OUR REPUBLIC! By Jeremiah Taylor at Providence, R. I., July 4th 1876

Power of History2OUR REPUBLIC! An Oration By Rev. Jeremiah Taylor, D. D., Delivered At Providence, Rhode Island, July 4th, 1876, At The Planting Of A Centennial Tree In Roger William’s Park.

Mr. President, Ladies, Gentlemen, Youth And Children: A German schoolmaster once said, “Whenever I enter my schoolroom, I remove my hat and bow with reverence, for there I meet the future dignitaries of my country.” Standing as we do this hour upon the high places of national prosperity and joining with the forty millions of people, the inhabitants of our proud and grateful country in this centennial celebration, the future outlook is awe-inspiring. To us as to him of old, who beheld the bush burning, yet not consumed, there comes the admonition, that we are standing in the presence of the high and the holy. In the order of the exercises which the committee have arranged for this day’s work among us, I am impressed that each department illustrates well some grand historic fact, or enunciates some underlying principle which has built and which must conserve this Republic.

You will have observed that the celebration began by a military and civic procession which, after winding through some of the principal streets of the city, brought up at the venerable “meeting house,” which is older than the nation, and has stood all these years blessing the people, and there combined with the services of religion and the reading of the Declaration of Independence and the address of eloquence.

WeThePeopleWhat better picture of the state of tilings one hundred years ago, when stirred with eloquence as the fire of patriotism burned bright and all consuming, men rushed to their altars for divine guidance, and then to their implements of war, to conquer or die. “A civic and military procession!” just that was the army of the Revolution springing up from field and workshop and all trades and professions wherever a hero might be found and the sacred cause moved him. Next in order to-day came the grand Trades Procession; symbolizing the prosperity of the country during a century of life and industry, and what nation under the whole heaven, can exhibit such a growth in a century as we do to-day, in all these things which constitute the strength and glory of a free people?

The third act in the scene of this pageantry is the one passing here, in which the children and the youth are so largely represented; from whose ranks are to arise the men and the women of the future. Yes, here we stand in the presence of the nation that is to be. There is a meaning, too, in the regatta appointed for the silent hours of incoming evening upon the quiet waters of the Seekonk That old stream that has played so important a part in ages gone as well as now; that yielded her bosom just as readily when furrowed by the canoe of the red man before civilized life began, as now it endures all the wantoness and sport of the trained sons of Brown. For shall we not see in the struggles of the boat race the intensified energy and stimulated purpose exemplified which must constitute the warp and woof in the great business life of the future?

That nation only has a future among the centuries that shall be worthy of record, which employs all her skill and well-directed enterprise to keep fully abreast of all the questions that bear upon human weal, and, when rightly solved, bless mankind to the last degree. We want the bone, the muscle, the sinew capable of hardly endurance, not less than the well-trained thought and sterling virtue for future use. The old Republic, weakened by effeminacy, perished. May God save us from such an unhonored grave!

Portrait_of_George_WashingtonIt will be seen then from this run along the line of the procession that the morning service had a more special reference to the past; was largely puritanic while this of the afternoon and evening contemplate the future, and are mainly prophetic. Let us catch the inspiration that ought to move us even here and now. I have said this service is future in its bearings. But lest the muse of history should turn away in sorrow, stop a moment before we proceed with that idea. Let us not forget this place is hallowed ground. Go up into the old house which has crowned the brow of the hill for the century past, and which has just been “fixed up” for the century to come. Then walk down to the well of whose pure waters, the Williams family drank from generation to generation, and which when mixed with tea gave such zest to the evening hours in the life of Betsey, to whose noble benefaction it is due we are here in such joyous mood, feeling that we are part owners of these twenty acres, if we hold not a foot of soil outside the Park. Then pass down into the sacred enclosure where the “forefathers of the hamlet sleep,” and read the quaintly lettered story of their life and death. We are sorry that you cannot look upon the face of old Roger himself, the patron saint of all these domains, and whose statue with a face as he ought to have looked when living, will one day appear ready to defy the storms of the open heavens as they may here sweep over the plain. But in the absence of that costly embellishment, walk across yon rustic bridge where you will find the apple tree and Roger Williams in it. But to our theme,—With these children from our public schools, and you, Mr. President representing the Board of Education, before me, how natural to say a few things in regard to education and government. And thus we shall see what the children must be and do to render the future grand—enduring. I have just read the story of the “Blue-eyed Boy,” who peered through the keyhole into the Hall of Independence, saw the venerable men sign the Declaration of Independence, then of his own accord shouted to the bellman to ring forth the joyful tidings, then leaping upon the back of his pony, self-appointed, rode night and day to the camp of General Washington, located in New York, and communicated to him what had been done in Congress, and this two days before the commander-in-chief received his dispatches from the proper authorities. Like that patriotic, heroic boy, we want the children of to-day to herald down the coming ages the great facts and principles of our nation’s life and glory. How can they do it?

