A RESUME OF AMERICAN HISTORY by Lawrence A. Gobright , Esq., (1816-1881)

A RESUME OF AMERICAN HISTORY, An Oration by Lawrence A. Gobright , Esq., (1816-1881) Delivered At  Washington D.C., (Ford’s Opera House),  July 4th, 1876.

Ladies And Gentlemen, Fellow-members Of The Oldest Inhabitants Association, And Soldiers Of The War Of 1812:— Time was with some of us when on the Fourth of July revolutionary soldiers adorned the platform, and were objects of curiosity, but they have all passed away, leaving their works as our inheritance. At first they fought for their rights as British subjects, but these being denied, the Continental Congress in 1776 meditated a separation from British rule, and on the 7th of June, Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, introduced the following resolution:

Resolved that these united Colonies are, and of right ought to be. free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Before the final discussion a committee, consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert C. Livingston, was appointed to draft a Declaration of Independence. The Declaration having been reported to Congress by the committee, the resolution itself was taken up and debated on the first day of July, and again on the 2nd, on which latter day it was agreed to and adopted. Having thus passed the main resolution, Congress proceeded to consider the reported draft of the Declaration. It was discussed on the second, third, and fourth days of the month, and on the last of those days received the final approbation and sanction of Congress. It was ordered at the same time that copies be sent to the several States, and that it be proclaimed at the head of the army. The Declaration thus published did not bear the names of the members, for as yet it had not been signed by them. It was authenticated, like other papers of the Congress, by the signatures of the President and the Secretary. On the 19th of July, as appears by the Secret Journal, Congress resolved that the Declaration passed on the 4th be fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title and style of “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America,” and the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress; and the 2nd day of August following, the Declaration being engrossed and compared with the original, was signed by the members.

Absent members afterwards signed as they came in, and it bears the names of some who were not chosen members of Congress until after the 4th of July.

We must be unanimous,” said Hancock; “there must be no pulling different ways; we must all hang together.” “Yes.” replied Franklin, “we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.

On the 9th of July Washington caused the Declaration to be read at the head of each brigade of the army, “The General hopes,” he said in his orders, “that this important event will serve as a fresh incentive to every officer and soldier to act with fidelity, as knowing that now the peace and safety of the country depend, under God, solely on the success of our arms, and that he is now in the service of a State possessed of sufficient power to reward his merit and advance him to the highest honors of a free country.

The people of the City of New York not only indulged themselves in the usual demonstrations of joy by the ringing of bells and the like, but also concluded that the leaden statue of his Majesty, George the Third, in the Bowling Green, might now be turned to good account. They therefore pulled down the statue, and the lead was run into bullets for the good cause.

Everywhere throughout the country the Declaration was hailed with joy. Processions were formed, bells were rung, cannon fired, orations delivered, and in every practicable way the popular approbation was manifested.

The causes which led to the Revolutionary War are sufficiently set forth in the Declaration of Independence, which has just been read in your hearing, and therefore need no elaboration. The result of the conflict is stated in the treaty of peace—1783— in which his Majesty the King of Great Britain acknowledges the American Colonies as free, sovereign, and independent States; “treats with them as such for himself, his heirs, and successors, and relinquishes all claims to the Government, proprietary and territorial rights of the same, and any part thereof.” After coming through the night of the Revolution,

“Our ancestors, with Joy, beheld’  the rays of freedom pour
O’er every nation, race, and clime—on every sea and shore;
Such glories as the patriarch viewed, when, ‘mid the darkest skies,
He saw, above a ruined world, the bow of promise rise.”

With a view of maintaining the Declaration of Independence a resolution was passed making an appropriation to the committee of safety for a supply of gun flints for the troops at New York, and the secret committee were instructed to “order the gun flints belonging to the continent and then at Rhode Island, to the commanding general at New York.” An agent was also sent to Orange county, New York, for a supply of flint-stone, and a board was empowered to “employ such number of men as they should think necessary to manufacture flints for the continent.”

Additional measures were also taken to arm the militia, provide flying camps, and to procure lead, to build ships, make powder, to manufacture cannon and small arms, and provide generally for vigorous warfare.

washington-prayerColonel Washington had been appointed Commander-in-chief of the American forces in June, 1775, by the unanimous voice of the colonies. In accepting the trust, he declared, “with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command with which I am honored.” His modesty, perhaps, gentlemen, would not suit the fashion of the present time.

