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This Week in History:
May 29 - June 4, 1868
Memorial Day Proclaimed

May 2011

This week we shift a bit in time, in order to commemorate the founding of the Memorial Day holiday, now celebrated on the nearest Monday, but originally set for May 30, 1868. While many think of this holiday as established by President Woodrow Wilson after the First World War, Wilson's contribution was essentially to expand the scope of the holiday beyond the Civil War dead, to all those who have given their lives in war for our nation.

General John Logan

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed for May 30, 1868, on May 5 of that year, by General John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. While the Grand Army was an organization of veterans of the Civil War, not the official army, it took hold. General Logan's objective, as seen in his proclamation, which we reprint here, was to honor those who had saved the Union, but from the beginning, flowers were strewn on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Following the assassination of President Lincoln, the nation lacked that national leader who could have pulled together a reconciliation policy, politically and economically, that would heal the nation, and thus the period in which this holiday was proclaimed, was rife with unresolved tension from the Civil War.

The full declaration, called General Orders No. 11, ran as follows:

"I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance. no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will, in their own way, arrange such fitting serves and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

"We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose amonng other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance.

"All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

"If our eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

"Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us, in this solemn presence, renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

"II. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

"III. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective."

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Badge worn by members of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Today, when the noble purposes of our military are so much under attack, by those like Samuel Huntington, who promote a Waffen-SS-style of soldiery more suited to empire, than the republic, it is all the more important that we recall the origins, and purpose, of Memorial Day. In this respect, the words of Lyndon LaRouche, in his announcement of a Memorial Day webcast May 28, 2002, provide an appropriate summons:

"After the close of the first of the two world wars of the last century, our republic committed itself to remember in perpetuity those who had fallen in battles. Let us remember them today.

"Thus, when I returned from the last world war, I passed the house of a boyhood friend, Leon, the sole companion of the aging grandparents who had raised him. As I came up the sidewalk to a place by the front windows of that house, I saw a gold star in the window. I shall never forget that awesome moment.

"Let us therefore pledge, as President Abraham Lincoln did, that if government must send men to die in war, let the war end as quickly as possible, and let the leaders of our nation be assured in advance, that the citizen's sacrifice not be in vain. Let us pledge as much wisdom as we are capable of calling forth today, to that end."


The original article was published in the EIR Online’s Electronic Intelligence Weekly, as part of an ongoing series on history, with a special emphasis on American history. We are reprinting and updating these articles now to assist our readers in understanding of the American System of Economy.

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