We have planted our centennial tree; whether it survives and flourishes, or dies after a few months, depends upon certain established laws in nature. Soil, climate, sunshine and storm are to tell in the one direction or the other. The Republic of of the United States, which to-day wears a matronly brow and bears the wreath of a century, is to abide in honor and flourish in prosperity, or to perish from being a nation under the operation of laws no less fixed and obvious.

betsy_ross_flag1We are probably now passing through the test period of our existence. We have seen the sword cannot devour. The world knows, we know, that our arm of power is strong in defence and protection. The adverse elements which, during the century gone, have at times appeared so fierce and destructive, have only reduced elements of strength. Prosperity is often more dangerous than adversity. When Moab could not conquer ancient Israel on the field of battle, she did so spread her net of enticement as to decoy and imperil her. If we have come through the scourge of the sword strong, who can say that corruption and loss of public virtue shall not mark our ruin? We must educate the young aright, if we are to conserve what we have received and now hold. It has been said, “the chief concern of a State is the education of her children.” As a prime element in this education, we have need to inculcate American ideas of government. This may be quite easy to do with that portion of the young that are born here, and whose blood is Anglo Saxon; without other ingredients, the blood and the birth place both have an important bearing. The Englishman, reared on the other side of the Atlantic, does not easily comprehend the genius of our free institutions, and there noticeably are duller scholars still. The government here is through the people, and of course belongs to the people. I am a part of the nation, and am to my measure of ability responsible for what the national life is. This idea of being a factor in the Republic becomes one of the most potent influences for good; one of the most powerful educators in the land. It was this idea that brought to the field of battle such vast armies to save the government in its last scene of danger, and rendered them so tractable, wise, enduring, brave, where no standing armies existed before. Now whether a man came from China or Ireland, Japan or Germany, the north pole or the south pole, let him understand at the earliest possible period, that he is one of us and owes allegiance to no government but what he helps to constitute. It has been said many a time, that the English debt makes the English government strong—because so many of the people are creditors. Our own government in the late war made the people largely its creditors for a like reason. But the bond of our union is deeper, broader than this, more binding, more sure. It is this, that not only the money is ours, but the honor and prosperity, and the very being of the nation belongs to the people. And allow me to say that our system of popular education is one of the best agencies that can be employed to inculcate, foster and strengthen this idea. Every school in our land made up of a distinct nationality, on a fundamental principle of religion or politics, is fostering a spirit anti-Republican, and fraught with evil to our free institutions.

If any people are so purblind as not to see that we offer to them through our public institutions better educational opportunities than they can transplant here from the Old World, then we beg they will abide under their own vine and fig tree and leave to us and ours, what we so highly prize, and propose to perpetuate. We shall not submit to any foreign domination, whether it be political or ecclesiastical.

There will naturally be connected with this American idea of government, as a second educational element, patriotic fervor. One of the weakest things in the old Ottoman power so shaken just now that indicates its near ruin is a lack of patriotism. Such an emotion as love of country is not found there. The Turk may fight because he is forced to, not because his home, family and native land are dearer to him than life.

