Memorial Day Address 2008

The Prince Hall Cemetery

Monday, May 26, 2008

Robert Fredieu, President
Arlington Historical Society

Thank you for having me here today.

I would like to start by reading a part of a speech Prince Hall gave in Arlington, then Menotomy, almost 211 years ago in 1797.

When we hear of the bloody wars which are now in the world, and the thousands of our fellow men slain; fathers and mothers bewailing the loss of their sons; wives for the loss of their husbands; towns and cities burnt and destroy’d; what must be the heart-felt sorrow and distress of these poor and unhappy people! Though we cannot help them, the distance being to(o) great, yet we may sympathize with them in their troubles, and mingle a tear of sorrow with them, and do as we are exhorted to — weep with those that weep.

Thus my brethren we see what a chequered world we live in. Sometimes happy in having our wives and children like olive branches about our tables; receiving the bounties of our great Benefactor. The next year, or month, or week, we may be deprived of some of them, and we go mourning about the streets: so in societies; we are this day to celebrate this Feast of St. John’s and the next week we might be called upon to attend the funeral of some one here, as we have experienced since our last in the Lodge. So in the common affairs of life we sometimes enjoy health and prosperity; at another time sickness and adversity, crosses and disappointments.

So in states and kingdoms; sometimes in tranquility; then wars and tumults; rich to day, and poor to-morrow; which shows that there is not an independent mortal on earth; but dependent one upon the other, from the king to the beggar.

Now I am certain no one here would deny me that Prince Hall was a great man. He was the contemporary of some of the greatest people who ever lived.

But today we stand in a place where common men are buried. These men were just like you and me. However, this does not mean they are less deserving of our remembrance than Prince Hall. We are akin to Jonas Clark and William Derby in that we all live similar lives with the same hopes and fears and dreams as they had. Maybe in a hundred years we will all be forgotten. But if not then let us hope to be remembered as good people just as we now remember these men.