It is necessary merely to allude to the present appliances of war in contrast with the means then accessible, namely, the monster cannon; the giant powder, with shot and shell in proportion to the explosive power; the mailed ship, propelled by steam; the perfected rifle, with its percussion caps and longer range than the musket, and no anxiety about a plentiful supply of flints, such as exercised our patriotic sires.

american-eagle-and-flagEver since 1776 the subject of the Declaration has afforded fourth of July orators an opportunity to glorify the Eagle as the symbol of America.

You have often been told of the victory of this same American eagle over the British Lion, in a kind of allegorical description. But this was more poetic than historic. In the common-sense moments of the youngest as well as of the “oldest inhabitants,” we should not think the contest between two such forces exactly equal!

Tobias Smollett, the English novelist, reconciles the Lion with the Eagle thus:

Thy spirit Independence let me share,
Lord of the Lion heart and Eagle eye.
Thy steps I follow with my bosom bare,
Nor heed the storm that howls along the sky.

EagleThe eagle, no matter what may be said of his predatory habits, and of the scriptural expression that “where the carcass is there will the eagle be gathered together,” triumphs. He is seen on the buttons of our warriors, on our coin, and the seal of the United States, the last-named designed by a committee consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Wilson, the American ornithologist, says of the bird: “Formed by nature for braving the severest cold, feeding equally on the produce of the sea and of the land, possessing powers of flight capable of outstripping even the tempests themselves, unawed by anything but man, and from the ethereal heights from which he soars, looking abroad at one glance on an immeasurable expanse of forests, fields, lakes, and ocean deep below him, he appears indifferent to the localities of change of seasons, as in a few minutes he can pass from summer to winter, from the lower to the higher regions of the atmosphere, and thence descend at will to the arctic, the abode of eternal cold, or to the torrid regions of the earth.

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Gentlemen, our Government has such veneration for the proud bird that it has three fine live specimens in our own Franklin Square, in a cage for public admiration! The eagle is one of our institutions, and therefore has our enforced respect.

UniteOrDieThe eagle, however, was not the only symbol recognized by our ancestors. The rattlesnake was displayed on many of their banners. One of the arrangements was a rattlesnake divided in thirteen parts, with the initial letters of the colonies to each, and the motto “Unite or Die!” And another, the rattlesnake, in the act of striking, the motto being, “Don’t tread on me!” The rattles were thirteen in number. This device, stranger than that of ” Excelsior,“was a favorite with the colonists, and was meant to signify retaliation for the wrong upon America:

“The snake was ready with his rattle.
To warning give of coming battle.”

DontTreadOnMeSomething may here be said about the American flag, the one that has taken the place of all others. It was not till the 14th of June, 1777, that the design of the flag was formally adopted by the Continental Congress, although it is said a similar flag flew over the headquarters at Cambridge more than a year before that time. The act of Congress thus described it: “The flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, the Union thirteen stars, white, in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

dont_tread_me_flagThis continued to be the flag until two new States were admitted into the Union, namely, Vermont, in March, 1791, and . Kentucky, in June, 1792, when Congress passed an act, June 13, 1794, making an alteration in the flag, which provided that from and after the first day of May, 1795, the flag of the United States shall be fifteen stripes, with fifteen stars. There seems to have been no further agitation of the subject until 1816, when a bill was introduced making another alteration in the flag. The number of stripes were restored to thirteen, the stars to correspond to the number of States in the Union, a new star to be added to the flag whenever a new State should be admitted, the star to be placed there on the 4th day of July thereafter.

Among the reasons for altering the flag was that “There was a prospect at no distant period that the number of States would be considerably multiplied, and this rendered it highly inexpedient to increase the number of stripes on each flag, which must be limited in size.” As a consequence of this arrangement we have now thirty-seven stars, with room for many more on the azure field; and additional brightness will be added this centennial year to our constellation by the silver beams of Colorado.

This flag has for it century “braved the battle and the breeze;”
A blazing light upon the land, a beacon on seas.

It would be a mistake to suppose that our forefathers conquered Great Britain. The question might be put in this way: Great Britain did not conquer them. She found, after experience, that, having to transport, at enormous expense, large bodies of troops across the ocean—three thousand miles, in sailing vessels—was very unprofitable, as they did not accomplish the desired object, namely, the subjugation of the Colonists, who, of determined spirit, and having resolved to be free and independent of British rule, were not to be frightened from their patriotic purpose by coats of red, typical of the fire that boomed from their unfriendly cannon, and, besides, Holland having joined the belligerents against England, and England having been humiliated by the crowning battle of the contest—the surrender of Cornwallis—she departed from our soil, leaving the Colonists in full possession.

bald_eagle_in_flight_denali_national_park_alaskaIt was not until 1789 that the General or Federal Government went into full operation. At that time the population was supposed to be three millions, but in the eighty-seven years past it has, from various causes, increased to forty millions. The American eagle, which could fly over our original country without stopping to drink or to rest, finds that he cannot now without frequent stoppages on his course for refreshments, owing to enlarged limits, accomplish the distance from ocean to ocean without complaining, in his own natural way, of a weary wing.

