ConstitutionDay

The Practical Advance Of Human Freedom Under The Trumpet Call Made In 1776 by Charles F Adams

Charles Francis AdamsThe practical advance of human freedom under the trumpet call made one hundred years ago, and the Example of George Washington, by Charles Francis Adams 1876, US Congressman, US Diplomat. The son of 6th United States President John Quincy Adams and grandson of 2nd United States President John Adams. Continued from WHAT HISTORY TEACHES US ABOUT AMERICAN DIPLOMACY Addressed in 1876

“I come now to a fourth and more stupendous measure following that call. The world-wide famous author of it [The Declaration of Independence] had not been slow to grasp the conception that the abolition of all trade in slaves must absolutely follow as a corollary from’ his general principle. The strongest proof of it is found in the original draft of his paper, wherein he directly charged it as one of the greatest grievances inflicted upon liberty by the king, that he had countenanced the trade. The passage is one of the finest in the paper, and deserves to be repeated to-day. It is in these words:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the person of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death on their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian [As King of England, George III was the supreme head of the Church of England, this is one of the reasons for Amendment 1 of the Constitution] King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain the execrable commerce.(1)

There is no passage so fine as this in the Declaration. Unfortunately it hit too hard on some interests close at home which proved strong enough to have it dropped from the final draft. But though lost there, its essence almost coeval with the first publication of Granville Sharp in England on the same subject undoubtedly pervaded the agitation which never ceased in either country until legislation secured a final triumph The labors of Sharp and Wilberforce, of Clarkson and Buxton, and their companions, have placed them upon an eminence of honor throughout the world.

Freedom5 But their struggle which began in 1787, was not terminated for a period of twenty years. On the other hand, it appears in the statute book in 1794, that it was enacted by the Congress of the United States: “That no vessel shall be fitted for the purpose of earning on any traffic in slaves to any foreign country, or for procuring from any foreign country the inhabitants thereof to be disposed of as slaves.” This act was followed in due course by others, which, harmonizing with the action of foreign nations, is believed to have put an effective and permanent stop to one of the vilest abominations, as conducted on the ocean, that was ever tolerated in the records of time.

But all this laborious effort had been directed only against the cruelties practiced in the transportation of negro slaves over the seas. It did not touch the question of his existing condition or of his right to be free.

This brings me to the fifth and greatest of all fruits of the charter of Independence, the proclamation of liberty to the captive through a great part of the globe.

The seed that had been sown broadcast over the world fell much as described in the Scripture, some of it sprouting too early, as in France, and yielding none but bitter fruit, but more, after living in the ground many years, producing results most propitious to the advancement of mankind. It would be tedious for me to go into details describing the progress of a movement that has changed the face of civilization. The principle enunciated in our precious scroll has done its work in Great Britain and in France, and most of all in the immense expanse of the territories of the Autocrat of all the Russias, who of his own mere motion proclaimed that noble decree which liberated from serfdom at one stroke twenty-three millions of the human race. This noble act will remain forever one of the grandest steps toward the elevation of mankind ever taken by the will of a sovereign of any race in any age.

But though freely conceding the spontaneous volition of the Czar in this instance, I do not hesitate to affirm that but for the subtle essence infused into the political conscience of the age by the great Declaration of 1776, he would never have been inspired with the lofty magnanimity essential to the completion of so great a work.

i-prefer-dangerous-freedom-over-peaceful-slaveryI come next and last to the remembrance of the fearful conflict for the complete establishment of the grand principle to which we had pledged ourselves at the very outset of our national career, and out of which we have, by the blessing of the Almighty, come safe and sound. The history is so fresh in our minds that there is no need of recalling its details, neither would I do so if there were, on a day like this consecrated wholly to the harmony of the nation. Never was the first aspect of any contention surrounded by darker clouds; yet viewing as we must its actual issue, at no time has there ever been more reason to rejoice in the present and look forward with confidence to a still more brilliant future. Now that the agony is over, who is there that will not admit that he is not relieved by the removal of the ponderous burden which weighed down our spirits in earlier days? The great law proclaimed at the beginning has been at last fully carried out. No more apologies for inconsistency to caviling and evil-minded objectors. No more unwelcome comparisons with the superior liberality of absolute monarchs in distant regions of the earth. Thank God, now there is not a man who treads the soil of this broad land, void of offense, who in the eye of the law does not stand on the same level with every other man. If the memorable words of Thomas Jefferson, that true Apostle of Liberty, had done only this it would alone serve to carry him aloft, high up among the benefactors of mankind. Not America alone, but Europe and Asia, and above all Africa, nay the great globe itself, move in an orbit never so resplendent as on this very day.

Let me then sum up in brief the results arrived at by the enunciation of the great law of liberty in 1776:

1. It opened the way to the present condition of France.

2. It brought about perfect security for liberty on the broad and narrow seas.

3. It set the example of abolishing the slave trade, which in its turn, prompted the abolition of slavery itself by Great Britain, France, Russia, and last of all, by our own country too.

