Esq. Q. C.

ON DECORATION DAY

30th MAY 1899

 

COMRADES:

Thirty-three years ago, on this aniversary of the Month of May, a strange and striking sight was witnessed for the first time in every part of the American Union: men, who, then, were yet in the full development of their menhood, dressed in military garb, were seen filing on through streets and roadways, escorting chariots bedecked with the national colors, and loaded with the choicest and freshest flowers of spring.

Whither were they directing their steps?

To the stranger or the uninitiated, this gorgeous pageant might have been mistaken for a triumphal ovation prepared for the purpose of doing honor to some conquering hero returning from the field of Victory. Such, however, was not the object of this pageant. A higher and nobler purpose filled the minds of the men who had gathered together upon that memorable occasion. They were citizens who remembering that but a few months previously they had been soldiers, were bending their steps toward the silent camping ground wherein reposed the bodies of those among their comrades whom the dark Angel of Death had smitten with his wings. Their object was to decorate their tombs with flowers and to remind their old friends whose spirit was still hovering over those graves, that they had not been forgotten. There, by the side of those tombs, they spoke together of days gone by. They talked of their battles, of their sufferings and of their devotion to their flag and to their country.

They spoke as if they had wished their departed friends to hear their voices; as if they had been in communion with them in their toughts and their sentiments. They talked as if all their dead companions had been restored to life again, and as if they could yet share in their sorrows or participate in their joys. They talked as they were wont to do in old familiar times, when they were pressing forward, with flags unferled to meet the foe, or when be the side of the bivouac fire, after a stirring conflict, they recalled the various incidents of the day's battle. They talked of that which both the dead and the living had once done, when together, in the dark and gloomy hours of defeat or in the glowing and cheerful enthusiasm of triumph. And, after sprinkling the tombs of their dead comrades with flowers, they returned to their homes, their breast filled with that gratifying impression which one experiences who has met an old departed friend.

COMRADES, it is now over thirty years since this pious duty was performed for the first time. Every year the number of the participants in the pageant has become smaller. Every year, some of the old friends have failed to answer to their name at the roll call; but not once have the survivors omitted to perform their duty of visiting the last resting place of their departed comrades and of scattering flowers over their graves. You, Comrades of the Hancock Post, I know, have never failed to it.

Many a change has taken place since the day when we were here together for the first time. The freshness of youth has long since departed from our cheeks; the body once erect is now slightly inclining towards the earth; the soldierly bearing has lost some of its former spriteness; the hair has grown gray under the whithering breath of time, but our hearts are still as warm as ever in their affection for our dead companions and as devoted to the cause which once brought us together under the same flag.

COMRADES, we have reached the mature epoch of our lives when one's thoughts are divided between contemplation of the past and the prospect of the probable inheritance he has prepared for his children in the future. Let us pause for a moment to cast a look upon those past events. Have we done our duty them? Have we contributed our share, no matter how small, towards the accomplishment of the designs of Providence? Can it be said of us that we have been but a swarming multitude composed of undisciplined bands of destroyers of men, sowing death and devastation in their path, gloating over the agony of their fallen foes, the screaming despair of women and the tears of children? No Comrades, we were Christian soldiers fighting for a holy cause and like the Crusaders of old, who wielded their valiant swords in their efforts to free their enslaved brethren moaning under the foot of a ruthless conqueror, we devoted all our courage, summoned all our energy in the task of breaking to pieces the shackles by which three millions of human beings were kept in bondage. We fought for liberty and for humanity. We fought also for the preservation of that sacred compact by which the founders of the Republic had pledged themselves to the maintenance of a "government of the people, by the people and for the people", and had dedicated the fate of their country to the proposition that "every man was born free".

Have we faithfully accomplished our task? History which has recorded our labor and the grateful thanks of the nation and of the whole world has given to this question an answer far more forcible and in a language far more eloquent that I have in my command. I say "the whole world", because not only has the American Republic profited by our efforts, but the war in which we took part has induced a long stride forward in the onward march of civilization. Humanity itself has been freed and the hideous chains of slavery have been shattered for ever. The year 1863 will mark out one of the most momentous events in the history of the world and of the human race; and a thousand years hence, History will repeat to the then rising generations that in that year, the disgraceful monster which bore the name of "slavery" was stifled out of existence, and humanity freed from its polluting grasps for ever.

We may therefore look into the past with satisfaction and with the consciousness that we have contributed something towards the advancement of mankind and the happiness of the generations that will live after us.

But if it be true to say that we have been useful to humanity and civilization, in securing the abolition of slavery, it may be safely affirmed that we have not been less so, in maintaining the union and the integrity of the Republic, anb by the same effort, the great democratic principle of the sovereignty of the people which lies at its foundation and is the basis upon which it rests. The American Republic was the first one among all the republics known to the world which was founded upon the principle that every man was born free and that the source of all power and of all sovereignty lies in the people and in the people only. In Athens the government was in the hands of rival factions, each of which employed all its power in controlling the will of the people. Every deliberation in matters of state was held in popular assemblies, wherein the influence of such orators as Demosthenes, Eschines, Themistocles and Cimon very often carried the day, and even so at times when their own personal objects were in direct conflict with the interest of the nation. The result of such a system was that the Republic was in perpetual quarrels with its neighbours and when called upon to defend its territory, it become an easy prey to the invader. Rome exhibited more unity of purpose and greater strength in action, but its government was almost exclusively in the hands of a priviledged class which was distinct from the rest of the people and formed a real aristocracy. Its Senate which was its only deliberative body was composed exclusively of that class. The mass of the people had but the negative power of veto which lost its authority when opposed by the more potent influence of the Patricians.

