Prophetic: Religion the only Basis of Society by William Ellery Channing

WilliamElleryChanningReligion the only Basis of Society by William E. Channing (1780–1842); grandson of William Ellery, (1727-1827) a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence

1. Religion is a social concern; for it operates powerfully on society, contributing, in various ways, to its stability and prosperity. Religion is not merely a private affair; the community is deeply interested in its diffusion;” for it is the best support of the virtues and principles, on which the social order rests. Pure and undefiled religion is, to do good; and it follows very plainly, that if God be the Author and Friend of society, then the recognition of him must enforce all social duty, and enlightened piety must give its whole strength to public order.

2. Few men suspect —perhaps no man comprehends —the extent of the support given by religion to every virtue. No man perhaps is aware, how much our moral and social sentiments are fed from this fountain,—how powerless conscience would become, without the belief of a God,—how palsied would be human benevolence, were there not the sense of a higher benevolence to quicken and sustain it,—how suddenly the whole social fabric would quake, and with what a fearful crash it would sink into hopeless ruin,—were the ideas of a supreme Being, of accountableness, and of a future life, to be utterly erased’ from every mind.

3. And, let men thoroughly believe that they are the work and sport of chance,—that no superior intelligence concerns itself with human affairs,—that the weak have no guardian and the injured no avenger,—that there is no recompense for sacrifices to uprightness and the public good,—that an oath is unheard in heaven,—that secret crimes have no witness but the perpetrator,”—that human existence has no purpose, and human virtue no unfailing friend,—that this brief life is everything to us, and death is total, everlasting extinction,— once let them thoroughly abandon religion,—and who can conceive or describe the extent of the desolation which would follow.

4. We hope, perhaps, that human laws and natural sympathy would hold society together. As reasonably might we believe, that were the sun quenched in the heavens, cur torches would illuminate, and our fires quicken and fertilize the creation. What is there in human nature to awaken respect and tenderness, if man is the unprotected insect of a day?— And what is he more if atheism be true?

5. Erase all thought and fear of God from a community, and selfishness and sensuality would absorb the whole man. Appetite, knowing no restraint, and suffering, having no solace or hope, would trample in scorn on the restraints of human laws. Virtue, duty, principle, would be mocked and spurned as unmeaning sounds. A sordid self-interest would supplant every other feeling ; and man would become in fact, what the theory of atheism declares him to be,—a companion for brutes.

Extract from Hyperion by “The Patriot” Josiah Quincy Jr., 1768

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Josiah Quincy Jr. (1744 –1775) AKA “The Patriot” was an American lawyer and patriot. He was a principal spokesman for the Sons of Liberty in Boston prior to the Revolution. He was an energetic advocate for the Whig party in the pre-Revolutionary political debates. With John Adams he defended Captain Preston after the so-called “Boston Massacre,” and in 1774, when scarcely thirty years of age, he was the confidential agent in London of the patriot party. Dying on shipboard, almost in sight of his native New England coast, Josiah Quincy, J r., left behind him an infant son, whose long and honorable life, beginning before the Revolution, outlasted the war of the Rebellion. But President Josiah Quincy, of Harvard College, though he lived all his life on the family-place at Quincy, always identified himself with the city of Boston.

The commonwealth itself has no other strength or hope than the intelligence and virtue of the individuals that compose it. For the intelligence and virtue of individuals there is no other human assurance than laws providing for the education of the whole people. These laws themselves have no strength, or efficient sanction, except in the moral and accountable nature of man disclosed in the records of the Christian’s faith; the right to read, to construe, and to judge concerning which belongs to no class or caste of men, but exclusively to the individual, who must stand or fall by his own acts and his own faith, and not by those of another.The great comprehensive truths, written in letters of living light on every page of our history, — the language addressed by every past age of New England to all future ages, is this: Human happiness has no perfect security but freedom; freedom, none but virtue; virtue, none but knowledge; and neither freedom, nor virtue, nor knowledge has any vigor, or immortal hope, except in the principles of the Christian faith, and in the sanctions of the Christian religion.” ~ Josiah Quincy, October 1831; Harvard University; Dedication of the Dane Law College

Extract from “Hyperion*” by The Patriot; Josiah Quincy Jr., 1768

* The first part of this extract was published in the Boston Gazette in September, 1767, on receiving information of threatening import from England; the remainder appeared in October, 1768, when British troops had landed in Boston, and taken possession of Faneuil Hall, under circumstances intended to inspire the people with alarm and terror.—Ed.

When I reflect on the exalted character of the ancient Britons, on the fortitude of our illustrious predecessors, on the noble struggles of the late memorable period, and from these reflections, when, by a natural transition, I contemplate the gloomy aspect of the present day, my heart is alternately torn with doubt and hope, despondency and terror. Can the true, generous magnanimity of British heroes be entirely lost in their degenerate progeny? Is the genius of liberty, which so late inflamed our bosoms, fled forever?

An attentive observer of the deportment of some particular persons in this metropolis would be apt to imagine, that the grand point was gained; that the spirit of the people was entirely broken to the yoke; that all America was subjugated to bondage. Already the minions of power, in fancy, fatten and grow wanton on the spoils of the land. They insolently toss the head, and put on the air of contemptuous disdain. In the imaginary possession of lordships and dominions, these potentates and powers dare tell us, that our only hope is to crouch, to cower under, and to kiss, the iron rod of oppression. Precious sample of the meek and lowly temper of those who are destined to be our lords and masters!

Be not deceived, my countrymen. Believe not these venal hirelings, when they would cajole you by their subtleties into submission, or frighten you by their vaporings into compliance. When they strive to flatter you by the terms “moderation and prudence,” tell them that calmness and deliberation are to guide the judgment; courage and intrepidity command the action. When they endeavour to make us “perceive our inability to oppose our mother country,” let us boldly answer;—In defence of our civil and religious rights, we dare oppose the world; with the God of armies on our side, even the God who fought our fathers’ battles, we fear not the hour of trial, though the hosts of our enemies should cover the field like locusts. If this be enthusiasm, we will live and die enthusiasts.

Blandishments will not fascinate us, nor will threats of a “halter” intimidate. For, under God, we are determined, that wheresoever, whensoever, or howsoever we shall be called to make our exit, we will die freemen. Well do we know that all the regalia of this world cannot dignify the death of a villain, nor diminish the ignominy, with which a slave shall quit existence. Neither can it taint the unblemished honor of a son of freedom, though he should make his departure on the already prepared gibbet, or be dragged to the newly erected scaffold for execution. With the plaudits of his conscience he will go off the stage. A crown of joy and immortality shall be his reward. The history of his life his children shall venerate. The virtues of their sire shall excite their emulation.

If there ever was a time, this is the hour, for Americans to rouse themselves, and exert every ability. Their all is at a hazard, and the die of fate spins doubtful. In vain do we talk of magnanimity and heroism, in vain do we trace a descent from the worthies of the earth, if we inherit not the spirit of our ancestors. Who is he that boasteth of his patriotism? Has he vanquished luxury, and subdued the worldly pride of his heart? Is he not still drinking the poisonous draught, and rolling the sweet morsel under his tongue? He who cannot conquer the little vanity of his heart, and deny the delicacy of a debauched palate, let him lay his hand upon his mouth, and his mouth in the dust.

Now is the time for this people to summon every aid, human and divine; to exhibit every moral virtue, and call forth every Christian grace. The wisdom of the serpent, the innocence of the dove, and the intrepidity of the lion, with the blessing of God, will yet save us from the jaws of destruction.

Where is the boasted liberty of Englishmen, if property may be disposed of, charters suspended, assemblies dissolved, and every valued right annihilated, at the uncontrollable will of an external power? Does not every man, who feels one ethereal spark yet glowing in his bosom, find his indignation kindle at the bare imagination of such wrongs? What would be our sentiments were this imagination realized.

Did the blood of the ancient Britons swell our veins, did the spirit of our forefathers inhabit our breasts, should we hesitate a moment in preferring death to a miserable existence in bondage? Did we reflect on their toils, their dangers, their fiery trials, the thought would inspire unconquerable courage.

Who has the front to ask, Wherefore do you complain? Who dares assert, that everything worth living for is not lost, when a nation is enslaved? Are not pensioners, stipendiaries and salary-men, unknown before, hourly multiplying upon us, to riot in the spoils of miserable America? Does not every eastern gale waft us some new insect, even of that devouring kind, which eat up every green thing? Is not the bread taken out of the children’s mouths and given unto the dogs? Are not our estates given to corrupt sycophants, without a design, or even a pretense, of soliciting our assent; and our lives put into the hands of those whose tender mercies are cruelties? Has not an authority in a distant land, in the most public manner, proclaimed a right of disposing of the all of Americans? In short, what have we to lose? What have we to fear? Are not our distresses more than we can bear? And, to finish all, are not our cities, in a time of profound peace, filled with standing armies, to preclude from us that last solace of the wretched—to open their mouths in complaint, and send forth their cries in bitterness of heart?

But is there no ray of hope? Is not Great Britain inhabited by the children of those renowned barons, who waded through seas of crimson gore to establish their liberty? and will they not allow us, their fellow-men, to enjoy that freedom which we claim from nature, which is confirmed by our constitution, and which they pretend so highly to value? Were a tyrant to conquer us, the chains of slavery, when opposition should become useless, might be supportable; but to be shackled by Englishmen,—by our equals,—is not to be borne. By the sweat of our brow we earn the little we possess; from nature we derive the common rights of man; and by charter we claim the liberties of Britons. Shall we, dare we, pusillanimously surrender our birthright? la the obligation to our fathers discharged? Is the debt we owe posterity paid? Answer me, thou coward, who hidest thyself in the hour of trial; •If there is no reward in this life, no prize of glory in the next, capable of animating thy dastard soul, think and tremble, thou miscreant! at the whips and stripes thy master shall lash thee with on earth,—and the flames and scorpions thy second master shall torment thee with hereafter!

Oh, my countrymen! what will our children say, when they read the history of these times, should they find that we tamely gave away, without one noble struggle, the most invaluable of earthly blessings! As they drag the galling chain, will they not execrate us? If we have any respect for things sacred, any regard to the dearest treasure on earth; if we have one tender sentiment for posterity; if we would not be despised by the whole world; — let us, in the most open, solemn manner, and with determined fortitude, swear—We will die, if we cannot live freemen!

Be not lulled, my countrymen, with vain imaginations or idle fancies. To hope for the protection of Heaven, without doing our duty, and exerting ourselves as becomes men, is to mock the Deity. Wherefore had man his reason, if it were not to direct him? wherefore his strength, if it be not his protection? To banish folly and luxury, correct vice and immorality, and stand immoveable in the freedom in which we are free indeed, is eminently the duty of each individual at this day. When this is done, we may rationally hope for an answer to our prayers—for the whole counsel of God, and the invincible armor of the Almighty.

However righteous our cause, we cannot, in this period of the world, expect a miraculous salvation. Heaven will undoubtedly assist us if we act like men; but to expect protection from above, while we are enervated by luxury, and slothful in the exertion of those abilities, with which we are endued, is an expectation vain and foolish. With the smiles of Heaven, virtue, unanimity and firmness will ensure success. While we have equity, justice and God on our side, Tyranny, spiritual or temporal, shall never ride triumphant in a land inhabited by Englishmen.

An attentive observer of the deportment of some particular persons in this metropolis would be apt to imagine, that the grand point was gained; that the spirit of the people was entirely broken to the yoke; that all America was subjugated to bondage. Already the minions of power in fancy fatten and grow wanton on the spoils of the land. They insolently toss the head, and put on the air of contemptuous disdain. In the imaginary possession of lordships and dominions, these potentates and powers dare tell us, that our only hope is to crouch, to cower under, and to kiss, the iron rod of oppression. Precious sample of the meek and lowly temper of those who are destined to be our lords and masters!

Conclusion of “Observations on the Boston Port Bill.”

Thus, my countrymen, from the days of Gardiner and Morton, Gorges and Mason, Randolph and Cranfield, down to the present day, the inhabitants of this northern region have constantly been in dangers and troubles, from foes open and secret, abroad and in their bosom. Our freedom has been the object of envy, and to make void the charter of our liberties the work and labour of an undiminished race of villains. One cabal having failed of success, new conspirators have risen, and what the first could not make “void,” the next “humbly desired to revoke.” To this purpose one falsehood after another hath been fabricated and spread abroad with equal turpitude and equal effrontery. That minute detail, which would present actors now on the stage, is the province of History. She, inexorably severe towards the eminently guilty, will delineate their characters with the point of a diamond; and, thus blazoned in the face of day, the abhorrence and execrations of mankind will consign them to an infamous immortality.

So great has been the credulity of the British court from the beginning, or such hath been the activity of false brethren, that no tale inimical to the Northern Colonies, however false or absurd, but what hath found credit with the administration, and operated to the prejudice of the country. Thus it was told and believed in England, that we were not in earnest in the expedition against Canada at the beginning of this century, and that the country did everything in its power to defeat the success of it, and that the misfortune of that attempt ought to be wholly attributed to the Northern Colonies: while nothing could be more obvious, than that New England had exhausted her youngest blood, and all her treasures, in the undertaking; and that every motive of self-preservation, happiness and safety must have operated to excite these provinces to the, most spirited and persevering measures against Canada.

The people, who are attacked by bad men, have a testimony of their merit, as the constitution, which is invaded by powerful men, hath an evidence of its value. The path of our duty needs no minute delineation; it lies level to the eye. Let us apply, then, like men sensible of its importance, and determined on its fulfillment. The inroads on our public liberty call for reparation; the wrongs we have sustained call for justice. That reparation and that justice may yet be obtained by union, spirit and firmness. But to divide and conquer was the maxim of the devil in, the garden of Eden; and to disunite and enslave hath been the principle of all his votaries from that period to the present. The crimes of the guilty are to them the cords of association, and dread of punishment the indissoluble bond of union. The combinations of public robbers ought, therefore, to cement patriots and heroes: and, as the former plot and conspire to undermine and destroy the commonwealth, the latter ought to form a compact for opposition,— a band of vengeance.

What insidious arts, and what detestable practices, have been used to deceive, disunite and enslave the good people of this continent! The mystic appellations of loyalty and allegiance, the venerable names of government and good order, and the sacred ones of piety and public virtue, have been alternately prostituted to that abominable purpose. All the windings and guises, subterfuges and doublings, of which the human soul is susceptible, have been displayed on the occasion. But secrets, which were thought impenetrable, are no longer hid; characters deeply disguised are openly revealed; and the discovery of gross impostors hath generally preceded but a short time their utter extirpation.

Be not again, my countrymen, “easily captivated with the appearances only of wisdom and piety,—professions of a regard to liberty, and of a strong attachment to the public interest.” Your fathers have been explicitly charged with this folly by one of their posterity. Avoid this and all similar errors. Be cautious against the deception of appearances. “By their fruits ye shall know them,” was the saying of one, who perfectly knew the Human heart. Judge of affairs which concern social happiness by facts: judge of man by his deeds. For it is very certain, that pious zeal for days and times, for mint and cumin, hath often been pretended by those who were infidels at bottom; and it is as certain, that attachment to the dignity of government and the king’s service, hath often flowed from the mouths of men, who harboured the darkest machinations against the true end of the former, and were destitute of every right principle of loyalty to the latter. Hence, then, care and circumspection are necessary branches of political duty. And, as “it is much easier to restrain liberty from running into licentiousness, than power from swelling into tyranny and oppression,” so much more caution and resistance are required against the overbearing of rulers, than the extravagance of the people.

To give no more authority to any order of state, and to place no greater public confidence in any man, than is necessary for the general welfare, may be considered by the people as an important point of policy. But though craft and hypocrisy are prevalent, yet piety and virtue have a real existence: duplicity and political imposture abound, yet benevolence and public spirit are not altogether banished the world. As wolves will appear in sheep’s clothing, so superlative knaves and parricides will assume the vesture of the man of virtue and patriotism.

These things are permitted by Providence, no doubt, for wise and good reasons. Man was created for a rational, and was designed for an active being. His faculties of intelligence and force were given him for use. When the wolf, therefore, is found devouring the flock, no hierarchy forbids a seizure of the victim for sacrifice; so, also, when dignified impostors are caught destroying those whom their arts deceive, though their stations destined them to protect,—the sabre of justice flashes righteousness at the stroke of execution.

Yet be not amused, my countrymen! The extirpation of bondage and the re-establishment of freedom are not of easy acquisition. The worst passions of the human heart and the most subtle projects of the human mind, are leagued against you; and principalities and powers have acceded to the combination. Trials and conflicts you must, therefore, endure; hazards and jeopardies of life and fortune will attend the struggle. Such is the fate of all noble exertions for public liberty and social happiness. Enter not the lists without thought and consideration, lest you arm with timidity, and combat with irresolution. Having engaged in the conflict, let nothing discourage your vigour, or repel your perseverance. Remember that submission to the yoke of bondage is the worst that can befall a people, after the most fierce and unsuccessful resistance. What can the misfortunes of vanquishment take away, which despotism and rapine would spare ?” It had been easy,” said the great lawgiver Solon to the Athenians, “to repress the advances of tyranny, and prevent its establishment; but, now it is established and grown to some height, it would be more glorious to demolish it.” But nothing glorious is accomplished, nothing great is attained, nothing valuable is secured, without magnanimity of mind, and devotion of heart to the service. Brutus-like, therefore, dedicate yourselves at this day to the service of your country; and henceforth live a life of liberty and glory. “On the ides of March,”—said the great and good man to his friend Cassius, just before the battle of Philippi,—”on the ides of March I devoted my life to my country, and since that time I have lived a life of liberty and glory.”

Inspired with public virtue, touched with the wrongs, and indignant at the insults, offered his country, the highspirited Cassius exhibits an heroic example;—” Resolved as we are,”—replied the hero to his friend,—”resolved as we are, let us march against the enemy; for, though we should not conquer, we have nothing to fear.”

Spirits and genii like these rose in Rome, and have since adorned Britain; such also will one day make glorious this more western world. America hath in store her Bruti and Cassii—her Hampdens and Sydneys—patriots and heroes, who will form a band of brothers;—men, who will have memories and feelings, courage and swords,—courage, that shall inflame their ardent bosoms till their hands cleave to their swords, and their swords to their enemies hearts.

Death of General George Washington by John Marshall

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George Washington: Prayer at Valley Forge

Death of General George Washington; by John Marshall (Washington Biographer)

On Friday, the 13th of December, 1799, while attending to some improvements upon his estate, he was exposed to a slight rain, by which his neck and hair became wet. Unapprehensive of danger from this circumstance, he passed the afternoon in his usual manner; but in the night he was seized with an inflammatory affection of the windpipe. The disease commenced with a violent ague, accompanied with some pain in the upper and fore part of the throat, a sense of stricture in the same part, a cough, and a difficult, rather than a painful, deglutition, which were soon succeeded by a fever, and a quick and laborious respiration.

Believing bloodletting to be necessary, he procured a bleeder, who took from his arm twelve or fourteen ounces of blood; but he would not permit a messenger to be dispatched for his family physician until the appearance of day. About eleven in the morning, Dr. Craik arrived; and, perceiving the extreme danger of the case, requested that two consulting physicians should be immediately sent for. The utmost exertions of medical skill were applied in vain. The powers of life were manifestly yielding to the force of the disorder; speaking, which was painful from the beginning, became almost impracticable; respiration became more and more contracted and imperfect; until half past eleven on Saturday night, when, retaining the full possession of his intellect, he expired without a struggle.

Believing, at the commencement of his complaint, as well as through every succeeding stage of it, that its conclusion would be mortal, he submitted to the exertions made for his recovery rather as a duty than from any expectation of their efficacy. Some hours before his death, after repeated efforts to be understood, he succeeded in expressing a desire that he might be permitted to die without interruption. After it became impossible to get anything down his throat, he undressed himself, and went to bed, there to die. To his friend and physician, Dr. Craik, who sat on his bed, and took his head in his lap, he said with difficulty, “Doctor, I am dying, and have been dying for a long time; but I am not afraid to die.”

During the short period of his. illness, he economized his time in arranging, with the utmost serenity, those few concerns which required his attention, and anticipated his approaching dissolution with every demonstration of that equanimity, for which his life was so uniformly and singularly conspicuous.

The deep and wide-spreading grief, occasioned by this melancholy event, assembled a great concourse of people, for the purpose of paying the last tribute of respect to the first of Americans. On Wednesday, the 18th of December, attended by military honours and the ceremonies of religion, his body was deposited in the family vault at Mount Vernon

So short was his illness, that, at the seat of government, the intelligence of his death preceded that of his indisposition. It was first communicated by a passenger in the stage to an acquaintance whom he met in the street, and the report quickly reached the house of representatives, which was then in session. The utmost dismay and affliction were displayed for a few minutes, after which a member stated in his place the melancholy information which had been received. This information, he said, was not certain, but there was too much reason to believe it true.

“After receiving intelligence,” he added, “of a national calamity so heavy and afflicting, the house of representatives can be but ill fitted for public business.” He therefore moved an adjournment. Both houses adjourned until the next day.

On the succeeding day, as soon as the orders were read, the same member addressed the chair, and afterwards offered the following resolutions :*

“Resolved, that this house will wait upon the president, in condolence of this mournful event.

“Resolved, that the speaker’s chair be shrouded with black, and that the members and officers of the house wear black during the session.

“Resolved, that a committee, in conjunction with one from the senate, be appointed to consider on the most suitable manner of paying honour to the memory of the Man first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his fellow-citizens.”

* These resolutions were prepared by General Lee, and offered by John Marshall, the future biographer of Washington. The last sentiment in them has been often quoted and admired.—Ed.

Gain a Greater Understanding of History by Joseph Stevens Buckminster

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As I have said “History is not simply a record of man’s accomplishments. Even more, History is the story / record of God’s interaction with man. It is indeed His Story” ~ CJD

Gain a Greater Understanding of History; Value of Religious Faith by Joseph Stevens Buckminster (1784 – 1812)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Having considered the objects, and the reasonableness of religious faith, it now remains to say something of its Importance. The value of religious faith principally results from two circumstances—from the fears it excites, and from the consolations it affords.

In the ordinary conduct of government, and to the well-being of society, some kind of faith is essential. Belief in the superintendence of invisible powers is not peculiar to religion. It is found in every man, who conscientiously submits to the government under which he lives; for how few of the subjects of any extensive empire have ever seen their rulers? Their authority, their edicts, their measures, nay, their very existence, are almost exclusively objects of faith. Suppose the assassin were to fear nothing but the instrument of punishment, or the thief were permitted to demand a strict demonstration of the authority of the officer who arrested him, think you society would long sustain the consequences of so great incredulity? Every man would become his own avenger, and we should revert to the barbarous independence of universal democracy. If, too, the sober part only of the community should require, that every law should be promulgated in their hearing, or that their rulers should constantly live under their ocular inspection, it is easy to foresee, that the affairs of human society would fall into the utmost confusion. We must, therefore, in the ordinary state of society, live, as seeing those that are invisible.

The fear, which faith awakens, is the foundation of the most necessary prudence. It is faith, which warns us of the invisible and approaching misfortunes, to which we are daily exposed; it is faith, which keeps up a continual, and sometimes painful interest in the dangers, which threaten the community. Without this we should rush as inconsiderately into the abode of foreign pestilence, as we now walk the streets of our own city; and be as unprepared for an approaching war, as for an impending earthquake. If we were to wait, till we could satisfy our own personal experience, in regard to some of the most common evils of life, we should find, that our ruin was accomplished, [before] the remedy was provided. The life of children is a continual exercise of faith. The prudence of parents is employed in foreseeing dangers, which the short-sightedness of the child must believe upon authority. Without filial confidence, which is only another name for faith, not one of the generations of men could hardly have reached the maturity of manhood; each successive race would profit nothing from the experience of its predecessors; and even if it were possible to continue the human species without a principle of faith, the world would have remained, to the present day, in a state of infantile ignorance, exposure and imbecility. What then! is it of so much importance, that the years of minority should be so carefully provided with this principle to secure it against the evils of present inexperience; and is it of none, that the full-grown understanding should be admonished of the alarming disclosures, which another world will make of a retributive power? Is it of no importance, that the conscience of the wicked should be awakened, before his senses tell him, that he is in anguish? Shall the narrow policy of civil government, and the feebleness of temporal punishments, be left to maintain, unsupported, the order of society? Is it of so much consequence, that, while he lives here, man should be aware of his mortality, and be provided against death, the inevitable and universal lot of mortal creatures; and of none, that he should suspect his immortality, and extend his views to the tribunal of his Judge? Shall man tremble so much at the thought of dying; and know nothing of the dread of punishment? Is it of no importance for the selfish man to know, that, by the interested pleasures in which he is absorbed, he is surely defeating his own aims, however successful they may have been? Shall the indolent, the luxurious, the dead in sensuality, the avaricious, the hard-hearted, go on accumulating wrath, and hardening their consciences by unbelief? Because we cannot be transported to the regions of future suffering, and witness the intensity of the torment, shall we rush, with all our sins upon our head, into that community of woe, and learn first by experience what we would not receive upon credit? Thank God! that such is the want, which individuals and society feel of a principle like this, that the imagination supplies it, where the reason cannot attain to undoubting conviction. Legislators have always invented something, like what revelation discloses; and the barbarous faith of the early ages has supplied, in almost every country, something, which has served the purposes of providence, till the cultivated mind was ready for the fullness of God’s communications.

In the second place, the value of faith may be estimated from the consolations it affords.

Who would look back upon the history of the world with the eye of incredulity, after having once read it with the eye of faith? To the man of faith it is the story of God’s operations. To the unbeliever it is only the record of the strange sports of a race of agents as uncontrolled as they are unaccountable. To the man of faith every portion of history is part of a vast plan, conceived ages ago in the mind of Omnipotence, which has been fitted precisely to the period it was intended to occupy. The whole series of events forms a magnificent and symmetrical fabric to the eye of pious contemplation; and, though the dome be in the clouds, and the top, from its loftiness, be indiscernible to mortal vision, yet the foundations are so deep and solid, that we are sure they are intended to support something permanent and grand. To the skeptic, all the events of all the ages of the world are but a scattered crowd of useless and indigested materials. In his mind all is darkness, all is incomprehensible. The light of prophecy illuminates not to him the obscurity of ancient annals. He sees in them neither design nor operation, neither tendencies nor conclusions. To him the wonderful knowledge of one people is just as interesting as the desperate ignorance of another. In the deliverance which God has sometimes wrought for the oppressed, he sees nothing but the fact; and in the oppression and decline of haughty empires, nothing but the common accidents of national fortune. Going about to account for events according to what he calls general laws, he never for a moment considers, that all laws, whether physical, political or moral, imply a legislator, and are contrived to serve some purpose. Because he cannot always, by his short-sighted vision, discover the tendencies of the mighty events of which this earth has been the theatre, he looks on the drama of existence around him as proceeding without a plan. Is that principle, then, of no importance, which raises man above what his eyes see or his ears hear at present, and show him the vast chain of human events, fastened eternally to the throne of God, and returning, after embracing the universe, again to link itself to the footstool of Omnipotence?

Would you know the value of this principle of faith to the bereaved? Go, and follow a corpse to the grave. See the body deposited there, and hear the earth thrown in upon all that remains of your friend. Return now, if you will, and brood over the lesson which your senses have given you, and derive from it what consolation you can. You have learned nothing but an unconsoling fact. No voice of comfort issues from the tomb. All is still there, and blank, and lifeless, and has been so for ages. You see nothing but bodies dissolving and successively mingling with the clods which cover them, the grass growing over the spot, and the trees waving in sullen majesty over this region of eternal silence. And what is there more? Nothing,—Come, Faith, and people these deserts! Come, and reanimate these regions of forgetfulness! Mothers! take again your children to your arms, for they are living. Sons! your aged parents are coming forth in the vigor of regenerated years. Friends! behold, your dearest connections are waiting to embrace you. The tombs are burst. Generations long since in slumbers are awakening. They are coming from the east and the west, from the north and from the south, to constitute the community of the blessed.

But it is not in the loss of friends alone, that faith furnishes consolations which are inestimable. With a man of faith not an affliction is lost, not a change is unimproved. He studies even his own history with pleasure, and finds it full of instruction. The dark passages of his life are illuminated with hope; and he sees, that although he has passed through many dreary defiles, yet they have opened at last into brighter regions of existence. He recalls, with a species of wondering gratitude, periods of his life, when all its events seemed to conspire against him. Hemmed in by straitened circumstances, wearied with repeated blows of unexpected misfortunes, and exhausted with the painful anticipation of more, he recollects years, when the ordinary love of life could not have retained him in the world. Many a time he might have wished to lay down his being in disgust, had not something more than the senses provide us with, kept up the elasticity of his mind. He yet lives, and has found that light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. The man of faith discovers some gracious purpose in every combination of circumstances. Wherever he finds himself, he knows that he has a destination—he has, therefore, a duty. Every event has, in his eye, a tendency and an aim. Nothing is accidental, nothing without purpose, nothing unattended with benevolent consequences. Everything on earth is probationary, nothing ultimate. He is poor—perhaps his plans have been defeated—he finds it difficult to provide for the exigencies of life—sickness is permitted to invade the quiet of his household—long confinement imprisons his activity, and cuts short the exertions on which so many depend—something apparently unlucky mars his best plans —new failures and embarrassments among his friends present themselves, and throw additional obstruction in his way—the world looks on and says, all these things are against him. Some wait coolly for the hour when he shall sink under the complicated embarrassments of his cruel fortune. Others, of a kinder spirit, regard him with compassion, and wonder how he can sustain such a variety of woe. A few there are, a very few, I fear, who can understand something of the serenity of his mind, and comprehend something of the nature of his fortitude. There are those, whose sympathetic piety can read and interpret the characters of resignation on his brow. There are those, in fine, who have felt the influence of faith.

In this influence there is nothing mysterious, nothing romantic, nothing of which the highest reason may be ashamed. It shows the Christian his God, in all the mild majesty of his parental character. It shows you God, disposing in still and benevolent wisdom the events of every individual’s life, pressing the pious spirit with the weight of calamity to increase the elasticity of the mind, producing characters of unexpected worth by unexpected misfortune, invigorating certain virtues by peculiar probations, thus breaking the fetters which bind us to temporal things, and

“From seeming evil still educing good,
And better thence again, and better still,
In infinite progression.”

When the sun of the believer’s hopes, according to common calculations, is set, to the eye of faith it is still visible. When much of the rest of the world is in darkness, the high ground of faith is illuminated with the brightness of religious consolation.

Come now, my incredulous friends, and follow me to the bed of the dying believer. Would you see in what peace a Christian can die? Watch the last gleams of thought which stream from his dying eyes. Do you see anything like apprehension? The world, it is true, begins to shut in. The shadows of evening collect around his senses. A dark mist thickens, and rests upon the objects which have hitherto engaged his observation. The countenances of his friends become more and more indistinct. The sweet expressions of love and friendship are no longer intelligible. His ear wakes no more at the well-known voice of his children, and the soothing accents of tender affection die away unheard, upon his decaying senses. To him the spectacle of human life is drawing to its close, and the curtain is descending, which shuts out this earth, its actors, and its scenes. He is no longer interested in all that is done under the sun. O! that I could now open to you the recesses of his soul; that I could reveal to you the light, which darts into the chambers of his understanding. He approaches that world which he has so long seen in faith. The imagination now collects its diminished strength, and the eye of faith opens wide. Friends! do not stand, thus fixed in sorrow, around this bed of death. Why are you so still and silent? Fear not to move—you cannot disturb the last visions which enchant this holy spirit. Your lamentations break not in upon the songs of seraphs, which enwrap his hearing in ecstasy. Crowd, if you choose, around his couch—he heeds you not—already he sees the spirits of the just advancing together to receive a kindred soul. Press him not with importunities; urge him not with alleviations. Think you he wants now these tones of mortal voices—these material, these gross consolations’ No! He is going to add another to the myriads of the just, that are every moment crowding into the portals of heaven! He is entering on a nobler life. He leaves you—he leaves you, weeping children of mortality, to grope about a little longer among the miseries and sensualities of a worldly life. Already he cries to you from the regions of bliss. Will you not join him there? Will you not taste the sublime joys of faith? There are your predecessors in virtue; there, too, are places left for your contemporaries. There are seats for you in the assembly of the just made perfect, in the innumerable company of angels, where is Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and God, the judge of all.

Of Rebellion: Observations on the Boston Port-Bill by John Q. Adams 1774

JohnQuincyAdamsQuotesAmericans

Of Rebellion; Resistance to Oppression:

To complain of the enormities of power, to expostulate with over-grown oppressors, hath in all ages been denominated sedition and faction; and to turn upon tyrants, treason and rebellion. But tyrants are rebels against the first laws of Heaven and society: to oppose their ravages is an instinct of nature, the inspiration of God in the heart of man. In the noble resistance which mankind make to exorbitant ambition and power, they always feel that divine afflatus which, paramount to everything human, causes them to consider the Lord of Hosts as their leader, and his angels as fellow soldiers. Trumpets are to them joyful sounds, and the ensigns of war the banners of God. Their wounds are bound up in the oil of a good cause; sudden death is to them present martyrdom, and funeral obsequies resurrections to eternal honour and glory, — their widows and babes being received into the arms of a compassionate God, and their names enrolled among David’s worthies: greatest losses are to them greatest gains; for they leave the troubles of their warfare to lie down on beds of eternal rest and felicity.

There are other parts of the Act now before us which merit notice, particularly that relative to the prosecution of suits in the ordinary courts of law, ” for anything done in pursuance of the Act;” by which the defendant is enabled ” to plead the general issue, and give the Act, and the general matter, in evidence;” whereupon it follows that, “if it shall appear so to have been done, the jury shall find for the defendant,” who, by an after clause, is to ” recover treble costs.” From this passage some have been led to conclude that the appearance of this matter was to be to the judge; and that if it had that appearance to him, and he should direct the jury accordingly, however it might appear to the jury, they must follow the directions of the judge, and acquit the defendant. But this is a construction which, as the words do not necessarily carry that meaning, I will not permit myself to suppose the design of the law. However, the late donations of large salaries by the crown to the justices of our superior courts, who are nominated by the Governor, and hold their commission durante beneplacito, have not a little contributed to the preceding apprehension.

Another passage makes provision for “assigning and appointing such and so many open places, quays, and wharfs, within the said harbour, creeks, havens, and islands, for the landing, discharging, lading, and shipping of goods, as His Majesty, his heirs, or successors, shall judge necessary and expedient;” and also for “appointing such and so many officers of the customs therein as His Majesty shall think fit; after which, it shall be lawful for any person or persons to lade or put off from, or to discharge and land upon, such wharfs, quays, and places, so appointed within the said harbour, and none other, any goods, wares, and merchandise whatsoever.” By which the property of many private individuals is to be rendered useless, and worse than useless, as the possession of a thing aggravates the misfortune of those who are deprived of a capacity to enjoy. But if the property of some few is to be rendered nothing worth, so that of many others is to be openly invaded. But why should we dwell upon private wrongs, while those of the multitude call for all our attention?

If any should now say, we are a commercial people, commercial plans can only save us; if any think that the ideas of the merchant are at this day to give spring to our nerves and vigour to our actions; if any say that empire in this age of the world is only founded in commerce, let him show me the people emancipated from oppression by commercial principles and measures. let him point me that unexplored land where trade and slavery flourish together, Till then, I must hold a different creed; and believe that though commercial views may not be altogether unprofitable, that though commercial plans may do much, they never can do all. With regard, then, to how much the merchant, the artificer, the citizen, and the husbandman may do, let us no longer differ. But let everyone apply his strength and abilities to that mighty burden which, unless removed, must crush us all. Americans have one common interest to unite them: that interest must cement them. Natural allies, they have published to the world professions of reciprocal esteem and confidence, aid and assistance; they have pledged their faith of mutual friendship and alliance. Not only common danger, bondage, and disgrace, but national truth and honour, conspire to make the colonists resolve to — stand or fall together.

Americans never were destitute of discernment; they have never been grossly deficient in virtue. A small share of sagacity is now needful to discover the insidious art of our enemies; the smallest spark of virtue will on this occasion kindle into flame.

Will the little temporary advantage held forth for delusion seduce them from their duty? Will they not evidence at this time how much they despise the commercial bribe of a British ministry; and testify to the world that they do not vail to the most glorious of the ancients, in love of freedom and sternness of virtue? But as to the inhabitants of this Province, how great are the number, how weighty the considerations to actuate their conduct? Not a town in this colony but have breathed the warmest declarations of attachment to their rights, union in their defence, and perseverance to the end. Should any one maritime town (for more than one I will not believe there can be), allured by the expectations of gain, refuse to lend their aid; entertaining the base idea of building themselves upon the ruins of this metropolis, and, in the chain of future events, on the destruction of all America, — what shall we say? — hours of bitter reflection will come, when their own feelings shall excite consideration; when remembrance of the past, and expectation of the future, shall fill up the measure of their sorrow and anguish. But I turn from the idea, which blasts my country with infamy, my species with disgrace.

The intelligent reader must have noticed that, through the whole of the Act of Parliament, there is no suggestion that the East India Company had made any demand for damage done to their property: if the company supposed they had received injury, it doth not appear whom they consider as guilty, and much less that they had alleged any charge against the town of Boston. But I presume that if that company were entitled to receive a recompense from the town, until they prosecuted their demand they are supposed to waive it. And we cannot but imagine that this is the first instance where Parliament hath ordered one subject to pay a satisfaction to another, when the party aggrieved did not appear to make his regular claim; and much more uncommon is it for such recompense to be ordered without ascertaining the amount to which the satisfaction shall extend.

But if the East India Company were now made easy, and Boston reduced to perfect silence and humiliation, how many “others” are there who would suggest that they ” suffered by the riots and insurrections abovementioned,” and demand “reasonable satisfaction” therefore. The singular texture, uncertainty, looseness, and ambiguity of this phrase in the statute seems so calculated for dispute, such an eternal bar to a full compliance with the requisitions of the Act, and of course to render permanent its evils, that I cannot speak upon the subject without trespassing upon those bounds of respect and decency, within the circle of which I have endeavoured to move.

Here, waiving further particular consideration of that subject which gave origin to this performance, I shall proceed to an equally interesting subject, — that of standing armies and civil society.

The faculty of intelligence may be considered as the first gift of God: its due exercise is the happiness and honour of man; its abuse, his calamity and disgrace. The most trifling duty is not properly discharged without the exertion of this noble faculty; yet how often does it lie dormant, while the highest concernments are in issue? Believe me, my countrymen, the labor of examining for ourselves, or great imposition must be submitted to; there is no other alternative: and, unless we weigh and consider what we examine, little benefit will result from research. We are at this extraordinary crisis called to view the most melancholy events of our day: the scene is unpleasant to the eye, but its contemplation will be useful, if our thoughts terminate with judgment, resolution, and spirit, worst and most unprofitable of the species. Against this exertion, and the principle which originates it. no vigilance can be too sharp, no determination too severe.

If at this period of public affairs, we do not think, deliberate, and determine like men, — men of minds to conceive, hearts to feel, and virtue to act, — what are we to do? — to gaze upon our bondage? While our enemies throw about firebrands, arrows, and death, and play their tricks of desperation with the gambols of sport and wantonness.

The proper object of society and civil institutions is the advancement of “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” The people (as a body, being never interested to injure themselves, and uniformly desirous of the general welfare) have ever made this collective felicity the object of their wishes and pursuit. But, strange as it may seem, what the many through successive ages have desired and sought, the few have found means to baffle and defeat. The necessity of the acquisition hath been conspicuous to the rudest mind; but man, inconsiderate that “in every society there is an effort constantly tending to confer on one part the height of power, and to reduce the other to the extreme of weakness and misery,” hath abandoned the most important concerns of civil society to the caprice and control of those whose elevation caused them to forget their pristine equality, and whose interest urged them to degrade the best and most useful below the worst and most unprofitable of the species. Against this exertion, and the principle which originates it, no vigilance can be too sharp, no determination too severe.

But alas! as if born to delude and be deluded, to believe whatever is taught, and bear all that is imposed, successive impositions, wrongs, and insults awaken neither the sense of injury nor spirit of revenge. Fascinations and enchantments, chain and fetters, bind in adamant the understanding and passions of the human race. Ages follow ages, pointing the way to study wisdom; but the charm continues.

Sanctified by authority and armed with power, error and usurpation bid defiance to truth and right, while the bulk of mankind sit gazing at the monster of their own creation, — a monster, to which their follies and vices gave origin, and their depravity and cowardice continue in existence.

“The greatest happiness of the greatest number” being the object and bond of society, the establishment of truth and justice ought to be the basis of civil policy and jurisprudence. But this capital establishment can never be attained in a state where there exists a power superior to the civil magistrate, and sufficient to control the authority of the laws. Whenever, therefore, the profession of arms becomes a distinct order in the state, and a standing army part of the constitution, we are not scrupulous to affirm that the end of the social compact is defeated, and the nation called to act upon the grand question consequent upon such an event.

The people who compose the society (for whose security the labour of its institution was performed, and of the toils its preservation daily sustained), — the people, I say, are the only competent judges of their own welfare, and therefore are the only suitable authority to determine touching the great end of their subjection and their sacrifices. This position leads us to two others, not impertinent on this occasion, because of much importance to Americans: —

That the legislative body of the commonwealth ought to deliberate, determine, and make their decrees in places where the legislators may easily know from their own observation the wants and exigencies, the sentiments and will, the good and happiness of the people; and the people as easily know the deliberations, motives, designs, and conduct of their legislators, before their statutes and ordinances actually go forth and take effect; —

That every member of the legislature ought himself to be so far subject in his person and property to the laws of the state as to immediately and effectually feel every mischief and inconvenience resulting from all and every act of legislation.

The science of man and society, being the most extended in its nature, and the most important in its consequences, of any in the circle of erudition, ought to be an object of universal attention and study. Was it made so, the rights of mankind would not remain buried for ages under systems of civil and priestly hierarchy, nor social felicity overwhelmed by lawless domination.

Under appearances the most venerable and institutions the most revered, under the sanctity of religion, the dignity of government, and the smiles of beneficence, does the subtle and ambitious make their first encroachments upon their species. Watch and oppose ought therefore to be the motto of mankind. A nation in its best estate — guarded by good laws, fraught with public virtue, and steeled with martial courage — may resemble Achilles; but Achilles was wounded in the heel. The least point left unguarded, the foe enters: latent evils are the most dangerous; for we often receive the mortal wound while we are flattered with security.

The experience of all ages shows that mankind are inattentive to the calamities of others, careless of admonition, and with difficulty roused to repel the most injurious invasions. “I perceive,” said the great patriot Cicero to his countrymen, “an inclination for tyranny in all Caesar projects and executes.” Notwithstanding this friendly caution, not” till it was too late did the people find out that no beginnings, however small, are to be neglected.”  For that Caesar, who at first attacked the commonwealth with mines, very soon opened his batteries. Encroachments upon the rights and property of the citizen are like the rollings of mighty waters over the breach of ancient mounds,— slow and unalarming at the beginning; rapid and terrible in the current; a deluge and devastation at the end. Behold the oak, which stretcheth itself to the mountains, and overshadows the valleys, was once an acorn in the bowels of the earth. Slavery, my friends, which was yesterday engrafted among you, already overspreads the land, extending its arms to the ocean and its limbs to the rivers. Unclean and voracious animals, under its covert, find protection and food; but the shade blasteth the green herb, and the root thereof poisoneth the dry ground, while the winds which wave its branches scatter pestilence and death.

Regular government is necessary to the preservation of private property and personal security. Without these, men will descend into barbarism, or at best become adepts in humiliation and servility; but they will never make a progress in literature or the useful arts. Surely a proficiency in arts and sciences is of some value to mankind, and deserves some consideration. What regular government can America enjoy with a legislative a thousand leagues distant, unacquainted with her exigencies, militant in interest, and unfeeling of her calamities? What protection of property, when ministers under this authority shall overrun the land with mercenary legions? What personal safety, when a British administration (such as it now is, and corrupt as it may be) pour armies into the capital and senate-house, point their artillery against the tribunal of justice, and plant weapons of death at the posts of our doors?

Thus exposed to the power, and insulted by the arms! All this, and much more, hath Boston been witness to of Britain, standing armies become an object of serious attention. And, as the history of mankind affords no instance of successful and confirmed tyranny without the aid of military forces, we shall not wonder to find them the desiderata of princes, and the grand object of modern policy. What though they subdue every generous passion, and extinguish every spark of virtue, all this must be done, before empires will submit to be exhausted by tribute and plundered with impunity.

Amidst all the devices of man to the prejudice of his species, the institution of which we treat hath proved the most extensively fatal to religion, morals, and social happiness. Founded in the most malevolent dispositions of the human breast, disguised by the policy of state, supported by the lusts of ambition, the sword hath spread havoc and misery throughout the world. By the aid of mercenary troops, the sinews of war, the property of the subject, the life of the Commonwealth, have been committed to the hands of hirelings, whose interest and very existence depend on an abuse of their power. In the lower class of life, standing armies have introduced brutal debauchery and real cowardice; in the higher orders of state, venal haughtiness and extravagant dissipation. In short, whatever are the concomitants of despotism, whatever the appendages of oppression, this armed monster hath spawned or nurtured, protected or established, — monuments and scourges of the folly and turpitude of man.

Hungarian President Louis Kossuth Concerning the Centralization of Power

LouisKossuthLajos Kossuth, [aka Louis] the Hungarian political reformer and leader of the 1848-1849 revolution for Hungarian independence, was one of the greatest statesmen and orators of the mid 19th century. He was a prominent figure, well known in the United States and Europe for his leadership of the democratic forces who sought Hungarian independence from Austrian domination. During his exile, [See the rest of his bio below speech] he toured the United States in 1851-1852, American journalist Horace Greeley said of Kossuth: “Among the orators, patriots, statesmen, exiles, he has, living or dead, no superior.”

