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Chapter 23

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Early History of Illinois

Sidney Breese

published by E. B. Myers & Company,
Chicago, 1884

The text is in the public domain.

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 p232  Chapter XXIV

The proper monuments of Marquette and La Salle
— The Illinois and Mississippi

Little did they, who first enkindled it, imagine, in the loftiest reachings of their fancy, that multitudes would visit the spot where it burnt, or that coming generations, as they gazed on the ruins of the mighty structures which they erected, how hid by the briar and the ivy, with the damps of certain decay upon them, would speak of them, as the first bold leaders in that march of empire, which, bearing onward, still onward and westward, is yet to pass the mountain barrier, to tread the valley of the Columbia, and only to be arrested at last by the wave of that very ocean whose shore attracted hither the first adventurous brother of their order. And little did he suppose, as his slender bark was borne along these liquid highways, that the sails of commerce would so soon whiten them, or their shores reverberate  p233 to the harsh breathings of the steam engine, little did he dream, when reposing beneath the forest foliage, that cities would here spring up, that civilized States would lay here, broad and deep, the foundations of their power, and that a nation, then but in its chrysalis, would here unfurl its flag, point its cannon and pour out its people. He thought not, in his vain gloryings, that he was the discoverer of an empire, or that his little torch would be the light for multitudes to seek it, to possess it and enjoy it; yet, nevertheless, he deserves our gratitude and our admiration.

To commemorate important services, we erect the splendid mausoleum, the lofty column, the triumphal arch and the colossal statue, but they moulder and decay, and the memorial and the event are alike forgotten. An act of legislation is a monument more durable than either, for the printing press makes it eternal, and all coming ages can see it, and read it, and ponder on the circumstances which gave it birth. While the rubbish of centuries collects around, and obscures all other mementos, this makes the subjects of it immortal, and preserves their memories forever green in the heart.

 p234  Though no proud memorials rear their heads in honor of Marquette and of La Salle, yet a more valued tribute has been paid to the illustrious memory of one of them by a people to whom this high duty so appropriately belongs, and whilst our State organization endures, and the Illinois and Mississippi shall send their waters to the sea, so long will his name be known, and his services held in grateful remembrance.

Thus have I traced, with a feeble hand, a few faint outlines of our earliest history. It is a skeleton merely, to which some one more capable can add muscle and sinew, and form and beauty and vitality; I claim only to have exhumed the remains.

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Page updated: 11 Sep 16