The Storming of Stony Point by Alonzo Chappell

The Storming of Stony Point by Alonzo Chappell

It was this patriotic fervor that brought our nation into being, and this must be an important instrumentality in its continuance. Read the closing sentence in that immortal document which one hundred years ago this very day so fired and nerved the people in their great struggle for liberty: “And for the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Those words were no mere rhetorical flourish, when published. They included all the language could express, and infinitely more than such a declaration ever contained before.

It may be quite easy to frame resolutions and give pledges in times of peace; but the hour when the framers of the Declaration of Independence spoke so boldly and meaningly was when war was at the door and the hand of a most powerful nation was upon the throat of her feebler Colonies.

To pledge life, property, sacred honor then was to have them put in immediate requisition for the imperiled cause.

It meant, as Benjamin Franklin said to John Hancock, as he wrote his bold name and remarked, (1)”We must all hang together. Yes, we must indeed hang together, or else, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” That high-toned sentiment, fearlessly uttered was sustained by sacrifice and intense endurance. Republics are made of youth and let there arise generation after generation of youth, so infused, men of such devotion to the good of the country, and we are safe for the century to come, for all future years while the world standeth; for:

Our country first, their glory and their pride,
Land of their hopes, land where their fathers died,
When in the right they’ll keep her honor bright,
Wherein the wrong they’ll die to set it right.

It was a painful feature of our American life made prominent before the late rebellion, that so many eminent in positions at home, or traveling abroad, affected to despise their birth-right, were ashamed of their country. They claimed to be English rather than Americans, when in foreign lands. And when here on our soil, fostered, honored, had nothing of the national life and spirit about them.

In such an ignoble spirit the rebellion was matured. They were ever decrying their home blessings, and extolling the beauty and bounty of institutions far away. We are thankful that spirit, so vain and silly, so unnatural and obsequious, has been so thoroughly flogged out of the nation. I do not think so big a fool can be found in the entire land, in this day of grace, July 4, 1876, as a man who chanced to be born in our famed country, wishing the lines of life in the beginning had fallen to him in some other place. American citizenship has passed the period of reproach. It challenges the homage of the world. It is set in gems of beauty. It is royal diadem.

In studying the character of the men who became the founders and framers of this Republic, we find they were distinguished for sterling integrity, and so we must see to it that the young, rising up around us, are possessed of the same element of character, if our institutions are to be perpetuated. What we want to-day in our country is men who can be trusted. They are here, no doubt, and will appear and take their place when called for. Gold is good, and we want that, but men more. We have had a decade of sordid sentiment and base practice.

Such a state of things is not unusual after a season of war. Competition was widespread after the Revolution.

hero_of_vincennes1The vile mercenary spirit has invaded all departments of life and influences. The greed of gain, inflamed by a desire for personal gratification, has been too strong for the ordinary barriers of virtue and fair dealing, and what wrecks of character, fortune and life even have appeared as a consequence upon the surface of society. Men who have become insane through lust and gain scruple not at the use of any means which may accomplish their purpose. And so we distrust one another, and wonder if we shall find at the Centennial Exhibition even that noblest work of God, “an honest man.” It is thought by many that the evil is self-corrective, that the appalling depths of iniquity which have been revealed will frighten and compel a hasty retreat on the part of those who have ventured on the perilous extreme. That is not the ordinary law of reform. Reeking corruption does not of itself become a scene of sweetness and beauty. Let us trust in no such vain hope. Rather let the education of the young be the source of cheerful expectation. Train up the children in the ways of integrity. Let it be engraven upon their hearts in the deep-bedded lines of ineffaceable conviction, that righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways though he be rich.

“Ill fares the land to hast’ning; ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.”

Another important lesson to bo taught our youth is that wealth is not the end, but the means, and so our life ought to be one of well-appointed industry and careful husbandry, whether we be rich or poor.

Harriet Martineau, who has just died at her home in England, after traveling through this country and observing the working of our free institutions, recorded as her deliberate opinion that no calamity could befall an American youth more serious in results than to inherit a large patrimony.