The world owes to the genius of the founders of the American Republic to have framed a system of government based on the sovereignty of the people and in which the people is called upon to take their share in the government by means of their President, their elective Senate, and their House of Representatives. So perfect was this form of Government found to be, that since the date of its establishment in America, the principles on which it is founded have revolutionized the whole of the civilized world; and to day, with the exception of Russia, there is not a country in Europe wherein responsible Government based on the sovereignty of the people, has not been accepted and it not actually put into active operation.

COMRADES, it is our pride to have contributed to the defence of the constitution framed by the founders of the American Republic and, by maintaining the Union, we may confidently affirm that we have saved those principles which are dear to every lover of freedom from being cast aside, and republican government based upon democracy, from being swept away from the face of the earth. This, Comrades, is the work we have accomplished. It is by this work in the past that we have helped the hand of Providence in preparing the happy future which we desire our children to enjoy.

The war once over, the deadly strife once ended, every member of this immense army from the highest commander down to the drummer boy, every one returned with joy to his former peaceful occupation, happy and satisfied to have contributed his share in the restoration of peace and the consolidation of the Republic.

In our boyish days we were taught to look upon Cincinnatus, Scipio and Cato as men worthy of our admiration, because they consented to return to their former peaceful occupations after they had vanquished the enemies of their country; but Comrades, what else did our leaders do but follow the example set to them by those great Citizens of Rome? And what say you of the magnanimity and the patriotic devotion of Mead who but a few months after he had won the greatest battle of the war at the head of the army of the Potomac, submitted to serve under Grant, who was, by several years, is junior? What say you of Sherman who would not consent to be appointed Lieutenant-General, because he was in fear that General Grant, his superior officer might be displeased at finding him his equal in rank? What say you of the same officer whose strategic science had contributed more than anything else in bringing the war to a successful issue, refusing persistantly to accept for his services any reward beyond his regulation pay? Instances are numberless of self sacrifices and patriotism on the part of both officers and men among those who fought on our side during the war of secession.

But I again repeat: is this all which was done by the armies of the Republic? We brought the war to a sucessful issue; we saved the Union, and with it, the principles of democratic Government; the war over, we laid down our arms and resumed the labours of peace: have we stop there? Was that all we did? No, Comrades - We did more. - We formed this mighty organization called "The Grand Army of the Republic" based on fraternity and charity, which has every where covered the land with its good work and which is now perpetuating itself in the children of the veteran soldiers. In our ranks we have admitted that admirable association of women known as "The Relief Corps," which has done so much during the war for the assistance of the sick and the wounded and whose benevolence has often reached even to the very heart of those dreadful prisons werein so many of us had to face sickness, starvation and death. In the Sons of Veterans, the Government has found ready material for its late war with Spain. They found a whole new generation of young men bred in the school of patriotism and eager to serve their country as their fathers had done. In the Women's Relief Corps, they found a fully equipped and thoroughly organised association of women trained to give assistance and relief to the sick and wounded and ready to take the field if necessary.

Such Comrades, has been the work of the Grand Army of the Republic. It has perpetuated and spread throughout the country the same spirit of patriotism and self sacrifice which has distinguished them during the war. It has maintained its military character, and through an organisation similar to their own among the rising generation and more particularly among children of veterans, they have arose and fostered the same spirit with which they themselves are animated.

While doing their duty to the living, they have not forgotten the dead, and through the influence of their organisation, the duty of visiting the resting place of their dead comrades and of decorating their tombs on this aniversary has become so universally observed and so fondly cherished by the whole population that it has become a national holiday in the Republic.

COMRADES we, as members of the G. A. R. have met to day to perform this pious duty of doing honor to our dead Comrades. Let us on this day sacred to their memory throw our minds back to the days when they were our companions in the ranks of the army both in the moments of sufferings or in the hours of joy. Let us revive in our recollections their deeds of bravery, their acts of patriotism for their country and of kindness and brotherly devotion to their Comrades.

Their race of life is now run, their last battle has been fought. They have closed their eyes to sleep, never to wake again. In that eternal sleep let them rest in peace.

Comrades, whilst performing this sacred duty towards our dead companions and while thus speaking of what we have done in our young days in the American Republic, let us not forget that we are Canadians, and that we also are living in a free country. Let us not forget that our first and dearest affections are for those who are nearer to our hearts, and that what we did elsewhere many years ago for the defence of the liberties and the right of others, we would be ready to do again for the defence of our own flag and the protection of our own country. Loyalty and fidelity are the two cardinal virtues of a soldier, and nowhere should those virtues be expected to find a more sacred shrine than in the hearts of those who are called upon to defend the soil upon which they were born. But why speak of the defence of our soil? Who are our ennemies? Are not England and America united together to spread throughout the world the good work of civilisation? Are they not actually extending to one another the hand of friendship? Have we not seen lately the banner of St. George and the Stars and Stripes floating side by side or entwined together? Oh! Canadians; my countrymen, let us bless Providence that our home is in a land of freedom under the fostering care of a kind but mighty nation; but let us also thank Heaven that we are living side by side of the great Republic which has done so much for the liberty of mankind and whose frienship is to us a garantee that for many years to come our country will enjoy prosperity and peace.



Jacques Beaulieu
jacqbeau@canardscanins.ca
Révisé le 3 avril 2018
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