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.