A hundred years ago the people never thought of railroads, the steam engine and the electric telegraph—those great revolutionizes in everything that pertains to individual and national comfort—or if they did, there is no record of the fact. The traveling was on horseback, in gigs, and wagons, and carryalls, and sailing vessels, and row boats. And think: the time between England and America was from six weeks to two months, the duration of the voyage depending upon the state of the weather and the temper of the sea. Steam now propels the magnificent steamer across the Atlantic in eight or nine days— 3,000 miles—and the same distance is traveled from Washington to the Pacific Ocean, by railroad, in seven days. An experimental trip recently showed that the journey from New York to San Francisco could be made in eighty-three hours and thirtyfour minutes, or at the rate of one thousand miles a day! And, instead of waiting for weeks or months to receive intelligence from remote parts of our own country, and the world at large, the path of the subtle fluid, electricity, affords an instantaneous means of intercommunication, and thus annihilates space!

DoIIf our Revolutionary sires could reappear on earth, and see these wondrous things, together with the results of inventive genius, and progression in the arts and sciences, their expressions of surprise would be equal to, if they did not exceed, those of the hero of the Catskill mountains—but in a more agreeable sense—when he awoke from his long slumber, to be startled by the actual changes which meanwhile had taken place! We ourselves can scarcely realize the growth of the infant Republic, from its cradle in Independence Hall to the present time, when it stands forth in the pride of manhood with unconquerable strength!

It may here be appropriately mentioned that the first voyage across the Atlantic in a steam vessel was performed by the steamship Savannah in 1819. She was built in New York the year previous. On nearing Liverpool she was discerned from a lookout, and, as nothing of that kind had been seen there before, supposing a ship was on fire, one of the King’s cruisers was sent to her relief.

An item of the past will not be uninteresting in connection with the subject of locomotion. The Pennsylvania Gazette, of Philadelphia, January 3, 1776, had the “latest dates,” namely: ten days from Boston, and five days from New York. The “freshest” foreign dates from London were sixty days old, and these contained “an humble address of the House of Commons to the King,” in which they say:

No other use has been made of the moderation and forbearance of your Majesty and your Parliament but to strengthen the preparations of this desperate conspiracy, and that the rebellious war now levied is become more general, and manifestly carried on for the purpose of establishing an independent empire; and we hope and trust that we shall, by the blessing of God, put such strength and force into your Majesty’s hands as may soon defeat and suppress this rebellion, and enable your Majesty to accomplish your gracious wish of restoring order tranquility, and happiness through all the parts of your united empire.

The King graciously returned his fervent thanks for this loyal address, saying: “I promise myself the most happy consequences from the dutiful and affectionate assurances of the support of my faithful Commons on this great and important conjuncture, and I have a firm confidence that by the blessing of God and the justice of the cause, and by the assistance of my Parliament, I shall be enabled to suppress this dangerous rebellion, and to attain the most desirable end of restoring my subjects in America to the free and happy condition and to the peace and prosperity which they enjoyed in their constitutional dependence before the breaking out of these unhappy disorders.

The King and Commons not being as successful as they anticipated, his Majesty sent to this country Admiral Viscount Howe and General William Howe, general of his Majesty’s forces, as a commissioner in the interests of peace, and it is somewhat singular that their flag-ship bore the name of our national symbol the Eagle(1)—off the coast of the Province of Massachusetts. He declared the purpose of the King “to deliver all his subjects from the calamities of war and other oppressions they now undergo, and restore the colonies to peace;” and he was authorized by the King to “grant his free and general pardon to all those who in the tumult and disorders of the times may have deviated from their first allegiance, and who are willing by a speedy return to their duty to reap the benefits of the royal favor.”

But the Colonists or “conspirators” were not desirous of thus “reaping.” The seed they had themselves sown was to mature to a more precious harvest. They turned their plowshares into swords, and their pruning-hooks into spears, with the result of a fruitage beneficial to all mankind!

JohnQuincyAdamsJohn Quincy Adams, in his oration delivered July 4, 1831, said “Frederick the First of Brunswick constituted himself King of Prussia, by putting a crown upon his own head. Napoleon Bonaparte invested his brows with the crown of Lombardy, and declared himself King of Italy. The Declaration of Independence was the crown with which the people of united America, rising in gigantic stature as one man, encircled their brows, and there it remains. There, long as this globe shall be inhabited by human beings, may it remain a crown of imperishable glory.”

