Dedication Speech for the Unveiling of the Memorial Arch in Valley Forge Park

June 19, 1917
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Commissioners of Valley Forge request the honor of your presence at the dedication of The United States Washington memorial arch at Valley Forge on Tuesday June nineteenth, nineteen hundred and seventeen, at two o'clock P.M. Library of Congress

Governor Martin C. Brumbaugh formally accepts, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the care and keeping of the Memorial Arch at Valley Forge Park on June 19, 1917.


Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Commissioners of Valley Forge request the honor of your presence at the dedication of The United States Washington memorial arch at Valley Forge on Tuesday June nineteenth, nineteen hundred and seventeen, at two o'clock P.M. Library of Congress

Mr. Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen:

In accepting for our great Commonwealth this National Memorial, now formally transferred to our care and keeping by an eloquent and distinguished representative of our National Government, it is fitting that we should for a few moments consider the meaning of the action now taken and the significance of the purpose that has called us here.

One hundred and thirty-nine years ago, under the immortal Washing ton, there marched from this camp at Valley Forge not only an army that thereafter never knew defeat, but also an ideal in government that is now about to become universal, the ideal that free men, enlightened and politically equal, shall determine their own destiny and not have it determined for them by others. Here huddled in cabins and lacking in every comfort that men cherish, naked, bleeding and hungry, our forefathers displayed a fortitude unequaled and cherished an ideal which, under God, has found welcome in human hearts and in patriotic spirits in every clime and in every country.

The spirit of Valley Forge increasingly becomes the spirit of the human race. No ideal in government has had such speedy and widespread acceptance. No other spirit can now, in the dark days of the nations, be approvingly entertained by any nation. The spirit of Valley Forge is with the Allies in the western line; it is breathing hope in Russia. It has asserted itself in Greece. It is brooding over China and has already quickened Japan and animates the peoples of the islands of the sea. It has re made South America and is the only hope of the Central powers of Europe.

Pennsylvania early sensed the world meaning of Valley Forge and has taken adequate steps to preserve its soil and its meaning for all time. This arch is recognition of the nation's concern that the world shall never forget what Valley Forge was, is, and forever shall be.

The fragmentary groups of Colonials that gathered here in 1777 had been defeated, disorganized, but not discouraged. They knew that life and liberty and the pursuit in peace of happy careers could be theirs only if successful. They willingly staked on the issue their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, and under effective leadership, they were here molded into an efficient army and into a national spirit. The Constitution of the Union was born in the huts of Valley Forge.

Here America learned how sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong. In the darkest hours of distress and disaster our forefathers endured spartan-like the rigors of an excessively severe winter and the daily menace of an arrogant, city-entrenched foe. They came from this winter of dis content a disciplined and hearted people, united in ideals, held together by common sacrifices and bound by a common experience into a people of strength, courage and resourcefulness.

Here America learned the generous good of sacrifice. When in the First Continental Congress news of the occupancy of Boston by the British forces was announced, one man embodying the very spirit of American liberty arose and modestly said, “I propose to equip at my own expense a regiment of troops and march at their head for the relief of Boston.” The speaker was the Commander of this camp, George Washington. There is nowhere in the annals of men a finer expression of America's spirit of sacrifice. This country won the Revolutionary struggle and triumphed in 1812, 1847, 1862, 1898, and will again triumph because this is the spirit of Valley Forge, the national ideal.

When our citizens were menaced on the high seas by an arrogant monarchy and the property and lives of American citizens in defiance of all humanitarian codes were ruthlessly sacrificed, the hurt was felt in the heart of every American. We have answered by declaring war against this ruthless despoiler. We have registered upwards of 10,000,000 of men, ready to make the Washingtonian sacrifice to defend our national honor, and to keep our spotless record unsullied. We have given by law seven billion of our money and have over-offered in cash two billion of it that this wrong may be righted, and that the spirit of Valley Forge may be vindicated on the battle plains of the world. We are now giving gladly $100,000,000 to the American National Red Cross as an added earnest of our high purpose. We have fed the hungry. We have ministered to the suffering. We have financed the needy. We have counselled the courageous. We have aided the oppressed and we are opposing the oppressor and our lives, our property and our sacred honor are again freely given that the spirit of Valley Forge maybe not only our animating spirit, but the accepted guidance and inspiration of all men in all countries from this time on.

We have learned the value of federated democracy and of a united and inseparable nation. W h e n a Pennsylvanian in 1754 called the delegates of the English colonies to Albany for federation and for peace treaties with the Indians, he planted the seeds of American union. When, as a result, these same colonies by duly designated delegates met in Carpenter's Hall, and subsequently in Independence Hall, this national ideal began to mature. When Washington at Valley Forge molded the unrelated groups of Colonial troops into one great national body, the Constitution was determined and the Union of states established forever. Valley Forge was the crowning event in those marvelously interesting and significant steps by which this nation emerged into the light, set up regulated liberty under democracy as the guide and goal of mankind and moved triumphantly forward as the color-bearer of all oppressed and discouraged peoples.

Into this great Republic have come from all the world those that hungered to eat of the bread of true national life, and that thirsted to drink of the foundations of liberty and equality. We have welcomed them and given them home and haven. We ask only that they behave themselves seemingly and give, as did those of Valley Forge, unstinted and unflinching fealty to our flag and our fortunes. To do less is traitorous. To do more is impossible. To do as much is just and proper. We ask our people, native-born and foreign born, to follow the example of the Continental army that 139 years ago marched from the hills of Valley Forge to a destiny immortal.

This enduring arch is not as enduring as the spirit of Valley Forge, but while it lasts, under the care and keeping of this great Commonwealth, we shall cherish it, guard it, honor it, as fitting emblem of this vastly more enduring arch of human liberty whose foundations are set in the soil of at Valley Forge, and whose summit crowns the hills of Valley Forge.

This is Pennsylvania. She has ever led in all that national enterprise commands, and she today, accepts this memorial as a new pledge of national fealty and world-wide democracy. Where stand Valley Forge and Pennsylvania, there stand the hopes, the aspirations, the glories of the humankind.

The National Memorial Arch at Valley Forge National Historical Park, Valley Forge, Pa. Carol M. Highsmith