Speech at a Washington Banquet, Jan. 6th, 1852, The Banquet given by a large number of the Members of the two Houses of Congress to Kossuth took place at the National Hotel, in Washington City. The number present was about two hundred and fifty. The Hon. Wm. R. King, of Alabama, president of the Senate, presided. On his right sat Louis Kossuth, and on his left the Hon. Daniel Webster, Secretary of State. On the right of Kossuth1 at the same table, sat the Hon. Linn Boyd, speaker” of the House of Representatives. Besides other distinguished guests who responded to toasts, are named Hon. Thomas Corwin, Secretary of the Treasury, and Hon. Alex. H. H. Stuart, Secretary of the Interior. Also in attendance were Judge Wayne, of the Supreme Court of the United States; Mr. Stanton, of Tennessee; General Shields, Senator for Illinois, Chairman of the Committee of Military Affairs in the Senate; and many other dignitaries of the United States.

NOVELTIES IN AMERICAN REPUBLICANISM

Sir, though I have a noble pride in my principles, and the inspiration of a just cause, still I have also the consciousness of my personal insignificance. Never will I forget what is due from me to the Sovereign Source [referring to the Hungarian people] of my public capacity. This I owe to my nation’s dignity; and therefore, respectfully thanking this highly distinguished assembly in my country’s name, I have the boldness to say that Hungary well deserves your sympathy; that Hungary has a claim to protection, because it has a claim to justice. But as to myself, I am well aware that in all these honours I have no personal share. Nay, I know that even that which might seem to be personal in your toast, is only an acknowledgment of a historical fact, very instructively connected with a principle valuable and dear to every republican heart in the United States of America. As to ambition, I indeed never was able to understand how anybody can love ambition more than liberty. But I am glad to state a historical fact, as a principal demonstration of that influence which institutions exercise upon the character of nations.

We Hungarians are very fond of the principle of municipal self-government, and we have a natural horror against centralization. That fond attachment to municipal self-government, without which there is no provincial freedom possible, is a fundamental feature of our national character. We brought it with us from far Asia a “thousand years ago, and we preserved it throughout the vicissitudes of ten centuries. No nation has perhaps so much struggled and suffered for the civilized Christian world as we. We do not complain of this lot. It may be heavy, but it is not inglorious. Where the cradle of our Saviour stood, and where His divine doctrine was founded, there now another faith rules: the whole of Europe’s armed pilgrimage could not avert this fate from that sacred spot, nor stop the rushing waves of Islamism from absorbing the Christian empire of Constantine. We stopped those rushing waves. The breast of my nation proved a breakwater to them. We guarded Christendom, that Luthers and Calvins might reform it. It was a dangerous time, and its dangers often placed the confidence of all my nation into one man’s hand. But there was not a single instance in our history where a man honoured by his people’s confidence deceived them for his own ambition. The man out of whom Russian diplomacy succeeded in making a murderer of his nation’s hopes, gained some victories when victories were the chief necessity of the moment, and at the head of an army, circumstances gave him the ability to ruin his country; but he never had the people’s confidence. So even he is no contradiction to the historical truth, that no Hungarian whom his nation honoured with its confidence was ever seduced by ambition to become dangerous to his country’s liberty. That is a remarkable fact, and yet it is not accidental; it springs from the proper influence of institutions upon the national character. Our nation, through all its history, was educated in the school of local self-government; and in such a country, grasping ambition having no field, has no place in man’s character.

The truth of this doctrine becomes yet more illustrated by a quite contrary historical fact in France. Whatever have been the changes of government in that great country—and many they have been, to be sure—we have seen a Convention, a Directorate, Consuls, and one Consul, and an Emperor, and the Restoration, and the Citizen King, and the Republic; through all these different experiments centralization was the keynote of the institutions of France—power always centralized; omnipotence always vested somewhere. And, remarkable indeed, France has never yet raised one single man to the seat of power, who has not sacrificed his country’s freedom to his personal ambition!

It is sorrowful indeed, but it is natural. It is in the garden of centralization that the venomous plant of ambition thrives. I dare confidently affirm, that in your great country there exists not a single man through whose brains has ever passed the thought, that he would wish to raise the seat of his ambition upon the ruins of your country’s liberty, if he could. Such a wish is impossible in the United States. Institutions react upon the character of nations. He who sows wind will reap storm. History is the revelation of Providence. The Almighty rules by eternal laws not only the material but also the moral world; and as every law is a principle, so every principle is a law. Men as well as nations are endowed with free-will to choose a principle, but, that once chosen, the consequences must be accepted. , With self-government is freedom, and with freedom is justice and patriotism. With centralization is ambition, and with ambition dwells despotism. Happy your great country, sir, for being so warmly attached to that great principle of self-government. Upon this foundation your fathers raised a home to freedom more glorious than the world has ever seen. Upon this foundation you have developed it to a living wonder of the world. Happy your great country, sir! that it was selected by the blessing of the Lord to prove the glorious practicability of a federative union of many sovereign States, all preserving their State-rights and their self-government, and yet united in one—every star beaming with its own lustre, but altogether one constellation on mankind’s canopy.

Upon this foundation your free country has grown to a prodigious power in a surprisingly brief period, a power which attracts by its fundamental principle. You have conquered by it more in seventy-five years than Rome by arms in centuries. Your principles will conquer the world. By the glorious example of your freedom, welfare, and security, mankind is about to become conscious of its aim. The lesson you give to humanity will not be lost. The respect for State-rights in the Federal Government of America, and in its several States, will become an instructive example for universal toleration, forbearance, and justice to the future States, and Republics of Europe. Upon this basis those mischievous questions of language-nationalities will be got rid of, which cunning despotism has raised in Europe to murder liberty. Smaller States will find security in the principle of federative union, while they will preserve their national freedom by the principle of sovereign self-government; and while larger States, abdicating the principle of centralization, will cease to be a blood-field to unscrupulous usurpation and a tool to the ambition of wicked men, municipal institutions will ensure the development of local elements; freedom, formerly an abstract political theory, will be brought to every municipal hearth; and out of the welfare and contentment of all parts will flow happiness, peace, and security for the whole.

That is my confident hope. Then will the fluctuations of Germany’s fate at once subside. It will become the heart of Europe, not by melting North Germany into a Southern frame, or the South into a Northern; not by absorbing historical peculiarities into a centralized omnipotence; not by mixing all in one State, but by federating several sovereign States into a Union like yours.

Upon a similar basis will take place, the national regeneration of Slavonic States, and not upon the sacrilegious idea of Panslavism [a political and cultural movement originally emphasizing the cultural ties between the Slavic peoples but later associated with Russian expansionism], which means the omnipotence of the Czar. Upon a similar basis shall we see fair Italy independent and free. Not unity, but union will and must become the watchword of national members, hitherto torn rudely asunder by provincial rivalries, out of which a crowd of despots and common servitude arose. In truth it will be a noble joy to your great Republic to feel that the moral influence of your glorious example has worked this happy development in mankind’s destiny; nor have I the slightest doubt of the efficacy of that example.

But there is one thing indispensable to it, without which there is no hope for this happy issue. It is, that the oppressed nations of Europe become the masters of their future, free to regulate their own domestic concerns. And to this nothing is wanted but to have that “fair play” to all, for all, which you, sir, in your toast, were pleased to pronounce as a right of my nation, alike sanctioned by the law of nations as by the dictates of eternal justice. Without this “fair play” there is no hope for Europe—no hope of seeing your principles spread.

Yours is a happy country, gentlemen. You had more than fair play. You had active and effectual aid from Europe in your struggle for independence, which, once achieved, you used so wisely as to become a prodigy of freedom and welfare, and a lesson of life to nations.

But we in Europe—we, unhappily, have no such fair play. With us, against every pulsation of liberty all despots are united in a common league; and you may be sure that despots will never yield to the moral influence of your great example. They hate the very existence of this example. It is the sorrow of their thoughts, and the incubus of their dreams. To stop its moral influence abroad, and to check its spread at home, is what they wish, instead of yielding to its influence.

We shall have no fair play. The Cossack already rules, by Louis Napoleon’s usurpation, to the very borders of the Atlantic Ocean. One of your great statesmen—now, to my deep sorrow, bound to the sick bed of far advanced age [Henry Clay]— (alas! that I am deprived of the advice which his wisdom could have imparted to me)—your great statesman told the world thirty years ago that Paris was transferred to St. Petersburg. What would he now say, when St. Petersburg is transferred to Paris, and Europe is but an appendage to Russia?

Alas! Europe can no longer secure to Europe fair play. England only remains; but even England casts a sorrowful glance over the waves. Still, we will stand our ground, “sink or swim, live or die.” You know the word; it is your own. We will follow it; it will be a bloody path to tread. Despots have conspired against the world. Terror spreads over Europe, and persecutes by way of anticipation. From Paris to Pesth [Pesth; Budapest The capital and largest city of Hungary] there is a gloomy silence, like the silence of nature before the terrors of a hurricane. It is a sensible silence, disturbed only by the thousandfold rattling of muskets by which Napoleon prepares to crush the people who gave him a home when he was an exile, and by the groans of new martyrs in Sicily, Milan, Vienna, and Pesth. The very sympathy which I met in England, and was expected to meet here, throws my sisters into the dungeons of Austria. Well, God’s will be done! The heart may break, but duty will be done. We will stand our place, though to us in Europe there be no “fair play.” But so much I hope, that no just man on earth can charge me with unbecoming arrogance, when here, on this soil of freedom, I kneel down and raise my prayer to God: “Almighty Father of Humanity, will thy merciful arm not raise up a power on earth to protect the law of nations when there are so many to violate it?” It is a prayer and nothing else. What would remain to the oppressed if they were not even permitted to pray? The rest is in the hand of God.

Sir, I most fervently thank you for the acknowledgment that my country has proved worthy to be free. Yes, gentlemen, I feel proud at my nation’s character, heroism, love of freedom and vitality; and I bow with reverential awe before the decree of Providence which has placed my country into a position such that, without its restoration to independence, there is no possibility for freedom and independence of nations on the European continent. Even what now in France is coming to pass proves the truth of this. Every disappointed hope with which Europe looked towards France is a decree more added to the importance of Hungary to the world. Upon our plains were fought the decisive battles for Christendom; there will be fought the decisive battle for the independence of nations, for State rights, for international law, and for democratic liberty. We will live free, or die like men; but should my people be doomed to die, it will be the first whose death will not be recorded as suicide, but as a martyrdom for the world, and future ages will mourn over the sad fate of the Magyar race, doomed to perish, not because we deserved it, but because in the nineteenth century there was nobody to protect ” the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”

But I look to the future with confidence and with hope. Manifold adversities could not fail to impress some mark of sorrow upon my heart, which is at least a guard against sanguine illusions. But I have a steady faith in principles. Once in my life indeed I was deplorably deceived in my anticipations, from supposing principle to exist in quarters where it did not. I did not count on generosity or chivalrous goodness from the governments of England and France, but I gave them credit for selfish and instinctive prudence. I supposed them to value Parliamentary Government, and to have foresight enough to know the alarming dangers to which they would be exposed, if they allowed the armed interference of Russia to overturn historical, limited, representative institutions. But France and England both proved to be blind, and deceived me. It was a horrible mistake, and has issued in a horrible result. The present condition of Europe, which ought to have been foreseen by those governments, exculpates me for having erred through expecting them to see their own interests. Well, there is a providence in every fact. Without this mistake the principles of American republicanism would for a long time yet not have found a fertile soil on that continent, where it was considered wisdom to belong to the French school. Now matters stand thus: that either the continent of Europe has no future at all, or this future is American republicanism. And who can believe that two hundred millions of that continent, which is the mother of such a civilization, are not to have any future at all? Such a doubt would be almost blasphemy against Providence. But there is a Providence indeed—a just, a bountiful Providence, and in it I trust, with all the piety of my religion. I dare to say my very self was an instrument of it. Even my being here, when four months ago I was yet a prisoner of the league of European despots in far Asia, and the sympathy which your glorious people honours me with, and the high benefit of the welcome of your Congress, and the honour to be your guest, to be the guest of your great Republic — I, a poor exile — is there not a very intelligible manifestation of Providence in it ? — the more, when I remember that the name of your guest is by the furious rage of the Austrian tyrant, nailed to the gallows.

I confidently trust that the nations of Europe have a future. I am aware that this future is vehemently resisted by the bayonets of absolutism; but I know that though bayonets may give a defence, they afford no seat to a prince. I trust in the future of my native land, because I know that it is worthy to have one, and that it is necessary to the destinies of humanity. I trust to the principles of republicanism; and, whatever may be my personal fate, so much I know, that my country will preserve to you and your glorious land an everlasting gratitude.

Continuation of Kossuth biography:

In 1832 he was designated a substitute to represent a local noble in the Hungarian Diet (national parliament). Kossuth, a prolific writer and editor, produced a record of the Diet’s proceeding as well as other newspapers and journals. In 1837, his advocacy of political reform and national independence led to his imprisonment for three years by the Austrian government. During his confinement, he taught himself English by studying the Bible and Shakespeare.

After his release from prison in 1840, Kossuth became the editor of the “Pesti Hirlap,” or Pest Journal. The Pest Journal advocated political reform and an independent legislature for Hungary. In 1847 Kossuth was elected to the Diet as a representative of the county of Pest. Kossuth continued to spread his ideas of independence, and individual liberty and made brilliant speeches demanding a constitution for Hungary. In 1848, Kossuth’s campaigns and demands earned Hungary its own separate constitution from Austria. After the new government was formed, Kossuth was named the Minister of Finance. Shortly thereafter, revolution broke out across Europe. On September 28, 1848, after five months of serving as the minister of Finance, he assumed full control of the revolution in Hungary. He gathered, strengthened, and armed his “revolutionary army.” Not satisfied with their autonomous constitution, he demanded his county’s independence from Austrian rule. In the spring of 1849, Kossuth rallied against the Habsburg monarchy. On April 14, 1849, the Hungarian Diet, inspired by Kossuth, proclaimed the complete independence of Hungary from Austria and deposed the Habsburg Dynasty. The Hungarian declaration of independence was influenced by the American document. At the same time the Diet elected Kossuth “governor-president” and charged him to render an account of his actions to the parliament. Hungary was the last bastion of the democratic revolutions of 1848 to remain standing against the forces of absolutism, and Hungarian developments were carefully followed with considerable sympathy by the governments and people of Europe and the United States.

The inability of the Austrian government to reestablish its authority was a great concern to the autocratic government of Russia. Czar Nicholas I offered to aid the Austrians in suppressing the Hungarian revolution and that offer was accepted by the Austrians. As a result the Russian imperial forces, allies to the Austrians, declared war on the Hungarian Republic. The Russian armies brought the revolution to a quick and bloody end.

After his defeat, Kossuth fled to Turkey where he spent two years in exile. The governments of Great Britain, The United States, and other West European nations successfully pressured the Turkish Sultan to refuse Austrian and Russian demands for Kossuth’s extradition. They were able to arrange for his departure from Turkey, and on September 10, 1851, he steamed from the Turkish port of Smyrna (now Izmir) aboard the U. S. Navy’s frigate Mississippi. After brief stops in France and Britain, he arrived in New York City on December 5, 1851, to great public acclaim. His triumphant six-month tour throughout the United States was an unprecedented popular success.

Although Kossuth did not achieve his goal of winning official United States government support and recognition for continuing his struggle for Hungarian independence, his visit did leave a permanent legacy in America. He gave several hundred speeches in all parts of the United States, including separate addresses to both Houses of Congress. During this tour 250 poems, dozens of books, hundreds of pamphlets, and thousands of editorials were written about him and his democratic ideals.

He left the United States after six months, returning to Europe in July 1852 to rally support for the Hungarian cause. He lived for a period of time in London, and eventually settled in Turin, Italy. In exile he continued his efforts for Hungarian independence, but he did not return to Hungary.

Following his death in Turin on March 20, 1894, his body was returned to Hungary, where he was buried amid nationwide mourning. After his death, Kossuth continued as the popular symbol of the aspiration of the Hungarian people for independence.

Today there are many reminders of Kossuth’s impact on the Unites States of America. There are towns with his name in Indiana, Ohio and Mississippi, and a settlement with a Post office in Pennsylvania. Previous to today there were two other full figure Kossuth statues in the United States, in New York City, New York and Cleveland, Ohio.

And, of course, there is Kossuth County, Iowa where the impact of Kossuth is noted throughout the county with the name Kossuth appearing on buildings and streets in all parts of the county. Kossuth County now has the third full figure statue of Lajos Kossuth in the United States. The statue of Lajos Kossuth, being dedicated today, is not only a reminder of the Hungarian struggle for independence but it is also a reminder of our own United States democracy that Lajos Kossuth idealized so much.

Biography source: Kossuth County Iowa; http://www.kossuth-edc.com/community/kossuthbio.htm
Speech Source: Select Speeches of Kossuth; by Lajos Kossuth, Francis William Newman: published 1855

Founder Samuel Adams: The Duty of Citizens in Electing Their Representatives

SamuelAdamsQuotesAmericanDuty

Powerful, stirring, inspirational wisdom from the Founders.

The Duty of Citizens in Electing Their Representatives by Samuel Adams published in in the Boston Gazette, April 16, 1781

Extract of a Letter from the Southward.

“As we have a Constitution which is admired for its genuine Principles, I have been sollicitous to know, whether our Countrymen at large partook of the Spirit of those who formed it. I have conceived strong Hopes, that in organizing their Government and electing Persons to fill the important Places of Trust, no Consideration would avail, to govern their Suffrages [i.e. Votes] in Favour of any Candidate, unless he was possessed of those Qualities which are necessary, to enable him to perform the Duties of the Office to be filled, to the Advantage of the Publick. I have flattered myself, that both the Governors and the Governed would have lain aside the gawdy Trappings of Monarchy,[gawdy Trappings of Monarchy; i.e. Riches, beauty, extravagance, flowery speeches] and put on that Simplicity which is the Ornament and Strength of a free Republick. How far it has been done, I am not able to judge at this Distance. It is a great Satisfaction to me to be informed, that some of the best Men in the Commonwealth have been elected into the Principal Departments of Government. Men, who will dignify the Character of our Country—who will revive and disseminate those Principles, moral and political, to propagate which, our Ancestors transplanted themselves into this new World—Men who by the Wisdom of their Councils and their exemplary Manners, will establish the public Liberty on the Foundation of a Rock.—These Men will secure to themselves more of the Esteem of their virtuous, and even of their vicious Fellow-Citizens, than they could by a thousand courtly Addresses [i.e. speeches] which are commonly the Breath of Vanity and Adulation.—There is a charm in Virtue to force Esteem.—If Men of a different Character have by any Means been advanced to those hallow’d Seats, who have even sollicited public Employments to give a Scope to Views of Ambition and Avarice, [avarice; i.e. greed, desire for wealth, power] Passions which have in all Ages been the Bane [bane; i.e. ruin, downfall] of human Society; or, to gratify the raging Thirst for popular Applause, a Disease with which little minds are usually tormented, it is our Happiness that the Constitution requires annual Elections, and such Mistakes may be corrected at the next.

“I was sorry to hear, that the Number of Votes returned, the last Time, did not amount to a Quarter of the Number of qualified Electors in the Commonwealth. The Choice of Legislators, Magistrates and Governors, is surely a Business of the greatest Moment, and claims the Attention of every Citizen. The Framers of our Constitution, while they gave due Attention to Political were not forgetful of Civil Liberty—that personal Freedom and those Rights of Property, which the meanest Citizen is intitled to, and the Security of which is the great End of political Society. It was not indeed their Province to make particular Laws for these Purposes. To do this, and to provide for the equal and impartial Execution of such Laws, agreeable to the Constitution, is the Duty of the Legislature. Hence every Citizen will see, and I hope will be deeply impressed with a Sense of it, how exceedingly important it is to himself, and how intimately the welfare of his Children is connected with it, that those who are to have a Share in making as well as in judging and executing the Laws should be Men of singular Wisdom and Integrity. Such as are conscious that they are deficient in either of these Qualities, should even tremble at being named as Candidates! I hope the great Business of Elections will never be left by the Many, to be done by the Few; for before we are aware of it, that few may become the Engine of Corruption—the Tool of a Junto [Junto; i.e political group]—Heaven forbid! that our Countrymen should ever be byass’d in their Choice, by unreasonable Predilections [i.e. bias, favoritism] for any man, or that an Attachment to the Constitution, as has been the Case in other Countries, should be lost in Devotion to Persons. [Devotion to persons; i.e. devotion because of who the person is] The Effect of this would soon be, to change the Love of Liberty into the Spirit of Faction. Let each Citizen remember, at the Moment he is offering his Vote, that he is not making a Present or a Compliment to please an Individual, or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn Trusts in human Society, for which he is accountable to God and his Country.

“When the great Body of the People are determined not to be imposed upon by a false Glare of Virtues held before their Eyes,[i.e. soundbites, speeches, false fronts] but, making up their own Minds, shall impartially give in their Suffrages, after their best Enquiries into the Characters of Candidates, for those whom they judge to be the fittest Persons, there will be no Danger that the generous Enthusiasm of Freedom, so characteristic of the People of Massachusetts, will ever sink into the Violence and Rage of Party, which has often proved fatal to free Republicks.’

TO CALEB DAVIS.
[MS., Samuel Adams Papers, Lenox Library.]

Philadephia, April 3 1781

President George Washington’s Farewell Address to the American People 1796

GWReligionPolitics

President George Washington’s Farewell Address to the American People 1796

Friends and Citizens:

The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty or propriety, and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole.

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the latter great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water, will more and more find a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connection with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rival ships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope that a proper organization of the whole with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to union, affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our Western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them everything they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the Union by which they were procured ? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren and connect them with aliens?

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should co-operate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it – It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

How far in the discharge of my official duties I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.

In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my proclamation of the twenty-second of April, I793, is the index of my plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your representatives in both houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.

After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.

The considerations which respect the right to hold this conduct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the belligerent powers, has been virtually admitted by all.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.

The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.

GOD GOVERNS IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN Speech by Benjamin Franklin During the Constitutional Convention

BenjaminFranklinQuotesQuarreledReligion

GOD GOVERNS IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN Speech by Benjamin Franklin During the Constitutional Convention, supporting his motion for Prayers in the Constitutional Convention. While the important question of the representation of the states in the senate was the subject of debate, and the states were almost equally divided upon it, Dr. Franklin moved that prayers should be attended in the convention every morning, and in support of his motion, thus addressed the president.

“Mr. President.—The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other—our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many nays, as ayes—is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those republics which, having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist. And we have viewed modern states all round Europe, but find none of their constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this ; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests ; our projects will be confounded ; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a by-word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move—that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”

To understand what the Founding Fathers meant by separation of Church and State you have to look at the history of Europe. They did not mean for us to push God and Jesus out of the public square or out of the governmental domain. They simply meant the government and the church would not join together to oppress the people as they had done historically, they were also against the establishment of a theological hierarchy, just as they were against the Divine Right of Kings to rule, as had been historically taught by the Church of England, the Catholic Church and the establishment religious organizations of the time. Far too often the Church was controlled by the King, or the King was controlled by the church, in all cases it was to the detriment of the common people. To misinterpret the Constitution as they do in this present time is a radical departure from it’s true meaning. Just as is proven, when they always conveniently leave out the second part of the religious freedom clause.

First Amendment of the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

They always conveniently leave out “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, it does not say “freedom from religion”, it says freedom of religious expression. When you deny people in government the right to talk about God, Jesus, the Bible, from wearing crosses, denying their right to pray, etc. you are going against everything the founders stood for and denying their right to the “free exercise” of their religious beliefs, and you are also denying their right to free speech. This has gone on far too long and runs counter to everything the founding fathers believed and fought for.

See also: THE TRANSCENDENT GLORY OF THE REVOLUTION by John Quincy Adams
THE DECLARATION OF THE REPRESENTATIVES IN 1775 by John Dickinson
OF THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM; AND OF TRAITORS by John Dickinson 1732-1808
THE MEANING OF THE REVOLUTION and CONTROVERSY OF INDEPENDENCE
A PATRIOT’S THANKSGIVING by John Woolman; Quaker and Early Anti-Slavery Spokesman
A WARNING TO AMERICANS by John Dickinson 1732-1808
Never Judge a Book by it’s Cover: In memory of a great man I once knew

AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE by Samuel Adams Delivered to Congress Aug 1, 1776

Bill of RightsAMERICAN INDEPENDENCE: An oration delivered at the State house, in Philadelphia, to a very numerous audience, on Thursday, the first of August, 1776, by Samuel Adams, member of the General Congress of the united States of America.

Countrymen And Brethren: I would gladly have declined an honor, to which I find myself unequal. I have not the calmness and impartiality which the infinite importance of this occasion demands. I will not deny the charge of my enemies, that resentment for the accumulated injuries of our country, and an ardor for her glory, rising to enthusiasm, may deprive me of that accuracy of judgment and expression which men of cooler passions may possess. Let me beseech you then, to hear me with caution, to examine without prejudice, and to correct the mistakes into which I may be hurried by my zeal.

Truth loves an appeal to the common sense of mankind. Your unperverted understandings can best determine on subjects of a practical nature. The positions and plans which are said to be above the comprehension of the multitude may be always suspected to be visionary and fruitless. He who made all men hath made the truths necessary to human happiness obvious to all.

Our forefathers threw off the yoke of Popery in religion; for you is reserved the honor of leveling the popery of politics. They opened the Bible to all, and maintained the capacity of every man to judge for himself in religion. Are we sufficient for the comprehension of the sublimest spiritual truths, and unequal to material and temporal ones?

A contemporary print,[1760’s] entitled " An Attempt to land a Bishop in America," gives the pressure of the times. The scene is at the wharf. Exclamations from the colonists, "No lords, spiritual or temporal, in New England!" "Shall they be obliged to maintain bishops who cannot maintain themselves !" salute the bishop's ears. On a banner, surmounted by a liberty-cap, is "Liberty and Freedom of Conscience;" and "Locke," "Sydney on Government," "Calvin's Works," and "Barclay's Apology," bless his eyes! The ship is shoved off shore; on the deck is the bishop's carriage, the wheels off; the crosier and mitre hang in the rigging; and the "saint in lawn," with his gown floating in the breeze, has mounted the shrouds halfway to the mast-head, and exclaims “Lord, now Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace!”

A contemporary print,[1760’s] entitled ” An Attempt to land a Bishop in America,” gives the pressure of the times. The scene is at the wharf. Exclamations from the colonists, “No lords, spiritual or temporal, in New England!” “Shall they be obliged to maintain bishops who cannot maintain themselves !” salute the bishop’s ears. On a banner, surmounted by a liberty-cap, is “Liberty and Freedom of Conscience;” and “Locke,” “Sydney on Government,” “Calvin’s Works,” and “Barclay’s Apology,” bless his eyes! The ship is shoved off shore; on the deck is the bishop’s carriage, the wheels off; the crosier and mitre hang in the rigging; and the “saint in lawn,” with his gown floating in the breeze, has mounted the shrouds halfway to the mast-head, and exclaims “Lord, now Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace!”

Heaven hath trusted us with the management of things for eternity, and man denies us ability to judge of the present, or to know from our feelings the experience that will make us happy. “You can discern,” say they, “objects distant and remote, but cannot perceive those within your grasp. Let us have the distribution of present goods, and cut out and manage as you please the interests of futurity.” This day, I trust, the reign of political protestanism will commence. We have explored the temple of royalty, and found that the idol we have bowed down to, has eyes which see not, ears that hear not our prayers, and a heart like the nether millstone.(1) We have this day restored the Sovereign, to whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and with a propitious eye beholds his subjects assuming that freedom of thought, and dignity of self-direction which he bestowed on them. From the rising to the setting sun, may His kingdom come.

Having been a slave to the influence of opinion early acquired, and distinctions generally received, I am ever inclined not to despise but pity those who are yet in darkness. But to the eye of reason what can be more clear than that all men have an equal right to happiness? Nature made no other distinction than that of higher and lower degrees of power of mind and body. But what mysterious distribution of character has the craft of statesmen, more fatal than priestcraft, introduced?

According to their doctrine, the offspring of perhaps the lewd embraces of a successful invader shall, from generation to generation, arrogate the right of lavishing on their pleasures a proportion of the fruits of the earth, more than sufficient to supply the wants of thousands of their fellow-creatures; claim authority to manage them like beasts of burthen, and, without superior industry, capacity, or virtue, nay, though disgraceful to humanity, by their ignorance, intemperance, and brutality, shall be deemed best calculated to frame laws and to consult for the welfare of society.

Were the talents and virtues which heaven has bestowed on men given merely to make them more obedient drudges, to be sacrificed to the follies and ambition of a few? Or, were not the noble gifts so equally dispensed with a divine purpose and law, that they should as nearly as possible be equally exerted, and the blessings of Providence be equally enjoyed by all? Away, then, with those absurd systems which to gratify the pride of a few debase the greater part of our species below the order of men. What an affront to the King of the universe, to maintain that the happiness of a monster, sunk in debauchery and spreading desolation and murder among men, of a Caligula, a Nero, or a Charles, is more precious in his sight than that of millions of his suppliant creatures, who do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God! No, in the judgment of heaven there is no other superiority among men than a superiority in wisdom and virtue. And can we have a safer model in forming ours? The Deity, then, has not given any order or family of men authority over others; and if any men have given it, they only could give it for themselves. Our forefathers, ’tis said, consented to be subject to the laws of Great Britain. I will not, at present, dispute it, nor mark out the limits and conditions of their submission; but will it be denied that they contracted to pay obedience and to be under the control of Great Britain because it appeared to them most beneficial in their then present circumstances and situations? We, my countrymen, have the same right to consult and provide for our happiness which they had to promote theirs. If they had a view to posterity in their contracts, it must have been to advance the felicity of their descendants. If they erred in their expectations and prospects, we can never be condemned for a conduct which they would have recommended had they foreseen our present condition.

Ye darkeners of counsel, who would make the property, lives, and religion of millions depend on the evasive interpretations of musty parchments; who would send us to antiquated charters of uncertain and contradictory meaning, to prove that the present generation are not bound to be victims to cruel and unforgiving despotism, tell us whether our pious and generous ancestors bequeathed to us the miserable privilege of having the rewards of our honesty, industry, the fruits of those fields which they purchased and bled for, wrested from us at the will of men over whom we have no check. Did they contract for us that, with folded arms, we should expect that justice and mercy from brutal and inflamed invaders which have been denied to our supplications at the foot of the throne? Were we to hear our character as a people ridiculed with indifference? Did they promise for us that our meekness and patience should be insulted; our coasts harassed, our towns demolished and plundered, and our wives and offspring exposed to nakedness, hunger, and death, without our feeling the resentment of men, and exerting those powers of self-preservation which God has given us? No man had once a greater veneration for Englishmen than I entertained. They were dear to me as branches of the same parental trunk, and partakers of the same religion and laws; I still view with respect the remains of the constitution as I would a lifeless body, which had once been animated by a great and heroic soul. But when I am aroused by the din of arms; when I behold legions of foreign assassins, paid by Englishmen to imbrue their hands in our blood; when I tread over the uncoffined bodies of my countrymen, neighbors, and friends; when I see the locks of a venerable father torn by savage hands, and a feeble mother, clasping her infants to her bosom, and on her knees imploring their lives from her own slaves, whom Englishmen have allured to treachery and murder; when I behold my country, once the seat of industry, peace, and plenty, changed by Englishmen to a theatre of blood and misery, Heaven forgive me, if I cannot root out those passions which it has implanted in my bosom, and detest submission to a people who have either ceased to be human, or have not virtue enough to feel their own wretchedness and servitude!

Men who content themselves with the semblance of truth, and a display of words, talk much of our obligations to Great Britain for protection. Had she a single eye to our advantage?

A nation of shopkeepers are very seldom so disinterested. Let us not be so amused with words; the extension of her commerce was her object. When she defended our coasts, she fought for her customers, and convoyed our ships loaded with wealth, which we had acquired for her by our industry. She has treated us as beasts of burthen, whom the lordly masters cherish that they may carry a greater load. Let us inquire also against whom she has protected us? Against her own enemies with whom we had no quarrel, or only on her account, and against whom we always readily exerted our wealth and strength when they were required. Were these colonies backward in giving assistance to Great Britain, when they were called upon in 1739 to aid the expedition against Carthagena? They at that time sent three thousand men to join the British army, although the war commenced without their consent. But the last war, ’tis said, was purely American. This is a vulgar error, which, like many others, has gained credit by being confidently repeated. The dispute between the courts of Great Britain and France related to the limits of Canada and Nova Scotia. The controverted territory was not claimed by any in the colonies, but by the crown of Great Britain. It was therefore their own quarrel. The infringement of a right which England had, by the treaty of Utrecht, of trading in the Indian country of Ohio, was another cause of the war. The French seized large quantities of British manufacture and took possession of a fort which a company of British merchants and factors had erected for the ‘security of their commerce. The war was therefore waged in defense of lands claimed by the crown, and for the protection of British property. The French at that time had no quarrel with America, and, as appears by letters sent from their commander-in-chief, to some of the colonies, wished to remain in peace with us. The part, therefore, which we then took, and the miseries to which we exposed ourselves, ought to be charged to our affection to Britain. These colonies granted more than their proportion to the support of the war. They raised, clothed, and maintained nearly twenty-five thousand men, and so sensible were the people of England of our great exertions, that a message was annually sent to the House of Commons purporting, “that his Majesty, being highly satisfied with the zeal and vigor with which his faithful subjects in North America had exerted themselves in defense of his Majesty’s just rights and possessions, recommend it to the House to take the same into consideration, and enable him to give them a proper compensation.”

But what purpose can arguments of this kind answer? Did the protection we received annul our rights as men, and lay us under an obligation of being miserable?

Who among you, my countrymen, that is a father, would claim authority to make your child a slave because you had nourished him in infancy?

‘Tis a strange species of generosity which requires a return infinitely more valuable than anything it could have bestowed; that demands as a reward for a defense of our property a surrender of those inestimable privileges, to the arbitrary will of vindictive tyrants, which alone give value to that very property.

Political right and public happiness are different words for the same idea. They who wander into metaphysical labyrinths, or have recourse to original contracts, to determine the rights of men, either impose on themselves or mean to delude others. Public utility is the only certain criterion. It is a test which brings disputes to a speedy decision, and makes its appeal to the feelings of mankind. The force of truth has obliged men to use arguments drawn from this principle who were combating it, in practice and speculation. The advocates for a despotic government and nonresistance to the magistrate employ reasons in favor of their systems drawn from a consideration of their tendency to promote public happiness.

The Author of Nature directs all his operations to the production of the greatest good, and has made human virtue to consist in a disposition and conduct which tends to the common felicity of his creatures. An abridgement of the natural freedom of men, by the institutions of political societies, is vindicable only on this foot. How absurd, then, is it to draw arguments from the nature of civil society for the annihilation of those very ends which society was intended to procure! Men associate for their mutual advantage. Hence, the good and happiness of the members, that is, the majority of the members, of any State, is the great standard by which everything relating to that State must finally be determined; and though it may be supposed that a body of people may be bound by a voluntary resignation (which they have been so infatuated as to make) of all their interests to a single person, or to a few, it can never be conceived that the resignation is obligatory to their posterity; because it is manifestly contrary to the good of the whole that it should be so.

These are the sentiments of the wisest and most virtuous champions of freedom. Attend to a portion on this subject from a book in our own defense, written, I had almost said, by the pen of inspiration. “I lay no stress,” says he, “on charters; they derive their rights from a higher source. It is inconsistent with common sense to imagine that any people would ever think of settling in a distant country on any such condition, or that the people from whom they withdrew should forever be masters of their property, and have power to subject them to any modes of government they pleased. And had there been expressed stipulations to this purpose in all the charters of the colonies, they would, in my opinion, be no more bound by them, than if it had been stipulated with them that they should go naked, or expose themselves to the incursions of wolves and tigers.”

Such are the opinions of every virtuous and enlightened patriot in Great Britain. Their petition to heaven is, “That there may be one free country left upon earth, to which they may fly, when venality, luxury, and vice shall have completed the ruin of liberty there.”

Courage, then, my countrymen, our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty. Dismissing, therefore, the justice of our cause, as incontestable, the only question is, what is best for us to pursue in our present circumstances?

The doctrine of dependence on Great Britain is, I believe, generally exploded; but as I would attend to the honest weakness of the simplest of men, you will pardon me if I offer a few words on that subject.

We are now on this continent, to the astonishment of the world, three millions of souls united in one cause. We have large armies, well disciplined and appointed, with commanders inferior to none in military skill, and superior in activity and zeal. We are furnished with arsenals and stores beyond our most sanguine expectations, and foreign nations are waiting to crown our success by their alliances. There are instances of, I would say, an almost astonishing Providence in our favor; out success has staggered our enemies, and almost given faith to infidels; so we may truly say it is not our own arm which has saved us.

The hand of heaven appears to have led us on to be, perhaps, humble instruments and means in the great Providential dispensation which is completing. We have fled from the political Sodom; let us not look back, lest we perish and become a monument of infamy and derision to the world. For can we ever expect more unanimity and a better preparation for defense; more infatuation of counsel among our enemies, and more valor and zeal among ourselves? The same force and resistance which are sufficient to procure us our liberties will secure us a glorious independence and support us in the dignity of free, imperial States. We cannot suppose that our opposition has made a corrupt and dissipated nation more friendly to America, or created in them a greater respect for the rights of mankind. We can therefore expect a restoration and establishment of our privileges, and a compensation for the injuries we have received from their want of power, from their fears, and not from their virtues. The unanimity and valor which will effect an honorable peace can render a future contest for our liberties unnecessary. He who has strength to chain down the wolf is a madman if he let him loose without drawing his teeth and paring his nails.

From the day on which an accommodation takes place between England and America, on any other terms than as independent States, I shall date the ruin of this country. A politic minister will study to lull us into security, by granting us the full extent of our petitions. The warm sunshine of influence would melt down the virtue, which the violence of the storm rendered more firm and unyielding. In a state of tranquillity, wealth, and luxury, our descendants would forget the arts of war and the noble activity and zeal which made their ancestors invincible. Every art of corruption would be employed to loosen the bond of union which renders our resistance formidable. When the spirit of liberty which now animates our hearts and gives success to our arms is extinct, our numbers will accelerate our ruin and render us easier victims to tyranny.(2) Ye abandoned minions of an infatuated ministry, if peradventure any should yet remain among us, remember that a Warren and Montgomery are numbered among the dead. Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say, What should be the reward of such sacrifices? Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship, and plough, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood and hunt us from the face of the earth? If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom,— go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!

To unite the supremacy of Great Britain and the liberty of America is utterly impossible. So vast a continent, and of such a distance from the seat of empire, will every day grow more unmanageable. The motion of so unwieldy a body cannot be directed with any dispatch and uniformity without committing to the Parliament of Great Britain powers inconsistent with our freedom. The authority and force which would be absolutely necessary for the preservation of the peace and good order of this continent would put all our valuable rights within the reach of that nation.

As the administration of government requires firmer and more numerous supports in proportion to its extent, the burdens imposed on us would be excessive, and we should have the melancholy prospect of their increasing on our posterity. The scale of officers, from the rapacious and needy commissioner to the haughty governor, and from the governor, with his hungry train, to perhaps a licentious and prodigal viceroy, must be upheld by you and your children. The fleets and armies which will be employed to silence your murmurs and complaints must be supported by the fruits of your industry.

And yet with all this enlargement of the expense and powers of government, the administration of it at such a distance, and over so extensive a territory, must necessarily fail of putting the laws into vigorous execution, removing private oppressions, and forming plans for the advancement of agriculture and commerce, and preserving the vast empire in any tolerable peace and security. If our posterity retain any spark of patriotism, they can never tamely submit to such burthens. This country will be made the field of bloody contention till it gain that independence for which nature formed it. It is, therefore, injustice and cruelty to our offspring, and would stamp us with the character of baseness and cowardice, to leave the salvation of this country to be worked out by them with accumulated difliculty and danger.

Prejudice, I confess, may warp our judgments. Let us hear the decision of Englishmen on this subject, who cannot be suspected of partiality. “The Americans,” they say, “are but little short of half our number. To this number they have grown from a small body of original settlers by a very rapid increase. The probability is that they will go on to increase, and that in fifty or sixty years they will be double our number, and form a mighty empire, consisting of a variety of States, all equal or superior to ourselves in all the arts and accomplishments which give dignity and happiness to human life. In that period will they be still bound to acknowledge that supremacy over them which we now claim? Can there be any person who will assert this, or whose mind does not revolt at the idea of a vast continent holding all that is valuable to it at the discretion of a handful of people on the other side of the Atlantic? But if at that period this would be unreasonable, what makes it otherwise now? Draw the line if you can. But there is still a greater difficulty. ”

Britain is now, I will suppose, the seat of liberty and virtue, and its legislature consists of a body of able and independent men, who govern with wisdom and justice. The time may come when all will be reversed; when its excellent constitution of government will be subverted; when, pressed by debts and taxes, it will be greedy to draw to itself an increase of revenue from every distant province, in order to ease its own burdens; when the influence of the crown, strengthened by luxury and a universal profligacy of manners, will have tainted every heart, broken down every fence of liberty, and rendered us a nation of tame and contented vassals; when a general election will be nothing but a general auction of boroughs, and when the Parliament, the grand council of the nation, and once the faithful guardian of the State, and a terror to evil ministers, will be degenerated into a body of sycophants, dependent and venal, always ready to confirm any measures, and little more than a public court for registering royal edicts. Such, it is possible, may, some time or other, ‘be the state of Great Britain. What will, at that period, be the duty of the colonies? Will they be still bound to unconditional submission? Must they always continue an appendage to our government and follow it implicitly through every change that can happen to it? Wretched condition, indeed, of millions of freemen as good as ourselves! Will you say that we now govern equitably, and that there is no danger of such revolution? Would to God that this were true! But you will not always say the same. Who shall judge whether we govern equitably or not? Can you give the colonies any security that such a period will never come? No. THE PERIOD, COUNTRYMEN, IS ALREADY COME! The calamities were at our door. The rod of oppression was raised over us. We were roused from our slumbers, and may we never sink into repose until we can convey a clear and undisputed inheritance to our posterity! This day we are called upon to give a glorious example of what the wisest and best of men were rejoiced to view, only in speculation. This day presents the world with the most august spectacle that its annals ever unfolded,—millions of freemen, deliberately and voluntarily forming themselves into a society for their common defense and common happiness. Immortal spirits of Hampden, Locke, and Sidney, will it not add to your benevolent joys to behold your posterity rising to the dignity of men, and evincing to the world the reality and expediency of your systems, and in the actual enjoyment of that equal liberty, which you were happy, when on earth, in delineating and recommending to mankind?

Other nations have received their laws from conquerors; some are indebted for a constitution to the suffering of their ancestors through revolving centuries. The people of this country, alone, have formally and deliberately chosen a government for themselves, and with open and uninfluenced consent bound themselves into a social compact. Here no man proclaims his birth or wealth as a title to honorable distinction, or to sanctify ignorance and vice with the name of hereditary authority. He who has most zeal and ability to promote public felicity, let him be the servant of the public.(3) This is the only line of distinction drawn by nature. Leave the bird of night to the obscurity for which nature intended him, and expect only from the eagle to brush the clouds with his wings and look boldly in the face of the sun.

Some who would persuade us that they have tender feelings for future generations, while they are insensible to the happiness of the present, are perpetually foreboding a train of dissensions under our popular system. Such men’s reasoning amounts to this: Give up all that is valuable to Great Britain and then you will have no inducements to quarrel among yourselves; or, suffer yourselves to be chained down by your enemies that you may not be able to fight with your friends.(4)

This is an insult on your virtue as well as your common sense. Your unanimity this day and through the course of the war is a decisive refutation of such invidious predictions. Our enemies have already had evidence that our present constitution contains in it the justice and ardor of freedom and the wisdom and vigor of the most absolute system. When the law is the will of the people, it will be uniform and coherent; but fluctuation, contradiction, and inconsistency of councils must be expected under those governments where every revolution in the ministry of a court produces one in the State—such being the folly and pride of all ministers, that they ever pursue measures directly opposite to those of their predecessors.

We shall neither be exposed to the necessary convulsions of elective monarchies, nor to the want of wisdom, fortitude, and virtue, to which hereditary succession is liable. In your hands it will be to perpetuate a prudent, active, and just legislature, and which will never expire until you yourselves loose the virtues which give it existence.

And, brethren and fellow-countrymen, if it was ever granted to mortals to trace the designs of Providence, and interpret its manifestations in favor of their cause, we may, with humility of soul, cry out, “Not unto us, not unto us, but to thy Name be the praise!” The confusion of the devices among our enemies, and the rage of the elements against them, have done almost as much towards our success as either our councils or our arms.

The time at which this attempt on our liberty was made, when we were ripened into maturity, had acquired a knowledge of war, and were free from the incursions of enemies in this country; the gradual advances of our oppressors enabling us to prepare for our defense; the unusual fertility of our lands and clemency of the seasons; the success which at first attended our feeble arms, producing unanimity among our friends and reducing our internal foes to acquiescence—these are all strong and palpable marks and assurances that Providence is yet gracious unto Zion, that it will turn away the captivity of Jacob.

