Loyalists’ Centennial Souvenir - 1887 - p38-40

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Judge Wedderburn
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"I am sure I feel myself very fortunate, and congratulate you, sir, that so much has already been said on this subject; and that it will be necessary for me to occupy but a small portion of your time. Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, the question has been asked: What mean these unaccustomed services, this unusual gathering? What is it that has brought so many people together from one end of the province to the other, and from our sister provinces, from the United States and elsewhere, to the strains of martial music and the voices of a happy crowd, and with one object? Why, sir, it is not to commemorate the coronation of a king, it is not even that we should receive here the son or daughter of the Royal House of England, but it is to commemorate, in a fitting way, those lives of heroism of as brave a set of men as ever sacrificed everything in the establishment of a just principle. We have been told that a century has passed away, and what a century it has been, even within the memory of those who hear my voice this afternoon. What a century it has been in this city; here and everywhere are the marks of industry and enterprise. What railroads ply here, what electric wires carry on the most difficult operations at the uttermost parts of the earth! But we do not meet to commemorate these things, but because just one hundred years ago there landed upon the then rude shores of this country as brave a set of men as ever laid down their lives, their fortunes, their lands, their health or wealth, to maintain their true principles and the flag which had floated over them. It will not be necessary, after all that has been said and written, both in prose and verse, in reference to the Centennial, that I should stop for a moment to speak to the causes that led to the separation of the American colonies from England. It may have been the act of God; it may have been the act of the King's enemies; it may have been the rivalries in the Parliament, which did not understand the wants of the colony; it may have been the weakness or wickedness of the King; it may have been through port duties or navigation laws; but be it what it may have been, it is not for us to say to-day. It may have been that notwithstanding all that such men as BURKE, FOX, CHATHAM, PITT (greater than his father), could effect, they were not able to avert the catastrophe. Whatever it was, on this continent were let loose the dogs of war, and what had been a fair field of peace, enterprise, and industry, was ravaged by the disorder of war. But, Sir, we commemorate the one side of that event. The war had waxed so long with varying fortunes, the ministry had been defeated and new men taken office, and then came a time when the Loyalists were called upon to confront what was the bitterest hour to them. Why, sir, it is all very well when men are going on and flourishing with hope and faith in the justice of their cause and with the determination to do and dare and try, and leave it all in God's hands. It may be all very well then for men to feel that they are prepared to sacrifice everything for the cause in which they are engaged. But after the long drawn years, with the storm of war raging around them, when they could see all their friends about them falling to the right and left, then it is that men begin to shudder and to give up the struggle in which they are engaged. I have stated to you the bitter end of the struggle; how the King, led by his Parliament, in violation of his royal word, pledged to them in various ways, had now determined to give up the contest, and there had gone from one end to the other of the thirteen colonies the cry that all has gone; that victory had been won by the enemy, and that defeat had befallen them. It is under circumstances like these that men begin to quail. But listen to the words of your forefathers, which we reproduce. There is something talismanic in them. I give you not my estimate of what was done, but I read you the humble address of the Loyalists on hearing that the king was about to desert them." Judge WEDDERBURN then read copious extracts from the address, which fully set forth the spirit of fidelity and loyalty with which the Loyalists were animated. While doing so, he was frequently interrupted by enthusiastic cheering and hearty applause. He then continued: "Think, ladies and gentlemen, the revolting colonies take pride in their Declaration of Independence. Well may the Loyalists take pride in their declaration of fidelity, a declaration which should be repeated at every public festival and anniversary in their honor. I felt that the sentiments expressed in that noble declaration would find to-day a responsive re-echo in the loyal hearts of us, their descendants, who are thinking of those men who forsook all for principle, for their king and country, and, as I believe, to do reverence to God. Did it occur to you, as I read those words, that we, to-day, commemorate more than one landing? We have commemorated the landing of our forefathers upon this shore, but there were many landings before that. They may not all have started from the harbor of New York for one destination. Some started from the floors of dark, dim dungeons, in which they were confined as hostages. They started over the trackless waters to maintain their allegiance to their sovereign; some had been tried as enemies, not as enemies of their king and country, but as enemies of those who had taken up arms against them. I say it with all reverence — if there be personal reunion and recognition in Heaven, and if the glorified spirits participate in the affairs of earth — there must, to-day, be a reunion between the martyrs and exiles of the revolution. The men who themselves rest from their labors while their works follow them. (Cheers.) What are to be the lessons of to-day? I might occupy a great deal of time with the few notes I have made, but I know it is not the intention to interrupt the festivities of this time. In vain is all your pomp and pageantry and these ceremonies if they teach us no lesson. I echo the sentiment heard so frequently, that the bitterness of the past has gone. We can now maintain that our forefathers acted from the purest feelings of right, and our friends on the other side of the line will not think the less of us because we maintain the spotless purity of the unsuccessful opponents of the Revolution; and if they should, in honor to the illustrious dead we shall maintain that position. In the beautiful graveyard of this city and in many a cemetery rest the ashes of our forefathers. ' After life's fitful fever, they sleep well.' It is true no monument records their virtues and heroism; no imposing edifice raises its head to heaven recording their life's work, but in the hearts of the people here their names are embalmed. From the darkest storm-clouds the lightning flashes forth, and so from the dark shadow of the valley of death comes their illustrious example to lead us to live a life of duty. Yet I invoke not the spirit of 1783; courageous as it was, the century has outlived its feelings. I know no more striking picture than that of the Prince of Wales, as heir of the British Crown, standing reverently in silent contemplation by the grave of Washington; while Queen Victoria sends a chaplet tribute of her loving sympathy to be laid upon the tomb of martyred Garfield, the last president. " 'Now let the kettle to the trumpet speak; the trumpet to the big drums, and the drum to the cannoneer without, but let it be in tones of peace.' "Let us hope when a century shall look down upon this, our young Dominion, it may see a people ready, willing, and anxious to praise God from whom all blessings flow that our Dominion may then pass along, side by side, in friendly rivalry, With her elder sister over the border, at the same time emulating her great mother’s example. I invite you to no odes of hatred; but here in this building dedicated to peace, in the silent, sweet sanctuary of your own happy homes, in this city of the Loyalists, by the trials and triumphs they achieved, by the place they maintained, and by their graves, to call your sons and instruct them what a duty they owe their ancestors, and make them swear to transmit down the sacred rights that they had maintained." (Loud and prolonged applause.)