The idea has been so wide spread, that if a man has riches he has attained already the chief end of his being, that an overindulged, useless life, is almost a sure concomitant of inherited wealth; more diligence, less extravagance, should be the watchwords with which to start on the new century. With the very fair show which the benevolent department of the country may make as to-day she unrolls her record of church work at home and abroad, her educational work, with endowed colleges and public libraries, her charities to the poor and the unfortunate, it must yet be apparent that as a people we have not learned how to use wealth aright.

The great industries of the land are depressed. The hands of the laborer are seeking in vain for something to do, and the rich are becoming poor, as a consequence of the recklessness of habits in the modes of earning and spending in the past. The same is true of a liberal education, as of wealth. The youth who, blessed with opportunities for a higher education, must be made to feel that they are carried through the schools, not to be drones in society, fancy men, but that they may contribute to the wisdom, integrity and every virtue in the high places of state and nation.

It is sometimes said that higher education unfits some for business. Send a boy to college and he is good for nothing except in the learned professions. “If this be so, then our educational system needs reorganizing.” The old maxim that knowledge is power, is true, and broad as true. A man will be better fitted to fill any occupation in life for a higher education, if he has been educated aright. Out upon any other theory. Let the people everywhere be made to feel this, as the graduates do honor to their privileges, by meeting the just claim that society has upon them and the questions about graded schools and free colleges will fail to be discussed for want of an opponent.

Our country offers the highest prize for every virtue, all trained talent. It is base, it is mean, it is contemptible, not to be true, noble and good when the way to ascend is so easy; where the people are so ready to crown, and honor him who deserves to wear a crown, and when our free institutions are so deserving of all the support and praise we can bring them.

One word more. This has been a Christian nation during the century past. The great principles of divine truth have been wrought into the foundations and abide in the structure. The Word of God has been our sheet anchor in the past; it must be so in the future. Someone has said “Republicanism and freedom are but mere names for beautiful but impossible abstractions, except in the case of a Christainly, educated people.” Keep this thought in the minds of the young, in all their course of education, and they will rise up to bless the land, and possess her fair and large domain. It was [Alexis] De Tocqueville who said, “He who survives the freedom and dignity of his country, has already lived too long.

May none before us, or in the generations following, live thus long. Our Republic to the end of time.

See also: THE POWER OF HISTORY by Horatio Seymour (1810–1886)
RISE OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY by Dr. Richard Salter Storrs July 4 1876
SCORN TO BE SLAVES by Dr. Joseph Warren 1741-1775
THE MARCH OF FREEDOM by Theodore Parker 1810-1860
THE GENIUS OF AMERICA by Hon. Dr. Felix R. Brunot July 4, 1876
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
THE HAND OF GOD IN AMERICAN HISTORY by Rev Morgan Dix July 4th 1876 NYC
A REPUBLIC! A LIVING BREATHING CONSTITUTION DEFINED! by Alphonse De Lamartine 1790-1869
BENEFITS OF THE REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT IN AMERICA by Thomas G. Alvord 1810- 1897

THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876

Brooks_Adams,_c._1910THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY, A SPEECH BY BROOKS ADAMS, ESQ., DELIVERED AT THE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION AT BINGHAM, MASS., JULY 4th, 1876. Youngest son of Charles Francis Adams, also great grandson of John Adams.

Fellow-citizens: On this solemn anniversary we do not come together—if I understand our feelings rightly—to indulge in vainglorious self-praise of our fathers or ourselves. Nor do we come here to lash ourselves once more into anger over the well known story of the wrongs our fathers suffered at the hands of the English people. We come here neither in pride nor bitterness. We bear malice towards none. We are at peace with all the world. What we do come for is to celebrate what we believe to have been a great era in the world’s history, to call to mind the principles which were declared one hundred years ago to-day, to rejoice over the blessings which this people have inherited through the patriotism and the wisdom of our forefathers, and above all to ask ourselves on this Centennial day whether we have been acting up to the standard they laid down for us, and whether we are doing our duty by our country and our age. That three millions of people should have been able to contend with the whole power of Great Britain, and to wring from her an acknowledgment of their independence, is indeed surprising, but that alone would throw but a comparatively feeble light upon the early patriots. Other colonies have also gained their independence, whose people have little reason to celebrate their nation’s birthday. What makes this day remarkable is not so much that on it our independence was declared as that on its birth was given to popular government, and the glory of our ancestors lies not so much in having waged a successful war as in having been the first to teach the lesson to mankind that institutions resting safely on the popular will can endure. Yet the men of that day were neither dreamers nor enthusiasts. They did not want independence for its own sake. They would have been perfectly content to have remained English subjects had they been allowed to manage their little governments as they had been accustomed, and to enjoy the rights they had always enjoyed. But they were not a race of men to endure oppression patiently. They loved liberty as they understood it, and as we understand it, more than anything on earth, and to preserve it they were willing to brave the greatest power of the world.