Our glorious reformers when they broke through the fetters of superstition effected more than could be expected from an age so darkened. But they left much to be done by their posterity. They lopped off, indeed, some of the branches of Popery, but they left the root and stock when they left us under the domination of human systems and decisions, usurping the infallibility which can be attributed to Revelation alone. They dethroned one usurper only to raise up another; they refused allegiance to the Pope only to place the civil magistrate in the throne of Christ, vested with authority to enact laws and inflict penalties in his kingdom. And if we now cast our eyes over the nations of the earth, we shall find that, instead of possessing the pure religion of the Gospel, they may be divided either into infidels, who deny the truth; or politicians who make religion a stalking horse for their ambition; or professors, who walk in the trammels of orthodoxy, and are more attentive to traditions and ordinances of men than to the oracles of truth.

The civil magistrate has everywhere contaminated religion by making it an engine of policy; and freedom of thought and the right of private judgment, in matters of conscience, driven from every other corner of the earth, direct their course to this happy country as their last asylum. Let us cherish the noble guests, and shelter them under the wings of a universal toleration! Be this the seat of unbounded religious freedom. She will bring with her in her train, industry, wisdom, and commerce. She thrives most when left to shoot forth in her natural luxuriance, and asks from human policy only not to be checked in her growth by artificial encouragements.

Thus, by the beneficence of Providence, we shall behold our empire arising, founded on justice and the voluntary consent of the people, and giving full scope to the exercise of those faculties and rights which most ennoble our species. Besides the advantages of liberty and the most equal constitution, Heaven has given us a country with every variety of climate and soil, pouring forth in abundance whatever is necessary for the support, comfort, and strength of a nation. Within our own borders we possess all the means of sustenance, defense, and commerce; at the same time, these advantages are so distributed among the different States of this continent, as if nature had in view to proclaim to us: Be united among yourselves and you will want nothing from the rest of the world.

The more northern States most amply supply us with every necessary, and many of the luxuries of life; with iron, timber, and masts for ships of commerce or of war; with flax for the manufacture of linen, and seed either for oil or exportation.

So abundant are our harvests, that almost every part raises more than double the quantity of grain requisite for the support of the inhabitants. From Georgia and the Carolinas we have, as well for our own wants as for the purpose of supplying the wants of other powers, indigo, rice, hemp, naval stores, and lumber.

Virginia and Maryland teem with wheat, Indian corn, and tobacco. Every nation whose harvest is precarious, or whose lands yield not those commodities which we cultivate, will gladly exchange their superfluities and manufactures for ours.

We have already received many and large cargoes of clothing, military stores, etc., from our commerce with foreign powers, and, in spite of the efforts of the boasted navy of England, we shall continue to profit by this connection.

The want of our naval stores has already increased the price of these articles to a great height, especially in Britain. Without our lumber, it will be impossible for those haughty islanders to convey the products of the West Indies to their own ports; for a while they may with difficulty effect it, but, without our assistance, their resources soon must fail. Indeed, the West India Islands appear as the necessary appendages to this our empire. They must owe their support to it, and ere long, I doubt not, some of them will, from necessity, wish to enjoy the benefit of our protection.

These natural advantages will enable us to remain independent of the world, or make it the interest of European powers to court our alliance, and aid in protecting us against the invasion of others. What argument, therefore, do we want to show the equity of our conduct; or motive of interest to recommend it to our prudence? Nature points out the path, and our enemies have obliged us to pursue it.

If there is any man so base or so weak as to prefer a dependence on Great Britain to the dignity and happiness of living a member of a free and independent nation, let me tell him that necessity now demands what the generous principle of patriotism should have dictated.

We have no other alternative than independence, or the most ignominious and galling servitude. The legions of our enemies thicken on our plains; desolation and death mark their bloody career; whilst the mangled corpses of our countrymen seem to cry out to us as a voice from heaven:—

“Will you permit our posterity to groan under the galling chains of our murderers? Has our blood been expended in vain? Is the only benefit which our constancy till death has obtained for our country, that it should be sunk into a deeper and more ignominious vassalage? Recollect who are the men that demand your submission, to whose decrees you are invited to pay obedience. Men who, unmindful of their relation to you as brethren; of your long implicit submission to their laws; of the sacrifice which you and your forefathers made of your natural advantages for commerce to their avarice; formed a deliberate plan to wrest from you the small pittance of property which they had permitted you to acquire. Remember that the men who wish to rule over you are they who, in pursuit of this plan of despotism, annulled the sacred contracts which they had made with your ancestors; conveyed into your cities a mercenary soldiery to compel you to submission by insult and murder; who called your patience cowardice, your piety hypocrisy.”

Countrymen, the men who now invite you to surrender your rights into their hands are the men who have let loose the merciless savages to riot in the blood of their brethren; who have dared to establish Popery triumphant in our land; who have taught treachery to your slaves, and courted them to assassinate your wives and children.

These are the men to whom we are exhorted to sacrifice the blessings which Providence holds out to us; the happiness, the dignity, of uncontrolled freedom and independence.

Let not your generous indignation be directed against any among us who may advise so absurd and maddening a measure. Their number is but few, and daily decreases; and the spirit which can render them patient of slavery will render them contemptible enemies.

Our Union is now complete; our constitution composed, established, and approved. You are now the guardians of your own liberties. We may justly address you, as the decemviri did the Romans, and say, “Nothing that we propose can pass into a law without your consent. Be yourselves, O Americans, the authors of those laws on which your happiness depends.”

You have now in the field armies sufficient to repel the whole force of your enemies and their base and mercenary auxiliaries. The hearts of your soldiers beat high with the spirit of freedom; they are animated with the justice of their cause, and while they grasp their swords can look up to Heaven for assistance. Your adversaries are composed of wretches who laugh at the rights of humanity, who turn religion into derision, and would, for higher wages, direct their swords against their leaders or their country. Go on, then, in your generous enterprise with gratitude to Heaven for past success, and confidence of it in the future. For my own part, I ask no greater blessing than to share with you the common danger and common glory. If I have a wish dearer to my soul than that my ashes may be mingled with those of a Warren and Montgomery, it is that these American States may never cease to be free and independent.

FOOTNOTES

1. The homage that is paid in some countries to monarchs and their favorites, is disgraceful to humanity. Should one of my honest countrymen be suddenly conveyed to an European court, he would fancy himself admitted into sums heathen temple. The policy of courtiers seems to have been to render their sovereigns as dependent on themselves is possible, by accustoming them to bear with their ears- see with their eyes, and perform the most common offices with their assistance, and under their direction; like the conning of priests who labor to place themselves between the Deity and mankind, and to make themselves the only channels of communication between earth and Heaven. Such monarchs resemble Rabelais’s Queen, who never chew’d any thing; not that her teeth were not good and strong, and that her food did not require mastication, but such was the indispensable ceremonial of her court, her officers took her meat and chew’d it nobly, having their mouths line’d with crimson satin, and their teeth cased over with fine white ivory, after this they passed it into her stomach by a golden pipe. * * * * *Rabelais, lib. 5.
2. Temporary tumults and civil wars may give much disturbance to rulers, but they do not constitute the real misfortunes of a people, who may even enjoy some respite while they are disputing who shall play the tyrant over them. It is from their permanent sitnatlon that their real prosperity or calamity must arise; when all submit tamely to the yoke, then it is that all are perishing, then it is that their chiefs, destroying them at their case, ubi solitudinum faciunt pacem[when they make peace] appellant. When the intrigues of the ministry agitated the kingdom of France, and the coadjutor of Paris carried a poniard in his pocket to Parliament, all this did not hinder the bulk of the French nation from growing numerous and enjoying themselves in happiness and at their ease. Ancient Greece flourished in the midst of the most cruel wars; human blood was spilt in torrents, and yet the country swarmed with inhabitants. It appears, says Machiavel, that in the midst of murders, proscriptions, and civil wars, our republic became only the more powerful: the virtue of the citizens, their manners, their independence, had a greater effect to strengthen it, than all its dissensions had to weaken it. A little agitation gives vigor to the mind, and liberty, not peace, is the real source of the prosperity of our species,— J. J. Rousseau.
3. A celebrated foreigner gives us a very just description of the methods by which eminence is generally acquired in monarchies. “One makes a fortune because he can cringe, another because he can lie; this man because he seasonably dishonors himself; that, because he betrays his friend; bat the surest means to mount as high as Alberoni, is to offer, like him, ragouts of mushrooms to the Duke of Vendome, and there are Vendomes everywhere. They who are called great, have generally no other ascendency over us but what our weakness permits them, or what our meanness gives them.”
4. From the absurd reasonings of some men we may conclude that they are of opinion, that all free governments are equally liable to convulsions, but the differences that are in the constitution and genius of popular governments are astonishingly great, some being for defence, some for increase, some more equal, others more unequal; some turbulent and seditious, others like streams in a perpetual tranquillity. That which causeth much sedition in a commonwealth is inequality, as in Rome where the Senate oppressed the peon’s. But if a commonwealth be perfectly equal, it is void of sedition, and has attained to perfection, being void of all internal causes of dissolution. Many ancient moral writers, Cicero in particular, have said, that a well constituted commonwealth is immortal—AEterna est.  An equal commonwealth is a government founded upon a balance which is perfectly popular, and which from the balance, through the free suffrage of the people given by ballot, amounts, in the superstructures, to a Senate debating and proposing, a representative of the people resolving, and a magistracy executing; each of these three orders being upon rotation, that is, elected for certain terms, enjoining like intervals.— Vide Harrington

MAKING THE FOREIGN-BORN FAMILIAR WITH THE AMERICAN SPIRIT By George S. Tilroe

NoAmnestyOn Immigration and Immigrants: No less an American than George Washington had something to say on this subject. When it was proposed to bring over here the faculty of a Genevan university to take charge of an American university, he objected. He said he was against importing an entire “seminary of foreigners for the purpose of American education.” Neither did he favor sending our young men abroad to be educated. He feared what experience has shown he had cause to fear. He said they “contracted principles unfriendly to republican government and to the true and genuine liberties of mankind.” George Washington also had ideas about immigration that are good to-day. “My opinion with respect to immigration,” he said, “is, that except of useful mechanics and some particular descriptions of men or professions, there is no need of encouragement; while the policy or advantage of its taking place in a body (I mean the settling of them in a body) may be much questioned; for by so doing they retain their language, habits, principles, good or bad, which they bring with them. Whereas, by an intermixture with our people, they or their descendants get assimilated to our customs, measures, and laws; in a word, soon become one people.”

“It remains to be seen,” he declared, “whether our country will stand upon independent ground. . . . A little time will show who are its true friends, or, what is synonymous, who are true Americans.”

American

source: PurdueEdu

MAKING THE FOREIGN-BORN FAMILIAR WITH THE AMERICAN SPIRIT By George S. Tilroe, Syracuse, NY published 1918 New York Education.

AMERICANIZATION of the immigrant to-day involves the two outstanding forces of world-wide human interest—the material and the spiritual. It is demanded that we judge their merits and determine which shall predominate as our national characteristic.

In teaching the immigrant, we have commonly regarded our work as an effort to make him a more valuable material asset in the community. We have taught him the English language to help him get a better job and to answer the questions of the Naturalization Court. The instruction has been essentially to meet material needs. Materially, we have accomplished our purpose.

The big problem to-day, however, is not material. Our work of Americanization is a spiritual task. It requires an exercise of personality, enthusiasm and thoroughness unparalleled in the history of the republic. It demands that we arouse in the immigrant a spirit of loyalty, a spirit like that which has ever led this nation on to victory.

american-spirit-24x24-300dpi

source: zazzle.com

The spirit of the American people is the most striking difference the immigrant sees between foreign and American life. It is the spirit we point to with pride, the spirit of liberty, of freedom and independence—the Spirit of 76! It grips the foreigner on first acquaintance and the longer he lives here the better he likes it. It throws a magnetizing influence over him. It is our spirit he is acquiring during the process of his assimilation, therefore, in such degree as we display traits worthwhile, in that degree is the immigrant becoming a worth-while American. This means that we are doubly responsible for the making of good Americans. We must be good Americans ourselves, if we would hope to get the American spirit across to the immigrant. We must illustrate the American spirit by setting before our alien population examples worthy of emulation.

Unfortunately, we have run the material Marathon at such a pace that we have heard hours of such rot as that, some of them have rather disregarded the intrinsic spirit of our laws and institutions and obscured the meaning of the American ideal. Meanwhile, the alien has debated the question of American citizenship, considering whether he shall become one of us. It has been difficult for him to differentiate between liberty and license, while our material manner of looking at the situation has rather confused him. We have not imbued him with the American spirit sufficiently to get him out of the alien class, consequently we have almost over-burdened ourselves with a conglomeration of crude humanity that is now the object of no little concern in some quarters.

The world war, a leveler of peoples, a spiritual prod, a national awakener, has done us immeasurable good. We have learned more in the last year than in half a century previous. We have learned the danger of spiritual lethargy and the value of national brotherhood. During the coming months, our American spirit is doubtless due for further quickening with its natural effect upon the immigrant.

Under these circumstances it is worthwhile to take invoice of our stock of Americanism. Most of us have acquired the American spirit through study of our great men and through visiting places of historical significance. Certain leaders and their heroic deeds stand out boldly. They were part of our education. When barely out of the cradle we learned about the hatchet and the cherry tree, about Honest Abe, the rail splitter. We have also learned about millions of common folk, living the simple life, who went to the front when duty called, but we seem to have overlooked the meaning of our nationality, for, it is said that “More than 50 per cent, of us have less than a 50 per cent, knowledge of the principles underlying the foundation of our government.”

Materially minded schemers have helped load us up with the problems now confronting us. They have victimized thousands of immigrants, many of them so many times that they have become distrustful of well intentioned persons who approach them with a sincere desire to help them. Meantime many of our better classes, rich and poor, have stood by, indifferent to the proceedings. We have declared that we need these folk to do our drudgery, to dig our ditches, to do our dirty work! Material selfishness has befogged the issue of American patriotism! We have led thousands of our immigrants no farther than the slums with harmful results. The American spirit withers in the hovels and dark passageways of the tenement sections. Many aliens, however, have swallowed the bitter pill of social ostracism and appeared here and there as leaders of influential colonies. Although many have not risen above the level of the common laborer, they have acquired enough of the spirit of genuine democracy to return to their native lands and spread American ideas. Some of our immigrants are sitting in legislative halls, others are spreading sedition and treachery!

Instead of consigning the alien to the slums, let’s open up to him not only the opportunities of our industrial centers, but also the advantages of the rural regions where fresh air and sunshine are plentiful, and clannishness is short lived. It is our duty to teach of all our resources and how they may be used for the common good. Before we can do much teaching, we must solve the problem of reaching these people. We must have funds and we must get our pupils into well equipped school plants where the American spirit is exemplified in all the surroundings. The American eagle can’t scream well cooped up in a foul cage.

Heretofore, in our immigrant education campaigns, we have used every available means to fill our evening schools. We have opened classes near immigrant homes, used posters, letters, missionaries and moral suasion. We have reached many through social activities and helped them because we appealed to their human, spiritual side, but definite results have been disappointing. We have not reached the masses.

In many of our cities, immigrants who have been in this country many years, have not taken advantage of instruction offered gratis in our night school. In some cities much less than 10 per cent, of the total foreign population is attending. In New York state are more than 3,000,000 foreigners ten years of age and over. Thirteen per cent, of them are illiterate as compared with 1 per cent, of the native born.

The showing is not quite so bad throughout the nation as a whole for, among children of foreign-born parentage, there is less illiteracy among the whites than among children of native born parents. Fully 50 per cent, of our children drop out of the elementary school into material activities, foreigners to greater degree than natives. A comparatively small percentage of all go through high school. In the high school and colleges, however, the native-born boys and girls outstrip immigrant children, showing an advantage over the flow from the elementary schools into material avenues of life employment. If they learn to exercise their minds along thought channels, young men and young women of the high schools and colleges are the hope of perpetuating in this country a race of thinking, reasoning human beings. It requires more than a machine to perpetuate the American spirit.

There is yet much to be done and it must be done through the greatest Americanization agency in the world—the American public school.

The work must be centralized here. It should not be scattered among various institutions and organizations which produce only indefinite results. The American spirit is nourished in the public schools and in them we must provide the proper kind of Americanism. There must be no taint of enemy propaganda anywhere in our educational system!

Raw material for the schools is available in this country to the extent of some 13,000,000 foreign-born people. One fifth of them cannot speak the English language and a much larger number have not yet grasped the American idea otherwise. It is our duty to teach them and their duty to try to learn. We owe it to them, they to us and all of us to our country. We must emphasize co-operation to preserve our democracy, for without it, democracies fail.

The old Athenian democracy, which produced a grand example of virtuous, civilized manhood, went to pieces. It had one fault. The people had no capacity for working together, consequently stronger, warring peoples, by using might, gobbled them up. But many of the good qualities of the ancient Greeks survive. They are the qualities showing the spirit of the people. Pericles emphasized the cultural side of their nature and did a lasting service to mankind.

Even old Greece had its alien problem. The spirit of that age drew a contrast between the principles of democracy and those of foreign, barbarian folk. The Greeks had to battle against evil influences of brutal, savage tribes of northern Europe, influences of two thousand years ago which are cropping out to-day. Thus, in so far as civilization in the finer sense is concerned, our problem is like that of Pericles’ time.

The spirit that prompted Pericles prompted the founders of this republic. It led to the adoption of the Constitution, the foundation of Americanism. If our immigrants become familiar with this they will have in its first paragraph the keynote of the American spirit in these words, “We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union.” In this union, we escape the fault that caused the downfall of the mother of democracies and secure a guarantee of national strength. We Americans have been brought up under the spirit of this Constitution, while in Europe, for several centuries, there has been a material existence of undemocratic characteristics. Our immigrants, with few exceptions, were trained under this autocratic system of education. In America, we have used a democratic system, although we have allowed autocratic features to creep in, some innocently and others deliberately. Definite steps have been taken not only to disrupt the nation, but also to put foreign features into our education system. It is not a matter of language; it has to do with the introduction of European ideas. It concerns the fostering of materialistic principles which, in an autocracy, have produced a  generation of common people now subservient machines manipulated by rulers who command barbarism which the educational training of the masses enforces them to practice. We have no place in America for any part of an educational system that trains immigrant children or alien adults for any such subserviency as this, yet here is what I read in a volume published in America six years ago: “Germans made many struggles to introduce and foster their language in our schools, taxed themselves for the maintenance of German schools, and fought in the press, the legislature and on the stump. There was Scheib in Baltimore, Feldner and Schneck in Detroit, Engelman and Herflinger in Milwaukee, Heilmann in Louisville, Conrad Krez in Wisconsin,” and scores of others. The author regrets that credit has not been given these men for their pioneer work in establishing a German normal school in Milwaukee and in devoting their energy and means to the preservation of German in this country. This was published six years ago. What do you think of it to-day? We have not only permitted ourselves to be exploited by foreigners but many of our own educators have gone abroad to gather up foreign ideas for American consumption. Some may be good and some bad, but, considered from the viewpoint of America First, there must be Americans able to devise Yankee substitutes for those worthwhile.

Several questions arise right here. Should not American educators investigate the subject and weed out objectionable foreign features that have gotten into our schools? If European systems of education produce a people in the condition of subserviency in which we believe Teutonic peoples to be living, do we want this kind of education in America? Do we want our people to be mere material machines or do we want them educated to enjoy life as it should be lived in a free democracy? Do we want them fitted only for work or do we want them prepared not only to work intelligently but also able to employ their leisure hours happily and profitably? The material was never intended to consume the whole day nor even one-half of it.

No less an American than George Washington had something to say on this subject. When it was proposed to bring over here the faculty of a Genevan university to take charge of an American university, he objected. He said he was against importing an entire “seminary of foreigners for the purpose of American education.” Neither did he favor sending our young men abroad to be educated. He feared what experience has shown he had cause to fear. He said they “contracted principles unfriendly to republican government and to the true and genuine liberties of mankind.” George Washington also had ideas about immigration that are good to-day. “My opinion with respect to immigration,” he said, “is, that except of useful mechanics and some particular descriptions of men or professions, there is no need of encouragement; while the policy or advantage of its taking place in a body (I mean the settling of them in a body) may be much questioned; for by so doing they retain their language, habits, principles, good or bad, which they bring with them. Whereas, by an intermixture with our people, they or their descendants get assimilated to our customs, measures, and laws; in a word, soon become one people.”

“It remains to be seen,” he declared, “whether our country will stand upon independent ground. . . . A little time will show who are its true friends, or, what is synonymous, who are true Americans.”

The acid test of our Americanism is now on. Immigrants and natives are showing their colors. Our history teaches us that true Americans are held in reverence; traitors go to ignoble graves!

Whispering ” Tis well,” George Washington died, mourned by a nation.

Benedict Arnold went out a penitent, despised by everybody.

Among his many benefactions, Washington left us a suggestion that fits nicely into our scheme of Americanization. He favored a plan to spread systematic national ideas throughout the nation. In this way immigrants may learn the workings of the American spirit and what sort of men have guided our destiny. Illustrations are plentiful. The Pilgrims came here for freedom of worship. From the belfry of Old North Church a lantern signaled Paul Revere to begin his famous ride before Lexington and Concord. Seven thousand patriots gathered at Old South Church for that great American camouflage, the Boston Tea Party. Washington prayed for success at Valley Forge. John Adams recited every night the prayer his mother taught him as a boy. Ethan Allen appeared at Ticonderoga in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress. This sort of spirit was back of the American revolution!

In Civil War days, Abraham Lincoln said, “Let us strive to deserve the continued care of the Divine Providence, trusting that in future emergencies He will not fail to provide us with the instruments of safety and security.”

And there is the Gettysburg address! It was the American spirit that gave us these: “With malice toward none, with charity for all;” “Give me liberty or give me death;” “Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable!” In all this there is something higher than the material. It is powerful enough to repel a foreign foe. It has never tasted defeat.

This kind of Americanism taught to our immigrants has been the only force directly counteracting the spread of foreign propaganda in this country during the past twenty-five years! Its effect is seen on European battlefields to-day!

Fully one-third of the volunteers for the regular branches of the army, navy and marines this year are of foreign birth or parentage. In industrial centers they have volunteered in a ratio of 3 to 1 as compared with native sons. Many of them learned Americanism in our night schools. I saw some of them clad in khaki, march away. I went to the railway station with them. I was proud of them. I met others before the draft boards, accepting service without claim of exemption. I was proud of them because the chairmen of the examining boards told me they were showing a remarkable spirit in that they volunteered when they might claim exemption on the ground of being aliens. It was ample reward for fifteen years’ effort to get the American idea across. During the past three years the government has come to help us in this service. It has started a campaign of Americanization. We welcome the movement. It will help us continue the transformation of immigrants into highly respected and prosperous American citizens. We know many who have traveled this road. We are in touch with all nationalities, some of whom are scattered to all parts of the world. In America, we hope to cement this material into one spiritual union. The press, the pulpit and our law-making bodies can aid this work by considering such propositions as these:

1. Suppression of foreign language newspapers.

2. Supervision of societies of foreigners.

3. Scattering of colonies of foreigners.

4. Licensing of persons acting as interpreters.

5. Deportation of foreigners who refuse to declare their intentions after one year’s residence, unless registered.

6. Licensing of those who assume to prepare aliens for the Naturalization Court.

7. Compulsory attendance at evening schools of foreigners who cannot speak English.

8. Government control of public Americanization agencies centralized in the public schools.

9. The teaching of foreign languages in our schools by Americans.

Through education and legislation we must work together in that unity outlined in the Constitution, not forgetting that the genuine American spirit is one of right living under the Golden Rule. We have achieved success in a material way and enjoy many inventions, but no invention has yet approached the splendor of the spiritual. We are ringing a change on the materialistic tendencies of several centuries. The spirit of Christian brotherhood is getting hold of us. We are getting to be more like human beings. This humane spirit is a feature of democracy. May all nationalities be so imbued with it that “This nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.”

A Thanksgiving Discourse by Rev. George Washington Cole

GiveThanksA Thanksgiving Discourse by Rev. George Washington Cole; Rector of St. Peter’s Church, Tecumseh, and of St. Patrick’s, Clinton, Detroit.

December 1st, 1836. Rev. And Dear Sir:—
At a meeting of the vestry of St. Patrick’s Church, held last evening, the undersigned were appointed a committee to solicit a copy of your Thanksgiving Sermon for publication. We can assure you that a compliance will gratify the large audience attending upon that occasion.
Respectfully your Obedient servants,
A. Cressy,
R. Townsend.
Rev. George W. Cole.
Tecumseh, Mich., Dec. 13th, 1836, Gentlemen:—
The copy of my discourse which you have so kindly requested, I herewith submit to your disposal. I yield to your obliging request the more cheerfully, from the conviction that it has been prompted in a great measure by the kind regard entertained for me, by the large and respectable congregation before whom the discourse was delivered. Should the publication of it conduce in any degree to the moral or religious welfare of your interesting and thriving village, and of this com. munity, to whose kindness I am under many obligations, I shall be amply reward, ed for this humble production delivered by request before a promiseuous assembly of my fellow citizens, on a day of public praise and thanksgiving.
Yours affectionately,
George W. Cole. To Dr. A. Cressy, And
Richard Townsend, Esqr.

DISCOURSE

“God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us. That thy ways may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. Let the people praise thee O God; let all the people praise thee.” Psalm, lxrii. 1,2,3.

I have selected this language, my brethren, as peculiarly appropriate to the occasion which has assembled us this morning—as expressive of the feelings and sentiments with which we should “come to appear before the Lord” to-day. To awaken such sentiments as are here expressed, and to form corresponding purposes of life, is the object for which we are now together.

The Governor of one of our states, in a recent proclamation, has expressed himself in terms so beautifully in unison with the language which I have just read from the inspired page, that I may be permitted here to cite it. ” Let our hearts” he says ” kindle with gratitude, at the survey of our civil and religious, our social and domestic enjoyments;” and after enumerating many of them, he continues—” and above all, that we are still enlightened by the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness, while multitudes of our race are still enveloped in moral darkness. And while we commemorate with thanksgiving these testimonials of God’s goodness, let us acknowledge with deep humility our own unworthiness, and in the name of our Redeemer, present our petitions for the continuance of Divine favors. In his name ‘ let us come boldly to the throne of grace’ and pray for the richest blessings both temporal and spiritual to descend upon our state and nation; especially that a healthful moral influence may extend through the length and breadth of our land, and that our favored country may shine forth among the nations, conspicuous in holiness, and be eminently instrumental in communicating throughout the world, a knowledge of the true God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

We have here a view of the design for which is set apart this day of public praise and thanksgiving. To such language, the full and united response of our hearts should be, ” God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us. That thy ways may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.”

This psalm and the one immediately before it are supposed to have been composed by David, on the occasion of his being finally established upon his throne, having been victorious over all his foreign enemies, and having subdued all intestine commotions, and established peace and tranquility, through all the borders of his kingdom. Psalms similar to those were often rehearsed by Jewish congregations at their festivals. And among them festivals were frequent, and were established by express divine appointment.— They had their ” feast of Tabernacles” commemorative of their sojourn in the wilderness.

They had their “feast of the Passover” when were celebrated their escape from Egyptian bondage, and the preservation of their first-born, on that night when the first-born of the Egyptians were destroyed.

The feast of Pentecost was their annual thanksgiving, when the signal mercies of God towards them as a nation, and especially his blessing upon the fruits of the earth, were commemorated with various demonstrations of joy.

One principal design for which God required his chosen people to observe certain appointed seasons as holy festivals was, to keep vividly before their minds the truth that Jehovah was their God—that “He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth,” and that ” every good and perfect gift cometh down from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning.”

The great end to be kept in view by us in the observance of religious festivals appointed by the civil authorities, is the public recognition of an overruling Providence—the acknowledging of God in all our ways, in our social relations and in our individual capacities—a simultaneous expression of dependence upon the great Parent of all, for our every enjoyment, civil and religious, social and individual. And it should excite our devout gratulations that a usage which, in its design, is so consonant with the revealed will of God, and which has received the sanction of so many ages, is gradually gaining ground in our own land, among a people so signally favored of the Lord. Blessed is that people whose devout public acknowledgments are, that the Lord is their God.

“Let the people praise thee O God; let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth bring forth her increase; and God, even our own God shall bless us. God shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.”

The psalm from which my text is taken is considered by some as a prayer, by others as a prophecy; but all christian commentators admit that it refers to the general diffusion of such blessings as we now enjoy. That which the Prophets “wrapt in holy vision,” saw in the far future, has become to us matter of actual observation and experience. Those blessings, the dim outline of which, viewed through the long lapse of ages, fired the heart and woke the glowing praise of the patriarch David, are distinctly seen by us, and felt and heard. God has been ” merciful to us” as a people, he has ” blessed us;” he has “caused his face to shine upon us.” The truth of these propositions will be readily admitted. But it is proper on the present occasion to enlarge upon them.

It will be perceived that it is not now my object to illustrate each particular clause of the text, nor to consider the whole in its primary and more direct application ; though it is justly applicable to the remarks of which it is now made the basis.

I shall, in the first place, advert to a few particulars, in which God has signally blessed us as a nation. Secondly, shall consider the bearing of our present position as a people upon the event of ‘God’s ways being made known upon earth, his saving health among all nations.”

1st. I am in the first place to advert, to some of the particulars in which God has signally blessed our nation.

Let us for a few moments transfer ourselves to a point in the history of the world, two or three centuries back. Why is it that at this late period all civilized nations are debarred from this immense continent? While we see the love of conquest still pouring the tide of its desolation’s upon the world—one despot demolishing the kingdom of another that he may extend over its ruins his own sway—the emperor of half the world eager to add to his territory a few acres more at the expense of the tears and blood of millions, the burnished arms of embattled nations gleaming in awful conflict for some petty province—while empire after empire rises, declines and disappears, the red man, without arms, without defence, without skill in war, remains in undisputed possession of this immense country.

While commerce from century to century enlarges her bounds, till her line extends from Britain to India, not one of her sails is seen nearing the shores of this land. Here the boundless forest still waves in all its native grandeur. Here the child of the wilderness, undisturbed by the onset of armies, and the overthrow of empires, on the other side of the great waters, pursues his game, voyages in his canoe, sings his war song, and dances around his council fire. This vast territory, these exhaustless mines, this fertile soil, these majestic rivers, these noble harbors are yet reserved for some great purpose known only to infinite wisdom—it is kept for some higher destiny than that to which the rest of the world has been allotted. The ambitious spoiler is not yet permitted to plant his desolating footsteps upon the bosom of this ” land of promise”—no spiritual despotism lifts its blighting rod over this fair heritage—no hand of rapacity fastens its iron grasp upon these countless uncoffered treasures.

Now why was it thus my brethren? Can we not discern the hand of a kind Providence in all this? Had this continent been discovered and colonized a few centuries earlier, when darkness, and superstition and tyranny held undisputed sway over nominally christian countries, what rank should we now have held among the nations of the earth? Italy, and Spain and Portugal and Mexico and South America may tell us.

Though at a point of view some two or three centuries back, an observer might not have been able to discover the reason why this country had been kept so long concealed from civilized nations, yet a sufficient reason is made obvious to us. It was that civil and religious freedom might be permitted to do its own work here without being obliged, first to demolish the fabric or to remove the rubbish of despotism. It was that the foundations of wise and righteous institutions might here be laid broad and deep. It was that the miserable hovels of an ignorant, oppressed, starved, wretched population, might not occupy the places which are now covered with our large commercial cities and manufacturing towns—that instead of a few clusters of rude dwellings frowned upon by the gloomy walls of monkery, beautiful and flourishing villages, with churches and school-houses, set like polished gems in their bosom, might smile upon the whole face of this fair land—that instead of being dotted over with here and there a meager acre fleeced by the hand of poverty, this vast field, in all its length and breadth might yield a rich increase under the cultivation of independent, enterprising, virtuous and intelligent yeomen, that it might bloom as the garden of Eden and be loaded with the abundance of harvest—that here an empire might spring up from which righteousness should go forth as the morning till ” God’s ways are known upon earth, his saving health among all nations.”

This is the high destiny for which the land of our heritage has been reserved. Surely in this God has been merciful unto us and has blessed us. Let it be our united and fervent prayer to-day, that our forgetfulness of God, and our abuse of his mercies, may not debar us from that lofty destination to which we have been called.

The history of the colonization of our country presents many striking instances of the interpositions of a merciful Providence. How often was the infant colony at Jamestown on the point apparently of utter annihilation, from pestilence, and improvidence, and famine, dire and inevitable, and the impetuous fury of savages. But when in their last extremities ; when their prospect had become most appalling; when death in his most hideous forms stood staring them in the face, then they cried unto the Lord, and he heard them and stretched forth his hand for their relief. At his bidding the tempest laid aside its fury, and the frightful cloud passed away. The hand of the destroyer was staid; provisions came as upon the wings of the wind; and by means wholly beyond the reach of human foresight, the storm of vengeful fury which had raged in the bosom of the Indian was calmed. The hearts of all men are in the hands of God, and he turneth them at pleasure, as the rivers are turned. He can cause the wrath of man to praise him, or the remainder of wrath he can restrain.

In the history of the Plymouth colony the hand of an overruling Providence is still more strikingly visible. Had they, as they had purposed, been landed at New York, to all human appearance every soul of them must have fallen under the tomahawk. But through the treachery of their captain, they were landed amid the chilling blasts of winter upon the bleak and ice-bound shore of Plymouth. The natives upon that coast for many miles in extent had been swept off almost to a man, by a dreadful pestilence that had raged the previous season. Consequently the feeble afflicted and depressed colonists were allowed to remain for several months unmolested by the native lords of the soil, their jealous and exasperated foes. And none of us I trust are so pur-blind with prejudice as not to perceive that the destiny of this great republic was in no trifling degree linked with that of the Plymouth colony. In blessing them a merciful God has blessed us.

Again, when we reflect upon the history of our struggle for independence, how astonishing do the results appear compared with the means that were used. How unequal the contest. An infant colony— a mere handful of men, without experience, without arms, without funds, and without credit, asserting their violated rights, and triumphantly repelling the aggressions of the most powerful nation on earth.

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” we may say,—” if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us.” [Psalm 124]

I would not presume to assert, that a holy God looked with approbation upon all the means that were used, and all the passions that were called into action by the wronged and aggrieved party in that struggle; but that their cause was a righteous one, and that the principles for which they contended received the sanction and the smiles of Heaven, I cannot question.

Josiah “The Patriot” Quincy Jr. proclaimed concerning the Revolutionary War of Independence: “In defense of our civil and religious rights, we dare oppose the world; with the God of armies on our side, we fear not the hour of trial, though the hosts of our enemies should cover the field like locusts. Under God we are determined that wheresoever, whensoever, or howsoever we are called upon to make our exit, we will die freemen.”

There were many engaged in that momentous conflict, who felt and acknowledged their dependence Upon that Almighty Being before whom “all nations are as nothing”—many who like Patrick Henry publicly expressed their confidence in that “just God who presides over the destinies of nations.”

Franklin at a most solemn crisis in the deliberations of the first Congress, arose, as you will recollect, and moved that they proceed no further till they had unitedly bowed before the throne of Almighty God, and implored his blessing and his direction.

Washington was no stranger to prayer, that instrument which “moves the hand that moves the world.” Many a grove near his encampments witnessed this great man bowing upon his knees with the humility of a child; and with his eyes and hands and heart uplifted, fervently praying, ” God be merciful unto us and bless us and cause his face to shine upon us; that thy ways may be known upon earth thy saving health among all nations.” Nay more;—on that sweet and sacred day which commemorates the resurrection of the great Captain of our salvation, Washington was seen at the holy altar, bowed at the side of the humblest rustic, and receiving the emblems of the body and blood of Him who bled and died to save the world.

But it was not because we or our fathers deserved such blessings that they were given to us, but because God was merciful to us. He had important purposes to accomplish through our instrumentality, and therefore he broke in sunder the rod of the oppressor. “With his own right hand and with his holy arm hath he gotten himself the victory.”

It would be inconsistent with this occasion, and unworthy of me, a minister of ” the prince of peace” were I now to say aught to arouse or to perpetuate one feeling of unkindness or hostility towards one of the most noblest and most magnanimous of nations. They were our brethren who rose up against us. They were blinded by the pride of power. It now becomes us as an high minded free, intelligent and Christian people to forget the wrong, and to cherish grateful recollections of the good they have conferred upon mankind. Though they like Joseph’s brethren many have been instigated by wicked passions to do us wrong. Yet God meant it for good. In the results of this strife between us is not the hand of an overruling Power as apparent as it was in the conduct of the sons of Jacob towards their younger brother? From this violation of our fraternal bonds what incalculable good has resulted to us, to them and to the world. They are our brethren still, and we will love them.

Of those peculiarities in their civil and religious institutions which we conscientiously and intelligently regard as radically defective, I need not now speak. The blotting out of their power from the system of Christian nations would be, to the world, a most disastrous event.

We have separated from each other as Abraham and Lot did, when there was strife between their herdsmen. We, like Lot have chosen a great and fertile plain, ” which is well watered everywhere, even as the garden of the Lord”—though I trust we have no Sodom and Gomorrah upon our borders in whose destruction we are to be involved. Let there be therefore no more strife between us and them, between our herdsmen and their herdsmen. Or rather let our strife be to provoke each other to good works. For purposes of good, “is not the whole land before us?” In that grand career of improvements upon which both we and they have entered, may we go forward locked arm in arm as brothers. To the great work of regenerating the world to which we are respectively summoned, O may we come up “shoulder to shoulder.”

In the maintenance of many of those dearest rights of man which are the glory of the Protestant world, these two nations like brothers good and true, are destined by Providence to stand by each other till the last decisive blow is struck and the shouts of victory are heard through all the earth.

Without then, any other feelings than those of brotherly kindness towards our mother country, let us devoutly praise God to-day, that he has so overruled both the evil and the good purposes of men that inestimable good has resulted to the world from our struggle for civil and religious freedom. “Let the people praise thee O God, let all the people praise thee.”

Again, the more we reflect upon the peculiarities of our institutions, in connection with, the circumstances under which they were founded, the more distinctly shall we discover in them marks of a hand Divine,

Shall we attribute it entirely to the sagacity and far reaching wisdom of the fathers of our country, that they were able to devise and mature a system of government a whole century in advance of the rest of the world?—that without a precedent, without a model, a few colonists laid the foundations of their social compact sufficiently broad, and deep, and firm, to sustain the weight of this great sisterhood of republics, when our population shall have become hundreds of millions 1 No, my brethren, without derogating in the least from human wisdom and foresight, we may believe that our great Parent on high gave wisdom to our wise men, counsel to our counsellors, and dictated law to our lawyers. Do not understand me as claiming for all the founder* of our government peculiar excellence of character as religious men; this I should not dare to do. For while some of them were very pious men, others were by no means such. And all the honors in the gift of this nation, should not have the weight of ” the small dust of the balance,” in inducing me to connive at, or to become the apologist for vice and impiety, in any notoriously wicked man, however eminent the services he may have performed for his country. I am now however, speaking of men, merely as instruments in the hands of Providence for effecting certain great and good purposes. That we have received many mercies in consequence of the prayers and faith of our fathers, I have already intimated, and I do most cordially believe it. But it is not necessary to confound virtue and vice, godliness and impiety, in order to express our veneration and gratitude towards those who have bequeathed to us the sacred legacy of civil and religious freedom. Though we may believe Washington to have been an humble christian, and to have been raised up by Providence for our deliverance, as certainly, though not miraculously, as Moses was for the deliverance of the children of Israel, yet as a man of God, as a man of high attainments in holiness, we should not presume to compare the great and justly venerated Washington with the Jewish law-giver.

That God was in the councils of our fathers while laying the foundations of this great political edifice, we have such evidence as we may not reject with impunity. In proof of this we have one remarkable instance in their having repudiated the old idea that the interests of religion may be promoted by a union of civil and ecclesiastical institutions. Now this appears the more extraordinary when we consider how many centuries this sentiment had held its sway in the Christian world; and how many men there were then in our own country who were startled at the idea of serving the unhallowed alliance. But in this distinctive feature of our institutions we now discover a most salutary provision—a provision which appeals strongly for the support of religion, both to our selfish and to our benevolent feelings. The framers of our institutions discovered that the civil arm instead of being a support to religion, had ever been its most oppressive burden—that religion had withered under its weight, and languished into the chill and leaden numbness of death. They threw off from Christianity the burden with which she had been loaded by the mistaken kindness of her guardians, and under which she had sunk. They cut the leading strings to which religion had been confined and allowed her to walk abroad in her own native majesty. But although they rejected the union of church and state, they by no means rejected religion either in intention or in fact. On the contrary they have imposed upon us the fearful alternative either of disseminating religious principles among the people, or of abandoning our present form of government. They have made no provision, as you will discover by an examination of our laws, for a state of things that must exist when the people shall have become ignorant, or shall have ceased to be moral. And the history of the world for six thousand years, shows to a certainty, that good morals cannot be long sustained in any community without religion. A corrupt people will no more tolerate good institutions than a good and wise people will corrupt institutions. Without religion we cannot have good citizens; and without good citizens we cannot sustain good laws.

On the other hand the prosperity of religion is materially affected by the stability or by the overthrow of good government.

Thus while the sage founders of our liberties have not appealed to the law for the support of religion, they have appealed to every feeling of patriotism and philanthropy and christian benevolence, for its support. . Here religion is left free to find her way to the conscience of every man, and every man is left free to pay her whatever homage his conscience may dictate. Thus has God caused his face to shine upon us. He has poured light upon us from above.

One other circumstance for which we should offer up our devout acknowledgments to-day, is, the early establishment of a system of education peculiarly adapted to the genius of our government.

A system of general education seems to be indispensably necessary to the stability of government by the people, unless the people have intelligence to perceive justice they will not decree it. If knowledge is power to establish and sustain, ignorance is a mightier power to destroy. A fabric which the wisdom of a whole nation may have been centuries in constructing, may be destroyed, by the ruthless hand of barbarians, in a single hour.

To our system of common schools, as the attendant luminary of religion, are we in a great measure indebted for our present well-being as a people, and for our elevated rank among nations. In the history of our education the hand of our all-wise Providence is seen planting at the earliest infancy of our colonies, the germ of that tree which has grown with our growth and strengthened with our strength till it has come to a strong, rich and beautiful maturity.

Provided a people be intelligent and virtuous and enterprising, it matters not so much what are their climate, soil and other external circumstances—their influence will be felt, it will tell upon human destiny. Why is it that Scotland, a little nook of the world, made up in a great measure of rugged mountains and deep glens, has not only elevated her own population, but has sent abroad a redeeming influence, which is now pervading all civilized nations? It is her general education—embracing of course religious instruction, that has done this. From her seminaries of learning, has arisen a bright constellation of men, which has ascended high in the moral firmament, and whose brightness will continue to go forth into all the dark habitations of man, till one great flood of light shall cover the whole earth, from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same.

From the bleak hills of New England there has emanated an influence which has had more to do with the molding and the maturing of the institutions of our whole country, than many of the present generation are willing to admit. Whether the ‘eulogists of the Pilgrims—to whose memory I may be expected on this occasion to pay a passing tribute—may not sometimes have portrayed their characters in too high colors, I need not now attempt to decide. Nor should we allow the blemishes of their character to conceal from our view the good that they did, and that lives after them. I do not now purpose to speak of them with any reference to their peculiar religious tenets. They certainly were a peculiar people; but among their peculiarities, their excellences were conspicuous. I do not deem it incumbent on me to appear at this time as the apologist for their dark deeds of persecution. These have fixed an indelible stain upon their memory—a stain which the tears of posterity can never, never wash away. But the palliating circumstances in their favor should not be forgotten. They lived in a persecuting age—they lived at an age when the principles of religious toleration were but little understood and less practiced. They had long been schooled to persecution, and it would have been cause for peculiar gratitude, had they been able to have forgotten at once, all the lessons which the whole Christian world, with a few exceptions, had been inculcating for centuries.

But the institutions which they founded are pouring upon us such a flood of light, that the blemishes of their personal characters are but as spots upon the disc of the sun—we cannot long gaze upon them with the naked eye, without the aid of something very different from that charity which ” rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” The time is yet future—and I say it as a citizen of Michigan, the state of my adoption, and of my cordial preference—the time is yet future when the influence of the institutions founded by the early settlers of New England shall be justly appreciated in this country. Should the time ever come—which may a merciful God forbid—when those sterner, though less splendid and captivating virtues which nerved our fathers for their conflicts, shall be scouted and driven from among us, and the entire ascendency given to those more specious, but effeminate and enervating principles, which are being so generally transplanted from foreign climes to our own, and which are so sedulously cultivated among us—should we ever arrive at such a consummation of folly, then will our days have been numbered and finished, and our glory will have departed.

Should it ever become the melancholy task of the historian, to sit down amid the fallen columns and broken arches, and chaotic ruins of our political edifice, and trace the causes of such a dreadful catastrophe back to their source, then will he record upon the historic page his lamentations, that the institutions founded at an early period of our history, were either poisoned at their fountains, or were not permitted to have their due influence over this people.

But such a disaster I confidently trust no historian will ever have to record. When then we shall have become so great as to be just—when in the vastness of our empire, New England with her green hills, and white villages, and towering steeples, and college lawns, shall have become as the little garden in the corner of the opulent farmers field, then shall we be willing to acknowledge our indebtedness to the common schools and stern virtues of the Puritans—then will many be prepared to say what I now unhesitatingly aver, that if the system of general education as early established in this country could be traced up to any one individual as its founder, I had rather have been that individual, than the author of that grand discovery which gave Sir Isaac Newton’s name to immortality.

For all the blessings of our literary, civil and religious institutions, ” let the people praise thee O Lord ; let all the people praise thee.”

2nd. The connection between our present position as a people, and the event of “God’s ways being known upon earth his saving health among all nations,” is so obvious that I shall offer but a few observations under this head. “A city set on a hill cannot be hid.” God has caused his face to shine upon us, and the light thus received, we are in some measure reflecting out upon the families of man. As God has placed our government at the head of the popular institutions of the world, the influence of our example must be widely felt.

