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SONS OF THE REVOLUTION
(Speech of Surgeon-General Walter Wyman at the banquet given in Washington, D. C., February 22, 1900, by the Society of the Sons of the Revolution in the District of Columbia.]
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:-In behalf of the Society of the Sons of the Revolution in the District of Columbia it becomes my pleasant duty to bid you welcome on this occasion, the anniversary of the birthday of George Washington, the Father of his country.
The Society of the Sons of the Revolution was founded in 1883, in New York, its purpose, as expressed by the Constitution, being “to perpetuate the memory of the men, who, in the military, naval, and civic service of the Colonies and of the Continental Congress, by their acts and counsel achieved the independence of the Country." The New York Society, to be historically correct, was instituted February 22, 1876, but was reorganized in 1883, when the General Society was formed. State Societies were subsequently formed in Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, State of Washington, and West Virginia, there being, therefore, thirty-one State Societies, with a total membership of 6,031. The District of Columbia Society was formed in 1889, and now numbers over two hundred and fifty members. The object of these Societies is not, as some may im
agine, to indulge a pride of ancestry, or to establish exclusive organizations with a membership dependent upon the deeds of forefathers for its own distinction, but rather to encourage and stimulate a desire for knowledge of the problems which were presented to, and the circumstances which confronted our revolutionary forefathers; to study their courage and wisdom in council and their valor in war, which resulted in the establishment of a Republic, the most potent in the history of the world.
The illumination of the past is useless unless its rays are made to penetrate into the present, bestowing guidance and confidence. The records of our forefathers, therefore, are
. brought forth and published to the world, chiefly to stimulate ourselves to like courage and devotion should occasion arise.
The patriotism displayed by both the North and the South during the War of the Rebellion, and the patriotism displayed during the recent Spanish-American War, are evidences that true American spirit is as strong to-day as it was in the days which gave birth to our Republic. The associations now in existence, having their origin in the War of the Rebellion and the Spanish-American War, are similar in their aim and objects to the Society of the Sons of the Revolution. This Society seeks to preserve the records of the founders of the Republic, to cause these records to be published and preserved in permanent form—not only those which are to be found in the archives of the Nation and of the States, but fragmentary facts of vast interest, in the hands of private individuals, which would otherwise become lost or forgotten. It erects monuments to commemorate the lives of distinguished men, and mural tabiets to signalize important events; it establishes prize essays for competition among school children on subjects relating to the American Revolution, and seeks to inspire respect and affection for the flag of the Union.
The numerous celebrations and excursions to points of historical interest, of the District of Columbia Society, with in the past ten years, must still be fresh in the minds of many among this audience. Each Fourth of July, each Washington's Birthday, as well as on other occasions within the past ten years, has this Society indulged in patriotic celebration. The celebration of to-day is of peculiar significance. Questions, second only in importance to those which confronted Washington, are before us. The Nation is entering upon a career of influence and beneficence which even Washington never dreamed of. Questions of government, involving the rights of men, the responsibilities of the strong in their relations to the weak, the promulgation of freedom without license, are problems facing the American Congress and the people to-day. The force of events has extended the responsibility of these United States to Cuba, Porto Rico, Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam, and Samoa
During the events of the past two years every thinking inan and woman must have been impressed by the gravity of the problems with which our present Chief Executive has been forced to grapple: problems that have demanded of him many of the great qualities which distinguished our first President. These problems involved a steady adherence to what is right, a lofty patriotism sinking the individual in the consideration of the public good. Firmness before the enemy, buoyancy and strength before friends, and humility before the Creator who disposes of all things. These are elements of character which not only distinguished George Washington, but which I am only echoing public sentiment in saying likewise have distinguished our present Chief Executive, and inspired an affection for and a confidence in the name of William McKinley.
It is peculiarly befitting at this time, therefore, to study those characteristics of great men which enable them to meet great emergencies and at the same time preserve their own simplicity and nobility of character untainted by selfishness. Of the living we may not speak too freely, but every act and sentiment of him “who by his unwearied exertions in the cabinet and in the field achieved for us the glorious revolution," is ours for contemplation and comment. Both time and place are singularly appropriate. In this city bearing his name, facing the noble shaft erected to his memory, within the territory which he most frequented, and almost in sight of his stately home on the Potomac, it is befitting that we here celebrate his natal day. [Prolonged applause:]