My friends, it is a solemn truth that there is not now on earth an intelligent person who lived on the Fourth of July, 1776. We read of the heroic struggles of the Continental army; their want of discipline and poverty, and the scarcity of money with which to purchase the needed supplies, and of the many sacrifices they made in the cause to which the best men that ever lived consecrated their lives and fortunes, and all else they held’ dear of ease and comfort; men who set the world an example in the straggle for freedom, which they eventually established. Their Constitution and the laws they passed to put it into operation attest their wisdom and the knowledge of the needs of the people in their new condition.

My friends, in what condition will our country be one hundred years hence?—the fourth of July, 1976? Will the same form of government we now have be preserved? Will it afford the same protection of personal freedom, property and human rights? Will the proud banner still wave over a united and prosperous people V These are questions to be answered by succeeding generations. If they are true to the teachings and examples of our Revolutionary sires the Republic will endure. If not, than the bright, and we might say this haughty Republic will pass into history with that of Rome, and for similar causes. There can be no republic that is not founded on the virtue, intelligence, and assent of the people. Enforced government belongs to tyranny.

We have additional cause of rejoicing in the fact, that, although national encounters have cursed the world ever since nations have had an existence, there is now no war between any nations. This is an era of peace. Even the oldest nations, including China and Japan, and others of the East, come will those of Europe to the happy centennial greeting. They bring with them, to exhibit near our own, their useful and ornamental products; all compatible with peace, and calculated to stimulate a beneficial rivalry.

Not far from where we are assembled lie the ashes of one whose character the entire world admires.

His name is seldom heard, excepting when it is uttered to designate the city which he founded. There was a time when it was more publicly honored than it is now; but still his memory is cherished by many patriotic hearts. Whatever may be the mutations in public affairs—whosoever may, for the time being, occupy the larger share of public attention, either as a warrior or as a statesman, the name of Washington, with its patriotic associations, will always be precious to the lover of liberty. But, alas! his teachings are too often disregarded, and we have not yet completed the monument to his memory. We may, however, without a dissenting voice, on this Centennial day, the first that we have seen, and the last that We shall ever see, recall a few words from his Farewell Address, although it was written eighty years ago. He said:

The unity of government which constitutes us 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, and your peace abroad; of your safety, of your prosperity;- of that very liberty which you so highly prize.

And the Father of his Country further advised “his friends and fellow-citizens” to “indignantly frown 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.

He counseled: “Towards the preservation of your Government and the permanency of your present happy State, it is requisite not only that you steadily discountenance irregular opposition to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretext.

And again: “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.”

US flag and bible crossMy friends, let us cherish the heavenly principle of “Peace on earth, good will to man,” and by word and example endeavor to cultivate in the hearts of those who are taking our places in the active scenes of life a love for law and liberty—a respect for the institutions of others, while preferring our own— and the enforcement of the duty of elevating the best men only to office, those who will see that the Republic suffers no detriment, for the acts of the public agent should be the reflex of the will of the constituency. A few should not plunder the many. To permit such practices is to sanction them. And let all wrongdoers be punished either by public opinion or by the criminal court, and public agents remember that the Government is for the people and not for themselves.

It was said aforetime, “Power is always stealing from the many to the few;” therefore if we would continue free we must guard against every encroachment on our liberties. And then there can be no doubt the Republic will endure, strengthened in population with the corresponding prosperity, presenting an example to the world at large for emulation, and conferring the richest blessings on the entire human race!