Our commerce is spreading its canvass in every part, and is fast lining the coast of the world. And wherever our ships go, there our institutions are made known. Nay more—look out upon every ocean and sea, and behold in all directions our ships of commerce, with their wings spread to the winds, hastening to benighted nations with the glad tidings of salvation—conveying to those nations thousands and tens of thousands of that precious volume which is to make known ” Gods ways upon earth his saving health among all nations.”

Look upon the wharves of our Atlantic cities, and what melting spectacles may you frequently witness there, a group in tears are now bidding each other along, long, adieu. Sobbing parents and children are parting to meet no more. The light-hearted mariner has turned back to look on. Another and another ascend the rigging of their vessels to view the scene. And now the big tear rolls down their sun-burnt cheeks. The parting hymn is sung. The voice of melody floats along upon the air through a forest of masts and many a wayward voyager stops to listen. The last strain, farewell, farewell, dies upon the water—the gallant ship spreads her wings and bears away from their country, their friends, their home, a band of well educated, self sacrificing holy young men, on an errand of mercy to heathen nations; they go to carry that gospel which will ere long make those enthralled nations as free, as intelligent, as happy as our own—they go to make known “God’s ways upon earth his saving health among all nations.”

Again, there is another majestic ship under full sail nearing the coast of Africa. A hundred happy colonists are on board. Once they were in bondage in this land of freedom. But the day of their sighing is at an end. “The year of jubilee” is come, and the ransomed captives are returning home to the land of their fathers. They are looking eagerly toward the colony of their destination. The ship makes the land—they leap on shore and are forever free.

Now may we not hope that by means of these colonists a channel is to be opened by which the blessings of our institutions shall be poured into the very heart of enslaved, smitten, bleeding Africa?—that thus our wrongs to them may be overruled by a merciful God for great good—may be made the means of sending the saving health of the gospel to the hundred millions of that bruised, wounded, plague-stricken race? Let us on this day fervently beseech the God of the oppressed, to remove that fearful rod of correction which we have been long preparing for ourselves, by enslaving and buying and selling millions of those immortal beings whom Christ died to redeem—let us earnestly pray that the beacon-lights which have been hung out upon the dismal coast of Africa, may burn brighter and brighter, and be raised higher and higher, till they have illumined every habitation, and thrown their light upon every appalling, hideous form of misery and debasement throughout that great continent.

From the fountains of our institutions, innumerable streams are going forth through the world to convey God’s saving health unto all nations. And the truth cannot be too deeply impressed upon our minds, that in us as a people the world has momentous interests at stake. In the institutions which our fathers have bequeathed to us, we have a most sacred legacy for the right use of which we are accountable to God. He has entrusted them to us as an instrument of good to mankind—as a lever by which we must endeavor to raise up the moral world from its present debasement. And if we do not guard them and apply them to the purposes for which the great Parent of all designed them, great will be our guilt both as individuals and as a people.

And may our own young and vigorous state be prepared to meet the full weight of its responsibility. In travelling over this state we find it almost entirely in the hands of young men. They are at all our fountains of influence. To these young men is entrusted the responsible work of founding the institutions of this republic, which in a few years must number its million of inhabitants. The unprecedented rapidity with which our population is increasing, admonishes us to be on the alert for good—for our own good, and for the good of posterity.

At almost every step some melancholy memento reminds us that we are pressing hard upon the footsteps of another race of men, once powerful, who have melted away before our advancing population like the morning mist before the rising sun. “We are almost amid their new-made graves and the dying embers of their council fires. These fields, these rivers, these water-falls were but recently theirs. These beautifully undulating grounds, so richly ornamented with trees, and shrubs, and flowers, were the parks of their noblemen. These trails which stretch across our farms and prairies and guide us in our journeys, were the highways to their villages, and towns, and legislatures. But where have they gone? They have fled from us as the stricken deer to pine away and die in solitude. It was but yesterday that he whose name our township bears, was perhaps, haranguing his warriors upon this very spot in all the impressive eloquence of a Demosthenes. But here and there one still lingers among us. Let us remember them to-day, wherever we meet them let us look upon them with pity, and endeavor as far as possible to mitigate the bitterness of their hard destiny. Let us if possible, keep from them that exterminating mischief which has long mingled its deadly ingredients in the cup of their tribulations. O let us endeavor to remove the gloom and dismal terror which hang over their dark passage into another world, and let us point them to that better country where sorrow and sighing shall be no more.

May the young men in all our villages feel their accountability to posterity—may the impression be deeply engraved upon their hearts, that they are laying the foundations of society for coming generations, for unborn millions. May they take the Book of God for their counsellor. And let us to-day, my young friends, pledge ourselves to look well to our influence, to come up manfully with hosts of other young men in different parts of our country to the cause of man, that is, to every good cause; to the cause of Bibles and Sunday Schools—let us enlist cordially, resolutely, and for life in that enterprise in the success of which, the well-being of every village is involved, the cause of temperance, whose grand achievements are to be scarcely less important to the world than those of the war of our independence.

Let us invest liberally according to our means, for posterity, by establishing as early as possible good literary institutions. Let us be more anxious to adorn our villages with good school-houses and neat churches, than with splendid private dwellings.

And may God be merciful unto us and bless us with the pardon of all our sins—and may He enlighten our hearts with the light of the everlasting gospel. And may our lives conduce to make known his ways upon earth, his saving health among the nations. May we all so praise him on earth, that when our tongues are stilled in death, we may be able to sing the “new song” with all the rapt hosts of heaven.

“Let the people praise thee O God; let all the people praise thee”. Amen.

Fourth of July Oration by Daniel Webster

Feagle.with.flagellow-citizens,—It is at the season when nature hath assumed her loveliest apparel that the American people assemble in their several temples to celebrate the birthday of their nation. Arrayed in all the beauties of the year, the Fourth of July once more visits us. Green fields and a ripening harvest proclaim it, a bright sun cheers it, and the hearts of freemen bid it welcome. Illustrious spectacle! Six millions of people this day surround their altars, and unite in an address to Heaven for the preservation of their rights. Every rank and every age imbibes the general spirit. From the lisping inhabitant of the cradle to the aged warrior whose gray hairs are fast sinking in the western horizon of life, every voice is, this day, tuned to the accents of Liberty! Washington! My Country!

Festivals established by the world have been numerous. The coronation of a king, the birth of a prince, the marriage of a princess, have often called wondering crowds together. Cities and nations agree to celebrate the event which raises one mortal man above their heads, and beings called men stand astonished and aghast while the pageantry of a monarch or the jeweled grandeur of a queen poses before them. Such a festival, however, as the Fourth of July is to America, is not found in history; a festival designed for solemn reflection on the great events that have happened to us; a festival in which freedom receives a nation’s homage, and Heaven is greeted with incense from ten thousand hearts.

In the present situation of our country, it is, my respected fellow-citizens, matter of high joy and congratulation that there is one day in the year on which men of different principles and different opinions can associate together. The Fourth of July is not an occasion to compass sea and land to make proselytes. The good sense and the good nature which yet remain among us will, we trust, prevail on this day, and be sufficient to chain, at least for a season, that untamed monster, Party Spirit—and would to God that it might be chained forever, that, as we have but one interest, we might have but one heart and one mind!

You have hitherto, fellow-citizens, on occasions of this kind, been entertained with the discussion of national questions; with inquiries into the true principles of government; with recapitulations of the War; with speculations on the causes of our Revolution, and on its consequences to ourselves and to the world. Leaving these subjects, it shall be the ambition of the speaker of this day to present such a view of your Constitution and your Union as shall convince you that you have nothing to hope from a change.

This age has been correctly denominated an age of experiments. Innovation is the idol of the times. The human mind seems to have burst its ancient limits, and to be traveling over the face of the material and intellectual creation in search of improvement. The world hath become like a fickle lover, in whom every new face inspires a new passion. In this rage for novelty many things are made better, and many things are made worse. Old errors are discarded, and new errors are embraced. Governments feel the same effects from this spirit as everything else. Some, like our own, grow into beauty and excellence, while others sink still deeper into deformity and wretchedness. The experience of all ages will bear us out in saying, that alterations of political systems are always attended with a greater or less degree of danger. They ought, therefore, never to be undertaken, unless the evil complained of be really felt and the prospect of a remedy clearly seen. The politician that undertakes to improve a Constitution with as little thought as a farmer sets about mending his plow, is no master of his trade. If that Constitution be a systematic one, if it be a free one, its parts are so necessarily connected that an alteration in one will work an alteration in all; and this cobbler, however pure and honest his intentions, will, in the end, find that what came to his hands a fair and lovely fabric goes from them a miserable piece of patchwork.

Nor are great and striking alterations alone to be shunned. A succession of small changes, a perpetual tampering with minute parts, steal away the breath though they leave the body; for it is true that a government may lose all its real character, its genius and its temper, without losing its appearance. You may have a despotism under the name of a republic. You may look on a government and see it possess all the external essential modes of freedom, and yet see nothing of the essence, the vitality, of freedom in it: just as you may behold Washington or Franklin in wax-work; the form is perfect, but the spirit, the life, is not there.

The first thing to be said in favor of our system of government is that it is truly and genuinely free, and the man has a base and slavish heart that will call any government good that is not free. If there be, at this day, any advocate for arbitrary power, we wish him the happiness of living under a government of his choice. If he is in love with chains, we would not deny him the gratification of his passion. Despotism is the point where everything bad centers, and from which everything good departs. As far as a government is distant from this point, so far it is good; in proportion as it approaches towards this, in the same proportion it is detestable. In all other forms there is something tolerable to be found; in despotism there is nothing. Other systems have some amiable features, some right principles, mingled with their errors; despotism is all error. It is a dark and cheerless void, over which the eye wanders in vain in search of anything lovely or attractive.

The true definition of despotism is government without law. It may exist, therefore, in the hands of many as well as of one. Rebellions arc despotisms; factions are despotisms; loose democracies are despotisms. These are a thousand times more dreadful than the concentration of all power in the hands of a single tyrant. The despotism of one man is like the thunderbolt, which falls here and there, scorching and consuming the individual on whom it lights; but popular commotion, the despotism of a mob, is an earthquake, which in one moment swallows up everything. It is the excellence of our government that it is placed in a proper medium between these two extremes, that it is equally distant from mobs and from thrones.

In the next place our government is good because it is practical. It is not the sick offspring of closet philosophy. It did not rise, vaporous and evanescent, from the brains of Rousseau and Godwin, like a mist from the ocean. It is the production of men of business, of experience, and of wisdom. It is suited to what man is, and what it is in the power of good laws to make him. Its object—the just object of all governments—is to secure and protect the weak against the strong, to unite the force of the whole community against the violence of oppressors. Its power is the power of the nation; its will is the will of the people. It is not an awkward, unshapely machine which the people cannot use when they have made it, nor is it so dark and complicated that it is the labor of one’s life to investigate and understand it. All are capable of comprehending its principles and its operations. It admits, too, of a change of men and of measures. At the will of a majority, we have seen the government of the nation pass from the hands of one description of men into those of another. Of the comparative merits of those different men, of their honesty, their talents, their patriotism, we have here nothing to say. That subject we leave to be decided before the impartial tribunal of posterity. The fact of a change of rulers, however, proves that the government is manageable, that it can in all cases be made to comply with the public will. It is, too, an equal government. It rejects principalities and powers. It demolishes all the artificial distinctions which pride and ambition create. It is encumbered with no lazy load of hereditary aristocracy. It clothes no one with the attributes of God; it sinks no one to a level with brutes: yet it admits those distinctions in society which are natural and necessary. The correct expression of our Bill of Rights is that men are born equal. It then rests with themselves to maintain their equality by their worth. The illustrious framers of our system, in all the sternness of republicanism, rejected all nobility but the nobility of talents, all majority but the majority of virtue.

WashingtonDelawareLastly, the government is one of our choice; not dictated to us by an imperious Chief Consul, like the governments of Holland and Switzerland; not taught us by the philosophers, nor graciously brought to us on the bayonets of our magnanimous Bister republic on the other side the ocean. It was framed by our fathers for themselves and for their children. Far the greater portion of mankind submit to usurped authority, and pay humble obedience to self-created law-givers; not that obedience of the heart which a good citizen will yield to good laws, but the obedience which a harnessed horse pays his driver, an obedience begotten by correction and stripes.

The American Constitution is the purchase of American valor. It is the rich prize that rewards the toil of eight years of war and of blood: and what is all the pomp of military glory what are victories, what are armies subdued, fleets captured, colors taken, unless they end in the establishment of wise laws and national happiness? Our Revolution is not made renowned for the brilliancy of its scenes than for the benefit of its consequences. The Constitution is the great memorial of the deeds of our ancestors. On the pillars and on the arches of that dome their names are written and their achievements recorded. While that lasts, while a single page or a single article can be found, it will carry down the record to future ages. It will teach mankind that glory, empty, tinkling glory, was not the object for which Americans fought. Great Britain had carried the fame of her arms far and wide. She had humbled France and Spain; she had reached her arm across the Eastern Continent, and given laws on the banks of the Ganges. A few scattered colonists did not rise up to contend with such a nation for mere renown. They had a nobler object, and in pursuit of that object they manifested a courage, constancy, and union, that deserve to be celebrated by poets and historians while language lasts.

The valor of America was not a transient, glimmering ray shot forth from the impulse of momentary resentment. Against unjust and arbitrary laws she rose with determined, unalterable spirit. Like the rising sun, clouds and mists hung around her, but her course, like his, brightened as she proceeded. Valor, however, displayed in combat, is a less remarkable trait in the character of our countrymen than the wisdom manifested when the combat was over. All countries and all ages produce warriors, but rare are the instances in which men sit down coolly at the close of their labors to enjoy the fruits of them. Having destroyed one despotism, nations generally create another; having rejected the dominion of one tyrant, they make another for themselves. England beheaded her Charles, but crowned her Cromwell. France guillotined her Louises, but obeys her Bonapartes. Thanks to God, neither foreign nor domestic usurpation flourishes on our soil!

Having thus, fellow-citizens, surveyed the principal features of our excellent Constitution and paid an inadequate tribute to the wisdom which produced it, let us consider seriously the means of its preservation. To perpetuate the government we must cherish the love of it. One chief pillar in the republican fabric is the spirit of patriotism. But patriotism hath, in these days, become a good deal questionable. It hath been so often counterfeited that even the genuine coin doth not pass without suspicion. If one proclaims himself a patriot, this uncharitable, misjudging world is pretty likely to set him down for a knave, and it is pretty likely to be right in this opinion. The rage for being patriots hath really so much of the ridiculous in it that it is difficult to treat it seriously. The preaching of politics hath become a trade, and there are many who leave all other trades to follow it. Benevolent, disinterested men! With Scriptural devotion they forsake houses and lands, father and mother, wife and children, and wander up and down the community to teach mankind that their rulers oppress them! About the time when it was fashionable in France to cut off men’s heads, as we lop away superfluous sprouts from, our apple-trees, the public attention was excited by a certain monkey, that had been taught to act the part of a patriot to great perfection. If you pointed at him, says the historian, and called him an aristocrat or a monarchist, he would fly at you with great rage and violence; but, if you would do him the justice to call him a good patriot, he manifested every mark of joy and satisfaction. But, though the whole French nation gazed at this animal as a miracle, he was, after all, no very strange sight. There are, in all countries, a great many monkeys who wish to be thought patriots, and a great many others who believe them such. But, because we are often deceived by appearances, let us not believe that the reality does not exist. If our faith is ever shaken, if the crowd of hypocritical demagogues lead us to doubt, we will remember Washington and be convinced; we will cast our eyes around us, on those who have toiled and fought and bled for their country, and we will be persuaded that there is such a thing as real patriotism, and that it is one of the purest and noblest sentiments that can warm the heart of man.

To preserve the government we must also preserve a correct and energetic tone of morals. After all that can be said, the truth is that liberty consists more in the habits of the people than in anything else. When the public mind becomes vitiated and depraved, every attempt to preserve it is vain. Laws are then a nullity, and Constitutions waste paper. There are always men wicked enough to go any length in the pursuit of power, if they can find others wicked enough to support them. They regard not paper and parchment. Can you stop the progress of a usurper by opposing to him the laws of his country? then you may check the careering winds or stay the lightning with a song. No. Ambitious men must be restrained by the public morality: when they rise up to do evil, they must find themselves standing alone. Morality rests on religion. If you destroy the foundation, the superstructure must fall. In a world of error, of temptation, of seduction; in a world where crimes often triumph, and virtue is scourged with scorpions,—in such a world, certainly, the hope of an hereafter is necessary to cheer and to animate. Leave us, then, the consolations of religion. Leave to man, to frail and feeble man, the comfort of knowing, that, when he gratifies his immortal soul with deeds of justice, of kindness, and of mercy, he is rescuing his happiness from final dissolution and laying it up in Heaven.

Benjamin Rush GospelOur duty as citizens is not a solitary one. It is connected with all the duties that belong to us as men. The civil, the social, the Christian virtues are requisite to render us worthy the continuation of that government which is the freest on earth. Yes, though the world should hear me, though I could fancy myself standing in the congregation of all nations, I would say: Americans, you are the most privileged people that the sun shines on. The salutary influences of your climate are inferior to the salutary influences of your laws. Your soil, rich to a proverb, is less rich than your Constitution. Your rivers, large as the oceans of the old world, are less copious than the streams of social happiness which flow around you. Your air is not purer than your civil liberty, and your hills, though high as heaven and deep as the foundations of the earth, are less exalted and less firmly founded than that benign and everlasting religion which blesses you and shall bless your offspring. Amidst these profuse blessings of nature and of Providence, Beware! Standing in this place, sacred to truth, I dare not undertake to assure you that your liberties and your happiness may not be lost. Men are subject to men’s misfortunes. If an angel should be winged from Heaven, on an errand of mercy to our country, the first accents that would glow on his lips would be, Beware! be cautious! you have everything to lose; you have nothing to gain. We live under the only government that ever existed which was framed by the unrestrained and deliberate consultations of the people. Miracles do not cluster. That which has happened but once in six thousand years cannot be expected to happen often. Such a government, once gone, might leave a void, to be filled, for ages, with revolution and tumult, riot and despotism. The history of the world is before us. It rises like an immense column, on which we may see inscribed the soundest maxims of political experience. These maxims should be treasured in our memories and written on our hearts. Man, in all countries,, resembles man. Wherever you find him, you find human nature in him and human frailties about him. He is, therefore,, a proper pupil for the school of experience. He should draw wisdom from the example of others,—encouragement from their success, caution from their misfortunes. Nations should diligently keep their eye on the nations that have gone before them. They should mark and avoid their errors, not travel on heedlessly in the path of danger and of death while the bones of their perished predecessors whiten around them. Our own times afford us lessons that admonish us both of our duty and our danger. We have seen mighty nations, miserable in their chains, more miserable when they attempted to shake them off. Tortured and distracted beneath the lash of servitude, we have seen them rise up in indignation to assert the rights of human nature; but, deceived by hypocrites, cajoled by demagogues, ruined by false patriots, overpowered by a resistless mixed multitude of knaves and fools, we have wept at the wretched end of all their labors. Tossed for ten years in the crazy dreams of revolutionary liberty, we have seen them at last awake, and, like the slave who slumbers on his oar and dreams of the happiness of his own blessed home, they awake to find themselves still in bondage. Let it not be thought that we advert to other nations to triumph in their sufferings or mock at their calamities. Would to God the whole earth enjoyed pure and rational liberty, that every realm that the human eye surveys or the human foot treads, were free! Wherever men soberly and prudently engage in the pursuit of this object, our prayers in their behalf shall ascend unto the Heavens and unto the ear of Him who filleth them. Be they powerful or be they weak, in such a cause they deserve success. Yes, “The poorest being that crawls on earth, contending to save itself from injustice and oppression, is an object respectable in the eyes of God and man.” Our purpose is only to draw lessons of prudence from the imprudence of others, to argue the necessity of virtue from the consequences of their vices.

Unhappy Europe! the judgment of God rests hard upon thee. Thy sufferings would deserve an angel’s pity, if an angel’s tears could wash away thy crimes! The Eastern Continent seems trembling on the brink of some great catastrophe. Convulsions shake and terrors alarm it. Ancient systems are falling; works reared by ages are crumbling into atoms. Let us humbly implore Heaven that the wide-spreading desolation may never reach the shores of our native land, but let us devoutly make up our minds to do our duty in events that may happen to us. Let us cherish genuine patriotism. In that, there is a sort of inspiration that gives strength and energy almost more than human. When the mind is attached to a great object, it grows to the magnitude of its undertaking. A true patriot, with his eye and his heart on the honor and happiness of his country, hath an elevation of soul that lifts him above the rank of ordinary men. To common occurrences he is indifferent. Personal considerations dwindle into nothing, in comparison with his high sense of public duty. In all the vicissitudes of fortune, he leans with pleasure on the protection of Providence and on the dignity and composure of his own mind. While his country enjoys peace, he rejoices and is thankful; and, if it be in the counsel of Heaven to send the storm and the tempest, his bosom proudly swells against the rage that assaults it. Above fear, above danger, he feels that the last end which can happen to any man never comes too soon, if he falls in defence of the laws and liberties of his country.

An oration delivered on the 4th of July, 1826, at Northampton, Massachusetts by George Bancroft

EagleFlag1Our act of celebration begins with God. To the eternal Providence, on which states depend, and by whose infinite mercy they are prospered, the nation brings its homage and the tribute of its gratitude. From the omnipotent Power, who dwells in the unclouded serenity of being without variableness or shadow of change, we proceed as from the Fountain of good, the Author of hope, and the Source of order and justice, now that we assemble to commemorate the revolution, the independence, and the advancement of our country. No sentiments should be encouraged on this occasion, but those of patriotism and philanthropy.

When the names of our venerated Fathers were affixed to the instrument which declared our independence, an impulse and confidence were imparted to all efforts at improvement throughout the world. The festival which we keep is the festival of freedom itself; it belongs not to us only, but to man; all the nations of the earth have an interest in it, and humanity proclaims it sacred. In the name of liberty, therefore, I bid you welcome to the celebration of its jubilee; in the name of our country I bid you welcome to the recollection of its glories and joy in its prosperity; in the name of humanity I welcome you to a festival, which commemorates an improvement in the social condition; in the name of religion I welcome you to a profession of the principles of public justice, which emanate directly from God.

These principles are eternal, not only in their truth, but in their efficacy. The world has never been entirely without witnesses to them; they have been safely transmitted through the succession of generations; they have survived the revolutions of individual states; and their final success has never been despaired of. Liberty has its foundation in human nature; and some portion of it exists, wherever there is a sense of honor. Are proofs of its existence demanded? As the mixture of good and evil is the condition of our earthly being, the efficient agency of good must be sought for even in the midst of evil; the impulse of free spirits is felt in every state of society and in spite of all constraint. There may have been periods in which the human mind has sunk into slothful indifference; the arm of exertion been paralyzed; and every noble aspiration hushed in the tranquility of universal submission. But even in such periods the world has never been left utterly without hope; and when the breath of tyranny has most effectually concealed the sun of liberty, and shrouded in darkness the magnificence of his beams, it has been but for a season.

Tomorrow he repairs the golden flood,
And gilds the nations with redoubled ray.

TETRRF-00024113-001Nature concedes to every people the right of executing whatever plans they may devise for their improvement, and the right of maintaining their independence. Of the exercise of these rights there have always been examples. The innate love of national liberty proceeds from an impulse and waits only for an opportunity to demonstrate its power. It has aroused the brave and generous from the first periods of history to the present moment, and has been a principle of action under every form of government; it was this, which made Marathon the watch-word of those who fight for their country; this pointed the arrows of the Parthian; this lent an air of romance to the early history of the Swiss and gained the battles of Morgarten and Sempach; this inspirited the Dutch, when their freedom was endangered by the arms of Louis XIV, and could be secured by no smaller sacrifice, to lay the soil of Holland beneath the ocean; this blessed the banners that waved on Bunker Hill and canonized the memory of those who fell as the elect martyrs and witnesses to their country’s independence; this made the French republic invincible when it stood alone against the world; this, which formerly at Pultowa had taught the Russians to fight, sacrificed Moscow, a splendid victim, on the altar of national existence; this united the mangled limbs of Germany, breathed a spirit once more into the long divided members, and led them against the French, as if impelled by the throbbings of one mighty heart. What need of many words? This made New Orleans a place of proud recollections, and still more recently has raised its boldest standard under the Southern sky, and finished a career of victory in the field of Ayacucho.

The exercise of free principles in the internal improvement of states is more difficult and more rare; for it requires the continued efforts of prudence, favored by the possession of power; a clear insight into the relations and wants of social life; an enlightened age and a persevering policy. Yet almost the first demand of civilized man has been a legislation, founded on the principles of justice; and the Roman law is still in force as the guarantee of private possessions in many of the most despotic countries of Europe. Some fixed constitution men have always claimed; and wherever codes have been established, their tendency has been favorable to individual rights, personal security, and intellectual liberty.

The general sentiment of mankind is expressed by the master spirits in the works, which are as monuments of the knowledge and aspirations of departed ages. Here there exists no difference of feeling; liberty may have been contemplated under different aspects, but honor has never been refused to the celestial visitant. Milton, than whom no man ever enjoyed clearer revelations of the light of poetry, appeals to the greatest bards, from the first to his own time, as the lovers and eulogists of liberty. Do you ask after the reasonings of mankind? To the contemplative man there is no equivalent for freedom of thought and expression; freedom to follow the guidance of reason wherever she may lead; freedom to make an open profession of all deliberate convictions. The historians, the orators, the philosophers, are the natural advocates of civil liberty. From all countries and all ages we have the same testimony; it is the chorus of the whole family of nations.

The events of the last fifty years lead us to hope, that liberty, so long militant, is at length triumphant. From our own revolution the period derives its character. As on the morning of the nativity the astonished wizards hastened with sweet odors on the Eastern road, our government had hardly come into being and the star of liberty shed over us its benignant light, before the nations began to follow its guidance and do homage to its beauty. The French revolution followed our own; and new principles of action were introduced into the politics of Europe. The melancholy events, which ensued, must be carefully distinguished from the original resistance to unlimited monarchy. The evils, which resulted from anarchy in the royal councils, should not be referred to the influence of national principles. The popular effort, which abolished the system of absolute rule and feudal subjection, which maintained the equal rights of man, which reclaimed the sovereign power for the people and established the responsibility of all public officers, a revolution which at once annihilated the distinctions of birth and gave a free course to the principles of liberty, to industry, and to truth, was worthy of the enthusiasm which it excited in the lovers of freedom. The representatives of the people were true, while the nobles were false and the king prevaricated; and, but for the coalition of the foreign powers against France, there is reason to believe the French revolution would have been consummated with so much order and followed by so much prosperity and happiness, that the neighboring nations must have been incited to imitate the example and peacefully reform their institutions.

The wars which followed were not without their use; for though they were conducted by an exasperated nation, whose generous passion for liberty had become a frenzy, the armies of the republic were still arrayed against tyranny. The torch of freedom was in their hands, though it had been seized with profane recklessness. The light did indeed glare with a wild and terrific splendor; yet, as it waved round the continent of Europe, its beams reached the furthest kingdoms and startled tyranny in its securest recesses. Germany awakened as if to a new consciousness of being; Poland caught a momentary hope of restoration; Bohemia, Hungary, and the furthest East lifted up their heads and listened for a season to the strains that told of independence, before they relapsed again into their ancient lethargy.

A permanent consequence of the French revolution has been, the establishment of representative governments in some of the states of Europe. France may modify her institutions, but never will resign them; the free states of Germany may be overawed by surrounding power, and so fail of developing their public life by the strict rules of liberty; but they will never part with their political knowledge. You might as well endeavor to tear the plough from their peasant^, as the principles of freedom from their intelligent men. But whatever may be the chances, that popular sovereignty will finally prevail in Europe, that continent is no longer to the world what she once was. She has fulfilled her high destiny; she has been for many centuries the sole depositary and guardian of all that is most valuable in government, letters, and invention, in present enjoyment and religious hope. But human culture has at length been transplanted to other climes, and already grown to a more beautiful maturity. Whatever destiny may hang over Europe, mankind is safe. Intelligence and religion have found another home; not only in our own free states, the cross is planted on each side the Andes, and the rivers which empty into either ocean fertilize the abodes of civilization.

July4th2A more admirable and cheering spectacle, therefore, than Europe can offer, is exhibiting in our own hemisphere. A family of Free states has at once come into being, and already flourishes on a soil, which till now had been drooping under colonial thraldom. Our happiness is increased by the wide diffusion of the blessings of free institutions; and it is a pleasing consciousness, that the example of our Fathers taught these new republics, what were their rights, and how they might assert them. Their final success we regard as certain, believing that the freedom of inquiry and of action will ensure the triumph of reason and the establishment of wise constitutions. Be it that .the new aspirants after liberty are impeded by the relics of colonial bondage; the influence of pernicious forms, which rested for support on the dominion of the mother country, cannot long survive the end of that dominion; be it that the literature of Spain contains no eloquent exposition of the principles of liberty; they will find a good interpreter of them in their own breasts; be it that clear views of public economy and administration are not yet commonly diffused; the people soon learn to understand their interests, and to devise the best means of advancing them; be it that their religion partakes of bigotry and an exclusive spirit; bigotry will yield to light, and far be it from us to condemn wantonly a form of Christianity, which is adopted by half the Christian world; be it that their social life has not yet assumed a form, corresponding with their political condition; the natural operation of civil equality and the success of unrestricted enterprise will remove all injurious distinctions; be it that they are taunted with extravagance and denounced as drunk with liberty; it is a very safe intoxication and would to God all the nations of the earth might drink deeply of that cup; be it that they have consistently practiced in the faith of man’s natural equality; there is no reason to apprehend a confusion of justice from those who guarantee the rights of all the members of their community; and, finally, be it that they who are now beginning to enjoy free constitutions, are partly of mixed descent; will you not all coincide with me when I say, we feel for man, not for a single race of men, and wherever liberty finds followers, as wherever Christ has disciples, be it that English or Indian, Spanish or African blood pours in their veins, we greet them as brethren.

I have glanced at the leading events in the history of the last half-century, and their aspect on the progress of mc free institutions. Time will not permit, nor does our purpose lead us to enumerate all the states which were doomed to perish, or those which were to rise from their ruins. No so short period of history ever presented so many or so mighty revolutions, such grand displays of national force; armies so numerous and yet so well disciplined; battles so skillfully conducted and decisive of such vast interests. The stream of time, which flowed through so many of the past centuries with a lazy current, has at last rushed onwards with overwhelming fury, leaping down one precipice after another, destroying all barriers in its ungovernable swiftness, hurrying states and empires and nations along its current, while the master minds were driven they knew not whither, on waters through which they vainly endeavored to direct their course,

The age has been fertile in strange contrasts, in unforeseen and unparalleled events. Europe is filled with the shadows of departed states and the graves of ruined republics. In the North, an adventurer of fortune has succeeded to the Swedish throne, and the legitimate king lives quietly in exile; while in the rest of Europe the doctrine of the divine right has been revived. Rome was once more made the head of a republic; the secular power of the Pope, annihilated for a season, was restored by the help of Turks, Russians, and English, Infidels, Schismatics, and Heretics. An army of Europeans, having in its train a band of scientific men, pitched its victorious camp at the foot of the Pyramids; the solitary banks of the Nile again became the temporary abode of glory and civilization; and again the bands of armed men poured through the hundred gates of the long deserted Thebes. An empire, which sends its caravans into Tartary and China, exerts its influence in Paris and Madrid, and has its envoy at Washington. The whole East has been a scene of continued turbulence, till at last a corporation of merchants, residing in a distant island, has reduced seventy millions of people to subjection. And, finally, to notice a singular fact in our own history, he, whose eloquent pen gave freedom its charter in the declaration of our independence; he, who was the third to receive the greatest honor ever awarded by public suffrage; he, who in the course of his administration doubled the extent of our territory by a peaceful treaty; he, whose principles are identified with the character of our government, and whose influence with the progress of civil liberty throughout the world, after declining to be a third time elected to the highest station in the service of his country, has not preserved on his retirement, I will not say fortune enough to bury him with honor, has not saved the means of supporting the decline of life with decency. The system of states, now united by diplomatic relations or commerce, embraces the world. The productions and the manufactures of all climes, the advances of intelligence and all useful inventions, are made universal benefits; the thoughts of superior men find their way over every ocean and through every country; civilization has its messengers in all parts of the world, and there is a community of feeling among the lovers of truth, however widely their abodes may be separated.

And in this system of states an experiment is simultaneously making of the most various forms of government and all within the reach of mutual observation. While the United States show to what condition a nation is carried by establishing a government strictly national, we have in Russia and in Haiti examples of a military despotism; in England a preponderating aristocracy; in France a monarchy with partial limitations; in Prussia an absolute monarchy, yet dependent for its strength on the spirit of the people; in Naples the old-fashioned system of absolute caprice. Let men reason if they will on the different systems of government; the history of the age is showing from actual experiment which of them best promotes the ends of the social compact.

Thought has been active in our times, not with speculative questions; but in devising means for improving the social condition. Efforts have been made to diffuse Christianity throughout the world. The cannibal of the South Sea forgets his horrid purpose and listens to the instructions of religion; the light of the Sabbath morn is welcomed by the mild inhabitants of the Pacific islands; and Africa and Australasia have not remained unvisited. Colonies, which were first established on the Guinea coast for the traffic in slaves, have been renewed for the more effectual suppression of that accursed trade. A curiosity, which will not rest unsatisfied, perseveres in visiting the unknown parts of the earth; the oceans have been so carefully explored by skilful navigators, that we are well acquainted with all their currents and their paths; and the regions, which lie furthest from the ancient abodes of civilization, have at last received its colonies.

Not only the advancement of knowledge characterizes the age, but its wide diffusion throughout all classes of society. The art of printing, which has been in use less than four hundred years and which, vast as its influence has already been, is just beginning to show how powerfully it can operate on society, offers such means of extending knowledge, that national education becomes every where possible; and while before this invention it was impracticable to impart literary culture but to a few, the elements of science can now be made universally accessible.

The facts, to which I have rapidly alluded, show a gradual amelioration of the human condition and the more complete development of the social virtues. And where is it, that the hopes of philanthropy are most nearly realized? I turn from the consideration of foreign revolutions to our own condition, and meet with nothing but what may animate our joy and increase our hopes. The visions of patriotism fall short of the reality. He, who observes the air of cheerful industry and successful enterprise, the sobriety of order, the increasing wealth of our cities, the increasing productiveness of our lands, our streams crowded with new establishments, and the appearance of entire success, stamped on every part of our country, will yet be amazed at the official documents, in which the elements of this success are analyzed, and its amount made the subject of cool calculation.

In whatever direction we turn our eyes, we find one unclouded scene of prosperity, everywhere marks of advancement and increasing opulence. While the population of the United States is doubled in less than twenty four years, its capital is doubled in less than eleven. At the beginning of the war the manufactures of the country could hardly be said to have had any considerable value; during the last twelve-month the value of goods manufactured in the United States has probably exceeded three hundred millions of dollars. The commerce of the country soon after the revolution extended, it is true, to every important mart, though it was but the first effort of a nation without capital; but now, when a large part of the commerce of the world is done by American merchants, our internal commerce surpasses our foreign even in tonnage, and still more in its value to the nation. Our thriving agriculture gives an air of magnificence to our lands, and, after supplying our domestic wants, leaves a large surplus for exportation. All our rural towns have an aspect of ease and comfort and prosperity. On our seaboard the wealth and population are advancing with a rapidity, surpassing the most sanguine expectations; and the prospect, that lies before us, seems too brilliant to be realized, when we observe a city like New York, already one of the largest on earth, and yet so new, its crowded wharves, its splendid walk by the ocean-side, its gay and busy streets so remarkable for the beautiful neatness of the buildings; its industry; its moral order; and its rapid growth, proceeding from causes that still operate with undiminished force.

These grand results are visible in the oldest part of our country, where the trees are older than the settlements, and men are older than the bridges and the roads. The changes in the West are known to be still more amazing. The hunter finds his way through a fertile region, and hardly has his good report been heard, before it is gemmed with villages; and all the intelligence and comforts of cultivated life are at once introduced into the new haunts of civilization. The voice of Christian worship is heard to rise from crowded assemblies in regions, which have been first visited within our memories. Domestic trade is extending itself in every direction; steam-boats ascend even the most rapid rivers, whose banks have been but recently explored, and as they pass through the lonely scenes, now first enlivened by the echoes of social cheerfulness, the venerable antiquity of nature bends from her awful majesty, and welcomes the fearless emigrant to the solitudes, where the earth has for centuries been hoarding fertility.

I have spoken to you of the condition of our country at large; I have called on you to observe its general prosperity. I will now limit the sphere of our view; I will ask you to look around at your own fields and firesides; your own business and prospects. There is not one desirable privilege, which we do not enjoy; there is not one social advantage, that reason can covet, which is not ours. I speak not merely of our equal rights to engage in any pursuit, that promises emolument or honor; I speak, also, of the advantages which we are always enjoying; security in our occupations; liberty of conscience; the certain rewards of labor. While there is general ease, the distribution of wealth has led to no great inequalities; all our interests are thriving; the mechanic arts are exercised with successful skill; improved means of communication with the sea-board are opening to our trade; the waters of our abundant streams are continually applied to new branches of business; an equal interchange of kindness is the general custom; moral order pervades an industrious population; intelligence is diffused among our yeomanry; the plough is in the hands of its owner; and the neat aspect of our farm-houses proves them the abode of contentment and successful diligence. Nor are we without our recollections. I never can think without reverence of the spirited veteran, who, on the morning of the seventeenth of June, in the seventieth year of his age, was hastening on horseback as a volunteer to Bunker Hill; but, coming to Charlestown neck and finding the fire from the British ships so severe, that crossing was extremely dangerous, coolly sent back the animal which he had borrowed of a friend and, shouldering his musket, marched over on foot. When the Americans saw him approach they raised a shout, and the name of Pomeroy ran along the lines. Since the ashes of the gallant soldier do not rest among us, let us the more do honor to his memory. We have raised a simple monument to his name in our grave-yard; but his body reposes, where he breathed out life on his country’s service, in the maturity of years, and yet a martyr. Even before that time and before the hour of immediate danger, when the boldest spirits might have wavered in gloomy uncertainty, and precious moments were wasting in indecision, one of our own citizens, my friends, his memory is still fresh among us, had been the first to cry in a voice, which was heard beyond the Potomac, we must fight; and when some alternative was desired, and reconciliation hoped from inactivity and delay, clearly saw the absolute necessity of the case, and did but repeat, we must fight. It was in front of the very place, where we are now assembled, that the hearts of our Fathers were cheered and their resolution confirmed by the eloquence of Hawley. And what is the cause and the guarantee of our happiness? What but the principles of our constitution. When our fathers assembled to prepare it, the genius of history admitted them to the secrets of destiny, and taught them by the failures of the past to provide for the happiness of future generations. No model was offered them, which it seemed safe to imitate; the constitution established a government on entirely liberal principles, such as the world had never beheld in practice.

The sovereignty” of the people is the basis of the system. With the people the power resides, both theoretically and practically. The government is a democracy, a determined, uncompromising democracy; administered immediately by the people, or by the people’s responsible agents. In all the European treatises on Political Economy and even in the state-papers of the holy alliance, the welfare of the people is acknowledged to be the object of government. We believe so too; but as each man’s interests are safest in his own keeping, so in like manner the interests of the people can best be guarded by themselves. If the institution of monarchy were neither tyrannical nor oppressive, it should at least be dispensed with, as a costly superfluity.

We believe the sovereign power should reside equally among the people. We acknowledge no hereditary distinctions and we confer on no man prerogatives, or peculiar privileges. Even the best services, rendered the state, cannot destroy this original and essential^ equality. Legislation and justice are not hereditary offices; no one is born to power, no one dandled into political greatness. Our government, as it rests for support on reason and our interests, needs no protection from a nobility; and the strength and ornament of the land consist in its industry and morality, its justice and intelligence.

The states of Europe are all intimately allied with the church and fortified by religious sanctions. We approve of the influence of the religious principle on public not less than on private life; but we hold religion to be an affair between each individual conscience and God, superior to all political institutions and independent of them. Christianity was neither introduced nor reformed by the civil power; and with us the modes of worship are in no wise prescribed by the state.

Thus then the people governs, and solely; it does not divide its power with a hierarchy, a nobility, or a king. The popular voice is all powerful with us; this is our oracle; this, we acknowledge, is the voice of God. Invention is solitary; but who shall judge of its results? Inquiry may pursue truth apart; but who shall decide, if truth is overtaken? There is no safe criterion of opinion but the careful exercise of the public judgment; and in the science of government as elsewhere, the deliberate convictions of mankind, reasoning on the cause of their own happiness, their own wants and interests, are the surest revelations of political truth.

The interests of the people are the interests of the individuals, who compose the people. If we needed no general government for our private success and happiness, we should have adopted none. It is created to supply a want and a deficiency; it is simply a corporation, invested with limited powers for accomplishing specific purposes.

Government is based upon population, not upon property. If they, who possess the wealth, possessed the power also, they would legislate in such a way, as to preserve that wealth and power; and this would tend to an aristocracy. We hold it best, that the laws should favor the diffusion of property and its easy acquisition, not the concentration of it in the hands of a few to the impoverishment of the many. We give the power to the many, in the hope and to the end, that they may use it for their own benefit; that they may always so legislate, as to open the fairest career to industry, and promote an equality founded on the safe and equitable influence of the laws. We do not fear, we rather invite the operation of the common motives, which influence humanity. If the emperor of Austria takes care to do nothing against his trade as a king, if the Pope administers his affairs with reference to his own advantage and that of the Romish church, if the English Aristocracy provides for the secure succession of hereditary wealth and power; so too we hope, where the power resides with the many, that the many will be sure to provide for themselves; magistrates be taken from the bosom of the people to which they return; the rights of those who have acquired property sacredly regarded; the means of acquiring it made common to all; industry receive its merited honors; morality be preserved; knowledge universally diffused; and the worth of naked humanity duly respected and encouraged.

The laws of the land are sacred; they are established by the majority for the general good. Private rights are sacred; the protection of them is the end of law and government. When the rules of justice are trampled on, or the power of maintaining it wrested from the hands of its appointed guardians, there is tyranny, let it be done where and by whom it may, in the old world or in the new, by a monarch or by a mob. Liberty frowns on such deeds, as attacks on her safety. For liberty knows nothing of passion; she is the daughter of God, and dwells in unchanging tranquility beside his throne; her serene countenance is never ruffled by excitement; reason and justice are the pillars of her seat, and truth and virtue the angels that minister unto her. When you come with violence and angry fury, do you pretend to come in her name? In vain; she is not there; even now she has escaped from among you.

Thus then our government is strictly national, having its origin in the will of the people, its object in their happiness, its guarantee in their morality; a government, essentially radical, in so far as it aims to facilitate the prompt reform of abuses; and essentially leveling, as it prohibits hereditary distinctions, and tends to diminish artificial ones.

Our government is called weak and said to rest on an insecure foundation; while in truth it is established on the firmest. It is the deliberate preference of all its citizens; and, self-balanced, rests securely on its own strength. Our confidence in its durability is equal to our confidence, that the people will always find such a system for their interests; and that liberty and intelligence will always be respected by a majority of mankind. The will of the people created our constitution; and not prescriptive right, not the condescension of an individual, not the terrors of religion, as interpreted by a priesthood, not the bayonets of a standing army, not the duplicity of diplomatic chicanery, not the lure of mitres, coronets, and artificial distinctions,—the wisdom of the people is our only, our sufficient, constitutional frank-pledge. Our moral condition is, then, indeed superior to that of the old world in the present, or in any former age. We have institutions more free, more just, and more beneficent, than have ever before been established. And that our glory as a nation might in nothing be wanting, the men, to whom the people first confided their interests, they, whose names stand highest in the annals of our glory, the statesmen, by whose voice the pure spirit of the country expressed its desires, the leaders, by whose bravery and skill our citizens were conducted to success in the contest for their rights, were of undoubted integrity and spotless patriotism, men, in whom the elements of human greatness were so happily mixed, that as their principles were generous and elevated, so their lives were distinguished by a course of honorable action, and the sacrifice of private advantage to the public good. They united the fervor of genius with the magnanimity of character; and the luster of their brilliant career was tempered by the republican simplicity of their manners. The names of Washington and Franklin recur, as often as examples are sought of enlightened philanthropy and a virtue, almost superhuman. The political privileges of the people correspond with the moral greatness of our illustrious men. Greece and Rome can offer no parallel to the one or the other. In possession of complete personal independence, our religious liberty is entire; our press without restrictions; the channels of wealth and honor alike open to all; the cause of intelligence asserted and advanced by the people; in our houses, our churches, our halls of justice, our legislatures, everywhere there is liberty. The sublimest views of superior minds are here but homely truths, reduced to practice, and shedding a beneficent influence over all the daily operations of life. Soul is breathed into the public administration by the suffrages of the people, and the aspect of our policy on the world is favorable to universal improvement. The dearest interests of mankind were entrusted to our country; it was for her to show, that the aspirations of former ages were not visionary; that freedom is something more than a name; that the patriots and the states, that have been martyrs in its defense, were struggling in a sacred cause and fell in the pursuit of a real good. The great spirits of former times looked down from their celestial abodes to cheer and encourage her in the hour of danger; the nations of the earth turned towards her as to their last hope. And the country has not deceived them. With unwavering consistency she has pursued the general good and confirmed the national sovereignty; she has joined a decided will to a clear perception of her rights and duties; she has had courage to regulate her course by free principles, wherever they might guide; and has proclaimed them to the world as with the voice of an inspired man. Resolutely developing her resources and perfecting her establishments by the light of her own experience, she stands in the eye of Heaven and the world in all the comeliness and strength of youth, yet swayed by a spirit of mature wisdom, exemplifying in her public capacity the virtues and generous affections of human nature, a light to the world, an example to those who would be free, already the benefactress of humanity, the tutelary angel of liberty. She advances in her course with the energy of rectitude and the calmness of justice. Liberty is her device; liberty is her glory; liberty is the American policy. This diffuses its blessings throughout all our land; this is cherished in our hearts, dearer than life and dear as honor; this is imbedded in our soil more firmly than the ancient granite in our mountains; this has been bequeathed to us by our fathers; and, whatever may befall us, we will transmit the heritage unimpaired to the coming generation.

