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ship and mutual respect upon which we must assist to build the new structure of peace and good-will among the nations.” (Refer to 151.)
64. Christmas Day - December 25.
Christmas is observed throughout the Christian world in commemoration of the birth of Christ. England is the country from which most of our Christmas customs come, but Sweden, Ņorway, Denmark, Poland, Russia, and Germany have contributed certain features to American festivities in different sections of the country.
"Amidst the general call to happiness, the bustle of the spirits and stir of the affections, which prevail at this period, what bosom can remain insensible? It is indeed the season of regenerated feeling - the season for kindling not merely the fire of hospitality in the hall, but the genial flame of charity in the heart. He who can turn churlishly away from contemplating the felicity of his fellow-beings and can sit down repining in loneliness, when all around is joyful, wants the genial and social sympathies which constitute the charm of a merry Christmas.” Washington Irving.
II. Historic Anniversaries
In some States, certain of these days are legal holidays.
65. Lee's Birthday — January 19.
Robert E. Lee was the general in command of the armies of the Confederates (the South) in the Civil War. He was born in Virginia in 1807, a son of “Light-horse Harry” Lee, of Revolutionary fame. He was a lieutenant-colonel in the United States Army when Virginia withdrew from the Union, and was opposed to secession, but he felt it his duty to follow his State. General Lee was a man of the highest and purest character, passionately fond of his State, one of the most skillful soldiers of history, and greatly beloved by all Southern people. After Lee surrendered, at the close of the Civil War, he said to the people of the South, “Recollect that we form one country now. Make your sons Americans.” These words have since that time been to thousands of Southerners a trumpet call to patriotism. (Refer to 11 49 and 92.)
66. Lincoln's Birthday -- February 12.
Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, in Kentucky. When he was seven years old the family moved to Indiana; but in his twenty
first year they left that State on foot, with an ox team, and emigrated two hundred miles westward to central Illinois. His parents were poor, hardworking pioneers, and the boy was obliged to begin earning his own way as soon as possible. At eight years of age he could chop wood for the household, and as a young man he split fence rails for a living. He was six feet four inches tall, and of enormous strength; and he needed it all in the vigorous out-of-door life which he then led. He was a constant reader of the few books to be obtained in the neighborhood, and in 1834 he began the study of law in Springfield. Twelve years later this frontier lawyer had become one of the leading men in Illinois and was elected to Congress.
He was inaugurated President on March 4, 1861, and in April the longthreatened Civil War broke out. Lincoln was reëlected President in 1864 and in the following April was assassinated by a fanatic. At his death, the South realized that she, like the North, had lost her best friend. Lincoln will ever be regarded in history as the savior of his country of the greatest of Americans. Stanton, his Secretary of War, said that he was “the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen.”
“His occupying the chair of State was a triumph of the good-sense of mankind, and of the public conscience. This middle-class country had got a middle-class President, at last. Yes, in manners and sympathies, but not in powers, for his powers were superior. This man grew according to the need. His mind mastered the problem of the day; and, as the problem grew, so did his comprehension of it. Rarely was man so fitted to the event. In the midst of fear and jealousies, in the Babel of counsels and parties, this man wrought incessantly with all his might and all his honesty, laboring to find what the people wanted, and how to obtain that. It cannot be said there is any exaggeration of his worth. If ever a man was fairly tested he was.
“Then, what an occasion was the whirlwind of the war. place for no holiday magistrate, no fair-weather sailor; the new pilot was hurried to the helm in a tornado. In four years, four years of battledays, – his endurance, his fertility of resource, his magnanimity, were sorely tried and never found wanting. There, by his courage, his justice, his even temper, his fertile counsel, his humanity, he stood a heroic figure in the centre of a heroic epoch. He is the true history of the American people in his time.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.
(Refer to ( 49 and 89. Read Lincoln's Gettysburg Speech, s 55.)
67. Inauguration Day — March 4.
Every four years a new President of the United States is inaugurated. The oath that he takes is as follows:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execule the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." (Refer to page 60.)
The spirit of the promise thus given by the chief citizen of our Republic is exactly the same as that contained in the oath taken by each of our foreign-born when he is admitted into citizenship:
“I hereby declare on oath ... that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” (Refer to page 20.)
(Read Gilder's Inauguration Day.)
68. Patriots' Day — April 19.
At Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775, occurred skirmishes between the British troops and the “minute-men” of the colonists, so called because they held themselves in readiness to respond at a minute's call to arms. This was the opening clash of the War of the Revolution, and was brought about by the attempts of the British to seize and imprison two of the most active of the American leaders, and also to destroy the arms and ammunition which the colonists had collected in order to equip their militia for any emergency. The severity of the British rule had long been resented by the Americans; yet before April 19, 1775, there was little idea of armed resistance, and “no whisper of a disposition," as Jefferson said afterwards, “to separate from Great Britain.