II. The Beginning of Government

We all know the history of the war, how it begun at Lexington and Concord and dragged through seven, bloody, weary years, and until it closed on the day when Gen. Lincoln, of Hingham, received the sword of Lord Cornwallis on the surrender of Yorktown. During those years this State and this town did their part, as they have always done in the time of trial, and as they probably always will do so long as the old Puritan stock remains. Meanwhile the colonies, having thrown off their old Government, went on to organize a new one. Peace found the country ravaged, war-worn, ruined, and under Confederation. The Declaration of Independence had boldly declared not only the right but the capacity of the people for self-government. The task yet remained before them of reconstructing their Government and thus redeeming the boast that had been made. For the first time in the world’s history popular institutions were really upon trial, and it seemed as though they were doomed to meet with disastrous failure. How can I describe that wretched interval, the gloomiest years in American history. The confederation hardly deserved the name of Government. There were enemies abroad, there was dissension at home. Congress had no power to levy taxes, so that not only the interest on the public debt, but the most ordinary expenses remained unpaid. There was a debased currency, there were endless jealousies between the States, there was mutiny in the army, imbecility in Congress—the people were poor and discontented, and at length a rebellion broke at her in Massachusetts which threatened to overthrow the foundation of society. The greatest and best of men—Washington, himself, was in despair. It was then that the intelligence and power of the American people showed itself, it was then that they justified the boast of the Declaration of Independene, it was then that they established Government.

No achievement of any people is more wonderful than this. “Without force or bloodshed, but by means of fair agreement alone difficulties were solved which had seemed to admit of no solution. At this distance of time we can look back calmly, and we can appreciate the wisdom and self-control of men who could endure such trials and pass through action without an appeal to arms. And they had their awards. Nothing has ever equaled the splendor of their success. From the year 1789 to the year 1860, no nation has ever known a more unbounded prosperity, a fuller space of happiness. In the short space of 70 years, within the turn of a single life, the nation, poor, weak and despised, raised itself to the pinnacle of power and of glory.

At the outbreak of the Revolution 3,000,000 of people, a far smaller number than the population of New York now, were scattered along the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Georgia. There were no interior settlements. Where the great cities of Buffalo and Rochester now are there were then only Indians and deer. Boston had but 14,000 inhabitants, there were no manufactures, everything was imported from abroad. Within those 70 or 80 years all changed as if by magic. Population increased ten-fold, cities sprang up in the wilderness, manufactures were established, wealth grew beyond all computation. And better than mere material prosperity, our history was stainad by no violence. We had no State executions, no reigning terror, no guillotine, no massacre. We tolerated all religious beliefs. There was perfect liberty and security for all men. Nor is this the highest praise to which our people are justly due. No purer men or greater statesmen ever lived than those whose lives adorn the early history of the Republic. Men who had never seen a great city, men whose whole experience had not extended further than the local assembly of their colony or the provincial corn-fields, wrote the Declaration of Independence, and framed the Constitution of our States. We read their writings now, we wonder at them, but we do not dream equaling them ourselves. There seemed no end to them. Orators, statesmen, judges, Washington and Jefferson, Franklin and Marshall, men who will be remembered and honored so long as our language shall endure.

