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Mr. Chairman: When I received the invitation to attend this meeting I did not think of “the day we celebrate,” nor of what might occur here, nor of what I could say to you if I came. The invitation to address an assemblage of Scandinavian people broke down the barriers of time and place, and awakened recollections of a body of men, born on the Scandinavian Peninsula, who, nearly a quarter of a century ago, were endeared to me by the strong ties of common hardships, privations, and dangers.

For nearly three years the Kansas regiment I had the honor to command, tented, marched and fought by the side of a regiment of Scandinavians. And when the brave but unfortunate commander of that regiment, Col. Hans C. Heg, was mortally wounded at the battle of Chickamauga, I succeeded him in command of the Brigade. I speak from personal knowledge, therefore, when I say that the Scandinavian people who have immigrated to this country, and sworn allegiance to its Constitution and its laws, are thorough Americans. I have seen their loyalty and devotion tested in the fiery furnace of battle and by the most arduous and trying campaigns. I know, also, something of the work the Scandinavian people have done in developing the resources of this fair young State. Our census returns and our agricultural reports, in telling the story of the wonderful growth and prosperity of those sections of Kansas in which the Scandinavian settlers are located, tell, also, the story of their industry, their enterprise, and their thrift. And so, when I received your kind invitation to attend this meeting, my inclination to accept it, as I wrote Professor Swensson, was very strong. I wanted to avail myself of such an opportunity to acknowledge two important facts concerning Scandinavian Americans—first, the sturdy courage and splendid patriotism I had seen illustrated, by them, during our late civil war; and, second, that as citizens of Kansas they had done their full share in making this a great, prosperous, law-respecting commonwealth. This duty I gladly discharge. With reverent gratitude, I recall the services of the men from the Scandinavian Peninsula who mustered under the flag of the Fifteenth Wisconsin, and with admiring wonder, I look around me and see the substantial evidences of your industry, energy, and enterprise.

One hundred and seven years ago, after the Americans had carried the British works at Stony Point, the Commanding General, Anthony Wayne, sent to Washington a letter which read: “Dear General: The American flag waves here.” That was all. But it told all. Today the American flag waves here and everywhere, from the Northern lakes to the Gulf, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. And wherever it waves it is the symbol of peace, order, education, progress, and freedom. It is the flag of sixty million people, and dear to them, one and all, because it is the flag of a Republic where each man is the equal of every other man, in rights and privileges as well as in duties and responsibilities. It is your flag as it is my flag—mine by birth, yours by adoption. You have a right, therefore, to celebrate the anniversary of our National Independence. The impulse which led you to leave the land of your birth and establish homes in the new world, was that love of Freedom and faith in Humanity which is the soul of the great Declaration. Thousands of men of your race and blood have fought and suffered and died for the flag of this Republic. Their services and sacrifices and your own choice have made you heirs to the common heritage of American citizenship—individual liberty and security, a fair chance to work and win, the sovereignty of electors, and the protection of just laws. No government can give more than this, and no fair-minded and independent man expects or asks more of any government.

In exchanging the rocks and snows of Sweden for the broad prairies and rich soil of Kansas, you have not only benefitted yourselves, but you have benefitted the State. I do not depreciate your native land. I know something of its history and its resources. Compared with the vast areas of the United States, the Scandinavian Peninsula is not a large territory. It includes less than three hundred thousand square miles; it has a population not exceeding six million; and its sterile soil yields grudgingly. But amid its rocks and snows, a singularly hardy and energetic people have lived and worked since the dawn of civilization. From the bleak and barren hills of this Peninsula came the earliest forms of constitutional government. There, too, is found not only the oldest aristocracy of Europe but the sturdiest, most prosperous and well-educated people. For of the Swedes, not one in a thousand is unable to read and write, and the common people are the owners of nearly the whole of the landed property in the Kingdom. This Peninsula, too, is rich in historic names. Gustavus Adolphus and Charles XII justly rank among the greatest rulers and soldiers the world has ever known. Among statesmen, Oxenstiern deserves his world-wide fame; and among artists, there is no name brighter than that of Thorwaldsen. In literature, the writings of Tegner, Fredrika Bremer, Carlen, and Bjornson are as familiar to English-speaking people as to the Swedes. The mystic philosophy of Emanuel Swedenborg has interested and entertained the students of all countries. And among singers, what land or age has ever produced voices so rich in melody as those of Jenny Lind or Christine Neillson? At our Centennial Exhibition, in 1876, I spent many delightful days in the Swedish department, and I remember with still vivid interest its unequaled specimens of wood-carving, and the paintings in which the effect of moonlight on the water was reproduced with such marvelous fidelity and skill. The fair-haired people of the Scandinavian Peninsula have indeed stamped their impress upon the history, the literature, the arts, the industries, and the laws and government of the whole civilized world, and always the influence exerted by their teaching and example has been wholesome and beneficent.