At Lexington and Concord, however, the colonists showed that they would fight for their rights. And they harassed the British troops constantly when they sought to retreat to Boston. There was no true “battle,” but the skirmishes have become famous in history as showing the pluck and determination of the Americans. Paul Revere's ride was incident to the fighting, since he had early notice of the plan of the British to make their raid, and galloped ahead of them to rouse the minute-men. (Refer to ( 46.)
(Read Longfellow's poem Paul Revere's Ride, and Emerson's Concord Hymn.)
69. Arbor Day — April
The date of Arbor Day varies in different States, but in all the purpose of the day is the same; namely to teach our people the value of trees, and to encourage their planting. The day is appointed by proclamation of
the governor. Frequently trees are planted in memory of some great statesman.
“When we plant a tree, we are doing what we can to make our planet a more wholesome and happier dwelling-place for those who come after us if not for ourselves.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes.
“The reckless and wanton destruction of forests has ruined some of the richest countries on earth. Syria and Asia Minor, Palestine, and the north of Africa were once far more populous than they are at present. They were once lands ‘flowing with milk and honey,' according to the picturesque language of the Bible, but are now in many places reduced to dust and ashes. Why is there this melancholy change? Why have deserts replaced cities? It is mainly owing to the ruthless destruction of the trees, which has involved that of nations." — Lubbock.
70. Flag Day — June 14.
The Stars and Stripes were formally adopted by Congress as our national flag on June 14, 1777, almost exactly two years after the Battle of Bunker Hill. “Flag Day” is in commemoration of this event. (Refer to 1 | 112, 113, and 71.)
“Is it any wonder that the old soldier loves the flag under whose folds he fought and for which his comrades shed so much blood? He loves it for what it is and for what it represents. It embodies the purposes and history of the Government itself. It records the achievements of its defenders upon land and sea. It heralds the heroism and sacrifices of our Revolutionary fathers who planted free government on this continent and dedicated it to liberty forever. It attests the struggles of our army and the valor of our citizens in all the wars of the Republic. It has been sanctified by the blood of our best and our bravest. It records the achievements of Washington and the martyrdom of Lincoln. It has been bathed in the tears of a sorrowing people. It has been glorified in the hearts of, a freedom-loving people, not only at home but in every part of the world.
“Our flag expresses more than any other flag; it means more than any other national emblem. It expresses the will of a free people, and proclaims that they are supreme and that they acknowledge no earthly sovereign but themselves. It never was assaulted that thousands did not rise up to smite the assailant. Glorious old banner!” William McKinley.
(Read Bennett's The Flag goes by.)
71. Bunker Hill Day - June 17.
The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought in Charlestown, near Boston, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1775. There was a British army in Boston,
and its commander wished to seize the heights surrounding the city in order the better to repel attacks. The Americans, however, succeeded in building a redoubt upon a hill near Bunker Hill before the British could do so. When the British regular soldiers assaulted the redoubt, the Americans although undisciplined farmers and militiamen – received them with so hot and accurate a fire that the British were twice driven down the hill with heavy loss. But in the end, through lack of ammunition, the colonists were driven from their redoubt and forced to leave the hill to the British. Thus the battle was in result a victory for the British. Yet its moral effect was greatly to encourage the Americans. It showed that the Americans could withstand troops who had seen hard fighting in Europe. Hearing of the battle, George Washington asked if the militia had stood up to the fire of the British, and when he was told how they had behaved, “Thank God!” he exclaimed, “the liberties of the country are safe.” A ruler wiser than King George III of England would have felt after this battle that brave men like the Americans deserved better government than they were receiving. But the English king, who was really a German by descent, was willing to make no concessions. For seven years, therefore, the fighting went on and in the end, aided by an alliance with France, the United States won by force not only their natural rights, but also their independence. (Refer to 1 46.)
(Read Fiske's The War of Independence, Holmes's Grandmother's Story of Bunker Hill Battle, and Lowell's Under the Old Elm.)
72. Election Day - November
The following stanzas from Whittier's poem, “The Poor Voter on Election Day," suggest the equality of opportunity for service in the cause of good government which the day offers to all citizens. Election day is observed as a holiday only in certain States. (Refer to [ 20.)
“The proudest now is but my peer,
The highest not more high;
A king of men am I.
The nameless and the known;
“Who serves to-day upon the list
Beside the served shall stand;
The gloved and dainty hand!