Our service began with God. May we not believe, that He, who promises assistance to the humblest of us in our efforts to do His will, regards with complacency the advancement of the nation, and now from his high abode smiles on us with favoring benignity/ Trusting in the Providence of Him, the Universal Father, let the country advance to the glory and prosperity, to which, mindful of its exalted privileges, it aspires; wherever its voice is heard, let it proclaim the message of liberty, and speak with the divine energy of truth; be the principles of moral goodness consistently followed in its actions; and while the centuries, as they pass, multiply its population and its resources, let it manifest in its whole history a devoted attachment to public virtue, a dear affection for mankind, and the consciousness of its responsibility to the God of nations.

Patrick Henry may well be proved a Prophet as well as a Statesman

Patrick_HenryPatrick Henry speech Thursday, June 5, 1788, on the dangerous ambiguities of the Constitution; it should be noted that Henry also demanded a Bill of Rights to be added to the Constitution which it later was. Yet when the Federal Government ignores, misrepresents, misconstrues, subverts and otherwise seeks to undermine the content of the very foundations of our Republic, laws, and Constitution, what are we the citizens, We The People to do as a matter of recourse? Are we left with a weak and ineffectual Congress of which, we see today, that seems to be utterly averse to even use their powers of subpoena to get answers from the White House administration about the tragedies, malfeasance, and abuse of power by people in the administration and those bureaucrats under them!?!

I say No!, It is time we and our representatives in Congress held this government and bureaucracy accountable, it is time they were held to the same standard and account they hold We The American People to, and if our representatives are unable to brave the storm, it is time to hold them accountable and replace them with those of a stronger disposition who will!

See also: The Greatest Speech in American History (Give me Liberty or Give me Death) by Patrick Henry

Henry was a great advocate of individual liberty and was concerned the concentration of power in the hands of a federal government would lead to the erosion of the liberties then enjoyed by the people of the individual states and to the erosion of the rights of those states as individual members of a confederation. See the Virginia Bill of Rights at the bottom of the page. At the Virginia ratification debates of 1788, Patrick Henry denied that the propaganda of the Federalists was based on anything but scare tactics, and defied the Federalists to provide convincing evidence that the Articles of Confederation had not provided what the colonists had fought for in the Revolution. Indeed, Henry contended, to adopt the new Constitution would be akin to a Revolution greater than the one just finished, except this revolution was of an older variety.

I am a determined foe to tyranny; I know that tyranny seldom attacks the poor; never in the first instance. They are not its proper prey. It falls on the wealthy and the great, whom by rendering objects of envy, and likewise obnoxious to the multitude, it may more easily destroy, and when they are destroyed, that multitude which was led to that ill work by the hands of bad men, is itself undone for ever…I hate tyranny. But I hate it worst of all where most are concerned in it. The tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny. ~ Edmund Burke

Mr. Chairman, I am much obliged to the very worthy gentleman for his encomium. I wish I was possessed with talents, or possessed of any thing that might enable me to elucidate this great subject. I am not free from suspicion: I am apt to entertain doubts. I rose yesterday to ask a question which arose in my own mind. When I asked that question, I thought the meaning of my interrogation was obvious. The fate of this question and of America may depend on this. Have they said, We, the states? Have they made a proposal of a compact between states? If they had, this would be a confederation. It is otherwise most clearly a consolidated government. The question turns, sir, on that poor little thing — the expression, We, the people, instead of the states, of America. I need not take much pains to show that the principles of this system are extremely pernicious, impolitic, and dangerous. Is this a monarchy, like England — a compact between prince and people, with checks on the former to secure the liberty of the latter? Is this a confederacy, like Holland — an association of a number of independent states, each of which retains its individual sovereignty? It is not a democracy, wherein the people retain all their rights securely. Had these principles been adhered to, we should not have been brought to this alarming transition, from a confederacy to a consolidated government. We have no detail of these great considerations, which, in my opinion, ought to have abounded before we should recur to a government of this kind. Here is a revolution as radical as that which separated us from Great Britain. It is radical in this transition; our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states will be relinquished: and cannot we plainly see that this is actually the case? The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities and franchises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not lost, by this change, so loudly talked of by some, and inconsiderately by others. Is this tame relinquishment of rights worthy of freemen? Is it worthy of that manly fortitude that ought to characterize republicans? It is said eight states have adopted this plan. I declare that if twelve states and a half had adopted it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it. You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.

Having premised these things, I shall, with the aid of my judgment and information, which, I confess, are not extensive, go into the discussion of this system more minutely. Is it necessary for your liberty that you should abandon those great rights by the adoption of this system? Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessing — give us that precious jewel, and you may take every thing else! But I am fearful I have lived long enough to become an old-fashioned fellow. Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old-fashioned; if so, I am contented to be so. I say, the time has been when every pulse of my heart beat for American liberty, and which, I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of every true American; but suspicions have gone forth — suspicions of my integrity — publicly reported that my professions are not real. Twenty-three years ago was I supposed a traitor to my country? I was then said to be the bane of sedition, because I supported the rights of my country. I may be thought suspicious when I say our privileges and rights are in danger. But, sir, a number of the people of this country are weak enough to think these things are too true. I am happy to find that the gentleman on the other side declares they are groundless. But, sir, suspicion is a virtue as long as its object is the preservation of the public good, and as long as it stays within proper bounds: should it fall on me, I am contented: conscious rectitude is a powerful consolation. I trust there are many who think my professions for the public good to be real. Let your suspicion look to both sides. There are many on the other side, who possibly may have been persuaded to the necessity of these measures, which I conceive to be dangerous to your liberty. Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined. I am answered by gentlemen, that, though I might speak of terrors, yet the fact was, that we were surrounded by none of the dangers I apprehended. I conceive this new government to be one of those dangers: it has produced those horrors which distress many of our best citizens. We are come hither to preserve the poor commonwealth of Virginia, if it can be possibly done: something must be done to preserve your liberty and mine. The Confederation, this same despised government, merits, in my opinion, the highest encomium: it carried us through a long and dangerous war; it rendered us victorious in that bloody conflict with a powerful nation; it has secured us a territory greater than any European monarch possesses: and shall a government which has been thus strong and vigorous, be accused of imbecility, and abandoned for want of energy? Consider what you are about to do before you part with the government. Take longer time in reckoning things; revolutions like this have happened in almost every country in Europe; similar examples are to be found in ancient Greece and ancient Rome — instances of the people losing their liberty by their own carelessness and the ambition of a few. We are cautioned by the honorable gentleman, who presides, against faction and turbulence. I acknowledge that licentiousness is dangerous, and that it ought to be provided against: I acknowledge, also, the new form of government may effectually prevent it: yet there is another thing it will as effectually do — it will oppress and ruin the people.

There are sufficient guards placed against sedition and licentiousness; for, when power is given to this government to suppress these, or for any other purpose, the language it assumes is clear, express, and unequivocal; but when this Constitution speaks of privileges, there is an ambiguity, sir, a fatal ambiguity — an ambiguity which is very astonishing. In the clause under consideration, there is the strangest language that I can conceive. I mean, when it says that there shall not be more representatives than one for every thirty thousand. Now, sir, how easy is it to evade this privilege! “The number shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand.” This may be satisfied by one representative from each state. Let our numbers be ever so great, this immense continent may, by this artful expression, be reduced to have but thirteen representatives. I confess this construction is not natural; but the ambiguity of the expression lays a good ground for a quarrel. Why was it not clearly and unequivocally expressed, that they should be entitled to have one for every thirty thousand? This would have obviated all disputes; and was this difficult to be done? What is the inference? When population increases, and a state shall send representatives in this proportion, Congress may remand them, because the right of having one for every thirty thousand is not clearly expressed. This possibility of reducing the number to one for each state approximates to probability by that other expression — “but each state shall at least have one representative.” Now, is it not clear that, from the first expression, the number might be reduced so much that some states should have no representatives at all, were it not for the insertion of this last expression? And as this is the only restriction upon them, we may fairly conclude that they may restrain the number to one from each state. Perhaps the same horrors may hang over my mind again. I shall be told I am continually afraid: but, sir, I have strong cause of apprehension. In some parts of the plan before you, the great rights of freemen are endangered; in other parts, absolutely taken away. How does your trial by jury stand? In civil cases gone — not sufficiently secured in criminal — this best privilege is gone. But we are told that we need not fear; because those in power, being our representatives, will not abuse the powers we put in their hands. I am not well versed in history, but I will submit to your recollection, whether liberty has been destroyed most often by the licentiousness of the people, or by the tyranny of rulers. I imagine, sir, you will find the balance on the side of tyranny. Happy will you be if you miss the fate of those nations, who, omitting to resist their oppressors, or negligently suffering their liberty to be wrested from them, have groaned under intolerable despotism! Most of the human race are now in this deplorable condition; and those nations who have gone in search of grandeur, power, and splendor, have also fallen a sacrifice, and been the victims of their own folly. While they acquired those visionary blessings, they lost their freedom. My great objection to this government is, that it does not leave us the means of defending our rights, or of waging war against tyrants. It is urged by some gentlemen, that this new plan will bring us an acquisition of strength — an army, and the militia of the states. This is an idea extremely ridiculous: gentlemen cannot be earnest. This acquisition will trample on our fallen liberty. Let my beloved Americans guard against that fatal lethargy that has pervaded the universe. Have we the means of resisting disciplined armies, when our only defence, the militia, is put into the hands of Congress? The honorable gentleman said that great danger would ensue if the Convention rose without adopting this system. I ask, Where is that danger? I see none. Other gentlemen have told us, within these walls, that the union is gone, or that the union will be gone. Is not this trifling with the judgment of their fellow-citizens? Till they tell us the grounds of their fears, I will consider them as imaginary. I rose to make inquiry where those dangers were; they could make no answer: I believe I never shall have that answer. Is there a disposition in the people of this country to revolt against the dominion of laws? Has there been a single tumult in Virginia? Have not the people of Virginia, when laboring under the severest pressure of accumulated distresses, manifested the most cordial acquiescence in the execution of the laws? What could be more awful than their unanimous acquiescence under general distresses? Is there any revolution in Virginia? Whither is the spirit of America gone? Whither is the genius of America fled? It was but yesterday, when our enemies marched in triumph through our country. Yet the people of this country could not be appalled by their pompous armaments: they stopped their career, and victoriously captured them. Where is the peril, now, compared to that? Some minds are agitated by foreign alarms. Happily for us, there is no real danger from Europe; that country is engaged in more arduous business: from that quarter there is no cause of fear: you may sleep in safety forever for them.

Where is the danger? If, sir, there was any, I would recur to the American spirit to defend us; that spirit which has enabled us to surmount the greatest difficulties: to that illustrious spirit I address my most fervent prayer to prevent our adopting a system destructive to liberty. Let not gentlemen be told that it is not safe to reject this government. Wherefore is it not safe? We are told there are dangers, but those dangers are ideal; they cannot be demonstrated. To encourage us to adopt it, they tell us that there is a plain, easy way of getting amendments. When I come to contemplate this part, I suppose that I am mad, or that my countrymen are so. The way to amendment is, in my conception, shut. Let us consider this plain, easy way. “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a Convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by the Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress. Provided, that no amendment which may be made prior to the year 1808, shall in any manner affect the 1st and 4th clauses in the 9th section of the 1st article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”

Hence it appears that three fourths of the states must ultimately agree to any amendments that may be necessary. Let us consider the consequence of this. However uncharitable it may appear, yet I must tell my opinion — that the most unworthy characters may get into power, and prevent the introduction of amendments. Let us suppose — for the case is supposable, possible, and probable — that you happen to deal those powers to unworthy hands; will they relinquish powers already in their possession, or agree to amendments? Two thirds of the Congress, or of the state legislatures, are necessary even to propose amendments. If one third of these be unworthy men, they may prevent the application for amendments; but what is destructive and mischievous, is, that three fourths of the state legislatures, or of the state conventions, must concur in the amendments when proposed! In such numerous bodies, there must necessarily be some designing, bad men. To suppose that so large a number as three fourths of the states will concur, is to suppose that they will possess genius, intelligence, and integrity, approaching to miraculous. It would indeed be miraculous that they should concur in the same amendments, or even in such as would bear some likeness to one another; for four of the smallest states, that do not collectively contain one tenth part of the population of the United States, may obstruct the most salutary and necessary amendments. Nay, in these four states, six tenths of the people may reject these amendments; and suppose that amendments shall be opposed to amendments, which is highly probable, — is it possible that three fourths can ever agree to the same amendments? A bare majority in these four small states may hinder the adoption of amendments; so that we may fairly and justly conclude that one twentieth part of the American people may prevent the removal of the most grievous inconveniences and oppression, by refusing to accede to amendments. A trifling minority may reject the most salutary amendments. Is this an easy mode of securing the public liberty It is, sir, a most fearful situation, when the most contemptible minority can prevent the alteration of the most oppressive government; for it may, in many respects, prove to be such. Is this the spirit of republicanism?

What, sir, is the genius of democracy? Let me read that clause of the bill of rights of Virginia which relates to this: 3d clause: — that government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community. Of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of mal-administration; and that whenever any government shall be found inadequate, or contrary to those purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

This, sir, is the language of democracy — that a majority of the community have a right to alter government when found to be oppressive. But how different is the genius of your new Constitution from this! How different from the sentiments of freemen, that a contemptible minority can prevent the good of the majority! If, then, gentlemen, standing on this ground, are come to that point, that they are willing to bind themselves and their posterity to be oppressed, I am amazed and inexpressibly astonished. If this be the opinion of the majority, I must submit; but to me, sir, it appears perilous and destructive. I cannot help thinking so. Perhaps it may be the result of my age. These may be feelings natural to a man of my years, when the American spirit has left him, and his mental powers, like the members of the body, are decayed. If, sir, amendments are left to the twentieth, or tenth part of the people of America, your liberty is gone forever. We have heard that there is a great deal of bribery practised in the House of Commons, in England, and that many of the members raise themselves to preferments by selling the rights of the whole of the people. But, sir, the tenth part of that body cannot continue oppression on the rest of the people. English liberty is, in this case, on a firmer foundation than American liberty. It will be easily contrived to procure the opposition of one tenth of the people to any alteration, however judicious. The honorable gentleman who presides told us that, to prevent abuses in our government, we will assemble in Convention, recall our delegated powers, and punish our servants for abusing the trust reposed in them. O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical, no longer a democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all? You read of a riot act in a country which is called one of the freest in the world, where a few neighbors cannot assemble without the risk of being shot by a hired soldiery, the engines of despotism. We may see such an act in America.

A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny; and how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment? In what situation are we to be? The clause before you gives a power of direct taxation, unbounded and unlimited, exclusive power of legislation, in all cases whatsoever, for ten miles square, and over all places purchased for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, &c. What resistance could be made? The attempt would be madness. You will find all the strength of this country in the hands of your enemies; their garrisons will naturally be the strongest places in the country. Your militia is given up to Congress, also, in another part of this plan: they will therefore act as they think proper: all power will be in their own possession. You cannot force them to receive their punishment: of what service would militia be to you, when, most probably, you will not have a single musket in the state? for, as arms are to be provided by Congress, they may or may not furnish them.

Let me here call your attention to that part which gives the Congress power “to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States — reserving to the states, respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” By this, sir, you see that their control over our last and best defence is unlimited. If they neglect or refuse to discipline or arm our militia, they will be useless: the states can do neither — this power being exclusively given to Congress. The power of appointing officers over men not disciplined or armed is ridiculous; so that this pretended little remains of power left to the states may, at the pleasure of Congress, be rendered nugatory. Our situation will be deplorable indeed: nor can we ever expect to get this government amended, since I have already shown that a very small minority may prevent it, and that small minority interested in the continuance of the oppression. Will the oppressor let go the oppressed? Was there ever an instance? Can the annals of mankind exhibit one single example where rulers overcharged with power willingly let go the oppressed, though solicited and requested most earnestly? The application for amendments will therefore be fruitless. Sometimes, the oppressed have got loose by one of those bloody struggles that desolate a country; but a willing relinquishment of power is one of those things which human nature never was, nor ever will be, capable of.

The honorable gentleman’s observations, respecting the people’s right of being the agents in the formation of this government, are not accurate, in my humble conception. The distinction between a national government and a confederacy is not sufficiently discerned. Had the delegates, who were sent to Philadelphia, a power to propose a consolidated government instead of a confederacy? Were they not deputed by states, and not by the people? The assent of the people, in their collective capacity, is not necessary to the formation of a federal government. The people have no right to enter into leagues, alliances, or confederations; they are not the proper agents for this purpose. States and foreign powers are the only proper agents for this kind of government. Show me an instance where the people have exercised this business. Has it not always gone through the legislatures? I refer you to the treaties with France, Holland, and other nations. How were they made? Were they not made by the states? Are the people, therefore, in their aggregate capacity, the proper persons to form a confederacy? This, therefore, ought to depend on the consent of the legislatures, the people having never sent delegates to make any proposition for changing the government. Yet I must say, at the same time, that it was made on grounds the most pure; and perhaps I might have been brought to consent to it so far as to the change of government. But there is one thing in it which I never would acquiesce in. I mean, the changing it into a consolidated government, which is so abhorrent to my mind. [The honorable gentleman then went on to the figure we make with foreign nations; the contemptible one we make in France and Holland; which, according to the substance of the notes, he attributes to the present feeble government.] An opinion has gone forth, we find, that we are contemptible people: the time has been when we were thought otherwise. Under the same despised government, we commanded the respect of all Europe: wherefore are we now reckoned otherwise? The American spirit has fled from hence: it has gone to regions where it has never been expected; it has gone to the people of France, in search of a splendid government — a strong, energetic government. Shall we imitate the example of those nations who have gone from a simple to a splendid government? Are those nations more worthy of our imitation? What can make an adequate satisfaction to them for the loss they have suffered in attaining such a government — for the loss of their liberty? If we admit this consolidated government, it will be because we like a great, splendid one. Some way or other we must be a great and mighty empire; we must have an army, and a navy, and a number of things. When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: liberty, sir, was then the primary object. We are descended from a people whose government was founded on liberty: our glorious forefathers of Great Britain made liberty the foundation of every thing. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their government is strong and energetic, but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation. We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors: by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty. But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire. If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together. Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government. What can avail your specious, imaginary balances, your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous ideal checks and contrivances? But, sir, we are not feared by foreigners; we do not make nations tremble. Would this constitute happiness, or secure liberty? I trust, sir, our political hemisphere will ever direct their operations to the security of those objects.

Consider our situation, sir: go to the poor man, and ask him what he does. He will inform you that he enjoys the fruits of his labor, under his own fig-tree, with his wife and children around him, in peace and security. Go to every other member of society, — you will find the same tranquil ease and content; you will find no alarms or disturbances. Why, then, tell us of danger, to terrify us into an adoption of this new form of government? And yet who knows the dangers that this new system may produce? They are out of the sight of the common people: they cannot foresee latent consequences. I dread the operation of it on the middling and lower classes of people: it is for them I fear the adoption of this system. I fear I tire the patience of the committee; but I beg to be indulged with a few more observations. When I thus profess myself an advocate for the liberty of the people, I shall be told I am a designing man, that I am to be a great man, that I am to be a demagogue; and many similar illiberal insinuations will be thrown out: but, sir, conscious rectitude outweighs those things with me. I see great jeopardy in this new government. I see none from our present one. I hope some gentleman or other will bring forth, in full array, those dangers, if there be any, that we may see and touch them. I have said that I thought this a consolidated government: I will now prove it. Will the great rights of the people be secured by this government? Suppose it should prove oppressive, how can it be altered? Our bill of rights declares, “that a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.”

I have just proved that one tenth, or less, of the people of America — a most despicable minority — may prevent this reform or alteration. Suppose the people of Virginia should wish to alter their government; can a majority of them do it? No; because they are connected with other men, or, in other words, consolidated with other states. When the people of Virginia, at a future day, shall wish to alter their government, though they should be unanimous in this desire, yet they may be prevented therefrom by a despicable minority at the extremity of the United States. The founders of your own Constitution made your government changeable: but the power of changing it is gone from you. Whither is it gone? It is placed in the same hands that hold the rights of twelve other states; and those who hold those rights have right and power to keep them. It is not the particular government of Virginia: one of the leading features of that government is, that a majority can alter it, when necessary for the public good. This government is not a Virginian, but an American government. Is it not, therefore, a consolidated government? The sixth clause of your bill of rights tells you, “that elections of members to serve as representatives of the people in Assembly ought to be free, and that all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage, and cannot be taxed, or deprived of their property for public uses, without their own consent, or that of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not in like manner assented for the public good.” But what does this Constitution say? The clause under consideration gives an unlimited and unbounded power of taxation. Suppose every delegate from Virginia opposes a law laying a tax; what will it avail? They are opposed by a majority; eleven members can destroy their efforts: those feeble ten cannot prevent the passing the most oppressive tax law; so that, in direct opposition to the spirit and express language of your declaration of rights, you are taxed, not by your own consent, but by people who have no connection with you.

The next clause of the bill of rights tells you, “that all power of suspending law, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without the consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.” This tells us that there can be no suspension of government or laws without our own consent; yet this Constitution can counteract and suspend any of our laws that contravene its oppressive operation; for they have the power of direct taxation, which suspends our bill of rights; and it is expressly provided that they can make all laws necessary for carrying their powers into execution; and it is declared paramount to the laws and constitutions of the states. Consider how the only remaining defence we have left is destroyed in this manner. Besides the expenses of maintaining the Senate and other house in as much splendor as they please, there is to be a great and mighty President, with very extensive powers — the powers of a king. He is to be supported in extravagant magnificence; so that the whole of our property may be taken by this American government, by laying what taxes they please, giving themselves what salaries they please, and suspending our laws at their pleasure. I might be thought too inquisitive, but I believe I should take up very little of your time in enumerating the little power that is left to the government of Virginia; for this power is reduced to little or nothing: their garrisons, magazines, arsenals, and forts, which will be situated in the strongest places within the states; their ten miles square, with all the fine ornaments of human life, added to their powers, and taken from the states, will reduce the power of the latter to nothing.

The voice of tradition, I trust, will inform posterity of our struggles for freedom. If our descendants be worthy the name of Americans, they will preserve, and hand down to their latest posterity, the transactions of the present times; and, though I confess my exclamations are not worthy the hearing, they will see that I have done my utmost to preserve their liberty; for I never will give up the power of direct taxation but for a scourge. I am willing to give it conditionally; that is, after non-compliance with requisitions. I will do more, sir, and what I hope will convince the most skeptical man that I am a lover of the American Union — that, in case Virginia shall not make punctual payment, the control of our custom-houses, and the whole regulation of trade, shall be given to Congress, and that Virginia shall depend on Congress even for passports, till Virginia shall have paid the last farthing, and furnished the last soldier. Nay, sir, there is another alternative to which I would consent; — even that they should strike us out of the Union, and take away from us all federal privileges, till we comply with federal requisitions: but let it depend upon our own pleasure to pay our money in the most easy manner for our people. Were all the states, more terrible than the mother country, to join against us, I hope Virginia could defend herself; but, sir, the dissolution of the Union is most abhorrent to my mind. The first thing I have at heart is American liberty: the second thing is American union; and I hope the people of Virginia will endeavor to preserve that union. The increasing population of the Southern States is far greater than that of New England; consequently, in a short time, they will be far more numerous than the people of that country. Consider this, and you will find this state more particularly interested to support American liberty, and not bind our posterity by an improvident relinquishment of our rights. I would give the best security for a punctual compliance with requisitions; but I beseech gentlemen, at all hazards, not to give up this unlimited power of taxation. The honorable gentleman has told us that these powers, given to Congress, are accompanied by a judiciary which will correct all. On examination, you will find this very judiciary oppressively constructed; your jury trial destroyed, and the judges dependent on Congress.

In this scheme of energetic government, the people will find two sets of tax-gatherers — the state and the federal sheriffs. This, it seems to me, will produce such dreadful oppression as the people cannot possibly bear. The federal sheriff may commit what oppression, make what distresses, he pleases, and ruin you with impunity; for how are you to tie his hands? Have you any sufficiently decided means of preventing him from sucking your blood by speculations, commissions, and fees? Thus thousands of your people will be most shamefully robbed: our state sheriffs, those unfeeling blood-suckers have, under the watchful eye of our legislature, committed the most horrid and barbarous ravages on our people. It has required the most constant vigilance of the legislature to keep them from totally ruining the people; a repeated succession of laws has been made to suppress their iniquitous speculations and cruel extortions; and as often has their nefarious ingenuity devised methods of evading the force of those laws: in the struggle they have generally triumphed over the legislature.

It is a fact that lands have been sold for five shillings, which were worth one hundred pounds: if sheriffs, thus immediately under the eye of our state legislature and judiciary, have dared to commit these outrages, what would they not have done if their masters had been at Philadelphia or New York? If they perpetrate the most unwarrantable outrage on your person or property, you cannot get redress on this side of Philadelphia or New York; and how can you get it there? If your domestic avocations could permit you to go thither, there you must appeal to judges sworn to support this Constitution, in opposition to that of any state, and who may also be inclined to favor their own officers. When these harpies [i.e. predatory people] are aided by excisemen [i.e. Tax Men or Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Employees], who may search, at any time, your houses, and most secret recesses, will the people bear it? If you think so, you differ from me. Where I thought there was a possibility of such mischiefs, I would grant power with a niggardly hand; and here there is a strong probability that these oppressions shall actually happen. I may be told that it is safe to err on that side, because such regulations may be made by Congress as shall restrain these officers, and because laws are made by our representatives, and judged by righteous judges: but, sir, as these regulations may be made, so they may not; and many reasons there are to induce a belief that they will not. I shall therefore be an infidel on that point till the day of my death.

This Constitution is said to have beautiful features; but when I come to examine these features, sir, they appear to me horribly frightful. Among other deformities, it has an awful squinting; it squints towards monarchy; and does not this raise indignation in the breast of every true American?

Your President may easily become king. Your Senate is so imperfectly constructed that your dearest rights may be sacrificed by what may be a small minority; and a very small minority may continue forever unchangeably this government, although horridly defective. Where are your checks in this government? Your strongholds will be in the hands of your enemies. It is on a supposition that your American governors shall be honest, that all the good qualities of this government are founded; but its defective and imperfect construction puts it in their power to perpetrate the worst of mischiefs, should they be bad men; and, sir, would not all the world, from the eastern to the western hemisphere, blame our distracted folly in resting our rights upon the contingency of our rulers being good or bad? Show me that age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole chance of their rulers being good men, without a consequent loss of liberty! I say that the loss of that dearest privilege has ever followed, with absolute certainty, every such mad attempt.

If your American chief be a man of ambition and abilities, how easy is it for him to render himself absolute! The army is in his hands, and if he be a man of address, it will be attached to him, and it will be the subject of long meditation with him to seize the first auspicious moment to accomplish his design; and, sir, will the American spirit solely relieve you when this happens? I would rather infinitely — and I am sure most of this Convention are of the same opinion — have a king, lords, and commons, than a government so replete with such insupportable evils. If we make a king, we may prescribe the rules by which he shall rule his people, and interpose such checks as shall prevent him from infringing them; but the President, in the field, at the head of his army, can prescribe the terms on which he shall reign master, so far that it will puzzle any American ever to get his neck from under the galling yoke. I cannot with patience think of this idea. If ever he violates the laws, one of two things will happen: he will come at the head of his army, to carry every thing before him; or he will give bail, or do what Mr. Chief Justice will order him. If he be guilty, will not the recollection of his crimes teach him to make one bold push for the American throne? Will not the immense difference between being master of every thing, and being ignominiously tried and punished, powerfully excite him to make this bold push? But, sir, where is the existing force to punish him? Can he not, at the head of his army, beat down every opposition? Away with your President! we shall have a king: the army will salute him monarch: your militia will leave you, and assist in making him king, and fight against you: and what have you to oppose this force? What will then become of you and your rights? Will not absolute despotism ensue?

[Here Mr. HENRY strongly and pathetically expatiated on the probability of the President’s enslaving America, and the horrid consequences that must result.]

What can be more defective than the clause concerning the elections? The control given to Congress over the time, place, and manner of holding elections, will totally destroy the end of suffrage. The elections may be held at one place, and the most inconvenient in the state; or they may be at remote distances from those who have a right of suffrage: hence nine out of ten must either not vote at all, or vote for strangers; for the most influential characters will be applied to, to know who are the most proper to be chosen. I repeat, that the control of Congress over the manner, &c., of electing, well warrants this idea. The natural consequence will be, that this democratic branch will possess none of the public confidence; the people will be prejudiced against representatives chosen in such an injudicious manner. The proceedings in the northern conclave will be hidden from the yeomanry of this country. We are told that the yeas and nays shall be taken, and entered on the journals. This, sir, will avail nothing: it may be locked up in their chests, and concealed forever from the people; for they are not to publish what parts they think require secrecy: they may think, and will think, the whole requires it. Another beautiful feature of this Constitution is, the publication from time to time of the receipts and expenditures of the public money.

This expression, from time to time, is very indefinite and indeterminate: it may extend to a century. Grant that any of them are wicked; they may squander the public money so as to ruin you, and yet this expression will give you no redress. I say they may ruin you; for where, sir, is the responsibility? The yeas and nays will show you nothing, unless they be fools as well as knaves; for, after having wickedly trampled on the rights of the people, they would act like fools indeed, were they to public[ize] and divulge their iniquity, when they have it equally in their power to suppress and conceal it. Where is the responsibility — that leading principle in the British government? In that government, a punishment certain and inevitable is provided; but in this, there is no real, actual punishment for the grossest mal-administration. They may go without punishment, though they commit the most outrageous violation on our immunities. That paper may tell me they will be punished. I ask, By what law? They must make the law, for there is no existing law to do it. What! will they make a law to punish themselves?

This, sir, is my great objection to the Constitution, that there is no true responsibility — and that the preservation of our liberty depends on the single chance of men being virtuous enough to make laws to punish themselves.

In the country from which we are descended, they have real and not imaginary responsibility; for their mal-administration has cost their heads to some of the most saucy geniuses that ever were. The Senate, by making treaties, may destroy your liberty and laws for want of responsibility. Two thirds of those that shall happen to be present, can, with the President, make treaties that shall be the supreme law of the land; they may make the most ruinous treaties; and yet there is no punishment for them. Whoever shows me a punishment provided for them will oblige me. So, sir, notwithstanding there are eight pillars, they want another. Where will they make another? I trust, sir, the exclusion of the evils wherewith this system is replete in its present form, will be made a condition precedent to its adoption by this or any other state. The transition, from a general unqualified admission to offices, to a consolidation of government, seems easy; for, though the American states are dissimilar in their structure, this will assimilate them. This, sir, is itself a strong consolidating feature, and is not one of the least dangerous in that system. Nine states are sufficient to establish this government over those nine. Imagine that nine have come into it. Virginia has certain scruples. Suppose she will, consequently, refuse to join with those states; may not she still continue in friendship and union with them? If she sends her annual requisitions in dollars, do you think their stomachs will be so squeamish as to refuse her dollars? Will they not accept her regiments? They would intimidate you into an inconsiderate adoption, and frighten you with ideal evils, and that the Union shall be dissolved. ‘Tis a bugbear, sir: the fact is, sir, that the eight adopting states can hardly stand on their own legs. Public fame tells us that the adopting states have already heart-burnings and animosity, and repent their precipitate hurry: this, sir, may occasion exceeding great mischief. When I reflect on these and many other circumstances, I must think those states will be found to be in confederacy with us. If we pay our quota of money annually, and furnish our ratable number of men, when necessary, I can see no danger from a rejection.

The history of Switzerland clearly proves that we might be in amicable alliance with those states without adopting this Constitution. Switzerland is a confederacy, consisting of dissimilar governments. This is an example which proves that governments of dissimilar structures may be confederated. That confederate republic has stood upwards of four hundred years; and, although several of the individual republics are democratic, and the rest aristocratic, no evil has resulted from this dissimilarity; for they have braved all the power of France and Germany during that long period. The Swiss spirit, sir, has kept them together; they have encountered and overcome immense difficulties with patience and fortitude. In the vicinity of powerful and ambitious monarchs, they have retained their independence, republican simplicity, and valor. [Here he makes a comparison of the people of that country and those of France, and makes a quotation from Addison illustrating the subject.] Look at the peasants of that country and of France; and mark the difference. You will find the condition of the former far more desirable and comfortable. No matter whether the people be great, splendid, and powerful, if they enjoy freedom. The Turkish Grand Signior, alongside of our President, would put us to disgrace; but we should be as abundantly consoled for this disgrace, when our citizens have been put in contrast with the Turkish slave. The most valuable end of government is the liberty of the inhabitants. No possible advantages can compensate for the loss of this privilege. Show me the reason why the American Union is to be dissolved. Who are those eight adopting states? Are they averse to give us a little time to consider, before we conclude? Would such a disposition render a junction with them eligible; or is it the genius of that kind of government to precipitate people hastily into measures of the utmost importance, and grant no indulgence? If it be, sir, is it for us to accede to such a government? We have a right to have time to consider; we shall therefore insist upon it. Unless the government be amended, we can never accept it. The adopting states will doubtless accept our money and our regiments; and what is to be the consequence, if we are disunited? I believe it is yet doubtful, whether it is not proper to stand by a while, and see the effect of its adoption in other states. In forming a government, the utmost care should be taken to prevent its becoming oppressive; and this government is of such an intricate and complicated nature, that no man on this earth can know its real operation. The other states have no reason to think, from the antecedent conduct of Virginia, that she has any intention of seceding from the Union, or of being less active to support the general welfare. Would they not, therefore, acquiesce in our taking time to deliberate — deliberate whether the measure be not perilous, not only for us, but the adopting states?

Permit me, sir, to say, that a great majority of the people, even in the adopting states, are averse to this government. I believe I would be right to say, that they have been egregiously misled. Pennsylvania has, perhaps, been tricked into it. If the other states who have adopted it have not been tricked, still they were too much hurried into its adoption. There were very respectable minorities in several of them; and if reports be true, a clear majority of the people are averse to it. If we also accede, and it should prove grievous, the peace and prosperity of our country, which we all love, will be destroyed. This government has not the affection of the people at present. Should it be oppressive, their affections will be totally estranged from it; and, sir, you know that a government, without their affections, can neither be durable nor happy. I speak as one poor individual; but when I speak, I speak the language of thousands. But, sir, I mean not to breathe the spirit, nor utter the language, of secession.

I have trespassed so long on your patience, I am really concerned that I have something yet to say. The honorable member has said, we shall be properly represented. Remember, sir, that the number of our representatives is but ten, whereof six is a majority. Will those men be possessed of sufficient information? A particular knowledge of particular districts will not suffice. They must be well acquainted with agriculture, commerce, and a great variety of other matters throughout the continent; they must know not only the actual state of nations in Europe and America, the situations of their farmers, cottagers, and mechanics, but also the relative situations and intercourse of those nations. Virginia is as large as England. Our proportion of representatives is but ten men. In England they have five hundred and fifty-eight. The House of Commons, in England, numerous as they are, we are told, are bribed, and have bartered away the rights of their constituents: what, then, shall become of us? Will these few protect our rights? Will they be incorruptible? You say they will be better men than the English commoners. I say they will be infinitely worse men, because they are to be chosen blindfolded: their election (the term, as applied to their appointment, is inaccurate) will be an involuntary nomination, and not a choice.

I have, I fear, fatigued the committee; yet I have not said the one hundred thousandth part of what I have on my mind, and wish to impart. On this occasion, I conceived myself bound to attend strictly to the interest of the state, and I thought her dearest rights at stake. Having lived so long — been so much honored — my efforts, though small, are due to my country. I have found my mind hurried on, from subject to subject, on this very great occasion. We have been all out of order, from the gentleman who opened to-day to myself. I did not come prepared to speak, on so multifarious a subject, in so general a manner. I trust you will indulge me another time. Before you abandon the present system, I hope you will consider not only its defects, most maturely, but likewise those of that which you are to substitute for it. May you be fully apprized of the dangers of the latter, not by fatal experience, but by some abler advocate than I!

Virginia Bill of Rights June 12, 1776

A DECLARATION OF RIGHTS made by the representatives of the good people of Virginia, assembled in full and free Convention; which rights do pertain to them, and their posterity, as the basis and foundation of government.

1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.

3. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration; and that whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right, to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the publick weal.

4. That no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of publick services; which, not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator, or judge, to be hereditary.

5. That the legislative and executive powers of the state should be separate and distinct from the judicative; and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression, by feeling and participating the burthens of the people, they should, at fixed periods, be reduced to a private station, return into that body from which they were originally taken, and the vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain, and regular elections, in which all, or any part of the former members, to be again eligible, or ineligible, as the laws shall direct.

6. That elections of members to serve as representatives of the people, in assembly, ought to be free; and that all men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage, and cannot be taxed or deprived of their property for publick uses without their own consent, or that of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not, in like manner, assented, for the publick good.

7. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

8. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions a man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence in his favour, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty, nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; that no man be deprived of his liberty except by the law of the land, or the judgment of his peers.

9. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

10. That general warrants, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offence is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive, and ought not to be granted.

11. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred.

12. That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotick governments.

13. That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

14. That the people have a right to uniform government; and therefore, that no government separate from, or independent of, the government of Virginia, ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof.

15. That no free government, or the blessing of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our CREATOR, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity, towards each other.

See also The Importance of Free Speech and The Free Press in America and the series on the Rights of American Citizens starting with RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: General Rights; Division One

Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry and Henry’s Virginia Resolutions of 1765

PatrickHenryPatrick Henry was an early friend and companion of Thomas Jefferson. He was a jovial young fellow noted for mimicry, practical jokes, fiddling and dancing. Jefferson’s holidays were sometimes spent with Henry, and the two together would go off on hunting excursions of which each was passionately fond. Both were swift of foot and sound of wind.

Deer, turkey, foxes and other game were eagerly pursued. Jefferson looked upon Patrick Henry as the moving spirit of all the fun of the younger circle, and had not the faintest idea of the wonderful talents that lay latent in his companion’s mind.

See also: Patrick Henry may well be proved a Prophet as well as a Statesman
 

And, Henry too, did not see in the slender, freckled, sandy-haired Jefferson, the coming man who was to be united with him in some of the most stirring and important events in American history.

Jefferson did not realize that this rustic youngster, careless of dress, and apparently thoughtless in manner, and sometimes, to all appearance, so unconcerned that he was taken by some to be an idiot, was to be the flaming .tongue of a coming Revolution. Henry did not dream that this fiddling boy, Jefferson, was to be the potent pen of a Declaration which was to emancipate a hemisphere.

One day in 176o, just after Jefferson had entered upon his college studies at Williamsburg, Henry came to his room to tell him,that since their parting of a few months before, after the Christmas holidays, he had studied law, and had come to Williamsburg to get a license to practice. The fact was he had studied law but six weeks, and yet felt himself able to pass the examination. The examination was conducted by four examiners. Three of them signed the license. The fourth, George Wythe, refused his signature. But Henry was now duly admitted to the bar. He went back, however, to assist his father-in-law, Mr. Shelton, in tending his tavern, and for four years, practicing occasionally, he waited his time.

In May, 1765, Henry was elected to the House of Burgesses which met at Williamsburg. While in attendance as a member Henry was the guest of young Jefferson. Henry presented a rustic appearance. His dress was coarse and worn. His fame had not become fully known at Williamsburg, “and he moved about the streets unrecognized though not unmarked. The very oddity of his appearance provoked comment.”

In the Assembly were some of the most brilliant and distinguished men in the Colony. Among them were Peyton Randolph, George Wythe, John Robinson, Richard Henry Lee, and Edmund Pendleton.

Dignified manners prevailed among the members. An elaborate and formal courtesy characterized them in their proceedings. They were polished and aristocratic men, not specially interested in the welfare of the common people. They were strongly desirous of perpetuating the class distinctions observed in Virginia society. A very marked contrast was apparent between them and the tall, gaunt, coarse-attired, unpolished member from Louisa.

Not being personally known to the majority of the House, little notice was taken of him, and no expectations of any particular influence to be exercised by him upon its deliberations were expected. When the news of the passage of the Stamp Act reached the assembly, amazement and indignation were felt by the Royalist leaders, at the folly of the English ministry. But there seemed no way before them but submission to the Imperial decree. But Henry saw that the hour had come for meeting the issue between the King and the Colonies.

Patrick Henry addressing the Virginia Assembly with 5 resolutions Stamp Act

The Greatest Speech in American History (Give me Liberty or Give me Death)

He rose in his seat and offered his famous Five Resolutions, which in substance declared that Englishmen living in America had all the rights of Englishmen living in England, and that all attempts to impose taxes upon them without the consent of their own representatives, had “a manifest tendency to destroy British as well as American freedom.

These resolutions provoked an animated and exciting debate. There is a strong probability that Jefferson knew the intentions of Henry, for he was present on that ever memorable occasion in the House.

No provision was made in the Assembly chamber for spectators. There was no gallery from which they could look down upon the contestants. In the doorway between the lobby and the chamber Jefferson took his stand, intently watching Henry’s attitude and actions.

In a hesitating way, stammering in his utterances, he began reading his Resolutions. Then followed the opening sentences of the magnificent oration of this “Demosthenes of the woods,” as Byron termed him.

No promise did they give of what was to follow. Very soon the transformation came. Jefferson saw him draw himself to his full height and sweep with a conqueror’s gaze the entire audience before and about him.

No impediment now; no inarticulate utterances now. With a voice rich and full, and musical, he poured out his impassioned plea for the liberties of the people. Then soaring to one of his boldest flights, he cried out in electric tones:

Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third ______.” The Speaker sprang to his feet, crying, “Treason! treason!” The whole assembly was in an uproar, shouting with the Speaker, “Treason! treason!” Not only the royalists, but others who were thoroughly alarmed by the orator’s audacious words, joined in the cry. But never for a moment did Henry flinch. Fixing his eye upon the Speaker, and throwing his arm forward from his dilating form, as though to hurl the words with the power of a thunderbolt, he added in a tone none but he himself could command,______ “May profit by their example.

Then, with a defiant look around the room, he said, “If this be treason, make the most of it.

Fifty-nine years afterwards Jefferson continued to speak of that great occasion with unabated enthusiasm. He narrated anew the stirring scenes when the shouts of “treason, treason,” echoed through the Hall.

In his record of the debate which followed the speech of Henry he described it as “most bloody.” The arguments against the resolutions, he said were swept away by the “torrents of sublime eloquence” from the lips of Patrick Henry. With breathless interest, Jefferson, standing in the doorway, watched the taking of the vote on the last resolution. It was upon this resolution that the battle had been waged the hottest. It was carried by a majority of a single vote. When the result was announced, Peyton Randolph, the King’s Attorney General, brushed by Jefferson, in going out of the House, exclaiming bitterly with an oath as he went, “I would have given five hundred guineas for a single vote.”

The next day, in the absence of the mighty orator, the timid Assembly expunged the fifth resolution and modified the others. The Governor, however, dissolved the House for daring to pass at all the resolutions. But he could not dissolve the spirit of Henry nor the magical effect of the resolutions which had been offered. By his intrepid action Henry took the leadership of the Assembly out of the hands which hitherto had controlled it.

The resolutions as originally passed were sent to Philadelphia. There they were printed, and from that center of energetic action were widely circulated throughout the Colonies. The heart of Samuel Adams and the Boston patriots were filled with an unspeakable joy as they read them. The drooping spirits of the people were revived and the doom of the Stamp Act was sealed.

Background:
In 1765 the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which placed a tax on newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets and broadsides, all kinds of legal documents, insurance policies, ship’s papers, licenses, dice and playing cards. This led to widespread protest in the American colonies, and to the slogan, “No taxation without representation!”

The Virginia legislature did not actually adopt the fifth and sixth resolves, which were seen as quite radical, but this document, including all six resolves, was published widely in newspapers across the colonies. Therefore, colonists were exposed to Henry’s radical ideas, and this document served as influential propaganda for the cause. Eight other colonies followed suit and had adopted similar resolves by the end of 1765.

The cry of “treason” in the Assembly of Virginia, although followed by the strong remonstrance of the burgesses, was a manifestation of the desire which then almost universally prevailed amongst the colonists to regard themselves as bound in allegiance to the British crown. It was a result, of that system of parliamentary corruption and of court influence which at that time entered so largely into the government of England

Virginia Resolves. On May 30, 1765, the House of Burgesses of Virginia came to the following resolutions:

Whereas the honorable House of Commons in England have late drawn into question how far the general assembly of this colony has power to enact laws for laying taxes and imposing duties payable to the pope of this his majesty’s most ancient colony — For settling and ascertaining the same to all future times, the House of Burgesses of this present general assembly have come to the several following resolutions:

Resolved, that the first adventurers and settlers of His Majesty’s colony and dominion of Virginia brought with them and transmitted to their posterity, and all other His Majesty’s subjects since inhabiting in this His Majesty’s said colony, all the liberties, privileges, franchises, and immunities that have at any time been held, enjoyed, and possessed by the people of Great Britain.

