Six years after Appomattox, the Civil War was an emotional “live wire” in Iowa. Republican candidates for office tapped into the continuing agony, and they condemned Democrats with great vigor (just as they had done during the war).
I recently portrayed Livingston G. Parker, a Union Army veteran and candidate for the Iowa State Senate in 1871, at the Historic Livingston Foundation. I wrote the following stump speech (drawing upon Parker’s letters and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address) to capture the spirit of Iowa Republicans.
Please read this speech in this context. I am not recommending any candidate in the current election. To help get the flavor of this speech, I would suggest that you listen to my reading of the text.
My friends, I stand here on this august occasion to remember the price our boys paid, often in blood, to put down the great Rebellion.
My fellow soldiers, some of you were also in Springfield, Missouri in late 1861. Gen. Fremont was there, Sigel and Sturgis also. There were some 40,000 men already there and more arriving daily … Who can forget the sight — white tents everywhere about the town … The drums were beating and the bugles sounding the evening calls and still the camp fires burned brightly. It was a scene of rare beauty, and as they stretched far away over the plain and up the hillsides, reminded us of the quiet village where bright lights reflect the peace and felicity within.
We yearned for the day when the rebels would repent their great wickedness, return to the fellowship of kindly brotherhood, fall into the line of duty and forward march to the music of the Union. We longed for “the banner of the free to float proudly over our land from lake to gulf and from ocean to ocean.”
But while we fought and bled, back home in Iowa, an enemy slithered through the cornstalks. Copperheads! Copperheads, those Democrats, said to be treacherous, cowardly, and venomous “above all other beasts of the field.” Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Copperheads seduced many citizens. Those Democrats proclaimed loyalty to the Union, but they actually worked against President Lincoln and our nation as we engaged in a life-and-death struggle.
Disloyal Democrats used newspaper editors to spread their poison. They used congressmen, too. Clement C. Vallandigham of Ohio, Democratic Congressman, proclaimed that he was an Apostle of Peace. My friends, Scripture teaches that Satan can appear as an Angel of Light, and that the time will come when even the very Elect may be deceived. Fellow citizens, do not be deceived. The Democratic Party is still the party of disloyalty!
Far, far away from our fair state, many of our valiant comrades fell on the field of battle or succumbed to disease. The Good Book says their bodies lie sleeping, until the Final Trump. Many of you know all too well the empty chair at the table that will never be occupied, the wise voice of counsel that will never again be heard, the hopes and dreams of marriage, forever sundered by death.
Out of the anguish that doesn’t stop, let us resolve, along with the martyred President Lincoln, “that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
My friends, this election, vote for the party of Grant and Lincoln!
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