We are interested now, however, in the Scandinavian people in America, and not those remaining on the Peninsula. The census of 1880 shows that there are 440,262 Scandinavians—Swedes, Norwegians and Danes—in the United States, and of these 194,337 are Swedes. The census of Kansas also reveals the fact that 11,207 of our citizens are of Swedish birth. This county of McPherson has within its limits the largest number, or 2,117; Saline county has 1,636; and Riley, Osage, Republic, and Clay have each over 500 citizens of Swedish birth within their limits. That they make good citizens is a fact universally acknowledged. Wherever they have settled, improvement and prosperity abound, and schools and churches multiply. They are, too, thorough Americans. They do not want to go back to the bleak, snow-clad hills and the vast forests of their native land, nor do they bring with them to this country that distrust of rulers and of law which arrays them against our government as if it was a natural enemy. They do not figure largely in politics; they prefer to attend to more material and personal concerns—building homes, conducting business and manufacturing industries, establishing schools for their children, erecting churches, and accumulating property. They do not, however, neglect the duties and responsibilities of the citizenship they have assumed; they study to discharge these, not as aliens, but in the true spirit of American individuality and patriotism. Hence, in exchanging the rocks and snows of Sweden for the soil and sunshine of Kansas, our Swedish citizens have, as I have said, benefited not only themselves but the young State with whose fortunes they have linked their own.

There are some foreigners whose coming to America is a public disaster. These are the men who, degraded and embittered by the oppression of despotic governments, confound liberty with license and lawlessness, and can see no difference between the President of the United States and the Czar of Russia. The tolerance of our laws, the liberality of our system of government, allows such freedom of speech and of action that these men, abusing and outraging the liberty they are permitted for the first time in their lives to enjoy, at once array themselves as enemies of all law and all government. They cannot comprehend the fact that laws are as necessary to the human race as the air we breathe. They cannot understand the difference between an arbitrary despotism and a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” The red flag they unfurl is the flag of the robber and the murderer. Their cry for liberty is the cry of the wolf in the forest seeking for his prey. It is no wonder that public indignation is intensifying against these miscreants, and that the demand for laws that will deal with them promptly and sternly, is swelling into a popular clamor. Less than a quarter of a century ago more than two million men rallied around their country’s flag, and cheerfully offered their lives that the Republic might be preserved. It is a glorious banner—the brave old flag of the stars and stripes. It is the flag of Yorktown, and Gettysburg, and Chickamauga, and Vicksburg, and Appomattox. Every man who lives where it floats is a freeman and a sovereign. It is the symbol of the only real Republic on the face of the earth. It is the flag of the only government where every man is free to do whatsoever he pleases as long as he does not invade the rights and freedom of his fellow-man. It is the banner of the Nation that opened this rich and beautiful land as a free gift to all—native and foreign-born alike. And any man, no matter where he was born, who seeks to degrade this glorious old flag, or to substitute in its stead the red flag of the robber and the anarchist, ought to enjoy, for an indefinite period, the liberty of the penitentiary.

I am glad to say that the Swedish settlers in the United States have never been accused or suspected of either sympathy or affiliation with the wretches who flaunt the red flag and affect to believe that all government is tyranny, and property is robbery.

This country is not only a free country, but its government is the perfection of human wisdom. From the dawn of its existence, the United States has been heir to the ripest harvests of the world’s learning and experience. England, France, Germany and Sweden struggled through long centuries of barbarism, ignorance and oppression before they wrested from force and Kingcraft the protection of constitutional government. Our forefathers brought with them, across the ocean, the fruits of this experience. They loved liberty, and they braved the isolation and dangers of an unknown land in order to enjoy it. Transmitted from sire to son, and broadening and strengthening for a hundred years, the ideas and the aspirations of the men who landed at Plymouth and at Jamestown at last found expression in the Declaration of Independence. “This immortal State paper,” says Bancroft, “was the soul of the country at that time; the revelation of its mind when, in its youth, its enthusiasm, its sublime confronting of danger, it rose to the highest creative powers of which man is capable. The heart of Jefferson in writing the Declaration, and of Congress in adopting it, beat for all humanity; the assertion of right was made for the entire world of mankind, without any exception whatever, for the proposition which admits of exceptions can never be self-evident.”