Resolved, that by two royal charters, granted by King James I, the colonists aforesaid are declared entitled to all liberties, privileges, and immunities of denizens and natural subjects to all intents and purposes as if they had been abiding and born within the Realm of England.

Resolved, that the taxation of the people by themselves, or by persons chosen by themselves to represent them, who can only know what taxes the people are able to bear, or the easiest method of raising them, and must themselves be affected by every tax laid on the people, is the only security against a burdensome taxation, and the distinguishing characteristic of British freedom, without which the ancient constitution cannot exist.

Resolved, that His Majesty’s liege people of this his most ancient and loyal colony have without interruption enjoyed the inestimable right of being governed by such laws, respecting their internal policy and taxation, as are derived from their own consent, with the approbation of their sovereign, or his substitute; and that the same has never been forfeited or yielded up, but has been constantly recognized by the kings and people of Great Britain.

The fifth item, following, was rescinded the next day. Henry, perhaps believing that the matter would stand, had departed. The loyalist members reformed on May 31st for the purpose of removing all five resolutions, but succeeded only in removing this one. The text of it was found with Patrick Henry’s will:

Resolved, therefor that the General Assembly of this Colony have the only and exclusive Right and Power to lay Taxes and Impositions upon the inhabitants of this Colony and that every Attempt to vest such Power in any person or persons whatsoever other than the General Assembly aforesaid has a manifest Tendency to destroy British as well as American Freedom.

The following resolves were not passed, though drawn up by the committee.They are inserted as a specimen of the first and early energies of the Old Dominion, as Virginia is often called.

Resolved, That his majesty’s liege people, the inhabitants of this colony, are not bound to yield obedience to any law or ordinance whatsoever designed to impose any taxation whatsoever upon them, other than the laws and ordinances of the general assembly aforesaid.

Resolved, That any person who shall by speaking or writing maintain that any person or persons other than the general assembly of this colony have any right or power to impose or lay any taxation whatsoever on the people here shall be deemed an enemy to this his majesty’s colony.

Version published widely in newspapers, with additional resolution. There were also some variations from publication to publication:

Resolved, That the first adventurers and settlers of this His Majesty’s Colony and Dominion of Virginia brought with them, and transmitted to their posterity, and all other of His Majesty’s subjects since inhabiting this His Majesty’s said Colony, all the liberties, privileges, franchises, and immunities, that have at any time been held, enjoyed, and possessed, by the people of Great Britain.

Resolved, That by two royal charters, granted by King James the First, the colonists aforesaid are declared entitled to all liberties, privileges, and immunities of denizens and natural subjects, to all intents and purposes, as if they had been abiding and born within the realm of England.

Resolved, That the taxation of the people by themselves, or by persons chosen by themselves to represent them, who can only know what taxes the people are able to bear, or the easiest method of raising them, and must themselves be affected by every tax laid on the people, is the only security against a burthensome taxation, and the distinguishing characteristick of British freedom, without which the ancient constitution cannot exist.

Resolved, That His Majesty’s liege people of this his most ancient and loyal Colony have without interruption enjoyed the inestimable right of being governed by such laws, respecting their internal polity and taxation, as are derived from their own consent, with the approbation of their sovereign, or his substitute; and that the same hath never been forfeited or yielded up, but hath been constantly recognized by the kings and people of Great Britain.

Resolved therefore, That the General Assembly of this Colony have the only and sole exclusive right and power to lay taxes and impositions upon the inhabitants of this Colony, and that every attempt to vest such power in any person or persons whatsoever other than the General Assembly aforesaid has a manifest tendency to destroy British as well as American freedom.

Resolved, That His Majesty’s liege people, the inhabitants of this Colony are not bound to yield obediance to any law or ordinance whatever, designed to impose any taxation whatsoever upon them other than the laws or ordinances of the General Assembly aforesaid.

Resolved, That any person who shall, by speaking or writing, assert or maintain that any person or persons other than the General Assembly of this Colony, have any right or power to impose or lay any taxation on the people here, shall be deemed an enemy to His Majesty’s Colony.

THE GREAT SEAL OF THE UNITED STATES

Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(obverse).svgThe history of this Seal is a most interesting one and bears evidence of the jealousy with which the great minds that were the fathers of the Republic bent themselves to the study of the very smallest details of our national birth. Committee after committee was appointed upon the subject of this Seal alone, and report after report, during the passage of nearly six years, was laid aside as still unsatisfactory.

The care with which the reports of the several committees were scrutinized, and the promptness with which the crude and earlier ones were successively laid aside, shows, that while Heraldry may not have been the forte of these young republicans, they were still most ardent students of its inner spirit— that of loftiest symbolism; and were determined that their final action should embody only such a system of emblazonry as should be forever pregnant with all the more inspiring sentiments surrounding the birth of “The New Atlantis.”

As with the history of the Flag, so with that of the Great Seal, we find that the ideas eventually adopted were the result of growth, development, and of a most judicious exercise of careful selection. The growth of the former was without, among the People, and amid the smoke of battle; that of the latter, looking towards more peaceful times, was within, among the Fathers, and in the quiet halls of national deliberation. In both cases the issue was happy in the extreme.

Among the very earliest acts of the infant Republic was that of appointing a committee to devise a suitable “Great Seal,” by means of which to authenticate and lend sanction to its decrees. So important, indeed, appeared to be the immediate necessity of such an instrument to the founders of our nationality, that upon the very day of the Declaration of its Independence, July 4th, 1776, soon after the reading of the document, a committee of no less prominence than the following: Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Mr. John Adams, and Mr. Thomas Jefferson, was appointed to prepare a device for the Great Seal of the United States of America.

THE GREAT SEAL OF THE UNITED STATES as it appeared in Harper’s Magazine, July, 1856, Vol. XIII

IN the year 1830 I lived four months with a bachelor kinsman not far from Washington Square, in Philadelphia. His house was sandwiched between the residences of two highly intelligent octogenarians, and was the neutral ground where they met, four nights in each week, to discuss the news of the day, taste my kinsman’s good wine, help each other remember the stirring incidents of the old war for Freedom, and to fight those battles over again. I was then a fledgling of twenty summers, and had nothing to do but to sit and listen to the gray-beards, with ears, and eyes, and mouth wide open. I sat like a sponge, absorbing at all points; and during that four months’ sojourn I imbibed an enormous quantity of the spirit of seventy-six. It went immediately to the brain, where it produced a chronic monomania, which the doctors pronounce incurable.

Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(reverse).svgUncle Billy, the senior by ninety days, had been a successful merchant long before the Fairmount Reservoir was built; and during much of the War for Independence he was a clerk with Robert Morris, the great financier of that old contest for right. The Squire had been all his life a miscellaneous man—a sort of Caleb Quotem. When the first Congress met in Philadelphia, he was a sub-editor of Bradford’s Pennsylvania Journal, and always boasted of having engraved with his pen-knife that ugly looking, disjointed snake, which figured at the head of the paper all that spring and summer, to the great annoyance of the King’s men. The Squire afterward became a factotum of Aitkin’s Pennsylvania Magazine, and frequently spoke of his amazement at the speed of Tom Paine’s pen, after he had swallowed his third glass of brandy, when writing his promised monthly contribution to that periodical, in the little back room of Aitkin’s establishment at the Pope’s Head, above the London Coffee-House, in Market Street. The Squire was also a sort of Ariel in the public bodies of that day, and his memory being as good as phonography, he was a reporter of sayings and doings, in high repute. He was a favorite with those old Congressmen, and he followed them in their two flights, first to Baltimore and then to York. Such were the Gamaliels of living history, at whose feet I nightly sat and listened.

One day my kinsman showed me a commission, signed by Charles Thomson, the Secretary of the Continental Congress, and bearing the broad, recumbent seal of the United States, precisely the same in device as the Government signet of to-day. My curiosity was excited, and I waited impatiently for Uncle Billy and the Squire. They were always as punctual as a creditor, and at precisely seven in the evening the oracles appeared. I handed the parchment to Uncle Billy, and asked him to give me a history of the seal.

“Here, Squire,” said Uncle Billy, “you know more of this than I. Tell the boy all about it.”

The Squire glanced at the parchment, brushed a gathering tear from his eye after looking at the solid signature of his old friend Thomson, and then commenced opening the sphinx, by asking Uncle Billy if he remembered the dreadful thunder-storm on the night of the third of July, 1776, and the cool, bracing wind from the north the next morning.

“Don’t I, Squire,” said Uncle Billy, shaking his head, and then lighting his pipe. “Morris sent me to Chester that night on some public business, and I thought I would freeze before I reached Philadelphia the next morning at daylight. Tom Jefferson came into the counting room that morning, when on his way to the State House, and told Morris that his thermometer indicated only sixty-eight degrees— eight degrees below summer-heat. I remember, too, that an electric rod, which Dr. Franklin had placed on Parson Duche’s house, a little out of town, was bent by lightning during the storm. Pity it hadn’t bent the frightened Tory back to a good Whig, as he seemed to be, when he preached that patriotic sermon in Christ Church, just a year before, to the First Battalion of Philadelphia.”

“Well, Billy,” said the Squire, “that, yon know, was the day, with the wind from the north, when Congress coolly declared the colonies free and independent States. I well remember it was about two o’clock in the afternoon when the final vote was taken. I was in a corner of the room listening, and when the deep silence of the moment was broken by Dr. Franklin, saying, ‘Well, gentlemen, we must now all hang together, or we must hang separately,’ I concluded they would all go home to dinner, and not return again. But they did return. Those old fellows didn’t take the people’s money without earning it; and they remained until almost sunset. After disposing of a dozen other items of public business, they appointed a committee of three to prepare a great seal for the new empire. I thought that about the coolest proceeding of the day. The baby republic was only four hours old, and nobody felt certain it would live, and yet, with Britannia’s doubled fist under their noses, they impudently proposed to give the bantling a coat of arms as heavy in its weight of sovereignty as Saul’s mail was in brass.”

“Ay, Squire, those men saw a great way beyond their noses, even with Britannia’s fist there. They swore the baby should live, and. you know, they generally practiced what they preached. But who were the committee?”

Du Simitiere Design

Du Simitiere Design*(fn1)

“Let me see,” mused the Squire, as he also lighted his pipe. “Oh! I remember. Dr. Franklin, whom we all thought knew everything, and could do everything, was made the chairman. John Adams, the plump Bostonian. in his claret-colored coat, whose bald head made him appear like a man of sixty, rather than a man of forty, as he was, was next named; and then that tall bean-stalk, Jefferson, the youngest of the three, who was only two-and-thirty years of age. But he had a world of book-wisdom under that wiry red hair of his.”Yes, yes,” said Uncle Billy, “I well remember, now, how Jefferson talked with Morris about it a day or two afterward; and perhaps a month or six weeks later, he gave Morris his plan for a seal on a bit of paper. He said it was not all original, but contained also the ideas of Adams and Franklin, the same as the Declaration of Independence did. You know how Jefferson could always use the ideas of other people as well as his own, and make them appear as fresh and bright as if just coined at the mint of his own brain. I remember seeing some rough devices for the seal, made with a pen. Do you remember who drew them?”

“Yes; a little West India Frenchman, named Du Simitiere, who used to cut profiles in black paper, paint miniatures and other pictures in water-colors, and, I was told, commenced collecting materials for a history of the Revolution by saving cuttings from newspapers of the time. In fact, I think I have seen four or five volumes that he prepared, in this way, in our City Library. Well, one hot afternoon, Franklin, Adams, and Du Simitiere, came into the little back-room of Atkin’s establishment, and, using a little table on which I had been writing a notice of the arrival of the British fleet at Sandy Hook, for Bradford’s paper, they there discussed the subject. The Frenchman displayed his sketches. In one of them he showed the arms of the several nations from whence America had been peopled, as English, Scotch, Irish, Dutch, German, etc., each in a shield. On one side of them he placed Liberty, with her cap; on the other a rifleman in his uniform, with his rifle in one hand and a tomahawk in the other, that dress and weapons being peculiar to America. Dr. Franklin proposed for the device, Moses lifting his wand and dividing the Red Sea, and Pharoah and his chariot overwhelmed with the waters. For a motto, the words of Cromwell, I believe: ‘Rebellion To Tyrants Is Obedience To God.’ Adams proposed the Choice of Hercules, as engraved by Gribelin in some editions of Lord Shaftesbury’s works: the hero resting on a club, Virtue pointing to her rugged mountain on one hand, and persuading him to ascend: and Sloth, glancing at her flowery paths of pleasure, wantonly reclining on the ground, displaying the charms both of her eloquence and person, to sednce him into vice. While they were discussing the matter, Jefferson came in, and he proposed, as a device, the Children of Israel in the Wilderness, led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night; and, on the other side, Hengist and Horsa, the Saxon chiefs, from whom we claim the honor of being descended, and whose political principles and form of goverument we have assumed. Franklin and Adams then, as they did when they had discussed the material for the Declaration of Independence, requested Jefferson to combine their ideas in a compact description of a proper device for a great seal. He did so, and that paper, in his handwriting, is now in the office of the Secretary of State, in Washington City.”

“Do you remember its contents?” I eagerly inquired.

“I think I do,” responded the Squire, taking a sip of wine. “He proposed, as the arms, a shield with six quarterings, parti one, coupi two, in heraldic phrase. The first gold, and an enameled rose, red and white, for England; the second white, with a thistle, in its proper colors, for Scotland; the third green, with a harp of gold, for Ireland; the fourth blue, with a golden lily-flower, for France; the fifth gold, with the imperial black eagle, for Germany; and the sixth gold, with the Belgic crowned red lion, for Holland. These denoted the countries from which America had been peopled. He proposed to place the shield within a red border, on which there should be thirteen white escutcheons, linked together by a gold chain, each bearing appropriate initials, in black, of the thirteen confederated States. He also proposed, as supporters, the Goddess of Liberty on the right side, in a corslet of armor, in allusion to the then state of war, and holding the spear and cap in her right hand, while with her left she supported the shield of the States. On the left hand the Goddess of Justice, leaning on a sword in her right hand, and in her left a balance. The crest, the eye of Providence in a radiant triangle, whose glory should extend over the shield, and beyond the figures. Motto: E Pluribis Unum—’Many in one.’ Around the whole, Seal Of The United States Of America. MDCCLXXVL For the reverse, he proposed the following device: Pharaoh, sitting in an open chariot, a crown on his head and a sword in his hand, passing through the divided waters of the Red Sea in pursuit of the Israelites. Rays from a pillar of fire in a cloud, expressive of the Divine presence and command, beaming on Moses, who stands on the shore, and, extending his hand over the sea, causes it to overwhelm Pharaoh. Motto: Rebellion To Tyrants Is Obedience To God. This motto Mr. Jefferson had inscribed on his own private seal.”

Jefferson Proposed Design

“That would have made a noble seal,” I said. “Why didn’t they adopt it?”

“I don’t know,” replied the Squire. “The fact is, we all had something more important to think of, soon after that, than making seals for a government that seemed, for a long time, to have no more stable foundation than paper— a paper declaration of existence, and a paper currency. The committee made some sort of a report on the 10th of August, but Thomson did not think it of sufficient importance to put it on record; and nothing more was done, I believe, until the spring of 1779. Jefferson, you know, soon went to Virginia; Franklin was sent to Europe to help Silas Deane, or to watch him, I don’t know which; and our army, under Washington, was sadly beaten and battered on Long Island, and finally driven across the Jerseys, to the frozen banks of the Delaware.”

“And Morris sent me there with a heap of hard money for them, I remember, just before Christmas,” added Uncle Billy.

“And what was done in the spring of 1779?” I inquired.

“Well—let me see,” mused the Squire. “I had had a hard time of it in the mean while, with the rest of the Whigs. When Congress thought the British, who were chasing Washington across the Jersey’s would come on to Philadelphia, they told the Chief to do just what he pleased, and then they pulled up the stakes of their tents and fled to Baltimore. I went there too, and wrote many paragraphs for Goddard’s paper. The next year, you remember, our army got nicely thrashed at Brandywine, and then the British did go to Philadelphia in earnest. Congress hurried off to York, in the interior of the State, where I too found safety and bread and butter; but our old friend, Aitkin, was locked up in the Walnut Street prison, and badly treated for a while. Finally, when the British thought a French fleet was coming to the Delaware, they ran away from Philadelphia. Congress came back, and matters going a little smoother, they began to think of independent sovereignty again. One morning in March—I think the 24th—the wet snow ankle-deep, I went to the State House for news. In the course of the forenoon James Lovell, who had been a schoolmaster in Boston, and a prisoner for conscience’ sake at Halifax, but was now an active member of the Committee on Foreign Correspondence, moved the appointment of a committee to prepare a device for a Great Seal. John Jay, the fiery young Huguenot from New York, was in the Presidential chair, and he appointed Mr. Lovell, with Scott of Virginia, and Houstoun of Georgia, such committee. They reported on the 10th of May following.

Design submitted in 1779* (fn2)

Design submitted in 1779* (fn2)

They proposed to make a seal four inches in diameter. On one side the arms of the United States, composed of a shield with thirteen diagonal stripes, alternate red and white. For supporters, a warrior holding a sword, on one side; and on the other a figure representing Peace, bearing an olive branch. The crest, a radiant constellation of thirteen stars. Motto: Bello Vel Pace; and the legend, Seal Of The United States. On the reverse, the figure of Liberty, seated in a chair, holding the staff and cap. Motto: Semper: and underneath, MDCCLXXVI. This report was recommitted: and just a year afterward, to a day, another report was presented. This report was almost exactly like the former, and on comparison of the drawings with pen and ink, submitted each time. I found they differed only in a single figure, and in the mottoes. The sketches, I believe, were made by Du Simitiere, who then lived with an aged widow lady a few doors from the house of Peter S. Duponceau.

But Congress seemed hard to please,” continued the Squire. “They didn’t accept the last report, and there the matter rested, as my friend Thomson told me, until April, 1782, when Henry Middleton, Elias Boudinot, and Edward Rutledge were appointed a committee to prepare a great seal. They reported, on the 9th of May following, substantially the same as the committees of 1779 and 1780 had done. Congress, despairing of getting any thing satisfactory from a committee, referred the whole matter to Charles Thomson, its secretary, on the 13th of June.”

“But somebody told me that our old friend, Will Barton, Dr. Ben’s younger brother, made the device for our great seal. Was it not he, instead of Du Simitiere, who made the drawing for Lovell’s Committee?”

“No, no, Billy,” said the Squire, a little impatiently, “he had nothing to do with it until the whole matter was placed in Thomson’s hands. At that time I was very intimate with Thomson, although he was twenty years older than I. You remember, Billy, his thin face and figure, furrowed countenance, hollow, sparkling eyes, and thin white hair at the close of the war, though he was then only fifty-three years old. He appeared to be sixty-three, at least. Well, as I was saying, Thomson and I were intimate, and I well remember being at his house at about the middle of June, when he told me of the reference of the whole matter to him. He then showed me a large drawing made the day before by Barton, who, you know, was a line scholar and a fair artist. He also read a description of a device, written by Barton, but differing somewhat from his drawing. Dr. Arthur Lee and Elias Boudinot, who had accompanied Thomson when he called on Barton for a device, came in the same evening, and we discussed the subject pretty thoroughly. They did not fancy Barton’s design for the arms, because it was too elaborate; but they liked his small sketch for the reverse of the seal, which was an unfinished pyramid with the eye of Providence, in a radiant triangle, over it. Finally, Thomson showed us an exceedingly simple and appropriate device, which Adams had sent to him from England, and approved of. Hoping something as good would be made by his own countrymen, he had withheld it, because it had been suggested to Mr. Adams by a proud member of the British aristocracy. All agreed that the device from England was the best yet offered. Thomson reported it to Congress on the 20th of June, and it was adopted. So you see that we are indebted for our national arms to a titled aristocrat of the country with which we were then at war!”

Design submitted in 1780

Design submitted in 1780

“Is it possible!” we exclaimed. “Do you know the name of that titled Englishman?”

“One thing at a time,” said the Squire, filling his pipe. “Let me tell you first about Barton’s device. He proposed an escutcheon with a blue border, spangled with thirteen stars, and divided in the centre, perpendicularly, by a gold bar. On each side of this division, within the blue border, thirteen bars or stripes, alternate red and white, like the American flag adopted on the 14th of June, 1777. Over the gold bar an eye surrounded with a glory, and in the gold bar a Doric column, resting on the base of the escutcheon, having a displayed eagle on its summit. The crest, a helmet of burnished gold, damasked, grated with six bars, and surmounted by a red cap of dignity, such as dukes wear, with black lining, and a cock armed with gaffs. For supporters: on one side the Genius of America—represented by a maiden with loose auburn tresses, having on her head a radiant crown of gold, encircled with a sky-blue fillet, spangled with silver stars, and clothed in a long, loose, white garment, bordered with green. From the right shoulder to the left side, a blue scarf with stars, the cinctures thereof the same as in the border. Around her waist a purple girdle fringed with gold, and the word Virtue embroidered in white. She rested her interior hand on the escutcheon, and in the other held the standard of the United States, on the top of which was perched a white dove. The supporter on the other side was a man in complete armor; his sword-belt blue, fringed with gold; his helmet encircled with a wreath of laurels, and crested with one white and two blue plumes. With bis left hand he supported the escutcheon, and in the other he held a lance with a bloody point. Upon a green banner, unfurled, was a harp of gold with strings of silver, a brilliant star, two lily-flowers, and below two crossed swords. The two figures stood upon a scroll, on which was the motto Deo Favente, which alluded to the eye in the arms, meant for the eye of Providence. On the crest, in a scroll, was this motto: Virtus Sola Invicta.”

“What a complicated affair,” I remarked. “Can you explain the meaning of all the parts of that elaborate design?” I inquired.

“Not half of ’em,” said Uncle Billy, with a chuckle. “You see, Squire, the boy has put you on a sand-bar by that question. I thought you sailed a little too careless, with the wind in your eye, not to fetch up all standing pretty soon.”

This challenge aroused the pride of the Squire, and he summoned all the powers of his wonderful memory to his aid.

“Can’t explain ’em, eh,” he said, knocking the ashes from his pipe, laying it upon the table, and bringing the points of his forefingers together. “We’ll see.”

Barton's Design

Barton’s Design

“First of all, the Arms. The thirteen bars or stripes represented the Thirteen States, and the stars on a blue field denoted a new constellation, in allusion to the new empire formed in the world by the confederation of the States. This, you know, was the device of our flag, and did not thus originate with Barton. The stars disposed in a circle, the emblem of eternity, denoted the perpetuity of the confederation. The spread eagle, you know, is the symbol of supreme power and authority, and represented Congress. The Doric pillar, the most perfect of the orders, represented Fidelity and Constancy, its parts taken together forming a beautiful composition of strength, congruity, and usefulness, the attributes of a well-planned government. The eagle being placed on the summit of the column, was emblematical of the sovereignty of the United States. The eye, of coarse, is the All-Seeing one of Providence. The helmet represents sovereignty, and the cap is the token of freedom, as used by the old Romans. The cock represents vigilance and fortitude. The fillet, the glittering stars, and the American flag, denote the genius of the American Confederacy. The white dress, trimmed with green, denotes youth and purity; the purple girdle and radiant crown symbolize sovereignty, and the word Virtue implies that that should be the chief ornament of the Republic. The dove on the standard denotes the mildness and justice of the government; the white plume was a compliment to the French Allies; the green banner, with a golden harp, symbolized youth and vigor, hnrmony and concert. The brilliant star represented America as chief in the contest, and the lily-flower—the fleur de lis—was expressive of gratitude to France for its support. The crossed swords denoted the state of war, and the armed man with his flag, related totally to America and the time of the Revolution. There, Billy,” said the Squire, rubbing his hands triumphantly, “isn’t that as good an explanation as Will Barton himself could have given? On a sand-bar, eh!”

“Why, my old friend,” said Uncle Billy, with a pleasant smile, “I know you could tell all about men, and circumstances, and such like, but when I found your tongue reeling off such a yarn about coats of arms which so few people in this country know any thing about, or are fools enough to care anything about, I thought you were getting into dangerous waters with your craft. But your good old pilot, memory, never failed you yet, and I don’t believe it ever will as long as there is a plank of the old hulk left. Now wind up your skein, Squire, by telling us about that English aristocrat who invented our national arms, and then we’ll adjourn, for it’s bed-time for youngsters like us.”

The Great Seal of the United States

The Great Seal of the United States

“Well, you know John Adams was sent to England, in the fall of 1779, to negotiate for peace. His fame and his official position gave him great prominence, and he became acquainted with many men of all respectable classes. Among others who took quite a fancy for Adams was Sir John Prestwich, a baronet of the West of England, who was a friend of the Americans in that long quarrel, and was an accomplished antiquarian. In conversation with him one day on the bright prospects of the Americans, Adams mentioned the fact that his countrymen had not yet decided upon a national coat of arms. Sir John suggested that an escutcheon bearing thirteen perpendicular stripes, white and red, like the American flag, with the chief blue, and spangled with thirteen stars, would make a fine device. And to give it more consequence he proposed to place it on the breast of a displayed American eagle without supporters, as emblematic of self-reliance. That simple and significant device pleased Adams, and he communicated it to his friends in Congress. Thomson liked it, too, but, for reasons I have named, he withheld it until the last. Congress was pleased with it, and in the Journal of the 20th of June, 1782, you may find the great seal thus described, if my memory does not deceive me:

“Arms.—Paleways of thirteen pieces, argent and gules; a chief azure; the escutcheon on the breast of the American eagle displayed proper, holding in his dexter talon an olive branch, and in his sinister a bundle of thirteen arrows, all proper, and in his beak a scroll, inscribed with this motto: E Pluribus Unum.”

“Hold on a minute, Squire!” interrupted Uncle Billy; “you’re talking above my comprehension about paleways, and argent, and gules, and dexter, and sinister talons. What does all that mean?”

“Why, Billy, I thought you knew something of heraldry. Paleways means perpendicular bars, like a picket-fence; argent and gules mean white and red; and dexter and sinister mean right and left. The motto is, Many In One—Many States in one Confederation.”

“Yes, I know E Pluribus Unum well enough; but the rest was Greek, or Latin, or Indian to me. But go on.”

“‘ For The Crest.-—Over the head of the eagle, which appears above the escutcheon, a glory Or (that is, golden) breaking through a cloud, proper, and surrounding thirteen stars, forming a constellation, argent (white stars) on an azure (blue) field.’

“‘ Reverse.—A pyramid unfinished. In the zenith an eye in a triangle, surrounded with a glory, proper. Over the eye these words, Annuit Coeptis (God has favored the undertaking). On the base of the pyramid the numerical letters MDCCLXXVI; and underneath the following motto: Novus Ordo Seclorum—A New Series of Ages, denoting that a new order of things had commenced in this Western World. Such was the seal then adopted, and such yet remains the arms of the United States. Congress then ordered a seal half the size of the great one, to impress wax and paper, as you now see it upon this commission signed by my old and trusty friend, Charles Thomson. They also ordered a smaller seal for the use of the President of the Congress.

The Presidents Seal

The Presidents Seal(fn3)

It was a small oval about an inch in length, the centre covered with clouds surrounding a space of open sky, on which were seen thirteen stars. Over these the motto, E Pluribus Unum. The seal of the President of the United States now is round, yon know, with an eagle upon it.”

Uncle Billy now arose to depart, when the Squire said, “A few minutes more, my old friend, and I will go too. Do you remember that curious article on Merlin’s prophecy, which appeared in one of our Philadelphia papers while the Federal Convention that formed the Constitution in 1787 was in session?”

“I do not.”

“I do; for I extracted it from an old volume, published in London in the year 1530,(fn4) and appending to it my own interpretation, published it over the signature of ‘T,’ the middle letter of my name, you know. That prophecy is said to have been uttered more than a. thousand years ago; and it seemed to me to refer directly to America, its settlement, our Revolution, and our flag and coat of arms. Shall I repeat it, with my interpretation?”

“By all means,” we both exclaimed. Uncle Billy filled his pipe again, and the Squire began:

I.
‘When the Savage is meek and mild
The frantic Mother shall stab her Child.’

The settlement of America by a civilized nation is very clearly alluded to in the first line. The frantic mother is Britain. America still feels the wounds she has received from her.

II.
‘When the Cock shall woo the Dove,
The Mother the Child shall cease to love.’

The Cock is France; the Dove is America—Columbia, from Columbus; Colombo, a pigeon. This union is the epocha when America shall cease to love Britain; for so I understand the prophecy, in which there is manifestly an equivoque, which is one of the most striking characteristics of the ancient oracles.

III.
‘When men. like moles, work under ground,
The Lion a Virgin true shall wound.’

In many parts of Europe there are subterranean works carried on by persons who never see the sun. But perhaps tho solution may more particularly be referred to the siege of York, in Virginia, where the approaches were carried on by working in the earth. In the second line there is another equivoque. We are told by Mr. Addison, in his ‘Spectator,’ that a lion will not hurt a true maid. This, at first view, seems to be contradicted by the prophecy; but, on examination, it will be found that, at the epocha referred to, the Virgin, Columbia (or perhaps Virginia, by which name all North America was called in the days of Queen Elizabeth), shall wound the Lion, that is, Britain, which shows the precise time when the oracle should be accomplished.

IV.
‘When the Dove and Cock, the Lion shall fight.
The Lion shall crouch beneath their might’

This clearly alludes to the successes of the united forces of America and France against those of Britain.

V.
‘When the Cock shall guard the Eagle’s nest.
The stars shall rise all in the West.’

For the solution of this oracle, as well as all the rest, we are indebted to the engraving of the Arms of the United States, in the Columbian Magazine, for September, 1786. America is clearly designated by the eagle’s nest, as it is the only part of the globe where the bald eagle (the arms of the United States) is to be found. Thus this hitherto inexplicable prophecy, may now be easily understood as meaning that when the Cock, that is, France, shall protect America (as she did during the late war), the stars, that is, the standard of American empire, shall rise in this western hemisphere.

VI.
‘When ships above the clouds shall sail.
The Lion’s strength shall surely fail.’

It is very remarkable that the first discovery of the amazing properties of inflammable air, by means of which men have been able to explore a region, till then impervious to them, happened in the same year when Britain’s strength was so reduced as to oblige her to acknowledge the independence of America. The boats in which the adventurous aeronauts traversed the upper regions, are the ships here referred to.

“Thus far the prophecy seems to have been already fully and literally accomplished. It is to be hoped that the accomplishment of those which remain is not far remote.

VII.
‘When Neptune’s back with stripes is red.
The sickly Lion shall hide his head.’

I understand this to mean that when the sea (Neptune’s back) is red with the American stripes the naval power of Britain shall decline. A proper exertion in the art of ship-building would soon produce this effect, and whenever Congress is vested with the power of regulating the commerce of America, we may hope to see the full accomplishment of this prediction,

VIII.
‘When seven and six shall make but one.
The Lion’s might shall be undone.’

This oracle clearly alludes to an epocha not far removed, as we may hope; for when the thirteen States shall, under the auspices of the present Federal Convention, have strengthened and cemented their union, by a proper revisal of the Articles of Confederation, so as to be really One Nation, Britain will no longer be able to maintain that rank and consequence among the nations of the earth which she hath hitherto done.

“So I interpreted the oracles in March, 1787. How well the last two have been since verified, you can judge. The States declared free in 1776 (seven and six) were made really one in 1789, and they are yet one, though now numbering twenty-four independent republics. Though the brave old Jackson is just now threatening the Cock with the sharp talons of the Eagle, I think they won’t fight yet a while, just to please the old Lion. And now, Billy, goodnight.” And so I parted with the octogenarians, for the time.

(fn1) All of the illustrations in this article are correct copies of rude sketches now In the archives of the State Department at Washington City, except the representation of Unseal proposed by Jefferson. This was drawn by the writer of this article, from tho description of Mr. Jefferson, in his own handwriting, now among other records of the proceedings of the several committees, in the State Department. This is the exact size of all of the originals. The remainder are reduced to half the size of the originals, and, like this, present fax-similes of the rude style of drawings.

(fn2) The original design was torn, and pasted on another piece of paper, as here represented, and presenting some blots, erasures, and a line drawn with a pen across one part. The next one also shows some hints made with a pen probably while the committee were in consultation.

(fn3) Copied from an impression made in 1784, on a letter written by Thomas Mifflin, then President of the Continental Congress.

(fn4) See Swift’s Works, vol iii, p. 214 Edition 1766 the “Sibylline Oracle” from the celebrated Welsh Astrologer Merlin’s Prophecies as uttered in Wales in the Eight century.
Walter Scott, speaking of Merlin, or the Savage, as he was called, says, “The particular spot in which he is buried is still shown, and appears, from the following quotation, taken from a description of Tweeddale, 1715, to have partaken of his prophetic qualities:—

‘When Tweed and Pausayl meet
At Merlin’s grave,
Scotland and England shall one
Monarch have.’

For the same day that our King James the Sixth was crowned king of England, the river Tweed, by an extraordinary flood, so far overflowed its banks that it met and joined with the Pausayl at the said grave, which was never before observed to fall out.”

The precise spot pointed out to travelers is situated near Drumelzier, a village upon the Tweed.

See also my series on the Rights of American Citizens
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: General Rights; Division One
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: General Rights; Division Two
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: General Rights; The Social Compact
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Powers delegated to the General Government in the Federal Constitution
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: Powers delegated to the State Governments
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Independence of the States
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The rights reserved to the people of the United States
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: Of the right of suffrage and of elections
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Liberty of Speech and of the Press
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Power of Courts to punish for Contempts
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Law of Libel in relation to Public Officers
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Rights of Juries
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Rights of Witnesses
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The mode of obtaining redress for infringement of civil or political rights

The Importance of Free Speech and The Free Press in America

Infringed

When contemplating the liberties, freedoms and protections given by God and enumerated by the Constitution and Bill of Rights: Remember! The Free Exercise of Religion was the first to be mentioned by the Framers! The Freedom of the Press was meant to insure against the abuse of the government and those in power of all the other rights of man.

Remember also! When one right, liberty, or freedom is under attack, they are all under attack, when one is in jeopardy, they are all in jeopardy! The Second Amendment is meant to guarantee the First Amendment! 

The Importance of Free Speech and The Free Press in America

Background:

One of the most egregious breaches of the U.S. Constitution in history became federal law when Congress passes the Sedition Act, endangering liberty in the fragile new nation. While the United States engaged in naval hostilities with Revolutionary France, known as the Quasi-War, Alexander Hamilton and congressional Federalists took advantage of the public’s wartime fears and drafted and passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, without first consulting President John Adams.

President Adams never took advantage of his new found ability to deny rights to immigrants. However, the fourth act, the Sedition Act, was put into practice and became a black mark on the nation’s reputation. In direct violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech, the Sedition Act permitted the prosecution of individuals who voiced or printed what the government deemed to be malicious remarks about the president or government of the United States. Fourteen Republicans, mainly journalists, were prosecuted, and some imprisoned, under the act.

In opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison drafted the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves, declaring the acts to be a violation of the First and Tenth Amendments. President Adams, appalled at where Hamilton and the congressional Federalists were leading the country under the guise of wartime crisis, tried to end the undeclared war with France to undercut their efforts. He threatened to resign from the presidency and leave the Federalists with Republican Vice President Thomas Jefferson if they did not heed his call for peace. Adams succeeded in quashing Hamilton and the Federalists’ schemes, but ended any hope of his own re-election in the process.

The first of the laws was the Naturalization Act, passed by Congress on June 18. This act required that aliens be residents for 14 years instead of 5 years before they became eligible for U.S. citizenship.

Congress then passed the Alien Act on June 25, authorizing the President to deport aliens “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” during peacetime.

The third law, the Alien Enemies Act, was enacted by Congress on July 6. This act allowed the wartime arrest, imprisonment and deportation of any alien subject to an enemy power.

The last of the laws, the Sedition Act, passed on July 14 declared that any treasonable activity, including the publication of “any false, scandalous and malicious writing,” was a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment. By virtue of this legislation twenty-five men, most of them editors of Republican newspapers, were arrested and their newspapers forced to shut down.

One of the men arrested was Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, editor of the Republican Aurora and General Advertiser. Charged with libeling President Adams, Bache’s arrest erupted in a public outcry against all of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Many Americans questioned the constitutionality of these laws. Indeed, public opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts was so great that they were in part responsible for the election of Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, to the presidency in 1800. Once in office, Jefferson pardoned all those convicted under the Sedition Act, while Congress restored all fines paid with interest. “

(See Text of Act(s) below)

Bill of RightsThe Argument against Unlimited Power in the Hands of the Federal Government!

One of the best arguments against these acts came from The Honorable Josephus Daniels in response to members George K. Taylor and Magill.

Daniels stated that the acts enumerated in the first section of the sedition law, as offences to be punished with heavy fines and long imprisonment, were “to combine or conspire together with intent to oppose any measure, or to impede the operation of any law of the United States;” or to intimidate any officer under the government of the same, from undertaking, performing, or executing his trust or duty; or to counsel, advise, or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such counsel or advice had effect or not. The offences enumerated in the second section of said law, he said, were, “to write, print, utter, or publish, or to cause the same to be done, or to aid in writing, printing, uttering, or publishing, any false writings against the government, the president, or either house of the congress of the United States, with intent to defame the government, either house of congress, or the president, or to bring them, or either of them, into disrepute; or to excite against them, or either of them, the hatred of the people; or to excite any unlawful combination, for opposing any law, or act of the president of the United States, or to defeat any such law or act.” These were the provisions of the act. The provisions of the constitution were, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Third article of amendments to the constitution. He requested gentlemen to read the one and the other; to compare them, and reconcile them if possible. He was one of those who believed, that the first clause of the law would in its operation, effectually destroy the liberty of speech; and the second clause did most completely annihilate the freedom of the press. “To combine, conspire, counsel and advise together,” was a natural right of self-defense, belonging to the people; it could only be exercised by the use of speech; it was a right of self-defense [2nd Amendment force] against the tyranny and oppression of government; it ought to be exercised with great caution; and -never, but upon occasions of extreme necessity. Of this necessity, the people are the only judges. For if government could control this right; if government were the judge, when the necessity of exercising this right has arrived, the right never will be used; for government never will judge that the people ought to oppose its measures, however unjust, however tyrannical, and despotically oppressive. This right, although subject to abuse, like many other invaluable rights, was nevertheless essential to, and inseparable from, the liberties of the people. The warmest friend of any government would not contend that it was infallible. The best of governments may possibly change into tyranny and despotism. Measures may be adopted violating the constitution, and prostrating the rights and principles of the people. He hoped never to see the time; but, if it should so happen, no man would deny but that such measures ought to be opposed. But, he would ask, how they could be effectually opposed, without the people should “combine, conspire, counsel and advise” together? One man could do nothing. This right of adopting the only efficient plan of opposition to unconstitutional, oppressive and tyrannical measures, whenever they should occur, he hoped never would be given up. This right had been well exercised on a former occasion against England; and it would probably be well used again, if our liberties were sufficiently endangered, to call forth its exertion. But for the spirited and energetic exercise of this right; but for the “combining, conspiring, counseling and advising” together of the American people, these United States, now independent and free, would have remained under the tyrannical and despotic domination of the British king. It had been said, that this doctrine leads to anarchy and confusion; but, said Mr. Daniel, this doctrine gave birth and success to our revolution; secured our present liberty, and the privileges consequent thereupon. The contrary doctrine, said Mr. Daniel, leads to passive obedience and non-resistance, to tyranny and oppression, more certain, and more dangerous. If a measure was unpopular, and should give discontent, it would be discussed: if it should thereupon be found to be tolerable, it would be acquiesced in. If, on the contrary, measures should be adopted of such dangerous and destructive tendency, that they ought to be opposed; he would ask, how this could be done, but by the means which are forbidden in the first section of the law in question? These were the only means by which liberty, once trampled down by tyrants and despots, could be reinstated: and if the general government continued its rapid progress of violating the constitution, and infringing the liberties of the people, the time he feared was hastening on, when the people Would find it necessary again, to exercise this natural right of defense.

Mr. Daniel said, he would now turn his attention to that part of the law which affects the freedom of the press, in which the constitution was most palpably, and most dangerously infringed. On this subject, he said, the gentleman from Frederick had contended, that the constitution was not violated; that the common law was a part of the constitution; and that the offences enumerated in the act, were always punishable at common law. If this be the fact, said Mr. Daniel, the law in question is nugatory; and the clause of the constitution on this subject, which had been read, was of no effect, By the gentleman’s common law, which he had read, offences against the king and his government, were precisely such as were enumerated if offences in this law, against the president and government of the United States; substituting the word “president,” in the latter case, for the word “king,” in the former. These offences might be “by speaking, or writing against them; or wishing him (the king in England, and the president in America,) ill, giving out scandalous stories concerning them, (the king and his government in England, and the president and his government in America,) or doing anything, that may tend to lessen him (the king, or president, as the case may be) in the esteem of his subjects; weaken the government, or raise jealousies among the people.” JBlackstone’s Commentaries, page 123. When our “sedition law” was so like the law of England, he did not wonder that the gentleman had supposed that the law of England was in force here; one being the copy of the other, with the necessary change of names, and some other trivial circumstances; nor did he wonder that the gentleman should say, in conformity to that authority, that “the liberty of the press, properly understood, is by no means infringed or violated” by such regulations; “but consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications;” and is otherwise “licentiousness.” Blackstone, pa. 151, that a printer may publish what he pleases, but must answer the consequence, if a certain set of men shall adjudge his writings to contain “dangerous and licentious sentiments.” If this be true, he said, he would be glad to be informed, for what purpose was it declared by the constitution, that “the freedom of the press should not be restrained;” and how we were more free in the United States than the people of any other nation whatsoever? The most oppressed of Europe; the slaves and subjects of the most despotic power on the earth, he said, had the right to speak, write and print, whatever they pleased, but were liable to be punished afterwards, if they spoke, wrote or printed, anything that was offensive to the government: that there was very little difference as to the liberty of the press, whether the restraints imposed, were “previous” or subsequent to publications. If the press was subjected to a political licenser, the discretion of the printer would be taken away, and with it his responsibility; and nothing would be printed, but what was agreeable to the political opinions of a certain set of men; whereas subsequent restraints have the same operation, by saying, if you do “write, print, utter or publish,” anything contrary to the political opinions, reputation or principles of certain men, you shall be fined and imprisoned. In vain, he said, were we told that the accused may prove the truth of his writings or printing, and that we are only forbidden to write or print false facts. The truth was, that it was not the facts, but the deductions and conclusions drawn from certain facts, which would constitute the offence. If a man was to write and publish that the congress of the United States had passed the “alien and sedition acts,” that the provisions of the said acts were in these words, reciting the laws as they are, that the constitution was in these words, reciting the provisions of the constitution truly; and conclude, that the said acts violated the constitution; that the congress and the president, in enacting the same, had assumed powers not granted to them, and had encroached upon the liberties of the people, who ought to take measures “to defeat” these laws, and this “act of the president.” Here the facts stated, that the laws had been passed, and that the constitution was in terms stated, could be proved, and would not constitute the offence, but the inference from these facts, that the congress, in enacting the said laws, had violated the constitution, assumed powers not delegated to them, and usurped the rights and liberties of the people, in which usurpation the president had joined, would certainly have a tendency “to defame the government, the congress, and the president, and to bring them into disrepute and hatred among the people,” and would therefore constitute the offence. The inference or conclusion from certain facts might be true or not, and was mere matter of opinion. It was opinion then, political opinion, which was the real object of punishment. The deduction made from the facts just stated, he said, was in his opinion true, the consequence of which was, that the congress and president of the United States had not his confidence; with him they were in “disrepute.” But he could not prove that the opinion was true, as a fact; he could offer those reasons which convinced his mind of its truth, but they might not be satisfactory to a jury summoned with a special regard to their political opinions, or to a judge of the United States, most of whom had already pronounced their opinion on the subject, either in pamphlets, or political instead of legal charges to the grand juries of the several circuits of the United States; thus prejudging a constitutional question, which they knew would be made, if ever the law was attempted to be carried into effect.

He said he would state one more case to exemplify his opinion. If at the time of British oppressions, when the parliament of England boldly implied the right to make laws for, and to tax the American people, without representation, any man had by writing maintained that representation and taxation were inseparable, and that it was an usurpation and assumption of power by parliament to impose taxes on the American colonies, who were not represented in parliament, the fact here stated would not offend, because true; but the conclusion, the charge of usurpation, made upon the British government, would certainly have a tendency to bring it into “disrepute and hatred” among the people, as it did most effectually in America, and would have constituted the offence. This opinion, though now clearly admitted to be true, was then new, and could not be proven true to an English judge and jury, for they were so impressed with its falsity, that the nation undertook and carried on a bloody and expensive war, to correct its error. He concluded that the provisions of this act abridged and infringed the liberty of the press, which at the time of the adoption of the constitution had no other restraint than the responsibility of the author to the individual who might be injured by his writing or printing: that they destroyed all enquiry into political motives, silenced scrutiny, weakened the responsibility of public servants, and established political and executive infallibility. That the solicitude discovered by the government to defend itself against the attacks of its own citizens, was an evidence that its acts would not deserve their confidence and esteem: that the solicitude thus expressed by threats of fine and imprisonment, to keep the president for the time being from coming “into disrepute,” was evidence of a fear that a comparison of motives and views would prove favorable to his competitor, and was calculated to keep the real merits of competition out of view, inasmuch as the merits of one of the proposed candidates could not be insisted on to advantage, without exposing the demerits of the other, which would tend to bring him “into disrepute.” And if the one to whom the want of merit should be ascribed, should be president for the time being, thus to bring him into “disrepute,” would be to bring the person discussing the subject into the pains of fine and imprisonment.