Footnote (1)  September 7, 1776 – Turtle Sinks Eagle
In the wee hours of the morning in New York Harbor, an explosion tore through the hull of the HMS Eagle, Admiral Richard Howe’s flagship. Though carpenters and crew rushed to save the vessel, it sank, carrying twenty-five men with it while the rest fled to shore and nearby ships. The British suspected an accident with the stored gunpowder, but two more explosions sank ships the next night. Eventually word came from old notes provided by a Loyalist spy that the Americans had a sort of “sub-marine” attack ship.
The Turtle had been invented by the young Yale student David Bushnell. While a freshman, he had begun experiments with underwater explosives, proving that gunpowder exploded underwater. He sought help from Isaac Doolittle, a New Haven clockmaker, and created the first time bomb. To implement the explosive on the hulls of ships, Bushnell designed a boat that could dive under the water. Something like an upturned clam, the one-man boat was made of two steel-reinforced wooden shells covered in tar. A hand pump and bilge tank allowed the intake and expulsion of water, thus increasing or decreasing the density of the craft and allowing it to sink. Six small windows allowed for bearings along with a compass lit by the bio luminescence of foxfire from fungus on cork.
Called the Turtle, the boat was manned by Sergeant Ezra Lee, who would later become part of Washington’s secret service. Dodging the iron plate at the Eagle’s rudder, Lee was able to secure the bomb and sneak away before spotted by soldiers. As the watch increased around the panicked British fleet, the Turtle was too easily discovered, so Washington set Bushnell on the task of improvements. The general referred to the craft as “an effort of genius” that had much promise for the future.
See also: Patrick Henry Lion of Liberty! greatest American Statesman
Founders & forefathers pledged their Sacred Honor, what did they mean?
THE POWER OF HISTORY by Horatio Seymour (1810–1886)
RISE OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY by Dr. Richard Salter Storrs July 4 1876
Christianity and the Founding of the United States the Simple Truth
The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
THE FIRST CENTURY OF THE REPUBLIC by Judge Isaac W Smith 1876
THE PERPETUITY OF THE REPUBLIC by Joseph Kidder July 4th 1876
Open Letter to ALL Politicians and Bureaucrats, we’re coming for you
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876 
THE DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC by Lewis W. Clark 1876 New Hampshire
THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876
The Practical Advance Of Human Freedom Under The Trumpet Call Made In 1776 by Charles F Adams
THE GRAND MISSION OF AMERICA by Joseph H. Twitchell, July 4, 1876
Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God
Constitution of the United States and it’s Governmental Operations (In Plain English so even Politicians, Lawyers and Bureaucrats can understand)

PROVIDENCE, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE by Samuel G. Arnold 1876

Samuel G. Arnold

Samuel G. Arnold

PROVIDENCE, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE, Oration By The Honorable Samuel G. Arnold (1821-1880) Delivered At Providence, Rhode Island, July 4, 1876

To trace the causes that led to the American Revolution, to narrate the events of the struggle for independence, or to consider the effect which the establishment of “the great Republic” has had upon the fortunes of the race in other lands— these have been the usual and appropriate themes for discourse upon each return of our national anniversary. And where can we find more exalted or more exalting subjects for reflection? It is not the deed of a day, the events of a year, the changes of a century, that explain the condition of a nation. Else we might date from the 4th of July, 1776, the rise of the American people, and so far as we as a nation are concerned, we might disregard all prior history as completely as we do the years beyond the flood. But this we cannot do, for the primitive Briton, the resistless Roman, the invading Dane, the usurping Saxon, the conquering Norman, have all left their separate and distinguishable stamp upon the England of to-day. As from Caedmon to Chaucer, from Spenser to Shakespeare, from Milton to Macaulay, we trace the progress of our language and literature from the unintelligible Saxon to the English of our time; so the development of political ideas has its great eras, chiefly written in blood. From the fall of Boadicea to the landing of Hengist, from the death of Harold to the triumph at Runnymede, from the wars of the Roses to the rise of the Reformation, from the fields of Edgehill and Worcester, through the restoration and expulsion of the Stuarts down to the days of George III, we may trace the steady advance of those nations of society and of government which culminated in the act of an American Congress a century ago proclaiming us a united and independent people. When the barons of John assembled on that little islet in the Thames to wrest from their reluctant kins the right of Magna Charta, there were the same spirit, and the same purpose that prevailed nearly six centuries after in the Congress at Philadelphia, and the actors were the same in blood and lineage. The charging cry at Dunbar, “Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered,” rang out a hundred and twenty-five years later from another Puritan camp on Bunker Hill. So history repeats itself in the ever-recurring conflict of ideas, with the difference of time, and place and people, and with this further difference in the result, that while in ancient times the principal characters in the historic drama were the conqueror, the conquered and the victim, these in modem days become the oppressor, the oppressed and the deliverer. Charles Stuart falls beneath Cromwell and Ireton, George III yields to Washington and Greene, serfdom and slavery vanish before Romanoff and Lincoln.

But we must turn from this wide field of history to one of narrower limits, to one so small that it seems insignificant to that class of minds which measures States only by the acre, as cloth by the yard; to those men who, to be consistent, should consider Daniel Lambert a greater man than Napoleon Bonaparte, or the continent of Africa a richer possession than Athens in the days of Pericles. There are many just such men, and the materialistic tendency of our times is adding to their number. It is in vain to remind them that from one of the smallest States of antiquity arose the philosophy and the art that rule the world to-day, Judea should have been an empire and Bethlehem a Babylon to impress such minds with the grandeur of Hebrew poetry or the sublimity of Christian faith. But for those to whom ideas are more than acres, men greater than machinery, and moral worth a mightier influence than material wealth, there is a lesson to be learned from the subject to which the Act of Congress and the Resolutions of the General Assembly limit this discourse. And since what is homely and familiar sometimes receives a higher appreciation from being recognized abroad, hear what the historian of America has said of our little Commonwealth, that “had the territory of the State corresponded to the importance and singularity of the principles of its early existence, the world would have been filled with wonder at the phenomena of its history.