It was inevitable that the successful maintenance of the rights asserted in the Declaration, and the establishment of a government based upon the self-evident truths it affirmed, should not only exercise a potent influence upon the civil institutions of the world but attract to this country the most energetic, daring and aspiring spirits of all civilized nations. A wide continent, almost boundless in its area and infinite in its resources, afforded human industry and activity such opportunities for the exercise of their powers as were never before known, while the theories and principles of the Declaration, embodied in the organic law of the Republic, guaranteed to every citizen the largest individual liberty consistent with social order, and ample protection in the enjoyment of the products of his industry and skill.

If it was great to be a Roman citizen centuries ago, it is glorious, today, to be a citizen of the United States. What Nation enjoys such a splendid fame as ours? What other people is so opulent in the blessings of liberty, intelligence and peace? What country can boast of a happier and more prosperous present, or a more hopeful future? We have no venerable antiquity to look back upon; but what Nation, old or young, has enriched history with so long a list of immortal names—the names of jurists such as Jay and Marshall; or statesmen equalling Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Seward, and Blaine; or orators rivaling Patrick Henry, Webster, Clay, Douglas, Morton, and Sumner; or soldiers equalling Washington, Jackson, Grant, Sherman, and Thomas; or philosophers such as Benjamin Franklin; or poets of nobler fame than Longfellow, Bryant, Lowell, and Whittier; or financiers greater than Morris, Gallatin, Chase, and Sherman; or historians such as Bancroft, Prescott, and Motley? And what age or country, marshalling all its proud names, and blending the splendid qualities of each in a single person, can match the towering greatness of him who was at once statesman, orator, philosopher, hero, patriot and wise ruler—Abraham Lincoln?

The citizens of the United States are heirs to the rights of the Declaration, the guarantees of the Constitution, the protection of the flag, and the fame and glory of all the splendid names I have mentioned. It is, therefore, glorious to be a citizen of this Republic, and in leaving the bleak Scandinavian Peninsula and coming to America, you have made a wise exchange. The true Fatherland is the land of equal rights. The best country is that which affords to all its citizens the best opportunities for acquiring happy homes. The best government is that which makes all men equal before the throne of its Constitution and its laws. This country, this government, as I firmly believe, is the United States. You share in this belief, and so believing, you have taken our National Festival to your hearts, and made it your Festival, to celebrate, to be proud of, to honor and to revere. I greet you, therefore, not as Swedes, but as fellow-citizens. I rejoice in your prosperity. I acknowledge the brave, energetic part you have taken in the work of developing the resources of Kansas. I gladly join with you in celebrating this Festival of Liberty. You and your kindred have witnessed the full fruition of the predictions which one of our great poets attributes to a prophetess of your race, who lived centuries ago:

I.

“Men from the Northland, Men from the Southland, Haste empty-handed; No more than manhood Bring they, and hands.


II.

“Dark hair and fair hair, Red blood and blue blood, There shall be mingled; Force of the ferment Makes the New Man.


III.

“Them waits the New land; They shall subdue it, Leaving their sons’ sons Space for the body, Space for the soul.


IV.

“Here shall men grow up Strong from self-helping; Eyes for the present Bring they as eagles’, Blind to the past.


V.

“They shall make over Creed, law, and custom; Driving men, doughty Builders of empire, Builders of men.


VI.

“Over the ruin, See I the promise; Crisp waves the cornfield, Peace-walled, the homestead Waits, open-doored.


VII.

“Here all is all men’s, Save only Wisdom; King he that wins her; Him hail thy helmsmen, Highest of heart.


VIII.

“Might makes no master Here any longer; Sword is not swayer; Here e’en the gods are Selfish no more.


IX.

“Walking the New Earth Lo, a divine One Greets all men godlike, Calls them the kindred, He, the Divine.


X.

“Is it Thor’s hammer Rays in his right hand? Weaponless walks he; It is the White Christ, Stronger than Thor.


XI.

“Here shall a Nation rise Mighty in manhood; Justice and Mercy Here set a stronghold Safe without spear.


XII.

“Weak was the Old World, Wearily war-fenced; Out of its ashes, Strong as the morning, Springeth the New.


XIII.

“Beauty of promise, Promise of beauty, Safe in the silence Sleep thou, till cometh Light to thy lids!


XIV.

“Thee shall awaken Fame from the furnace, Bath of all brave ones, Cleanser of conscience, Welder of will.


XV.

“Lowly shall love thee, Thee, open-handed! Stalwart shall shield thee, Thee, worth their best blood, Waif of the West.


XVI.

“Then shall come singers, Singing no swan-song, Bird-carols, rather, Meet for the man-child Mighty of bone.”