GENTLEMEN AND FELLOW-CITIZENS, for though we met as strangers from different and independent States, we are once more citizens of a common country. [Applause] Allow me briefly and sincerely to return you my unfeigned thanks for this compliment. The state of my health, my voice and the night air, apart from all other considerations, will prevent me from doing more. This is not the time or the place to discuss those great questions which are now pressing upon our public counsels. We are in a transition condition — in the process of a new formation.
Sufficient to say, that this day a new republic has been born — the Confederate States of America has been ushered into existence, to take its place amongst the nations of the earth — [cheers] — under a temporary or provisional government, it is true; but soon to be followed by one of a permanent character, which, while it surrenders none of our ancient rights and liberties, will secure more perfectly, we trust, the peace, security, and domestic tranquillity that should be the objects of all governments. [Applause.]
What is to be the future of this new government — the fate of this new republic — will depend upon ourselves. Six States only, at present, constitute it — but six stars, as yet, appear in our constellation — more, we trust, will soon be added. By the time of the adoption of the constitution of the permanent government, we may have a number greater than the original thirteen — of the original Union, and with more than three times their population, wealth, and power. [Applause] With such a beginning, the prospect of the future presents strong hopes to the patriot’s heart, for a bright and prosperous career. But what that future shall be, depends, I say, upon ourselves and those who shall come after us. Ours is a republic. And all republics, to be permanent and prosperous, must be supported by the virtue, intelligence, integrity, and patriotism of the people. These are the corner-stones upon which the temple of popular liberty must be constructed, to stand securely and permanently. Resting ours upon these, we need fear nothing from without or from within. With a climate unsurpassed by any on earth; with staples and productions which control the commerce of the world; with institutions, so far as regards our organic and social policy, in strict conformity to nature and the laws of the Creator, whether read in the Book of Inspiration or in the great book of manifestations around us, we have all the natural elements essential to the attainment of the highest degree of honor, glory, and renown. [Applause]
These institutions have been much assailed. It is our mission to vindicate the great truths on which they rest — and with them to exhibit the highest type of civilization which it is possible for human society to reach. In doing this, our policy should be marked by a desire to preserve and maintain peace with all other States and peoples. If this cannot be done, let not the fault lie at our door. While we should make aggressions on none, we should be prepared to repel them if made by others; let it come from whatever quarter it may. [Applause] We ask of all others simply to be let alone, and to be permitted to work after our own safety, security, and happiness, in our own way, without molesting or giving offence to any other people.
Let then peace, fraternity, and liberal commercial relations with all the world, be our motto. [Cheers] With these principles, without any envy toward other States in the line of policy they may mark out for themselves, we will rather invite them to a generous rivalship in all that develops the highest qualities of our nature. [Applause]
With best wishes for you, gentlemen, and the success of our common government, this day announced, I bid you goodnight.
SOURCE: Henry Whitney Cleveland, Alexander H. Stephens, in Public and Private, p. 157-9