Roger Williams Statue

Roger Williams Statue

Hear too a less familiar voice from beyond the sea, a German writer of the philosophy of history. Reciting the principles of Roger Williams, their successful establishment in Rhode Island, and their subsequent triumph, he says: “They have given laws to one quarter of the globe, and dreaded for their moral influence, they stand in the background of every democratic struggle in Europe.” It is of our ancestors, people of Providence, that these words were written, and of them and their descendants that I am called to speak.

To condense two hundred and forty years of history within an hour is simply impossible. We can only touch upon a few salient points, and illustrate the progress of Providence by a very few striking statistics. Passing over the disputed causes which led to the banishment of Roger Williams from Massachusetts, we come to the undisputed fact that there existed, at that time, a close alliance between the church and the State in the colony whence he fled, and that he severed that union at once and forever in the city which he founded. Poets had dreamed and philosophers had fancied a state of society where men were free and thought was untrammeled. Sir Thomas More and Sir Philip Sydney had written of such things. Utopias and Arcadias had their place in literature, but nowhere on the broad earth had these ideas assumed a practical form till the father of Providence, the founder of Rhode Island, transferred them from the field of fiction to the domain of fact, and changed them from an improbable fancy to a positive law. It was a transformation in politics—the science of applied philosophy—more complete than that by which Bacon overthrew the system of Aristotle. It was a revolution, the greatest that in the latter days had yet been seen. From out this modern Nazareth, whence no good thing could come, arose a light to enlighten the world. The “Great Apostle of Religious Freedom” here first truly interpreted to those who sat in darkness the teachings of his mighty Master. The independence of the mind had had its assertors, the freedom of the soul here found its champion. We begin then at the settlement of this city, with an idea that was novel and startling, even amid the philosophical speculations of the seventeenth century, a great original idea, which was to compass a continent, “give laws to one quarter of the globe,” and after the lapse of two centuries to become the universal property of the western world by being accepted in its completeness by that neighboring State, to whose persecutions Rhode Island owed its origin. Roger Williams was the incarnation of the idea of soul liberty, the Town of Providence became its organization. This is history enough if there were naught else to relate. Portsmouth, Newport and Warwick soon followed with their antinomian settlers to carry out the same principle of the underived independence of the soul, the accountability of man to his Maker, alone in all religious concerns. After the union of the four original towns into one colony, under the Parliamentary patent of 1643, confirmed and continued by the Royal charter of 1663, the history of the town becomes so included in that of the colony, in all matters of general interest, that it is difficult to divide them. The several towns, occupied chiefly with their own narrow interests, present little to attract in their local administration, but spoke mainly through their representatives in the colonial assembly, upon all subjects of general importance. It is there that we must look for most of the facts that-make history, the progress of society, the will of the people expressed in action. To these records we must often refer in sketching the growth of Providence.

Roger Williams and Narragansett Indians

Roger Williams and Narragansett Indians

It was in June, 1636, that Roger Williams, with five companions crossed the Seekonk to Slate Rock, where he was welcomed by the friendly Indians, and pursuing his way around the headland of Tockwotton, sailed up the Moshassuck, then a broad stream, skirted by a dense forest on either shore.

Attracted by a natural spring on the eastern bank he landed near what is now the cove, and began the settlement which in gratitude, to his Supreme Deliverer he called Providence. He had already purchased a large tract of land from the natives which was at first divided with twelve others “and such as the major part of us shall admit into the same fellowship of vote with us,” thus constituting thirteen original proprietors of Providence. (4). The first division of land was made in 1638, in which fifty-four names appear as the owners of “home lots” extending from Main to Hope streets, besides which each person had a six acre lot assigned him in other parts of the purchase. The granters could not sell their land to any but an inhabitant without consent of the town, and a penalty was imposed upon those who did not improve their lands. The government established by these primitive settlers was an anomaly in history. It was a pure democracy, which, for the first time guarded jealously the rights of conscience. The inhabitants, “masters of families” incorporated themselves into a town and made an order that no man should be molested for his conscience. The people met monthly in town meeting and chose a clerk and treasurer at each meeting. The earliest written compact that has been preserved is without date but probably was adopted in 1637. It is signed by thirteen persons (5.) We have not time to draw a picture of these primitive meetings held beneath the shade of some spreading tree where the fathers of Providence, discussed and decided the most delicate and difficult problems of practical politics, and reconciled the requirements of life with principles then unknown in popular legislation. The records are lost and here and there only a fragment has been preserved by unfriendly hands to give a hint of those often stormy assemblies where there were no precedents to guide, and only untried principles to be established by the dictates of common sense. Of these the case of “Verm, reported by Winthrop, is well known wherein liberty of conscience and the rights of woman were both involved with a most delicate question of family discipline. It is curious enough that one form of the subject now known under the general name of women’s rights, destined more than two centuries later to become a theme of popular agitation, should here be foreshadowed so early in Rhode Island, the source of so many novel ideas and the starting point of so many important movement*

