American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Gods & Generals" (2003)


Colonel Joshua Chamberlain on Abolition

Audio mp3 delivered by Jeff Daniels


Chamberlain: All these thousands of men, many of them not much more than boys. Each one of them some mother's son, some sister's brother, some daughter's father; each one of them a whole person, loved and cherished in some home far away. Many of them will never return.

An army is power -- its entire purpose is to coerce others. Now, this kind of power cannot be used carelessly or recklessly; this kind of power can do great harm. We have seen more suffering than any men should ever see. And if there is going to be an end to it, it must be an end that justifies the cost.

Now, somewhere out there is the Confederate Army. They claim they are fighting for their independence, for their freedom.

Now, I cannot question their integrity. I believe they are wrong but I cannot question it. But I do question a system that defends its own freedom while it denies it to others, to an entire race of men.

I will admit it, Tom, war is a scourge -- but so is slavery. It is the systematic coercion of one group of men over another. It has been around since the Book of Genesis. It exists in every corner of the world, but that is no excuse for us to tolerate it here when we find it right before our very eyes, in our own country.

As God is my witness, there is no one I hold in my heart dearer than you, but if your life or mine is part of the price to end this curse and free the negro, then let Godís will be done.

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