III. Slavery

But with all the blessings we inherited from our ancestors we, inherited a curse also—the curse of negro slavery. It is easy now to see how the bitterness of the South as we should wish to be received were we Southerners. Let us rather remember that they fought by our fathers’ side through seven long years in the war of the Revolution, and that a year ago Southern soldiers marched through the streets of Boston under the old flag to celebrate with us the victory of Bunker Hill. And now on this our nation’s birthday, in the midst of peace, with our country more wealthy and more populous than ever before, are we content? Can we look over the United States and honestly tell ourselves that all things are well within us? We cannot conceal from ourselves that all things are not well. For the last ten years a shameless corruption has gone on about us. We see it on every side. We read of it daily in the newspapers until we sicken with disgust. It has not been confined to any section or state, or city, to either political party, or to any department of Government. It has been all-pervading.

IV. Political Party

One hundred years ago to-day birth was given to this nation in its struggle for the rights of men. On this day, if on n0 other we can rise above our party ties, we can feel that we are all citizens of a common country striving for a common cause, members of a common party, all Republicans, all Democrats. We may differ as to the means but we agree upon the end. We all long for a great and respected country, for a happy and united people between the North and South slowly grew until it burst into civil war. And truly that war did continue until every drop of blood drawn by the lost had been repaid by another drawn by the sword. Though years have passed by, which of us does not remember the awful agony of that struggle, the joy at the news of victory, the gloom after defeat. Even now when we recall those days we feel the old rage arise within us, the old bitterness return. Not far from these doors stands the statue of Massachusetts’ greatest Governor—Mr. Andrews. Truly his life should teach us that as men are good and brave, so are they kind and forgiving. Surely he would not have cherished resentment toward a conquered foe. Surely he would have been the last to preach the doctrine of internal hate. Surely Mr. Lincoln was full of kindness toward the South. If ever we are again to have a united people, we must learn to feel as he felt. We must remember men will never be good citizens who are treated with suspicion and distrust. We must, above all things, teach ourselves to be just. We must remember that the foundation of this government is equal laws for all, and that there cannot be one law for Massachusetts and another for Virginia.

The issues of the war are dead; Slavery is abolished, never to be revived; it is forbidden by the Constitution, and we have the means to enforce obedience should any disobey. No State will ever again support the cause which has been trampled in the dust by national armies. Let us then remember this Centennial year by forgetting sectional differences. Let us receive them as brothers. There are certain duties which the citizen owes this country that cannot be thrown aside, and the first of these duties is to see that the Government is pure. The struggles of the Democrats and Federalists of three-quarters of a century ago no longer excites us. Yet we see two parties, each believing in themselves in the right, and each fighting fiercely for what they believe. We know what the Democrats were. “We know that under their will the country was prosperous and happy, and we are justified in believing that had victory been reversed, the country would have prospered still. What matters it to us to which political party Washington, Jefferson, Madison, or Jay belonged? We know that they were great and wise, and we honor them and love them as American citizens. What does it matter to us if the people and the men they chose to govern them were intelligent and honest, and made the American name feared and respected throughout the world.

There may not be among us men equal to the early patriots, men whose names will still be remembered when this nation has passed away, but we have men whose honor is as stainless, whose lives are as pure, and who, if they cannot bring genius, can at least bring integrity and devotion to the public service. We have no standing army, no aristocracy. The whole future of our society rests on the respect the people feel for law. Laws can only be respected when the laws themselves, the men who make them, and the men who administer them command our respect. If the time shall ever come when American judges shall habitually sell justice, when American legislators shall sell their votes, and the public servants the nation’s honor, all respect for our institutions will die in the minds of our people, and the Government born one hundred years ago to-day will be about to pass away.

V. Official corruption

The question even now forces itself upon us, what do the things that are about us portend? Is all that we have seen and heard, only the sign of a passing evil, which we may hope to cure, or does it show that we are already the victims of that terrible disease which has so often been the ruin of republics? Is the very glory and splendor of the nation to prevent its ruin, and do its wealth and prosperity bear out, then, the seeds of decay? Our fathers were small and scattered people—sober, frugal and industrious. There was no great wealth, nor was their extreme poverty. Most men were farmers, and had that best and most practical of all education —the management of their own property, the process of government comparatively simple, and the temptations comparatively small. In a century all this has changed; we are forty millions of people instead of three millions; we are crowded together in great cities; we have railways and manufactures; we have huge aspirations, vast wealth. But side by side with our beautiful churches and rich colleges there exists, where the population is dense, much poverty and ignorance. On the other hand, men are assailed by all the tempations of a rich and complex society. In the history of the past few years that evil has slowly gained strength; a class of men are beginning to hold office, with the approbation of the people, whose object is plunder; a class who look upon the public revenues as a fund from which to steal—nay, more, who seek public offices for motives of private gain by using their influence to make money for themselves.