Roger Williams was an English Protestant theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom, he started the Baptist church in America.

Roger Williams was an English Protestant theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom, he started the Baptist church in America.

Religious services had no doubt been held from the earliest settlement, but the first organized church was formed in 1638, the first Baptist church in America.

From the earliest days of the colony to the close of the recent civil strife, the war record of the State has been a brilliant one. As early as 1655, in the Dutch war she did more than the New England Confederacy, from which she had been basely excluded. Her exposed condition, by reason of the Indians, fostered this feeling in the first instance, and long habit cultivated the martial spirit of the people till it became a second nature. Her maritime advantages favored commercial enterprise, and the two combined prepared her for those naval exploits which in after years shed so much glory on the State. The three Indian wars, the three wars with Holland (1652-8, 1667, 1672-4), and the two with France (1667, 1690), in the seventeenth century, the three Spanish(1702-13, 1739-48, 1762-3), and the three French wars (1702-13, 1744-8, 1754-63) of the eighteenth, had trained the American colonies to conflict, and prepared them for the greater struggle about to come. At the outbreak of the fourth inter-colonial war, known as the “old French war,” this colony with less than forty thousand inhabitants and eighty-three hundred fighting men, sent fifteen hundred of these upon various naval expeditions, besides a regiment of eleven companies of infantry, seven hundred and fifty men under Col. Christopher Harris, who marched to the siege of Crown Point. Thus more than one-quarter of the effective force of the colony was at one time, on sea and laud, in privateers, in the royal fleets and in the camp, learning that stern lesson which was soon to redeem a continent. Is it surprising then that when the ordeal came the conduct of Rhode Island was prompt and decisive? It is said that small States are always plucky ones, and Rhode Island confirmed the historic truth.

The passage of the stamp act (Feb. 27, 1765), roused the spirit of resistance through America to fever heat. But amid all the acts of Assemblies, and the resolutions of town meetings, none went so far or spoke so boldly the intentions of the people as those passed in Providence at a special town meeting (August 7,1765), and adopted unanimously by the General Assembly (Sept 16). They pointed directly to an absolution of allegiance to the British crown, unless the grievances were removed. The day before the fatal one on which the act was to take effect, the Governors of all the Colonies, but one, took the oath to sustain it. Samuel Ward, “the Governor of Rhode Island stood alone in his patriotic refusal,” says Bancroft. Nor was it the last as it was not the first time that Rhode Island stood alone in the van of progress. Non-importation arguments were everywhere made. The repeal of the odious act (Feb. 22, 1766) came too late, coupled as it was with a declaratory act asserting the right of Parliament “to bind the Colonies in all cases.” Then came a new development of patriotic fervor instituted by the women of Providence. Eighteen young ladies of leading families of the town met at the house of Dr. Ephraim Bowen (March 4, 1766), and from sunrise till night, employed the time in spinning flax. These “Daughters of Liberty,” as they were called, resolved to use no more British goods, and to be consistent they omitted tea from the evening meal. So rapid was the growth of the association that their next meeting was held at the Court House. The “Sons of Liberty” were associations formed at this time in all the Colonies to resist oppression, but to Providence belongs the exclusive honor of this union of her daughters for the same exalted purpose. This is the second time we have had occasion to notice that women has come conspicuously to the front in the annals of Providence, when great principles were at stake. But we claim nothing more for our women than the same spirit of self-denial and lofty devotion that the sex has everywhere shown in the great crises of history. The first at the cross and the first at the sepulcher, the spirit and the blessing of the Son of God have ever rested in the heart of woman.