Standing now on this vantage ground, gained from the severe straggle of the past, the inquiry naturally presents itself, What have we loft for us to do? To which I will frankly answer much. It is no part of my disposition, even on the brightest of our festival days, to deal in indiscriminate laudation, or even to cast a flimsy veil over the less favorable aspects of our national position. I will not deny that many of the events that have happened since our escape from the last great peril, indicate more forcibly than I care to admit, some decline from that high standard of moral and political purity for which we have ever before been distinguished. The adoration of Mammon, described by the poet as the

“least erected spirit that fell
From Heaven; for e’en in Heaven his looks and thoughts
Were always downward bent.”

has done something to impair the glory earned by all our preceding sacrifices. For myself, while sincerely mourning the mere possibility of stain touching our garments, I feel not the less certainty that the heart of the people remains as pure as ever.

One of the strongest muniments to save us from all harm it gives me pride to remind you of, especially on this day—I mean the memory of the example of Washington.

Whatever misfortunes may betide us, of one thing we may be sure that the study of that model by the rising youth of our land can never fail to create a sanative force potent enough to counteract every poisonous element in the political atmosphere.

Permit me for a few moments to dwell upon this topic, for I regard it as closely intertwined with much of the success we have hitherto enjoyed as an independent people. Far be it for me to raise a visionary idol. I have lived too long to trust in mere panegyric. Fulsome eulogy of any man raises with me only a smile. Indiscriminate laudation is equivalent to falsehood. Washington, as I understand him was gifted with nothing ordinarily defined as genius, and he had not had great advantages of education. His intellectual powers were clear, but not much above the average men of his time. What knowledge he possessed had been gained from association with others in his long career, rather than by study. As an actor he scarcely distinguished himself by more than one brilliant stroke; as a writer, the greater part of his correspondence discloses nothing more than average natural good sense; on the field of battle his powers pale before the splendid strategy of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Yet, notwithstanding all these deductions, the thread of his life from youth to age displays a maturity of judgment, a consistency of principle, a firmness of purpose, a steadiness of action, a discriminating wisdom and a purity of intention hardly found united to the same extent in any other instance I can recall in history. Of his entire disinterestedness in all his pecuniary relations with the public it is needless for me to speak. Who ever suspected him of a stain? More than all and above all, he was throughout master of himself. If there be one quality more than another in his character which may exercise a useful control over the men of the present hour, it is the total disregard of self, when in the most exalted positions for influence and example.

In order to more fully illustrate my position, let me for one moment contrast his course with that of the great military chief I have already named. The star of Napoleon was just rising to its zenith as that of Washington passed away. In point of military genius Napoleon probably equaled if he did not exceed any person known in history. In regard to the direction of the interests of a nation he may be admitted to have held a very high place. He inspired an energy and a vigor in the veins of the French people which they sadly needed after the demoralizing sway of generations of Bourbon kings With even a small modicum of the wisdom so prominent in Washington, he too might have left a people to honor his memory down to the latest times. But it was not to be. Do you ask the reason? It is this. His motives of action always centered in self. His example gives a warning but not a guide. For when selfishness animates a ruler there is no cause of wonder if he sacrifice, without scruple, an entire generation of men as a holocaust to the great principle of evil, merely to maintain or extend his sway. Had Napoleon copied the example of Washington he might have been justly the idol of all later generations in France. For Washington to have copied the example of Napoleon would have been simply impossible.

Let us then, discarding all inferior strife, hold up to our children the example of Washington as the symbol not merely of wisdom, but of purity and truth.

Let us labor continually to keep the advance in civilization a3 it becomes us to do after the struggles of the past, so that the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which we have honorably secured, may be firmly entailed upon the ever enlarging generations of mankind.

And what is it, I pray you tell me, that has brought us to the celebration of this most memorable day? Is it not the steady cry of Excelsior up to the most elevated regions of political purity, secured to us by the memory of those who have passed before us and consecrated the very ground occupied by their ashes? Glorious indeed may it be said of it in the words of the poet:

What’s hallow’d ground? ‘Tis what gives birth
To sacred thoughts in souls of worth—
Peace! Independence! Truth! go forth
Earth’s compass round,
And your high priesthood shall make earth
All Hallowed Ground

end quote

Footnotes:
(1) Jefferson (Thomas) Included this in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence. The delegations from slave-holding states of George and South Carolina objected, and the offending passage was removed. The complete text is:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.  This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.  Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.  And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

See also: American Statesman: Tribute to President George Washington Part 1
Christianity and the Founding of the United States the Simple Truth
The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876
Non-Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of America from the Ancient Authors Part 1
POLITICAL CONSTITUTIONS by Johannes Von Muller (1832)
Constitution of the United States and it’s Governmental Operations (In Plain English)
Advice to Young People from Noah Webster Father of American Education
The Wisdom and Love of God as Shown by His Creation by Noah Webster
Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God
The Excellence of the Christian Religion by Noah Webster Published 1834 Part 1
THE GRAND MISSION OF AMERICA by Joseph H. Twitchell, July 4, 1876

11 thoughts on “The Practical Advance Of Human Freedom Under The Trumpet Call Made In 1776 by Charles F Adams

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