This was the beginning of An Address of Welcome on Veterans’ Day at the Florida Chautauqua on March the 13th, 1909. The context is important here. This was mostly an address to the still living Confederate veterans of the Civil War and should be read in that context.
The speaker, John L. McKinnon of Walton County, Florida, was no academic historian, nor did he write in a scholarly manner. Much of his book, History of Walton County, reads as someone giving you oral history as you sit with the story teller in rockers on a front porch.
Our commander, General Pasco, in having me speak the welcoming words today, gave me to understand, that it did not require the commanding voice of oratory, nor the persuasive speech of eloquent words, neither was it necessary to dip one’s tongue in the fountain of the Muses, to welcome a confederate soldier. But, says he, “it needs only the simple language of the heart, just true heart words.”
It was only then, I felt I might be able to make you feel at home with us, on this occasion, as my heart is always in tune with, and in sympathy for the Confederate soldier. For I know well of his motives, his grievances, his sacrifices. To some here, your bent forms, your empty sleeves, your halted steps coming down these aisles, may be suggestive of uncouthness. But to us, who remember the cause through which these came, they are grace, beauty and love. Your persecuted cause, that the world now calls “The Lost Cause,” made resistless appeals to your manhood.
To be sure, it sifted out the insincere and cowardly, but it left you a force of men the stronger for the winnowing. And brought out all that is noble and most daring in you. It struck open the deeps in your souls. No men could have been more sincere in the righteousness and justice of a cause, than you were in the one you espoused. Then shall we say of a truth, ours is a “Lost Cause?” “Nothing is settled until it is settled right.”
We know our grievances were settled by the power of the sword, and time has shown us how very unjust and unsatisfactory the arbitrament of the sword has been in the past. Now, near half a century has passed, and the problems of those days are the unsolved problems of today. “Courage yet,” writes James Renwick, the soul of the Cameronian Societies in the days of the Covenant and Killing Times. “Courage yet, for all that has come and gone. The loss of men is not the loss of the cause. What is the matter tho’ we all fall? The cause shall not fall.”
We see a rock in mid ocean, with its modest form high above the dashing waves, as a beacon light to those who would navigate treacherous seas; inviting the storm tossed ones to take rest on its firm foundations. We see the waves of every sea leaping upon and lashing it. And in the course of time, we find this beacon rock wasting itself away, beating back the angry waves. This rock is not lost, it is resting there on its granite bed, while the waves roll on; and maybe some day when the waters recede from the earth, or in some cosmic disturbances it may be the first to lift its broader form to bring light and give protection around.
So, too, in a political or governmental sense, we see a little Republic, born out of contentions and disturbances, modestly lifting itself up and taking its place among the Nations of the world. It, too, has a firm foundation on which to build–a constitution that eliminated the evils and interjected the good found in other governments. With a splendid code of laws enacted, guaranteeing self government. Yet this little Republic had hardly taken its place on the roll of Republics, before the Nations about began to leap upon and continued to pound upon it, until it wore itself out driving them back.
And my fellow comrades, you are here today as the representatives, the exponents of that little Republic–as the resultant–the residuum, if you please, of all that pounding. And your ardent support, all these years to the overpowering government, speaks in noble terms of your patriotism–your loyalty to the same. We feel that we voice the heart sentiments of every one here, when we say, in defending this little Republic, we did nothing that we are ashamed of, one that needs an apology for. None but the coward or degenerate sons would dare say less.
We know that we deserve as much respect from the world at large, for standing by our convictions, as those do who opposed us and will be satisfied with nothing less. We acknowledged that we were overpowered, or whipped if you please, but not debauched. The agonies that we know of–the blood that we saw flow, must stand for something. As the years roll on, in the course of human, events, there may come a time in our governmental affairs, when “Mercy and truth are met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other”–when “truth crushed to the ground shall rise again.”
When the principles of State Sovereignty of Liberty (and not chattel slavery as some would have believe) that were so dear to us, and for which we fought and gave the best blood in our land, shall come to the front, assert themselves, and make this old Republic–so long as God will have it stand–by far the best government on the globe. Fellow Comrades–we do welcome you here with all our hearts, and to all the good things in our town; and hope through all the years that are going to be yours in this world, we may find you able to come up here annually, that we may have sweet fellowship one with another.
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Source: History of Walton County – Pages 384-389
Top Photo: Confederate veteran reunion, 1917 — Title from unverified data provided by the National Photo Company on the negative or negative sleeve.