Side by side with the struggle for freedom grew the effort for a wider system of education. It was proposed to establish four free public schools. This was voted down by the poorer class of people who would be most benefited by the movement. Still the measure was partially carried out, and a two story brick building was erected in (1768). The upper story was occupied by a private school, the lower, as a free school. Whipple Hall, which afterwards became the first district school, was at this time chartered as a private school in the north part of the town, and all the schools were placed in charge of a committee of nine, of whom the Town Council formed a part the next year a great stimulus was given to the educational movement in the town. Two years had passed since Rhode Island College was established at Warren, and the first class oi seven students was about to graduate. Commencement day gave rise to the earliest legal holiday in our history. A rivalry among the chief towns of the Colony for the permanent location of what is now Brown University, resulted in its removal two years later (1774) to Providence. This now venerable institution, whose foundation was a protest against sectarianism in education, has become the honored head of a system of public and private schools, which for completeness of design, for perfection of detail, and for thoroughness of work, may safely challenge comparison with any other organized educational system in the world.

There are some significant facts connected with The Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, which serve to show the relative importance of this city in the industrial summary of the country. One is that in the three principal buildings Providence occupies the centre and most conspicuous place. We all know the man who commands Presidents and Emperors, and they obey him—who says to Don Pedro “come,” and he cometh, and to President Grant “Do this,” and he doeth it, and we have seen the mighty engine that from the centre of Machinery Hall, moves fourteen acres of the world’s most cunning industry. The Corliss engine proudly sustains the supremacy of Providence amid the marvels of both hemispheres. Facing the central area of the main exhibition building, the Gorham Manufacturing Company have their splendid show of silver ware around the most superb specimens of the craftsman’s art that has ever adorned any Exposition in modern times. Under the central dome of Agricultural Hall the Rumford Chemical Works present an elaborate and attractive display of their varied and important products, arresting the eye as a prominent object among the exhibits of all the world. And when we visit the Women’s Pavilion we shall see that of all the rich embroidery there displayed none surpasses that shown by the Providence Employment Society, and shall learn that little Rhode Island ranks as the fifth State in the amount of its contributions to the funds of this department, being surpassed only by New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Massachusetts. A city which occupies these positions in the greatest Exposition of the century has no cause to shun comparison between its past and its present.

But by far the greatest event of its bearing upon the prosperity of Providence was the introduction of water which, after being four times defeated by popular vote, was finally adopted in 1869. The work commenced the next year, and the water was first introduced from the Pawtuxet river in November, 1871. The question, whether Providence was to become a metropolis of trade and manufactures or to continue as a secondary city, was thus settled in favor of progress. The stimulus given in the right direction was immediate and immense. The overflow of population soon required the city limits to be extended, and the annexation of the Ninth and Tenth Wards caused an increase of forty-six per cent, from the census of 1870 to that of 1875, a showing which no other city in the country can equal.

That the city of Providence has its future in its own hands is apparent. With the vast wealth and accumulated industries of a century at its disposal; with the result which this latest measures of improvement has produced as an encouragement; and with the experience of other less favored seaports as a guide, there would seem to be the ability and the inducement to take the one remaining step necessary to secure the supremacy which nature indicates for the head waters of Narragansett bay. While our northern and western railroad connections are already very large and are rapidly reaching their requisite extension there remains only the improvement of the harbor and adjacent waters of the bay, which can be made at comparatively small expense, to make Providence the commercial emporium of New England. There is no mere fancy in this idea. It is an absolute fact, attested by the history of Glasgow, and foreshadowed by the opinions of those who have thought long and carefully upon the subject. It is a simple question of engineering and of enterprise, and it will be accomplished. When Providence had twelve thousand inhabitants, as it had within the life time of many of us who do not yet count ourselves as old, had some seer foretold that the centennial of the nation would see the quiet town transformed into the growing city starting upon its second hundred thousand of population, it would have seemed a far more startling statement than this with which we now close the Centennial Address—that the child is already born who will see more than half a million of people within our city, which will then be the commercial metropolis of New England.

See also: The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
Founders & forefathers pledged their Sacred Honor, what did they mean?
THE POWER OF HISTORY by Horatio Seymour (1810–1886)
WHAT HISTORY TEACHES US ABOUT AMERICAN DIPLOMACY Addressed in 1876
THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876
THE TRIUMPHS OF THE REPUBLIC! by Hon. Theodore Bacon, New York 1876
AMERICA OUR SUCCESS OUR FUTURE! by John P. Gulliver July 4th 1876 NYC
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876
BENEFITS OF THE REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT IN AMERICA by Thomas G. Alvord 1810- 1897
NEW HAVEN CT, ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO by Leonard Bacon July 4, 1876
Celtic Prayer of the Lorica or Breastplate prayer
Founders on the 2nd Amendment
The Story of Paul Revere