It had been contended, said Mr. Daniel, by the gentleman from Frederick, that the adoption of the resolutions would be an infringement of the right of the people to petition. He, Mr. Daniel, would slate, that this right might be exercised by an individual, by an assemblage of individuals, or by the representatives of the people; which last mode was preferable, when the sovereignty of the state, as well as the appropriate rights of the people was attacked, as in the present case. He conceived, however, that the law in question had very much abridged the right of the people to petition and remonstrate. The necessity and propriety of petitions and remonstrance’s could not be seen but by discussion: the right itself could not be effectually used, without “counseling and advising together.” Three or more persons would constitute an “unlawful assembly;” for it would be easily said, that they were unlawfully assembled, when they intended, by discussing certain acts of the president, or laws of the government, “to defeat” the same, by inducing the people to petition and remonstrate; or if the same were not defeated, by virtue of such petition and remonstrance, to bring the government and president into “disrepute,” for continuing such acts and laws in operation, against which the people had petitioned and remonstrated. But those things being offences, and so enumerated in one clause of the law, an assembly of three or more persons, contemplating the objects just described, would be “unlawful,” within the purview of the act, and subject to fine and imprisonment. Again, he said, the dangerous and ruinous tendency of certain measures, might not be observed by the people of any particular district. A few, however, might wish a petition to be made, to remove the grievance of the measures; in order to which, they would individually address the district by writing, in which they would expose and censure the evil tendency of the said measures, to excite the people to petition and remonstrate, “to defeat” the same, or necessarily to bring the friends of the continuance thereof into “disrepute.” This would be an offence within the purview of the second clause of the law. Thus, said he, by one act we have seen, that that clause of the constitution, which secures the right of speech, of the press, of petition, of the free exercise of religious opinion to the people, is prostrated in every respect, except as it relates to religion. And this last and most invaluable right, he had no doubt would soon be invaded, inasmuch as he had been informed, that the friends of the present measures had already begun to insinuate, that an “established church was one of the strongest props to government:” and inasmuch, that the same reasons might be urged in its favor, as in favor of the abridgment of the liberty of the press. But it was said, that the press was still left free to print truth: “its licentiousness and abuse” are only forbid. So it might be said of religion: true religion only ought to be tolerated: the abuse of religion ought to be forbidden: the “licentiousness” of particular sectaries ought to be restrained.

He said, he was fearful that he had already trespassed upon the patience of the committee, and he would hasten to a conclusion, with a few remarks on the particular shape and address of the resolutions. It had been objected by gentlemen, that it was going too far to declare the acts in question, to be “no law, null, void and of no effect:” that it was sufficient to say they were unconstitutional. He said, if they were unconstitutional, it followed necessarily that they were “not law, but null, void and of no effect.” But, if those particular words were offensive to gentlemen he had no objection to any modification, so the principle were retained. As to the objection, that they were improperly addressed to the other states, Mr. Daniel said, he supposed that this mode was extremely eligible. If the other states think with this, that the laws are unconstitutional, the laws will be repealed, and the constitutional question will be settled by this declaration of a majority of the states: thereby destroying the force of this precedent, and precluding from any future congress, who might be disposed to carry the principle to a more pernicious and ruinous extent, the force of any argument which might be derived from these laws. If, on the contrary, a sufficient majority of the states should declare their opinion, that the constitution gave congress authority to pass these laws, the constitutional question would still be settled; but an attempt might be made so to amend the constitution, as to take from congress this authority, which in our opinion was so pernicious and dangerous.

He then concluded by saying, that something must be done: the people were not satisfied: they expected that this legislature would adopt some measure on this subject: that the constitution of the United States was the basis of public tranquility; the pledge of the sovereignty of the states, and of the liberties of the people. But, said he, this basis of public tranquility, this pledge of liberty and security is but a name, a mere phantom, unless it be strictly observed. It became our duty to watch attentively, to see that it was not violated; to see that it was equally observed by those who govern, and by those who are destined to obey. To attack the constitution was an offence against society; and if those guilty of it were invested with authority, they added to the offence a perfidious abuse of the power with which they were entrusted. It was our duty, said he, to suppress this abuse with our utmost vigor and vigilance. It was strange to see a free constitution openly and boldly attacked by those who were put in power under it. It was generally by silent and slow attacks, that free governments had progressively changed, till very little of their original texture and principles remained: that the doctrine of implication had introduced innovations, under the influence and operation of which, the freest governments had been enslaved. It was our duty to guard against innovations. The people of Virginia had been attentive to this subject. The petitions and remonstrances, which had been read to the committee, proved that the people were seriously alarmed at the innovations of the federal government. He said they proved more: they proved that the people thought that their servants, in the administration of the federal government, were not even modest enough to wait the increase of their power by progressive change. That their ambition exceeded the resources of the doctrine of implication: that their thirst of power could not be satiated, but by a direct attack upon the constitution, and a prostration of the great rights of the people. He said, this apprehension of the people, which he thought just, would be satisfied. He thought the mode proposed by the resolutions was most likely to effect this purpose; as well as other important purposes. He said, if they who were the representatives of the people, would not act for them when called upon, the people will speak for themselves; and as the voice of God, they would be heard. He hoped this final and dreadful appeal would never be necessary. He preferred the resolutions, and hoped they would be adopted by the committee. ..

Related: The Sedition Act of 1918 signed into law by Progressive President Thomas Woodrow Wilson

During World War I, libel laws surfaced again. The Sedition Act of 1918was part of an amendment to the Espionage Act, created in 1917 to prohibit “false statements” that might “impede military success.”

The revisions prohibited not only public criticism of the government, but also forbade “any abusive language about … the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States, or the flag of the United States, or the uniform of the Army or Navy.”

It extended further to target any person who displayed the flag of an enemy country, or attempted to curb the production of goods needed for war. Both the Espionage Act and Sedition Act were repealed in 1921.

Because the Sedition Acts of 1798 and 1918 were each in effect only for three years, neither was ever challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the 1964 case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prevented a public official from charging a fine for libel, “unless �actual malice’—knowledge that statements are false or in reckless disregard of the truth—is alleged and proved.”

The Court took this opportunity to officially declare the Sedition Act of 1798, which had expired over 150 years earlier, unconstitutional: “the Act, because of the restraint it imposed upon criticism of government and public officials, was inconsistent with the First Amendment.”

Justice William Brennan quoted James Madison, stating, “The censorial power is in the people over the Government, and not in the Government over the people.”

Text of Act(s)

An act in addition to the act entitled, “An act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States.”

[Approved July 14, 1798.]

ABSTRACT.

SECTION I. Punishes combinations against United States government.

1. Definition of offence:
Unlawfully to combine or conspire together to oppose any measure of the government of the United States, &c. This section was not complained of.

2. Grade of offence:
A high misdemeanour.

3. Punishment:
Fine not exceeding $5000, and imprisonment six months to five years.

SECTION II. Punishes seditious writings.
1. Definition of offence:

To write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame, or bring either into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against either the hatred of the people of the United States, or to stir up sedition, or to excite unlawful combinations against the government, or to resist it, or to aid or encourage hostile designs of foreign nations.

2. Grade of offence:
A misdemeanour.
3. Punishment:
Fine not exceeding $2000, and imprisonment not exceeding two years.

SECTION III. Allows accused to give in evidence the truth of the matter charged as libellous.

SECTION IV. Continues the Act to 3d March, 1801.


SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled. That if any persons shall unlawfully combine or conspire together, with intent to oppose any measure or measures of the government of the United States, which are or shall be directed by proper authority, or to impede the operation of any law of the United States, or to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in or under the government of the United States, from undertaking, performing, or executing his trust or duty: and if any person or persons, with intent as aforesaid, shall counsel, advise, or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanour, and on conviction before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment during a term of not less than six months, nor exceeding five years; and further, at the discretion of the court, may be holden to find sureties for his good behaviour, in such sum, and for such time, as the said court may direct.

SECT. 2. And be it further enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter, or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered, or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering, or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either House of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either House of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States; or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the Constitution of the United States; or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act; or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against the United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.

SECT. 3. And be it further enacted and declared, That if any person shall be prosecuted under this act for the writing or publishing any libel aforesaid, it shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give in evidence in his defence, the truth of the matter contained in the publication charged as a libel. And the jury who shall try the cause shall have a right to determine the law and the fact, under the direction of the court, as in other cases.

SECT. 4. And be it further enacted, That this act shall continue and be in force until the third day of March, one thousand eight hundred and one, and no longer: Provided, That the expiration of the act shall not prevent or defeat a prosecution and punishment of any offence against the law, during the time it shall be in force.

See also:
Constitution of the United States and it’s Governmental Operations (In Plain English)
The Importance of the Freedom of the Press; by Senator Ebenezer Mack (1791-1849)
THE LIBERTY OF THE PRESS by Charles F. Partington 1836
George Mason of Virginia the Father of the Declaration of Independence
A REPUBLIC! A LIVING BREATHING CONSTITUTION DEFINED! by Alphonse De Lamartine 1790-1869
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Powers delegated to the General Government in the Federal Constitution
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The mode of obtaining redress for infringement of civil or political rights by officers of the government
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Liberty of Speech and of the Press
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Law of Libel in relation to Public Officers
Sources:
1. http://www.history.com
2. http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/sedition/
3. “Resolutions of Virginia and Kentucky” by James Madison, Thomas Jefferson
4. http://www.constitution.org/rf/sedition_1798.htm

Governments Corrupted By Vice and Restored By Virtue: by Samuel Langdon 1775

corruption3Samuel Langdon Biography

This eminent man, celebrated alike for his piety and sterling patriotism, was born at Boston, Massachusetts. Through the exertions of his friends, who discovered in him a desire to obtain a liberal education, he was entered at Harvard College, from which institution he graduated with credit in 1740. From college he went to Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, where he was employed to take charge of a grammar school until 1745, at which time he was invited to preach in the First Church, as assistant to Mr. Fitch. Two years after, he was ordained, and from this time until the commencement of the difficulties between England and her colonies, he continued an active laborer for the cause of the church.

Dr. Langdon was a very zealous Whig. His bold and open opposition to the measures of the British government, rendered him highly acceptable to the patriots of New England, and through the influence of John Hancock and others, he was, in 1774, installed as successor of Mr. Locke in the presidency of Harvard College. When he took the chair it gave great delight to the sons of liberty; and in 1775, a month after the commencement of the war, he was chosen to preach the election sermon. This effort will be found in the following pages.

President Langdon’s connection with the college did not prove of the most satisfactory character. His administration was a perpetual struggle with difficulties and embarrassments, amid the dangers of civil war and the excitement of a political revolution. He wanted judgment, and had no spirit of government. He did not receive that respect and kindness from the students and others connected with the college, that were due his character as a scholar and a Christian. Under these circumstances he resigned the presidency, and in 1781, became the pastor of a church at Hampton Falls, near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1788 he preached the election sermon at Concord, and the same year occupied a seat in the New Hampshire Convention, in which body he took an active part, and had an extensive influence in removing the prejudices which prevailed against the Federal Constitution. At the age of seventy-four, on the twenty-ninth of November, 1794, he closed a life well spent, beloved for his piety, hospitality, and good-will to his fellow-men.

Governments Corrupted By Vice and Restored By Virtue:  by Dr. Samuel Langdon 1775; Before the Honorable Congress of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay. Assembled at Watertown, 31st Day of May, 1775. Being the Anniversary fixed by CHARTER for the Election of Counsellors;

References: The patriot preachers of the American Revolution, The Pulpit of the American Revolution, The God of Our Fathers, and The Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution by Frank Moore, John W. Thornton, George Duffield, Jr., and Joel T. Headley  respectfully.

“The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs
in the affairs of men.”—Benjamin Franklin.

Background of the oration:

From one of the sources of information on this topic, “it occurred to us, would be the sermons that had been delivered on other National Fast Days. Many such being just at our hand, we turned them over with no little interest and curiosity. The more we “touched the bones of the prophets,” the more we felt that virtue came out of them.

“Faithful men,” indeed, were those old Fathers, to whom the Gospel in all its relations, both temporal and eternal, might be most safely entrusted! Though a reward was offered for their heads, they preached; though a Tory party in the Church might wish to keep them quiet, still they preached; though their brethren not infrequently found vehement fault with them for so doing, yet, the Word of God “burning like a fire in their bones,” they could not do otherwise than preach. The Chinese idea which so many have been endeavoring to inculcate of late, that “to speak of politics is to be guilty of death,” by such men as Mayhew, Witherspoon, Emmons, &c, would have been laughed to scorn!” Dumb dogs that cannot bark,” could not be said of them, any more than of Calvin, and Knox, and the staunch old English Puritans! Thank God that such men lived on this side of the Atlantic, as well as the other!

There is no excuse for us if we do not try, at least, to imitate their example. If ever the pulpit is to regain that influence which it has lost in our land, it must be by preaching occasionally such sermons as the following Dr. Langdon”

Dr. Samuel Langdon was moderator of the annual convention of the ministers, held, by special invitation of the Provincial Congress, at Watertown, June 1st, following election-day, when he signed the following letter:

“To the Hon. Joseph Warren, Esq., President of the Provincial Congress of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay, etc.

“Sir : — We, the pastors of the Congregational churches of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay, in our present annual convention,”— at Watertown, June 1, 1775, — ” gratefully beg leave to express the sense we have of the regard shown by the Honorable Provincial Congress to us, and the encouragement they have been pleased to afford to our assembling as a body this day. Deeply impressed with sympathy for the distresses of our much-injured and oppressed country, we are not a little relieved in beholding the representatives of this people, chosen by their free and unbiased suffrages, now met to concert measures for their relief and defence, in whose wisdom and integrity, under the smiles of Divine Providence, we cannot but express our entire confidence.

“As it has been found necessary to raise an army for the common safety, and our brave countrymen have so willingly offered themselves to this hazardous service, we are not insensible of the vast burden that their necessary maintenance must”—devolve —”upon the people. We therefore cannot forbear, upon this occasion, to offer our services to the public, and to signify our readiness, with the consent of our several congregations, to officiate, by rotation, as chaplains to the army.

“We devoutly commend the Congress, and our brethren in arms, to the guidance and protection of that Providence which, from the first settlement of this country, has so remarkably appeared for the preservation of its civil and religious rights.

“SAMUEL LANGDON, Moderator.”

Langdon was appointed to deliver the election sermon. By a special vote, Dr. Langdon’s Sermon was sent to each minister in the colony, and to each member of the Congress. The contest (the Revolutionary War) had then begun—blood had flowed at Lexington and Concord, and only three weeks before the battle of Bunker Hill had been fought. Boston was in possession of the British, and the Colonial Congress assembled at Harvard. There was no election of Councillors, but it was the anniversary of the day fixed by charter for the election. The Congress was perplexed and ignorant what course to adopt. His Majesty’s Governor was not there, neither would they elect a Council for His Majesty; and yet Congress had taken no decided steps toward the inauguration of an independent government.

Nevertheless until things assumed more definite shape they would fulfill, as far as they were concerned, the conditions of the Charter. They therefore met on the appointed day, and listened to a sermon from the learned Dr. Langdon.

He took for his text Isaiah, 1. 26: “And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsel as at the beginning. Afterward thou shalt be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.” Nothing could be more appropriate than this text. It shows in what perfect harmony the pulses of the clergy and the people beat. The latter did not now need any instruction as to their rights, or appeals to assert them. They had already asserted them at the point of the bayonet. The die was cast, and every one asked what would the end be. The capital was in the hands of the brutal soldiery, and the patriots were driven from their homes which they might never see again. In such a crisis, in such a state of feeling, how beautiful, how appropriate and encouraging is this full, rich promise.

The Sermon: “Shall we rejoice, my fathers and brethren, or shall we weep together, on the return of this anniversary, which from the first settlement of this colony has been sacred to liberty, to perpetuate that invaluable privilege of choosing, from among ourselves, wise men, fearing God, and hating covetousness, to be honorable counselors, to constitute one essential branch of that happy government which was established on the faith of royal charters?

On this day, the people have from year to year assembled, from all our towns, in a vast congregation, with gladness and festivity, with every ensign of joy displayed in our metropolis, which now, alas I is made a garrison of mercenary troops, the stronghold of despotism. But how shall I now address you from this desk, remote from the capital, and remind you of the important business which distinguished this day in our calendar, without spreading a gloom over this assembly, by exhibiting the melancholy change made in the face of our public affairs?

We have lived to see the time when British liberty is just ready to expire; when that constitution of government which has so long been the glory and strength of the English nation, is deeply undermined and ready to tumble into ruins;—when America is threatened with cruel oppression, and the arm of power is stretched out against New England, and especially against this colony, to compel us to submit to the arbitrary acts of legislators who are not our representatives, and who will not themselves bear the least part of the burdens which, without mercy, they are laying upon us. The most formal and solemn grants of kings to our ancestors are deemed by our oppressors as of little value, and they have mutilated the charter of this colony in the most essential parts, upon false representations, and new invented maxims of policy, without the least regard to any legal process. We are no longer permitted to fix our eyes on the faithful of the land, and trust in the wisdom of their counsels, and the equity of their judgment; but men in whom we can have no confidence, whose principles are subversive of our liberties, whose aim is to exercise lordship over us, and share among themselves the public wealth; men who are ready to serve any master, and execute the most unrighteous decrees for high wages, whoso faces we never saw before, and whose interests and connections may be far divided from us by the wide Atlantic, are to be set over us as counselors and judges, at the pleasure of those who have the riches and power of the nation in their hands, and whose noblest plan is to subjugate the colonies first, and then the whole nation to their will.

corruption4That we might not have it in our power to refuse the most absolute submission to their unlimited claims of authority, they have not only endeavored to terrify us with fleets and armies sent to our capital, and distressed and put an end to our trade, particularly that important branch of it, the fishery(fn1), but at length attempted, by a sudden march of a body of troops in the night, to seize and destroy one of our magazines, formed by the people merely for their own security; if, as after such formidable military preparation on the other side, matters should not be pushed to an extremity. By this, as might well be expected, a skirmish was brought on; and it is most evident, from a variety of concurring circumstances, as well as numerous depositions, both of the prisoners taken by us at that time, and our men then on the spot only as spectators, that the fire began first on the side of the king’s troops. At least five or six of our inhabitants were murderously killed by the regulars at Lexington, before any man attempted to return the fire, and when they were actually complying with the command to disperse; and two more of our brethren were likewise killed at Concord Bridge by a fire from the king’s soldiers, before(fn2) the engagement began on our side. But whatever credit falsehoods transmitted to Great Britain from the other side may gain, the matter may be rested entirely on this—that ho that arms himself to commit a robbery, and demands the traveler’s purse, by the terror of instant death, is the first aggressor, though the other should take the advantage of discharging his pistol first and killing the robber.

The alarm was sudden; but in a very short time spread far and wide; the nearest neighbors in haste ran together to assist their brethren, and save their country. Not more than three or four hundred met in season, and bravely attacked and repulsed the enemies of liberty, who retreated with great precipitation. But by the help of a strong reinforcement, notwithstanding a close pursuit, and continual loss on their side, they acted the part of robbers and savages, by burning(fn3), plundering, and damaging almost every house in their way, to the utmost of their power, murdering the unarmed and helpless, and not regarding the weakness of the tender sex, until they had secured themselves beyond the reach of our terrifying arms. (fn4)

That ever memorable day, the nineteenth of April, is the date of an unhappy war openly begun, by the ministers of the king of Great Britain, against his good subjects in this colony, and implicitly against all the colonies. But for what! Because they have made a noble stand for their natural and constitutional rights, in opposition to the machinations of wicked men, who are betraying their royal master, establishing Popery in the British dominions, and aiming to enslave and ruin the whole nation, that they may enrich themselves and their vile dependents with the public treasures, and the spoils of America.

“We have used our utmost endeavors, by repeated humble petitions and remonstrances—by a series of unanswerable reasonings published from the press, in which the dispute has been fairly stated, and the justice of our opposition clearly demonstrated—and by the mediation of some of the noblest and most faithful friends of the British constitution, who have powerfully pleaded our cause in Parliament—to prevent such measures as may soon reduce the body politic to a miserable, dismembered, dying trunk, though lately the terror of all Europe. But our king, as if impelled by some strange fatality, is resolved to reason with us only by the roar of his cannon, and the pointed arguments of muskets and bayonets. Because we refuse submission to the despotic power of a ministerial Parliament, our own sovereign, to whom we have been always ready to swear true allegiance— whoso authority we never meant to cast off—who might have continued happy in cheerful obedience, as faithful subjects as any in his dominions—has given us up to the rage of his ministers, to be seized at sea by the rapacious commanders of every little sloop of war and piratical cutter, and to be plundered and massacred by land by mercenary troops, who know no distinction betwixt an enemy and a brother, between right and wrong; but only, like brutal pursuers, to hunt and seize the prey pointed out by their masters.

We must keep our eyes fixed on the supreme government of the ETERNAL KING, as directing all events, setting up or pulling down the kings of the earth at his pleasure, suffering the best forms of human government to degenerate and go to ruin by corruption; or restoring the decayed constitutions of kingdoms and states, by reviving public virtue and religion, and granting the favorable inter-positions of his providence. To this our text leads us; and though I hope to be excused on this occasion from a formal discourse on the words in a doctrinal way, yet I must not wholly pass over the religions instruction contained in them.

Let us consider—that for the sins of a people God may suffer the best government to be corrupted, or entirely dissolved; and that nothing but a general reformation can give ground to hope that the public happiness will be restored, by the recovery of the strength and perfection of the state, and that divine Providence will interpose to fill every department with wise and good men.

Isaiah prophesied about the time of the captivity of the ten tribes of Israel, and about a century before the captivity of Judah. The kingdom of Israel was brought to destruction, because its iniquities were full; its counselors and judges were wholly taken away, because there remained no hope of reformation. But the scepter did not entirely depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, till the Messiah came; yet greater and greater changes took place in their political affairs; their government degenerated in proportion as their vices increased, till few faithful men were left in any public offices; and, at length, when they were delivered up for seventy years into the hands of the king of Babylon, scarce any remains of their original excellent civil polity appeared among them.

The Jewish government, according to the original constitution which was divinely established, if considered merely in a civil view, was a perfect republic. The heads of their tribes, and elders of their cities, were their counselors and judges. They called the people together in more general or particular assemblies, took their opinions, gave advice, and managed the public affairs according to the general voice. Counselors and judges comprehend all the powers of that government, for there was no such thing as as legislative authority belonging to it, — their complete code of laws being given immediately from God by the hand of Moses. And let them who cry up the divine right of kings consider that the only form of government which had a proper claim to a divine establishment was so far from including the idea of a king, that it was a high crime for Israel to ask to be in this respect like other nations; and when they were gratified, it was rather as a just punishment of their folly, that they might feel the burdens of court pageantry, of which they were warned by a very striking description, than as a divine recommendation of kingly authority. Every nation, when able and agreed, has a right to set up over themselves any form of government which to them may appear most conducive to their common welfare.(fn5) The civil polity of Israel is doubtless an excellent general model, allowing for some peculiarities; at least, some principal laws and orders of it may be copied to great advantage in more modern establishments.

When a government is in its prime, the public good engages the attention of the whole; the strictest regard is paid to the qualifications of those who hold the offices of the state; virtue prevails; everything is managed with justice, prudence, and frugality; the laws are founded on principles of equity rather than mere policy, and all the people are happy. But vice will increase with the riches and glory of an empire; and this gradually tends to corrupt the constitution, and in time bring on its dissolution. This may be considered not only as the natural effect of vice, but a righteous judgment of Heaven, especially upon a nation which has been favored with the blessings of religion and liberty, and is guilty of undervaluing them, and eagerly going into the gratification of every lust.

In this chapter the prophet describes the very corrupt state of Judah in his day, both as to religion and common morality, and looks forward to that increase of wickedness which would bring on their desolation and captivity. They were “a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that were corrupters, who had forsaken the Lord, and provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger.” The whole body of the nation, from head to foot, was full of moral and political disorders, without any remaining soundness. Their religion was all mere ceremony and hypocrisy ; and even the laws of common justice and humanity were disregarded in their public courts. They had counselors and judges, but very different from those at the beginning of the commonwealth. Their princes were rebellious against God and the constitution of their country, and companions of thieves, — giving countenance to every artifice for seizing the property of the subjects into their own hands, and robbing the public treasury. Every one loved gifts, and followed after rewards ; they regarded the perquisites more than the duties of their office; the general aim was at profitable places and pensions; they were influenced in everything by bribery; and their avarice and luxury were never satisfied, but hurried them on to all kinds of oppression and violence, so that they even justified and encouraged the murder of innocent persons to support their lawless power and increase their wealth. And God, in righteous judgment, left them to run into all this excess of vice, to their own destruction, because they had forsaken him, and were guilty of willful inattention to the most essential parts of that religion which had been given them by a well-attested revelation from heaven.

The Jewish nation could not but see and feel the unhappy consequences of so great corruption of the state. Doubtless they complained much of men in power, and very heartily and liberally reproached them for their notorious misconduct. The public greatly suffered, and the people groaned and wished for better rulers and better management; but in vain they hoped for a change of men and measures and better times when the spirit of religion was gone, and the infection of vice was become universal. The whole body being so corrupted, there could be no rational prospect of any great reformation in the state, but rather of its ruin, which accordingly came on in Jeremiah’s time. Yet if a general reformation of religion and morals had taken place, and they had turned to God from all their sins, — if they had again recovered the true spirit of their religion, — God, by the gracious interpositions of his providence, would soon have found out methods to restore the former virtue of the state, and again have given them men of wisdom and integrity, according to their utmost wish, to be counsellors and judges. This was verified in fact after the nation had been purged by a long captivity, and returned to their own land humbled and filled with zeal for God and his law.

By all this we may be led to consider the true cause of the present remarkable troubles which are come upon Great Britain and these colonies, and the only effectual remedy.

We have rebelled against God. We have lost the true spirit of Christianity, though we retain the outward profession and form of it. We have neglected and set light by the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his holy commands and institutions. The worship of many is but mere compliment to the Deity, while their hearts are far from him. By many the gospel is corrupted into a superficial system of moral philosophy, little better than ancient Platonism; and, after all the pretended refinements of moderns in the theory of Christianity, very little of the pure practice of it is to be found among those who once stood foremost in the profession of the gospel. In a general view of the present moral state of Great Britain it may be said, “There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery,” their wickedness breaks out, and one murder after another is committed, under the connivance and encouragement even of that authority by which such crimes ought to be punished, that the purposes of oppression and despotism may be answered. As they have increased, so have they sinned; therefore God is changing their glory into shame. The general prevalence of vice has changed the whole face of things in the British government.

The excellency of the constitution has been the boast of Great Britain and the envy of neighboring nations. In former times the great departments of the state, and the various places of trust and authority, were filled with men of wisdom, honesty, and religion, who employed all their powers, and were ready to risk their fortunes and their lives, for the public good. They were faithful counselors to kings; directed their authority and majesty to the happiness of the nation, and opposed every step by which despotism endeavored to advance. They were fathers of the people, and sought the welfare and prosperity of the whole body. They did not exhaust the national wealth by luxury and bribery, or convert it to their own private benefit or the maintenance of idle, useless officers and dependents, but improved it faithfully for the proper purposes — for the necessary support of government and defence of the kingdom. Their laws were dictated by wisdom and equality, and justice was administered with impartiality. Religion discovered its general influence among all ranks, and kept out great corruptions from places of power.

But in what does the British nation now glory? — In a mere shadow of its ancient political system, — in titles of dignity without virtue, — in vast public treasures continually lavished in corruption till every fund is exhausted, notwithstanding the mighty streams perpetually flowing in,— in the many artifices to stretch the prerogatives of the crown beyond all constitutional bounds, and make the king an absolute monarch, while the people are deluded with a mere phantom of liberty. What idea must we entertain of that great government, if such a one can be found, which pretends to have made an exact counterbalance of power between the sovereign, the nobles and the commons, so that the three branches shall be an effectual check upon each other, and the united wisdom of the whole shall conspire to promote the national felicity, but which, in reality, is reduced to such a situation that it may be managed at the sole will of one court favorite? What difference is there betwixt one(fn6) man’s choosing, at his own pleasure, by his single vote, the majority of those who are to represent the people, and his purchasing in such a majority, according to his own nomination, with money out of the public treasury, or other effectual methods of influencing elections? And what shall we say if, in the same manner, by places, pensions, and other bribes, a minister of the crown can at any time gain over a nobler majority likewise to be entirely subservient to his purposes, and, moreover, persuade his royal master to resign himself up wholly to the direction of his counsels? If this should be the case of any nation, from one seven years’ end to another, the bargain and sale being made sure for such a period, would they still have reason to boast of their excellent constitution?(fn7) Ought they not rather to think it high time to restore the corrupted, dying state to its original perfection? I will apply this to the Roman senate under Julius Caesar, which retained all its ancient formalities, but voted always only as Caesar dictated. If the decrees of such a senate were urged on the Romans, as fraught with all the blessings of Roman liberty, we must suppose them strangely deluded if they were persuaded to believe it.

corruption2The pretense for taxing America has been that the nation contracted an immense debt for the defence of the American colonies, and that, as they are now able to contribute some proportion towards the discharge of this debt, and must be considered as part of the nation, it is reasonable they should be taxed, and the Parliament has a right to tax and govern them, in all cases whatever, by its own supreme authority. Enough has been already published on this grand controversy, which now threatens a final separation of the colonies from Great Britain. But can the amazing national debt be paid by a little trifling sum, squeezed from year to year out of America, which is continually drained of all its cash by a restricted trade with the parent country, and which in this way is taxed to the government of Britain in a very large proportion? Would it not be much superior wisdom, and sounder policy, for a distressed kingdom to retrench the vast unnecessary expenses continually incurred by its enormous vices; to stop the prodigious sums paid in pensions, and to numberless officers, without the least advantage to the public; to reduce the number of devouring servants in the great family; to turn their minds from the pursuit of pleasure and the boundless luxuries of life to the important interests of their country and the salvation of the commonwealth? Would not a reverend regard to the authority of divine revelation, a hearty belief of the, gospel of the grace of God, and a general reformation of all those vices which bring misery and ruin upon individuals, families, and kingdoms, and which have provoked Heaven to bring the nation into such perplexed and dangerous circumstances, be the surest way to recover the sinking state, and make it again rich and flourishing? Millions might annually be saved if the kingdom were generally and thoroughly reformed; and the public debt, great as it is, might in a few years be cancelled by a growing revenue, which now amounts to full ten millions per annum, without laying additional burdens on any of the subjects. But the demands of corruption are constantly increasing, and will forever exceed all the resources of wealth which the wit of man can invent or tyranny impose.

Into what fatal policy has the nation been impelled, by its public vices, to wage a cruel war with its own children in these colonies, only to gratify the lust of power and the demands of extravagance! May God, in his great mercy, recover Great Britain from this fatal infatuation, show them their errors, and give them a spirit of reformation, before it is too late to avert impending destruction! May the eyes of the king be opened to see the ruinous tendency of the measures into which he has been led, and his heart inclined to treat his American subjects with justice and clemency, instead of forcing them still further to the last extremities! God grant some method may be found out to effect a happy reconciliation, so that the colonies may again enjoy the protection of their sovereign, with perfect security of all their natural rights and civil and religious liberties.

But, alas! have not the sins of America, and of New England in particular, had a hand in bringing down upon us the righteous judgments of Heaven? Wherefore is all this evil come upon us? Is it not because we have forsaken the Lord? Can we say we are innocent of crimes against God? No, surely. It becomes us to humble ourselves under his mighty hand, that he may exalt us in due time. However unjustly and cruelly we have been treated by man, we certainly deserve, at the hand of God, all the calamities in which we are now involved. Have we not lost much of that spirit of genuine Christianity which so remarkably appeared in our ancestors, for which God distinguished them with the signal favors of providence when they fled from tyranny and persecution into this western desert? Have we not departed from their virtues? Though I hope and am confident that as much true religion, agreeable to the purity and simplicity of the gospel, remains among us as among any people in the world, yet, in the midst of the present great apostasy of the nations professing Christianity, have not we likewise been guilty of departing from the living God? Have we not made light of the gospel of salvation, and too much affected the cold, formal, fashionable religion of countries grown old in vice, and overspread with infidelity? Do not our follies and iniquities testify against us? Have we not, especially in our seaports, gone much too far into the pride and luxuries of life? Is it not a fact, open to common observation, that profaneness, intemperance, unchastity, the love of pleasure, fraud, avarice, and other vices, are increasing among us from year to year? And have not even these young governments been in some measure infected with the corruptions of European courts? Has there been no flattery, no bribery, no artifices practiced, to get into places of honor and profit, or carry a vote to serve a particular interest, without regard to right or wrong? Have our statesmen always acted with integrity, and every judge with impartiality, in the fear of God? In short, have all ranks of men showed regard to the divine commands, and joined to promote the Redeemer’s kingdom and the public welfare? I wish we could more fully justify ourselves in all these respects. If such sins have not been so notorious, among us as in older countries, we must nevertheless remember that the sins of a people who have been remarkable for the profession of godliness, are more aggravated by all the advantages and favors they have enjoyed, and will receive more speedy and signal punishment; as God says of Israel: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2)

The judgments now come upon us are very heavy and distressing, and have fallen with peculiar weight on our capital, where, notwithstanding the plighted honor of the chief commander of the hostile troops, many of our brethren are still detained, as if they were captives;(fn8) and those that have been released have left the principal part of their substance, which is withheld, by arbitrary orders, contrary to an express treaty, to be plundered by the army.(fn9)

Let me address you in the words of the prophet: “O Israel! return unto the Lord thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” My brethren, let us repent, and implore the divine mercy; let us amend our ways and our doings, reform everything which has been provoking to the Most High, and thus endeavor to obtain the gracious interpositions of Providence for our deliverance.

If true religion is revived by means of these public calamities, and again prevails among us, — if it appears in our religious assemblies, in the conduct of our civil affairs, in our armies, in our families, in all our business and conversation, — we may hope for the direction and blessing of the Most High, while we are using our best endeavors to preserve and restore the civil government of this colony, and defend America from slavery.

Our late happy government is changed into the terrors of military execution. Our firm opposition to the establishment of an arbitrary system is called rebellion, and we are to expect no mercy, but to yield property and life at discretion. This we are resolved at all events not to do, and therefore we have taken up arms in our own defence, and all the colonies are united in the great cause of liberty.

But how shall we live while civil government is dissolved? What shall we do without counselors and judges? A state of absolute anarchy is dreadful. Submission to the tyranny of hundreds of imperious masters, firmly embodied against us, and united in the same cruel design of disposing of our lives and subsistence at their pleasure, and making their own will our law in all cases whatsoever, is the vilest slavery, and worse than death.

Thanks be to God that he has given us, as men, natural rights, independent on all human laws whatever, and that these rights are recognized by the grand charter of British liberties. By the law of nature, any body of people, destitute of order and government, may form themselves into a civil society, according to their best prudence, and so provide for their common safety and advantage. When one form is found by the majority not to answer the grand purpose in any tolerable degree, they may, by common consent, put an end to it and set up another, — only, as all such great changes are attended with difficulty and danger of confusion, they ought not to be attempted without urgent necessity, which will be determined always by the general voice of the wisest and best members of the community.

Corruption1If the great servants of the public forget their duty, betray their trust, and sell their country, or make war against the most valuable rights and privileges of the people, reason and justice require that they should be discarded, and others appointed in their room, without any regard to formal resignations of their forfeited power.

It must be ascribed to some supernatural influence on the minds of the main body of the people through this extensive continent, that they have so universally adopted the method of managing the important matters necessary to preserve among them a free government by corresponding committees and congresses, consisting of the wisest and most disinterested patriots in America, chosen by the unbiased suffrages of the people assembled for that purpose in their several towns, counties, and provinces. So general agreement, through so many provinces of so large a country, in one mode of self-preservation, is unexampled in any history; and the effect has exceeded our most sanguine expectations. Universal tumults, and all the irregularities and violence of mobbish factions, naturally arise when legal authority ceases. But how little of this has appeared in the midst of the late obstructions of civil government! — nothing more than what has often happened in Great Britain and Ireland, in the face of the civil powers in all their strength; nothing more than what is frequently seen in the midst of the perfect regulations of the great city of London; and, may I not add, nothing more than has been absolutely necessary to carry into execution the spirited resolutions of a people too sensible to deliver themselves up to oppression and slavery. The judgment and advice of the continental assembly of delegates have been as readily obeyed as if they were authentic acts of a long-established Parliament. And in every colony the votes of a congress have had equal effect with the laws of great and general courts.

It is now ten months since(fn10) this colony has been deprived of the benefit of that government which was so long enjoyed by charter. They have had no General Assembly formatters of legislation and the public revenue; the courts of justice have been shut up,(fn11) and almost the whole executive power has ceased to act; yet order among the people has been remarkably preserved. Few crimes have been committed, punishable by the judge; even former contentions betwixt one neighbor and another have ceased; nor have fraud and rapine taken advantage of the imbecility of the civil powers.

The necessary preparations for the defence of our liberties required not only the collected wisdom and strength of the colony, but an immediate, cheerful application of the wealth of individuals to the public service, in due proportion, or a taxation which depended on general consent. Where was the authority to vote, collect, or receive the large sums required, and make provision for the utmost extremities? A Congress succeeded to the honors of a General Assembly as soon as the latter was crushed by the hand of power. It gained all the confidence of the people. Wisdom and prudence secured all that the laws of the former constitution could have given; and we now observe with astonishment an army of many thousands of well-disciplined troops suddenly assembled, and abundantly furnished with all necessary supplies, in defence of the liberties of America.

But is it proper or safe for the colony to continue much longer in such imperfect order? Must it not appear rational and necessary, to every man that understands the various movements requisite to good government, that the many parts should be properly settled, and every branch of the legislative and executive authority restored to that order and vigor on which the life and health of the body politic depend? To the honorable gentlemen now met in this new congress as the fathers of the people, this weighty matter must be referred. Who knows but in the midst of all the distresses of the present war to defeat the attempts of arbitrary power, God may in mercy restore to us our judges as at the first, and our counselors as at the beginning?

On your wisdom, religion, and public spirit, honored gentlemen, we depend, to determine what may be done as to the important matter of reviving the form of government, and settling all necessary affairs relating to it in the present critical state of things, that we may again have law and justice, and avoid the danger of anarchy and confusion. May God be with you, and by the influences of his Spirit direct all your counsels and resolutions for the glory of his name and the safety and happiness of this colony. We have great reason to acknowledge with thankfulness the evident tokens of the Divine presence with the former congress, that they were led to foresee present exigencies, and make such effectual provision for them. It is our earnest prayer to the Father of Lights that he would irradiate your minds, make all your way plain, and grant you may be happy instruments of many and great blessings to the people by whom you are constituted, to New England, and all the united colonies. Let us praise our God(fn12) for the advantages already given us over the enemies of liberty, particularly that they have been so dispirited by repeated experience of the efficacy of our arms; and that, in the late action at Chelsea, when several hundreds of our soldiery, the greater part open to the fire of so many cannon, swivels, and muskets, from a battery advantageously situated,—from two armed cutters, and many barges full of marines, and from ships of the line in the harbor, — not one man on our side was killed, and but two or three wounded; when, by the best intelligence, a great number were killed and wounded on the other side, and one of their cutters was taken and burnt, the other narrowly escaping with great damage.(fn13)

If God be for us, who can be against us? The enemy has reproached us for calling on his name, and professing our trust in him. They have made a mock of our solemn fasts, and every appearance of serious Christianity in the land. On this account, by way of contempt, they call us saints; and that they themselves may keep at the greatest distance from this character, their mouths are full of horrid blasphemies, cursing, and bitterness, and vent all the rage of malice and barbarity. And may we not be confident that the Most High, who regards these things, will vindicate his own honor, and plead our righteous cause against such enemies to his government, as well as our liberties? O, may our camp be free from every accursed thing! May our land be purged from all its sins! May we be truly a holy people, and all our towns cities of righteousness!

Then the Lord will be our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, and we shall have no reason to be afraid though thousands of enemies set themselves against us round about, — though all nature should be thrown into tumults and convulsions. He can command the stars in their courses to fight his battles, and all the elements to wage war with his enemies. He can destroy them with innumerable plagues, or send faintness into their hearts, so that the men of might shall not find their hands. In a variety of methods he can work salvation for us, as he did for his people in-ancient days, and according to the many remarkable deliverances granted in former times to Great Britain and New England when popish machinations threatened both countries with civil and ecclesiastical tyranny.(fn15)

May the Lord hear us in this day of trouble, and the name of the God of Jacob defend us, send us help from his sanctuary, and strengthen us out of Zion! We will rejoice in his salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. Let us look to him to fulfill all our petitions.”

About Samuel Langdon

This eminent man, celebrated alike for his piety and sterling patriotism, was born at Boston, Massachusetts. Through the exertions of his friends, who discovered in him a desire to obtain a liberal education, he was entered at Harvard College, from which institution he graduated with credit in 1740 (The same year in which Samuel Adams graduated). From college he went to Portsmouth, in Now Hampshire, where he was employed to take charge of a grammar school until 1745, at which time he was invited to preach in the First Church, as assistant to Mr. Fitch. Two years after, he was ordained, and from this time until the commencement of the difficulties between England and her colonies, he continued an active laborer for the cause of the church.

Dr. Langdon was a very zealous Whig. His bold and open opposition to the measures of the British government, rendered him highly acceptable to the patriots of New England, and through the influence of John Hancock and others, he was, in 1774, installed as successor of Mr. Locke in the presidency of Harvard College. When he took the chair it gave great delight to the sons of liberty; and in 1775, a month after the commencement of the war, he was chosen to preach the election sermon, as seen above. After an able administration, in a period of peculiar embarrassment, he resigned the presidency of the college.

President Langdon’s connection with the college did not prove of the most satisfactory character. His administration was a perpetual struggle with difficulties and embarrassments, amid the dangers of civil war and the excitement of a political revolution. He wanted judgment, and had no spirit of government. He did not receive that respect and kindness from the students and others connected with the college, that were due his character as a scholar and a Christian. Under these circumstances he resigned the presidency, and in 1781, became the pastor of a church at Hampton Falls, near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1788 he preached the election sermon at Concord, and the same year occupied a seat in the New Hampshire Convention, in which body he took an active part, and had an extensive influence in removing the prejudices which prevailed against the Federal Constitution, and was prominent in securing the adoption of it. At the age of seventy-four, on the twenty-ninth of November, 1794, he closed a life well spent, beloved for his piety, hospitality, and good-will to his fellow-men, revered for his private and public life.

Footnotes:

(fn1) Mr. Sabine’s learned “Report on the Principal Fisheries of the American Seas,” 1833, is an invaluable contribution to American history. It is essential to a correct knowledge of American colonization, and of much of our subsequent history.

(fn2) Mr. Frothingham presents the results of an able and conscientious study of these events in his ” History of the Siege of Boston,” — ” The best of our historic monographs.”— Bancroft in Allibone. See also Mr. Henry B.Dawson’s elaborate pages in “The Battles of the United States.”

(fn3) Rev. Isaac Mansfield, Jr., chaplain to General Thomas’s regiment, in his Thanksgiving Sermon ” in the camp at Roxbury, November 23, 1775,” says of the event of April 19th: “What but the hand of Providence preserved the school of the prophets from their ravage, who would have deprived us of many advantages for moral or religious improvement?” To this he adds the note following: ” General Gage, as governor of this province, issued his precepts for convening a General Assembly at Boston, designing to enforce a compliance with Lord North’s designing motion; they were to be kept as prisoners in garrison, till, under the mouth of cannon and at the point of the bayonet, they should be reduced to a mean and servile submission. To facilitate this matter, he was to send out a party to take possession of a magazine at Concord. Presuming that this might be done without opposition, the said party, upon their return from Concord, were to lay waste till they should arrive at Cambridge common; there, after destroying the colleges”— seminaries of sedition — ” and other buildings, they were to throw up an entrenchment upon the said common, their number was to be increased from the garrison, and the next morning a part of the artillery to be removed and planted in the entrenchment aforesaid. This astonishing manoeuvre, it was supposed, would so effectually intimidate the constituents, that the General Assembly, by the compliance designed, would literally represent their constituents.’ The author is not at liberty to publish the channel through which he received the foregoing, but begs to assure the reader that it came so direct that he cannot hesitate in giving credit to it. He recollects one circumstance which renders it highly probable: Lord Percy (on April 19), suspicious his progress to Concord might be retarded by the plank of the bridge at Cambridge being taken away, brought out from Boston several loads of plank, with a number of carpenters; not finding occasion to use them, he carried them on his way to Concord, perhaps about a mile and a half from the bridge; about an hour after the plank were returned. If he had intended to repass that river at night, he must have reserved the plank; if he designed to stop in Cambridge, the plank must be an encumbrance. This conduct, in returning the plank, may be accounted for upon supposition of the foregoing plan of operation.”

(fn4) Near the meeting-house in Menotomy (now West Cambridge) two aged helpless men, who had not been out in the action, and were found unarmed in a house where the regulars entered, were murdered without mercy. In another house in that neighborhood, a woman in bed with a new-born infant—about a week old—was forced by the threats of the soldiery to escape almost naked to an open outhouse; her house was then set on fire, but was soon extinguished by one of the children which had lain concealed till the enemy was gone. In Cambridge a man of weak mental powers, who went out to gaze at the regular army as they passed, without arms, or thought of danger, was wantonly shot at, and killed by those inhuman butchers, as he sat on a fence.

(fn5) “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; …. it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”—Dec. of Ind., July 4th, 1776.

(fn6) Mr. Burke, in his “Thoughts on the Present Discontents,” 1770, said: “The power of the crown, almost rotten and dead as prerogative, has grown up anew, with much more strength, and far less odium, under the name of influence,” intrigue, and favoritism; and a few years later he refers to the “not disavowed use which has been made of his Majesty’s name for the purpose of the most unconstitutional, corrupt, and dishonorable influence on the minds of the members of this Parliament that ever was practiced in this kingdom. No attention even to exterior decorum,” etc.

