“DES MOINES, Sept. 29 — At the Soldiers’ Reunion to-day President Grant said that he had concluded to disappoint those who had called him in the expectation of hearing a short speech, as he had jotted down many things he wished to say. He then expressed gratification in recalling the days when they had suffered together to preserve a government which we believed worth fighting for and even dying for.
‘We will not,’ said he, ‘deny to any of those who fought against the United States any privilege under the Government which we claim for ourselves. On the contrary, we welcome all such who come forward in good faith to help build up the waste places and perpetuate our institutions against our enemies, as brothers in full interest with us in a common heritage. To guard against a recurrence of the past, we must begin by guarding against every enemy preventing the prosperity of our free republican institutions. I do not bring into this assemblage politics, certainly not partisan politics; but it is a fair subject for soldiers in their deliberations to consider what may be necessary to secure the prize for which they battled.’
The President urged the cultivation of intelligence among the people in regard to political matters, and said, ‘If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict the dividing line will not be Mason and Dixon’s, but between patriotism and intelligence on one side and superstition, ambition and ignorance on the other. On this Centennial year the work of strengthening the foundation of the structure, began by our forefathers one hundred years ago at Lexington, should be begun. Let us all labor for more security of free thought, free speech, a free press and pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments and equal rights and privileges of all men irrespective of nationality, color or religion. Encourage free schools and resolve that not one dollar appropriated to them shall be applied to the support of any sectarian school. Resolve that neither State nor nation shall support institutions, save only those where every child in the land can get a common school education unmixed with atheist, pagan on sectarian teaching. Leave the matter of religion to the family and keep Church and State separate. With these safeguards I believe battles which created the army of Tennessee will not have been fought in vain.’
The speech was greeted with applause, repeated again and again. General Sherman closed the speaking for the night with a humorous and short speech in which he said he wished the speeches made here to-night could be printed in full and scattered broadcast though the South, to show the people there how ex-soldiers of the North felt toward them.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Newspapers.com, Los Angeles Evening Express, September 30, 1875. (top) Image courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, New York, “General U.S. Grant,” publisher not transcribed, c. 1879