(fn7) This contemporary observation of the English government of that period shows the watchful eye of the colonists on the administration; and by it we can better appreciate their masterly conduct of public affairs, and their superiority over the British statesmen. England knew not her colonists, but she was known of them.

(fn8) One apology for this bad faith was, that if only Tory interests remained in Boston the patriots would fire the town. It occasioned extreme anxiety and suffering. — Frothingham, 93-90

(fn9) Soon alter the battle at Concord, General Gage stipulated, with the selectmen of Boston, that if the inhabitants would deliver up their arms, to be deposited in Fanuell Hall, and returned when circumstances would permit, they should have liberty to quit the town, and take with them their effects. They readily complied, but soon found themselves abused. With great difficulty, and very slowly, they obtain passes, but are forbidden to carry out anything besides household furniture and wearing apparel. Merchants and shopkeepers are obliged to leave behind all their merchandise, and even their cash is detained. Mechanics are not allowed to bring out the most necessary tools for their work. Not only their family stores of provisions are stopped, but it has been repeatedly and credibly affirmed that poor women and children have had the very smallest articles of this kind taken from them, which were necessary for their refreshment while they traveled a few miles to their friends; and that even from young children, in their mothers’ arms, the cruel soldiery have taken the morsel of bread given to prevent their crying, and thrown it away. How much better for the inhabitants to have resolved, at all hazards, to defend themselves by their arms against such an enemy, than suffer such shameful abuse!

(fn10) Since July 17, 1771, when the General Court at Salem closed the door against the secretary sent by Governor Gage to dissolve the Assembly, chose Thomas Gushing, Samuel Adams, Robert Treat Paine, James Bowdoin, and John Adams, delegates to a congress of the colonies, passed resolves, and separated. — Ed.

(fn11) The power of public opinion in preserving order and safety during the period from the time when the king’s courts and magistrates — all legal authority — ceased to act, till the accession of constitutional authority,— a phenomenon which excited the admiration of the world, — is finely illustrated in Mr. Freeman’s account of the proceedings in Barnstable county, “on the first Tuesday of September,” 1774. As there might be appeals from the Court of Common Pleas to the Superior Court, the Chief Justice of which, Hutchinson, had accepted a salary from the crown, the people suppressed the sessions of that court throughout the province, except in Boston, where they were not in power. Fifteen hundred of the people of Barnstable, Plymouth, and Bristol counties, thoroughly organized, met in front of the court-house, at Barnstable, and, through their conductor-in-chief, Dr. Nathaniel Freeman, of Sandwich, addressed Colonel Otis, the venerable Chief Justice: . . . “Our safety, all that is dear to us, and the welfare of unborn millions, have directed this movement to prevent the court from being opened or doing any business. We have taken all the consequences into consideration; we have weighed them well, and have formed this resolution, which we shall not rescind.” The Chief Justice then calmly but firmly replied: “This is a legal and a constitutional court; it has suffered no mutations; the juries have been drawn from the boxes as the law directs; and why would you interrupt its proceedings?—why do you make a leap before you get to the hedge?” Dr. Freeman responded: “All this has been considered. We do not appear out of any disrespect to this honorable court, nor do we apprehend that if you proceed to business you will do anything that we could censure. But, sir, from all the decisions of this court, of more than forty shillings’ amount, an appeal lies; an appeal to what? — to a court holding office during the king’s pleasure, —a court over which we have no control or influence, — a court paid out of the revenue that is extorted from us by the illegal and unconstitutional edict of foreign despotism, —and there the jury will be appointed by the sheriff. For this reason we have adopted this method of stopping the avenue through which business may otherwise pass to that tribunal, — well knowing that if they have no business they can do us no harm.” The Chief Justice then said: “As is my duty, I now, in his Majesty’s name, order you immediately to disperse, and give the court the opportunity to perform the business of the county.” Dr. Freeman replied: “We thank your Honor for having done TotK duty: We Shall Continue To Perform Ours.” The court then turned and repaired to the house where they had put up. This was supposed to be the first overt act of Treason, done deliberately, in the face of day. The solemnity and sense of right which governed the people, and which was a characteristic of the revolutionary period, was grandly exhibited in their code of regulations adopted on this occasion. We give their own words:

“Whereas a strict adherence to virtue and religion is not only well pleasing in the sight of Almighty God, and highly commendable before men, but hath a natural tendency to good order, and to lead mankind in the paths of light and truth:

“Therefore, Resolved, That we will . . . avoid all kinds of intemperance by strong liquors, and no otherwise frequent the taverns than for necessary entertainment and refreshment; that we will not swear profanely, or abuse our superiors, equals, or inferiors, by any ill or opprobrious language; that we will not invade the property of any, or take of their goods or estate without their leave or consent; that we will not offer violence to any persons, or use any threatening words, otherwise than such as shall be approved of and accounted necessary by our community for the accomplishing the errand we go upon; and that we will carefully observe an orderly, circumspect, and civil behavior, as well towards strangers and all others as towards those of our own fellowship.

“Resolved, That Messrs. Aaron Barlow, Nathaniel Briggs, James Foster, Joseph Haskell, 3d, John Doty, Judah Sears, Jr., Stephen Wing, and John Pitcher, be a committee to hear and determine all offenses against morality, decency, and good manners, that shall be complained of, . . . with power to call before them, examine, acquit, or punish, according to the nature and circumstances of the offence

“Resolved, That we will, during the time of our said enterprise, aid, protect, and support our said committee in the full and free discharge of their duty and office, and use our most careful endeavors for the punishment of all offenders.

“And, forasmuch as these our public transactions are of a public nature, and, as we apprehend, laudable; and as we have no private interest to serve, or anything in view but the good of our country and its common cause:

“Therefore, Voted, That these resolves be read once every day, at some convenient time and place, during our transitory state and temporary fellowship, — so that our righteousness may plead our cause, and bear a public testimony that we are neither friends to mobs, or riots, or any other wickedness or abomination.

“And, lastly, we Resolve, That we will yield all due respect and obedience to those persons whom we shall choose and appoint for our officers and leaders,” etc.— ” History of Cape Cod,” by Rev. Frederick Freeman, Boston, 1860; a work of great value and interest, of which chapters xix. xx. are additional to previous materials, and supply a passage in the moral history of the people the most difficult to be preserved.

Mr. Burke, in March, 1775, reflecting on this singular spectacle of a people remaining in perfect order without a public council, judges, or executive magistrates, said: “Obedience is what makes government, and not the names by which it is called; not the name of governor, as formerly, or committee, as at present.”

(fn12) Governor Gage, in his proclamation of June 12,1775, a few days after Dr. Langdon’s sermon was preached, said: “To complete the horrid profanation of terms and of ideas, the name of God has been introduced in the pulpits to excite and justify devastation and massacre.”

(fn13) This action was in the night following the twenty-seventh current, after our soldiery had been taking off the cattle from some islands in Boston harbor. By the best information we have been able to procure, about one hundred and five of the king’s troops were killed, and one hundred and sixty wounded, in the engagement.(fn14)

(fn14) Frothinghatn, pp. 109, 110, says this was magnified into a battle, and dwelt upon with great exultation throughout the colonies. The loss of the enemy was probably exaggerated. — Gordon, Letter xiv.

Mr. Mansfield, in his Thanksgiving Sermon at Roxbury, November 23, 1775, said: “Providence has likewise smiled upon the camp, in permitting so few fatal accidents, and evidently been its safeguard.” He says: “I am informed that by means of upwards two thousand balls that have been thrown from the opposite lines, five men only have been taken off.

(fn15) When we consider the late Canada Bill, which implies not merely a toleration of the Roman Catholic religion (which would be just and liberal), but a Arm establishment of it through that extensive province, now greatly enlarged to serve political purposes, by which means multitudes of people, subjects of Great Britain, which may hereafter settle that vast country, will be tempted, by all the attachments arising from an establishment, to profess that religion, or be discouraged from any endeavors to propagate reformed principles, have we not great reason to suspect that all the late measures respecting the colonies have originated from popish schemes of men who would gladly restore the race of Stuart, and who look on Popery as a religion most favorable to arbitrary power? It is a plain fact that despotism has an establishment in that province equally with the Roman Catholic Church. The governor, with a council very much under his power, has by his commission almost unlimited authority, free from the clog of representatives of the people. However agreeable this may be to the genius of the French, English subjects there will be discouraged from continuing in a country where both they and their posterity will be deprived of the greatest privileges of the British constitution, and in many respects feel the effects of absolute monarchy.

Lord Littleton, in his defence of this detestable statute, frankly concedes that it is an establishment of the Roman Catholic religion, and that part of the policy of it was to provide a check upon the New England colonies. And the writer of an address of the people of Great Britain to the inhabitants of America, just published, expresses himself with great precision when he says ” that statute gave toleration to English subjects.”

I perceive likewise that by means of about three hundred balls, etc., thrown into this place”— Roxbury — “in the course of one month, viz., from September 3 to October 3, but two were wounded (one but slightly; the other died, after some time, of his wound), and no man was immediately killed. It is to be remarked further, that not one person was hurt, in the course of above three hundred shells being thrown to a fortress erected upon Ploughed Hill,” in Charlestown.

The Importance of the Freedom of the Press; by Senator Ebenezer Mack (1791-1849)

bill-of-rights-01.jpgWhen contemplating the liberties, freedoms and protections afforded United States Citizens by the Constitution and Bill of Rights: Remember the Free Exercise of Religion was the first to be protected by the Framers; the Freedom of Speech and of the Press, Right of Assembly, Petition to Government, were meant to protect and promote the Free Exercise of Religion! The Freedom of the Press was meant to insure against the abuse of the government and those in power of all the other rights of man.

Remember also when one right, liberty, or freedom is under attack, they are all under attack, when one is in jeopardy, they are all in jeopardy! The Second Amendment is meant to guarantee the First Amendment!

A dissertation by Senator Ebenezer Mack who was a printer, and co-published the Owego Gazette from 1815 to 1816, and the Ithaca American Journal from 1817 to 1823. He later became a Senator in New York State. Oration was given on 37th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence before the New York Typographical Society.

Brethren, Friends, And Fellow-citizens!

Again are we assembled beneath the wide-spread branches of the tree of liberty.

Although as an association, we have nothing to do with political concerns; yet, as American citizens, do we not, in common with others, feel an interest in every event which affects our country? And as men—as philanthropists—can we remain unmoved amidst the agitations of the civilized world?

To review the past, contemplate the present, and anticipate the future, is ever pleasing, ever instructive. Happy is it for mankind, that the Art Of Printing furnishes us records of times which are no more! Shall we not, then, improve the privilege? It is a proper moment. Let us cast our eyes, in grateful remembrance, to the days of danger, the hours of trial. Let us pay to the heroes of our revolution—the fathers of that freedom we now enjoy—the just tribute of recalling this day to our memories, their patriotism, their perils, their sufferings, and their achievements. And let their deeds and their motives, animate us, at least, to think of glory! Nay—shall we not extend farther back our retrospective views? Time, indeed, will not permit an historical particularization of events—yet, cannot the quick conception of your minds comprehend at one glance, more than the confined powers of limited oratory could convey?

1How changed, indeed, is the vast American continent from the time of its first discovery—when Columbus and his followers first kissed the sod of St. Salvador—when Americus Vespucius, following the path of that hero, in quest of gain, stole a bright wreath from the laurels of his brow, by giving his own name to the land which Columbus discovered. Then—all was desolate and dreary. Now, we behold a happy contrast.

What has contributed to a change so unexampled, and so important? Liberty—Liberty-—which has ever been the guardian goddess of Columbia. Animated by a love of liberty, our fathers left the lands of oppression, and sought an asylum in the western wilds. How dark, how gloomy, were the prospects before them! Surrounded on every side by a savage foe—few in number, feeble, worn down with toil, often emaciated by hunger—what were their hopes, and what should save them from threatening destruction ? Yet, their guardian angel did not forsake them. She enlivened their prospects—inspired them with perseverance. Before the brightness of her countenance, mountains of difficulties melted away—by the strength of her arm, she overthrew powerful obstacles. She promised her followers the noblest reward in life, and smiled upon them in the agonies of death!

Long, indeed, were their struggles with adversity—many were their toils and discouragements. How can we conceive, how shall we describe them ? Could the transitory life of man realize the reward of so much labor ? No ! they toiled for posterity. Theirs was the satisfaction to behold a budding wilderness, which should soon ” blossom like the rose”—to plant a vineyard, which their sons should reap. They beheld, beneath their hands, dreary deserts transformed to cultured fields—towns and hamlets arising, which were to prove the foundations of opulent cities. These were their rewards—these the console of their declining days. Blessing the inheritance to their children, they sunk beneath the soil; and the stone themselves had laid—the corner-stone of a mighty temple, covered their mouldering ashes!

To them succeeded a race, nowise inferior to their fathers. The same vigor braced their limbs; the same perseverance marked their labors, and the same spirit animated their bosoms.

Invited by their success, many of the oppressed of Europe sought a sanctuary among them, to enjoy the glorious privileges of conscience—of political and religious freedom. Growing in strength, in* creasing in numbers, they enlarged their views—extending themselves into the interior, and along the coast, to the east, to the south, and forming those colonies, which are now component parts of the great American republic.

These infant colonies were separated from Europe by a wide ocean. Nevertheless, there was still a (perhaps necessary) connection. Ere the marrow of their bones were full—ere the sinews of their joints were knit together—they sought, or submitted to, the protection of a foreign power. Great Britain, (like all corrupt governments) ever ready to succor the weak, when it tends to advance her power, and subserve her interest, adopted them as her children, and became their mother.

But the iron chain hung yet loose about their necks—the fetters were unrivetted, which bound them in slavery.

Too poor for plunder—too weak for oppression—the colonies were suffered to enjoy partial privileges, and grew daily in strength, commerce, and opulence. They built ships, and wafted their products to every clime; and “their fame spread abroad among the nations.” Their maritime skill, their persevering success in agriculture and in trade, bade fair to outrival the boasted splendor of the mother country.

Could Britain behold their rising power without an eye of jealousy? Could she not foresee their rapid approach to independence? And, if left to gain a prospect of that heavenly summit, that the connexion which bound them to her control, would be broken forever! Britain saw—she felt—she feared all this. Should she reject, then, the allurements of Interest, even when Justice plead against her? It was not in her nature—not her policy! The young lion must be slain in his slumbers—the infant Hercules smothered in his cradle—the Eagle must be caught unfledged!

Fellow-citizens!

We will recall, though we pass but slightly over this eventful period.

Now was America doomed to be the victim of ambition—the scourge of tyranny. The burden was increased—the oppressive chain was drawn with an iron hand, and stronger fetters were forged to be rivetted upon her.

At first, the colonies resorted to remonstrance. Through numerous embassies and petitions, they exercised the privilege of complaint. And of what did they complain? Indeed, the recital of their wrongs would prove too tedious—the catalog of oppressions were too extensive. But are they not written in the book? Yes! and the flood of ages will not wash them out! Denied the right of representation—commercial restrictions—oppressive taxes—partial administration, and corrupt government—these were among the most prominent acts of motherly chastisement.

Were these wrongs to be borne by men inured to perils, and inspired from their birth with a love of liberty? No! When all remonstrance had proved vain—when the faintest hope of obtaining justice had fled, they arose in their might, burst the chains which bound them, and declared themselves “Free, Sovereign, and Independent.”

What a sublime moment—what a daring measure, was this ! A few petty colonies, of scattered population, the acknowledged dependencies of a powerful kingdom, whose thousand ships covered the ocean, and whose numerous disciplined armies carried triumph in their progress, and terror in their name! How dare these colonies to forswear their allegiance, and how could they maintain a declaration so perilous? But, our fathers chose to be branded as rebels, rather than as cowards; to die free, rather than live in slavery. Though few though undisciplined, they were brave—Though wanting in arms and ammunitions—they trusted in the God of Justice, and made powerful use of those in their possession. They were indeed few, compared with their oppressors—Their resources were small, compared with those of England. No organized government—no disciplined army, no confidential leaders! Yet Liberty—their guardian Liberty—inspired both their inventive and their executive faculties. At her animating voice, warriors and statesmen arose, whose deeds—whose measures, would not disgrace the proudest heroes of boasted antiquity. They found a WASHINGTON to direct their armies; and in the cabinet, a Franklin, a Hancock, an Adams, and numerous others, whose names need no recital to bear them in remembrance.

And while we pay a tribute to these worthies—while the names of Washington, Warren, Greene, Montgomery, and Gates, are echoed in plaudits of our festivals-—shall we forget their more humble followers, who shared in their toils; who assisted them in all their plans of wisdom and bravery?

“Though high in honor, yet of humble birth,
Their names may perish with them from the earth;
But Time’s rude progress Memory shall defy—
Their glorious deeds shall never—never die!”

Yes—we will record them in our bosoms, and cherish them with the wannest gratitude.

The scenes of our revolution—are they not familiar to us all? Not too sufficiently so. Then, to refresh our memories, shall we point to the field of Lexington, where the first link was broken? to Bunker’s Hill, which stands, a proud monument of American bravery? Follow Montgomery to the walls of Quebec—behold that hero expiring in the arms of Liberty, his faintest breath whispering wishes for his country, and his ardent prayers for her safety ascending with his sainted spirit to Heaven? Shall we review the field of Bennington—where the brave Stark reaped immortal honors? And the plains of Saratoga, where the proud forces of Burgoyne yielded to those of the gallant Gates?

washington-prayerRugged, indeed, was the road our fathers trod to independence. It was a path of danger, and a path of death—but it was a path of glory! Whether we follow them, with Sullivan and Wayne, through the western wilderness, to chastise the murderous savage—where their deeds are rung amidst the wilds of Ohio and Susquehanna— or trace them by the blood of their feet over frozen ground from White Marsh to Valley-Forge—we must every where admire their valor, their fortitude, and their constancy.

It was not to this, nor to that quarter, that their trials were confined. We behold them in the cold regions of Canada, and the sultry Carolina. At Charleston—at Camden—in the Jerseys—at Princeton—at Monmouth—often amidst ill-success, when victory was against them, and their cause seemed dark and gloomy. We do not take a pleasure-excursion to Harlem, nor to admire the green fields of Long Island, but we behold the sacred spots where heroes’ bones have mouldered—the verdant soil, once stained with patriots’ gore! Even, perhaps, the spot of earth over which we are now assembled, has been drenched with the blood of our fathers!

O! Liberty! Heaven-born Liberty! how great is the power of thy inspiration! Thou didst animate the heroes of Greece and of Rome, to deeds of never-dying glory. It is thou that dost inspire the Brutuses, the Kosciuskoes, and the Tells of every country, and of every age. Thou didst rule in the breast of the immortal De Kalb; who nobly fell at the battle of Camden, fighting in a stranger’s land, in thy cause, covered with eleven wounds, amidst a mountain of thy foes! Yes, Liberty! whether on the banks of the Ganges or of the Hudson—amid the wilds of Kamchatka, or the fair regions of Columbia—in the abodes of the great, or the dwellings of the humble— thou dost soften every toil, and sweeten every enjoyment!

It was this spirit, fellow-citizens, that upheld the heroes of our revolution—that sustained them amidst the weight of their sufferings. She washed their wounds with healing balm; soothed the doubts that hung around them; watched over their scattered repose—smiled upon them amidst the broken visions of night, and guided them through the devious contests of the day. When poverty and want darkened around them, she chased away the fiend Despair; and pointed forward, with an exalted hope, to that bright hour, when they should sit beneath their own vines and their own fig-trees, “with none to make them afraid.”

Even the fair daughters of Columbia, catching the hallowed fire, bowed before her shrine as to the temple of Vesta, and became the angelic attendants of celestial Liberty. While still retaining all their natural delicacy, the native tenderness of their hearts—their soft hands were often subjected to the most rugged toils. Their fervent wishes were with their brave defenders in the field of battle, and they even joined their assisting efforts in the field of daily labor. Instancing thus, the sympathy of beauty and bravery—the unison of Liberty and Love.

Yet who, my fellow-citizens, who shall describe the sufferings and the trials amidst which our revolutionary contest progressed? Often may we conceive, what we cannot express. Where the faculties of th.e faltering tongue would fail, the heart may render justice. Inch by inch were our rights contested, till the deciding battle of YorkTown put an end to the struggle, and Confirmed the Declaration of our Independence. Then we arose as a nation. By the united efforts of wisdom and bravery, Columbia was placed upon a rock— her constitution, the rock of Freedom—so firm, that the tempest of Tyranny may rave, and the billows of Time may beat around—yet, while her sons remember the deeds, and cherish the spirit of their fathers, she shall never—never be overwhelmed.

But, the heroes of our revolution—where are they? Look around! Alas! many of them have passed away. They have followed their leader Washington, to realms of glorious immortality! Few—very few, remain behind. Their hoary heads are fast blossoming for the grave! they are ripening for eternity! Soon will it be said of them, as of the patriarchs of old, “they slept with their fathers, and their sons ruled in their stead.”

Let not their sons, then, tarnish their glory! We have enjoyed the blessings of peace and commerce. We have become rich in resources, and strengthened by numbers. We know the price, the value of Liberty. America once more is involved in a contest with the very power from whose chains she has been emancipated. Is this contest right—is it just on our part? Is it not a contest to Maintain those rights, that liberty, which our forefathers Acquired? Far be it from me on this occasion to pursue the inquiry. I will not prolong the subject, which has presented itself in the course of events, nor enter into an examination of its merits—lest some of you should whisper me the old proverb, “Let thine own business engage thy attention—leave the affairs of the state to the governors thereof!” Have we, then, no interest in these important concerns? As freemen, we have the happy privilege of enjoying our private opinions. As patriots, too, we may this day rejoice in those victories and those successes which tend to promote the honor and prosperity of our country. We may also regret whatever we conceive has a contrary effect. It were wise, indeed, for every American, at this crisis—a crisis which involves the dearest interests of our country—to dispel the spirit of party, which, under different names, and in different shapes, blinds the eyes of its followers. It were wise to make the reason of our hearts the standard of our principles. Thinking and acting thus, from honorable motives, conscience would direct to pursue our country’s good; and we should then remain worthy of the blood-bought privileges we enjoy.

in-the-age-of-tyrannyShall we forget the deeds of Decatur, of Hull, of Jones, and of Bainbridge? Shall we forget the death of Lawrence, of Ludlow, and of Pike? Surely, the cause in which such men fought—the cause in which such men fell—is worthy to inspire a spirit in the bosom of every freeman!

Injustice to the living brave, shall the voice of praise resound— In remembrance of those heroes fallen—shall a manly tear moisten the eye, and the heart beat with emulous, with ecstatic gratitude.

There is not in human nature a character more exalted than that of the Patriot—the man who, disregarding his own immediate individual interest, labors for that of his country. When foes—when dangers surround—he does not so much inquire, “Are they self provoked, or unmerited?” as, “how shall we meet them? how shall they be repelled?” Is he high in society—his merits shall sweeten, adorn, and dignify his station. Is he poor and humble—the attributes of his character shall raise him far above the proudest eminence of ambitious fortune. Through life, he is honored and respected, and the blessings of a whole community attend him to the grave.

Whatever may have produced the present war, is not a speedy and an honorable peace desired by every patriotic American? And should every American unite, in sentiments and efforts, to attain that grand object, would it not soon be ensured?

“From chains to save his country—to repel
Her ruthless foes, and save a threatened state—
A glorious spirit stimulates the brave,
Whose lofty purpose is the pledge of triumph!”

Would we learn to estimate the favors with which, under Divine Providence, our country has been blessed? Turn our eyes to Europe—the happiest spot of devoted Europe! There hell-born Despotism reigns in iron sway! Ambition, with giant tread, stalks o’er the fields, spreading desolation around, and drenching the earth in blood. Liberty has fled—she has no spot for a foot-stool. Religion, civilization and science, are about to follow. Her subjects are degraded to the condition of beasts—her rulers, exalted to the sublime preeminence of Destroying Demons! To what may we ascribe this state of things? To corrupt systems of government—where one or a few individuals bear sway, seeking personal power and aggrandizement, disregardful of the general welfare! O, Europe! Humanity weeps for thee! she weeps for thy crimes, thy follies and thy sufferings; but turns with disgust from the scenes of thy degradation! She directs her eyes (with mingled pleasure and anxiety) to Columbia! Here, her hopes are centered—Here shall they flourish, sacred to Freedom, to science, and to virtue.

Who, grown prophetic from a knowledge of past ages, by the examples of Greece and of Rome, shall predict a subversion of American liberties? What similitude do they discover in the origin, the local condition, or the governments of ancient republics and our own, which warrants such a prediction? We are not sprung from “a lace of outlaws, begotten of ravished Sabines”—We cannot look back to the time when our fathers were a horde of uncivilized barbarians! We have arisen amidst the light of civilization. Ours, from the beginning, has been the liberty of reason, unalloyed by licentiousness. We have no privileged orders—no constitutional division line between the rich and the poor—no plebeians—no patricians. Though great was the glory of Greece and of Rome, which lives through the remembrance of their heroes and sages—yet were not their civil institutions far from being perfect? Were they established upon just principles of equity? Indeed, the then rude, ignorant, and contentious state of general society, rendered the formation of such governments impossible. Though a dazzling fame is left behind— their existence—their splendor, has passed away like a rush-light. America has not built upon their systems—and so long as she maintains her original purity of government, can have no fear of their fate. Yet a cautious watchfulness is at all times necessary. From the experience of ages past, we may learn the mutability of all human institutions. Guarding, then, our union, our rights and liberties, with a jealous eye, from outward or internal innovations—neither growing giddy upon the eminence of success, nor despairingly blind amidst threatening dangers—American glory shall never fade, but brighten through the most distant period of revolving time.

When we contemplate—my indulgent friends ! when we contemplate the rise and progress of the Art of Printing, we find, that it has every where assisted Religion, Civilization, and Science, and been promotive—nay, essential to the existence, of civil Liberty.

What was the condition of man, in the first stages of society? Blest with rational faculties—with the powers of language—he could, indeed, communicate his thoughts and sentiments orally to his fellow. But they could not be perpetuated—they would not extend beyond the time and place in which they were uttered. With distant friends he had no communication, and remained ignorant of most transactions, except in his immediate presence. Wandering alone, and in the fields —when he beheld the scenes of nature which surrounded him—his mind was filled with the sublimest contemplations. But they came, and passed away—they glided over his memory, like the transitory rays of a falling star. As the first essay of his invention, he resorted to imitative figures, carved upon tables of stone or wood, representing in shape the object of his ideas. Here commenced the era of symbolic writing, practiced to this day among many eastern nations. Behold the first sages, the astronomers of Egypt, roaming the banks of the Nile and the Niger, gazing in silent wonder at the heavenly system—and tracing, in rude figures, their signs and their circles upon the sands of the shore, etching them upon the rocks of the desert, or upon the rough and unpolished skins of animals.

But soon, amidst progressive genius, arose a nobler art—the invention of letters. We will not stop to inquire, to whom belongs the honor of this invention—whether to Thaut the Egyptian, or Thaut the Phoenician—or whether it was of Divine origin.

The art of writing was indeed slow in progressing—irregular in its system.

Even at its greatest perfection among the ancients, how dull was the advancement of Science. The little splendor which it emitted, was owing to the general darkness by which it was surrounded.

Time would not allow us to trace the progress of Science, in all its different vicissitudes, through the intricacies of obscure ages—even if the speaker were competent to the task. Often have we beheld it bursting forth with brightness, like a meteor of night; and like a nightly meteor, sinking in darkness, leaving behind no traces of its splendor. When Liberty and Science flourished together in Greece and in Rome, a general ignorance nevertheless prevailed. Her sages and philosophers were considered as more than mortal; and even their absurdities were recorded as oracles. But their names and their works have descended, even to enlighten modern ages—many, indeed, which would sink into obscurity, had they not the airy merits of antiquity to buoy them up. The difficulty of obtaining education.in those periods, put it entirely beyond the reach of the common people. Pew—very few, could claim the privilege of becoming learned, and learning was shackled by ostentation and bigotry. Books were seldom seen except in the libraries of the wealthy. If an author committed his productions to writing, it was for the use of himself or his friends. A single transcript would have cost more than the printing of a whole edition, perhaps, at the present day. It was the custom for great men to deliver their effusions orally, often extempore, in public. To this we may, in some degree, ascribe the perfection of oratory among the Greeks and Romans. In the time of Henry the 2nd, of England, the manner of publishing the works of authors, was to have them read over for three days successively, by order of the universities, or judges appointed by the public; and if they met with approbation, copies of them were then permitted to be taken.

Instead of printers, scribes were in those periods employed. All could not then recur to a newspaper, and obtain a correct history of every passing event. They could not apply to a bookstore, and receive the most celebrated and valuable work for a mere trifle. What would be thought now, were a Concordance to cost five hundred dollars? or were two hundred dollars to be given for a common octavo volume? Yet such, we are told, was the rate at which books were sold previous to the discovery of Printing. They were also transferred from one to another, by bond or deed, as we now convey real or landed estate.

Amidst this state of things, how was it possible that science should extensively flourish? What was Greece, in its brightest moments, and Rome, in its Augustan splendor, but dark lanterns, beaming brightly within, yet spreading no radiance around them? Far distant ages were to reap the benefit of their researches; and when they themselves were sunk in darkness, to walk in the reflection of their glory! With means of diffusion so confined, how could infant science withstand the clouds of superstition and ignorance, when ambition and tyranny united against her? When Liberty—amidst those revolutions which history has recorded—again took her flight, Science accompanied her from the earth. And for many centuries we behold her, in different regions, like an electric flash, emit, at intervals, a lurid ray—and like an electric flash, as suddenly disappear!

But the Art of Printing arose as a sun, which should dispel the clouds of Ignorance and Superstition, and shine with a steady luster, enlightening ages, till it should set with the world, in the night of eternity!

We are told that printing, by characters carved on blocks of wood, had been for ages practiced among the Chinese. This invention has never, perhaps, been traced to its origin; and should be called stamping, rather than printing. Had their knowledge of the art tended to enlighten the Chinese ? What advantages have they reaped from it ? Even at the present day, they experience no salutary effects from that divine art, which has tended (where left free to the course of its nature) to enlighten other parts of the world. And how is it possible that they should, when we consider, that they are superstitiously bigoted against every innovation upon ancient custom, and that the alphabet is composed of eighty thousand different characters!

It was the genius of FAUST, which in the fifteenth century unfolded the Art of Printing as at present practiced. Justly was it ranked as the greatest of human inventions. By the ignorant of that age, its source was considered supernatural. When Faust printed his first edition of the Bible, and exposed it for sale in the streets of Paris, he was imprisoned as a necromancer. They were offered as written transcripts. The cheapness at which he sold them, and the fairness —the regularity of the characters—determined at once that he dealt with the devil. And he would have suffered the punishment, inflicted by the pious priestcraft in such cases, had he not divulged the art, which he before had endeavored to conceal.

From that period it began gradually to spread—through different parts of the continent—to England—diffusing beams of light, and chasing before it the clouds of bigotry and ignorance. Genius and Wisdom welcomed its appearance, and hailed it as the star of Jacob— the Art Divine. Religion, Literature, and Science, soon owned its resuscitating power. Truth arose, with renovated vigor—wielding the Press—a powerful engine. At its approach, Superstition trembled, in her dark palace of cruelty and crimes! She could not withstand its force—and Error shrank from the rays of its searching radiance. Here commenced a new era. Learning would no longer be monopolized by a few bigoted, superstitious, designing monks. The effusions of former ages—the discoveries and improvements in the Arts and the Sciences—the moral and metaphysical works of ancient philosophers, were brought forth from the grave of obscurity. Their musty parchments and mouldering inscriptions—dim from the rust of ages, and dark in their signification—were explained in simple terms; stamped in fair and legible characters, and diffused to enlighten a world of inquirers.

But what elucidations are now necessary to convince mankind of the transcendent usefulness of this art? Compare the past with the present. I cannot attempt to pass upon it a merited eulogium; nor will the occasion allow minutely to trace its progress and effects.

What was England, previous to the introduction of printing into that kingdom? Comparatively speaking, a horde of barbarians. It waa there cultivated, hotvever, with greater assiduity than in the country from which it emanated—which is produced as one instance, among many, that genius is seldom rewarded—seldom flourishes, in its native soil. By the wise and the powerful was it patronised; and men of genius, education and wealth, were proud to become its professors. The Press was introduced into universities—established by literary associations, and every where held in the highest veneration. Soon did they perceive the benefit of its encouragement. The means of obtaining knowledge being rendered easy, and brought within the reach of all, the majority became gradually more enlightened. The shackles which bound the mind, and the veil which blinded the eyes of mankind, were rent asunder. They were led to behold the errors which surrounded science—the arts, the bigotry and superstitions which veiled Religion, which perverted that pure fountain into a deadly pool, more pestiferous than the Lake of Sodom; changed the mild breath of peace into the wasting winds which sweep the plains of Java! It was then that designing priestcraft exclaimed, “We must root out printing, or printing will root out us.” But printing was too firmly established. We must, then, said they, “set up learning against learning.” This they did, perhaps with more, but with limited success—for their opponents were armed with Truth and Reason.

Thus too, amidst enlightened inquiry, the original rights of man are unfolded. He learns his own strength—his attributes—the power of his faculties. He perceives the injustice, and despises the oppression of despotism. He catches the spirit of Liberty, and longs for personal —for rational freedom.

jm-tyrannyAlthough the old world has beheld the dawnings of many revolutions, tyranny still maintains its ascendency. By tyranny, the light has been withheld—it has not been suffered to become general. The generous few have yielded, with the ignorant many, to the chains and darkness of designing despots. Their efforts, though they must still await the happy period of a general emancipation—may nevertheless boast of glorious ameliorations. Instance England—Not only as regards literary and scientific acquirements—also, her reformation of government. Not but that her constitutional government is imperfectHot but that it is often grossly perverted in its administration. Yet consider its purity, as compared with former eras. In promoting these, the Art of Printing stands conspicuous. Her historians acknowledge it, and the world bears witness.

But is it not the interest of tyrants to destroy the press? Has it not ever been their policy? France affords a conspicuous example.. There printing has been practised in much perfection. For a while, as relates to science, she had experienced its happy effects. From the same source, Liberty was about to crown her with a glorious blessing. Yet now, we behold a gloomy reverse. The despot who rules her destinies—did he not know that where the Press was left free to enlighten the mind, personal thraldom would not long be submitted to? Yes! And for his decree alone—setting aside his other characteristics, which the speaker would neither depreciate nor overvalue—for his decree alone which destroys the liberty of the Press, he deserves the execration of every virtuous man.

Tyranny, we must ever abhor. It is still tyranny—whether reigning in adverse darkness, or amidst delusive and guilty splendor. And shall we not feel for Fiance, as for the rest of enslaved Europe? How long shall it be thus? Is there not still a spark of that Divine fire, which shall never be extinguished? Soon may it burst forth, and spread its light through every darkened nation! Thus will we hope, as we ardently desire. We would wish them—not a change of oppressors; but a thorough emancipation from every kind of oppression.

Turn once more to America. To the Art of Printing it is, that she in a measure owes her present exalted condition. Perhaps, too, it was the effects of this art, which taught Columbus, that the broadbeaming sun, which seemed to quench its splendor in the western ocean, descended but to light another land.

Our honest forefathers—ever revered be their memories! did they not for a time inherit a portion of ignorance? Did they not sometimes burn a witch, and sometimes suspend a quaker? And shall we not ascribe this to ignorance rather than to wickedness? With few opportunities to discover—with confined means to disseminate it, they still indicated a disposition to encourage truth. Welcome were the first rays of reviving knowledge which shone upon them from the antient world. Now and then a wandering spark from the fire of Science, in the character of eminent exiles, descended among them. These kindled up a flame, which, at no distant period, was to illumine a mighty realm, eminent for genius and learning.

Printing, on its early introduction into this country, met with every encouragement which could have been expected. The Press was considered as an oracle, more – famous than that of ancient Delphi. But far different were its attributes and effects from those of that oracle. It was the province of the Press—not to’ mislead ignorance and confirm folly—but to subserve the cause of truth, to remove error and superstition, to enlighten the mind by every species of knowledge which should exalt it from tlie dust—from the darkness in which it was buried.

Jefferson-Freedom-of-PressIn the records of our Revolution, the Press stands pre-eminent for promoting the cause of Independence. Prom this fountain flowed the pure effusions—the doctrines of freedom, of our heroes and sages. These inspired the American people with a sense of their original rights and privileges as men. These opened the pores of the soul to the infusion of that ardent spirit of Liberty, which was to urge them to the contest, and animate them through the glorious struggle, till it should end in success.

It is not, then, at the power of arms alone that tyranny has to tremble. No! It is the enlightened mind, which knows and feels the dignity of human nature—which scorns to bow beneath the yoke of oppression. Knowing that liberty—rational liberty, is the bequest of God—and that “in his wrath,” as a curse only, did he first place a king upon earth—the man thus enlightened, thus dignified with a sense of feeling and understanding, would sooner yield to death, than submit to the galling chains of slavery.

Science is the sister of Liberty; and Printing, though of later birth, is the guardian of both : They are co-existent and coessential: They are inseparable companions, and can prosper but together. Liberty must preside o’er the Press, and the Press be the watch-tower of Liberty. By Science must the Press be illuminated, and the Press shall disseminate the rays of Science.

Where is the country—where the people, blest with this glorious combination? Let them cherish it, as the core of their heart—for it shall preserve them through every revolution of destroying time. It shall preserve them unmoved, amidst falling kingdoms and dissolving empires; and exalt them to the proudest eminence of happiness and glory! Where, then, shall we turn our eyes? To Europe?— They thence revolt, with indignant disappointment; nor will again recross the ocean. But here—here in our own Columbia, we behold that favorite of heaven. Here, the Press has flourished free, advancing Liberty and Science. And here may it ever—ever remain unshackled!

In America, we enjoy the Freedom Op The Press in its greatest purity. Who would contract its limits, or rob it of a privilege? But, does it not at times border upon licentiousness? Shall it be left free, then, to pervert truth, and subserve the cause of falsehood—to disseminate false doctrines in religion and politics? What! would we, that the sun were extinguished from the firmament, because the serpent basks as freely in its beams as the swallow?—because it Warms alike to vegetation the noxious weed as the nutritious plant? Would we, that the dews of heaven should cease to fall, because they moisten alike the Bohon Upas, as the fragrant bosom of the rose? No! with the antidote before us, why should we fear the poison? A free privilege of inquiry, and unbiassed judgment where the mind is thus enlightened, Truth will ever, in the end, prevail. The constituted laws of our country define and punish libellous and treasonable publications: With all other discussions, they have no right to interfere. And the first blow which is aimed at the Freedom of the American Press, would be the step by which a tyrant would attempt an ascent to power. But it would prove a stumbling block, which would for ever prostrate him in the dust.

Look round upon our country. We behold learning every where encouraged. Not only the wealthy, but the poor partake of its blessings. Although young in existence, America transcends in general knowledge, if not in classical literature and useful science, every other nation upon the face of the earth. If America can boast of few literary productions—if her writers, her poets, her philosophers, her artists, have not arisen to superior eminence, it has not been from a poverty of genius. It may be ascribed to other causes. Having a wide field open before them, they do not confine themselves, (as did antient researches) to a particular branch of the arts or sciences. Probably, too, in a nation so young, where an equality prevails, and a general improvement is the prominent object, emulation does not so much exist. Shining talents are more seldom brought forward, and perhaps too little encouraged. But, who shall say that America is without native genius? We will produce Rittenhouse, and the whole celestial system shall bear witness. We will mention West, and Nature herself shall appear in his behalf. We will point out FRANKLIN, and the lightning of heaven shall descend to convince them! A Paine, a Barlow, and a Rush, have lately sought the tomb, whose worth—whose works shall stand recorded to ages. We have, also, many living instances of native genius. We will not name them. They speak for themselves, and to the honor of their country.

The encouragement given to common schools, and to periodical publications, does honor to the American people. It tends to hasten them, by a dignified advancement, to a glorious pre-eminence—a preeminence to which they may justly aspire. In every village—in every country town—and often amidst the dark wilderness, where culture has scarce lopped the branches of the pine to admit the light of heaven—we behold temples arising, dedicated to Knowledge. In more populous places, and in cities, are charitable institutions, for instructing the poor and the orphan. Seminaries, also, for the higher branches of education, the eminence of which would not disgrace the proudest countries of the old world, where the arts and the sciences have flourished for ages.

Throughout almost every part of the United States, where population will insure patronage, newspapers are established, whose columns “blend amusement with instruction”—which convey occasional literary morceaus, with political and miscellaneous information.

We have also numerous periodical publications, devoted exclusively to literature, science, and the arts. Many of these possess a spirit and purity, which does honor to the abilities of their conductors and to the genius and literary character of the nation. But, do these meet with merited encouragement ? We might venture to affirm, that they are no where too extensively patronized—not too well rewarded.

These, my friends, are the blessings of Freedom—purified by science, diffused through the Divine medium of the Press.

It will not be supposed that America can yet boast extensive practical or mechanical improvement in the Art of Printing. She is, indeed, making rapid advancements. American materials will be found, perhaps, inferior to none in elegance, if not in durability. The typefounderies of New York and Philadelphia have produced specimens, both plain and fancy letter, which will long remain unrivalled. Amidst the disk of inexperience which has shrouded our firmament, we have beheld bright Stars appearing. Like day-stars, they forebode increasing light, a meridian splendor to American typographic-mechanical geniMS. Many works have lately issued from the American Press, unsurpassed in neatness and correctness of execution. And the sons of Faust, of Franklin and of Freedom, may look forward with pride to a no distant period, when that Press shall be as distinguished for the mechanical elegance, as for the truth and chasteness of its emanations. For Science and the Arts have declared, that “where Liberty dwells, there is our Country.”

Respected Brethren!

Thus has the speaker essayed to discharge the duty assigned him. To sum up the substance or intent of his discourse, you have but to repeat this motto: “Printing, the source of Knowledge.” We may then add, “The Press, the cradle of Science, the nurse of Genius, and the shield of Liberty.” Considering, then, ourselves as a profession, we have one prominent duty to perform: That is, to emulate, .as far as we are able, the examples of our great prototype, our American father, Franklin. Next to love and to serve our country, his first maxim was, “Honor thy profession.” Unlike many who presume to advise, he ever practised the duties he inculcated. Often has he exemplified the words of the good Plutarch, who was once a street scavenger in his native village: “It is not the station which dignifies the man; but the man which dignifies a station.”

As a Society, therefore, let our pride be, to preserve our existence. Let us endeavor by all honorable means to extend our influence, and to promote the objects for which we are united. Associations, when originating in laudable motives, are ever commendable. Such an origin this Society may boast. We would not estimate its merits by the miser’s standard, the weight of its treasury-box: In this balance, it would not be “found wanting.” Perhaps it may not be altogether perfect in its nature. It might more extensively embrace literary and other improvements, and promote various interests of our profession. It may be capable of much improvement. To whom shall it look, then, but to those who are already its members, and to those whose duty it is to unite their efforts? Brethren of the art—you whose names are not found upon the records of this Society—by what incitement shall I address you? Having no private motives, my words shall be few, yet spoken in sincerity. The-warm hand of fellowship is tendered. Do„you want arguments to convince your reason—invitations and appeals to prompt your decision? Have we not all one common interest? And by our united zeal, cannot that interest be successfully promoted, extended and ennobled?

An aged sire, who was fast approaching to dissolution, called his seven sons around him. He gave them a bundle of rods, which he desired them to break, They took them—tried in succession—but as one could effect it. “Give them to me,” said the father. Separating the rods, he took them singly, and soon acomplished the object. “Thus, (said the venerable sage) while you remain united in the bonds of brotherly love, you may defy the frowns of fortune, and the power of your enemies. But by division, by contending passions and adverse interests, you invite misfortune, are exposed to the malice of the world, and incur destruction.”

This is an antient allegory. Apply it as we will—either to our own little professional community, or to the more high and important relations of the republic.

Here will I leave each portion of the subject. May our own dictates—the emotions of our bosoms, inspire to worthy conduct, and ensure happiness and prosperity.

My Friends!

The speaker will now render his acknowledgments for your indulgence. To this occasion he has not done justice. He feels—he knows it. But, he has not addressed you from motives of personal fame—not for popular applause—but to subserve an immediate duty of the day. Youth—inexperience—want of health, genius, or abilities—or whatever has tended to retard that fire and that eloquence which should distinguish an orator—he oners no excuse in extenuation. He were even satisfied with meriting your charity. It is the irst time he has spoken in public—It will be the last time, perhaps, he shall have the honor of addressing any of this assembly. But often, he hopes, we may meet to perpetuate this anniversary, under prospects more auspicious to all individually, and to our country. And when we shall pass away—when posterity shall walk, if not weep, over our graves—may the liberties we inherit be transmitted bright and unimpaired to our descendants, till the sun shall cease to shine, and the world itself shall dissolve.

Soon, brethren, are we to assemble in the hall of festivity. There, while the wine sparkles in the glass, and the song and the toast resound—may good humor preside o’er the scene, and brighten every countenance. May we remember, that it is not for ourselves alone that we rejoice. May the sentiments of our hearts unite, and the affections of our bosoms expand rejoicing, with harmony, as becomes friends—with reason, as becomes men—with freedom, as becomes Americans!

See also: Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God
Political Evils and the Remedy for them by Noah Webster 1834
LIBERTY OF THE PRESS by Senator Edward D. Baker 1811-1861
The Doctrine of Fascism, Fascism Defined by Benito Mussolini
The Failure of Marxism and Socialism