VI. Necessity of Change

There we already see the beginning of the end. No popular government can endure which does not do justice, a much less one which is systematically perverted. No government can endure which allows the property of its citizens to be taken from them under the guise of taxes, not for profitable purposes, but to satisfy private greed. These abuses came with ring rule, and there is hardly a rich city or a great State in the Union which does not know the meaning of government by rings(1). Corrupt courts, enormous taxes, ruinous debts, impure politics, are the consequences, and the consequences we have seen. If we have now arrived at the point where we feel ring government gradually closing in upon us; if the majority of the people has not the power or the intelligence, or the will, not only to protect themselves against fresh assaults, but to purify society from taint, this is for us indeed a gloomy anniversary, and our hope can be but small. In such a struggle to stand still is to be conquered. Nothing in the world is stationary, and if government does not diminish it will assuredly increase.

I do not believe there is excuse for gloom. We know the people with whom we have always lived, and we know that they are neither dishonest nor ignorant, and I do not believe that the people of the other States in the Union are behind the people of Massachusetts. But there are also other better reasons for confidence. This the generation which carried through the war; no sterner test could be applied to any people. There was no constraint upon them; peace was always within their reach; it could have been attained at any time had the majority desired it.

After brief allusions to the prominent causes for hope, the speaker concluded as follows: Fellow-citizens, believing as I do that our institutions are wise and good, believing as I do that, properly administered, they yield to us the fullest measure of happiness, believing that our people are essentially the same as the people of one hundred years ago—equally honest, equally intelligent, equally self-sacrificing—I see no cause for despondency in the future, I see reason for brightest hope. Provided we remember that our responsibilities are as great now as they ever have been during our history—provided we keep in mind the warning of Washington, that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance—provided we are awake to the knowledge that abuses which are tolerated may in time overpower us—there lies before this Republic the happiest future which any nation has ever been permitted to enjoy; a future as happy and as glorious as its past. Let us then, in this centennial year, putting aside all personal ambition and all selfish aims, firmly resolve that we will strive honestly, patiently, humbly, in the position in which God has placed us, to regain that noble purity in which our nation was born, preeminent to the end that our children, at another centennial, may say of us that they too had their ink well in the world’s history, and through them this Government of the people for the people by the people still endureth.

“If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” – Samuel Adams

Footnotes
(1) Government by rings definition: Also called government by lottery, or convention system of government. That government where political bosses are in control and we the people have no real say in who is chosen to represent us, whether it be in the political offices and bureaucracies of nation, state or local. It is also where the seats of bureaucracy are filled by the winner of elections as in political appointees, where the reins of society and government are given over to lobbyists and special interests who have more sway with legislation than we the people do.

From the Journal of the Senate of the State of Michigan, Volume 2 (1879)

As illustrating the operations of the ring, I quote from the Buffalo Express, one of the ablest papers published in the United States:

“Books have been multiplied to serve the profits of publishers rather than the training of scholars, and every large city, where tens of thousands of children must have each a half-dozen or more of books, has become a gold-mine, to be worked to the utmost by the publishers who hold it, and to be strenuously fought for by the publishers whose works are now excluded. Any fair and unbiased opportunity to judge of text-books solely upon their merits, and adopt them because of those merits, is prevented by the manipulations of book agents, who push the works published by the houses in whose pay they are, in season and out of season, and too often bring to the notice of the officials interested arguments quite apart from any consideration of the contents of the book. According to the Detroit Free Press, the matter took this shape in a southern city:

“The Louisville, Ky., school-men have been grievously tempted by a geography agent. One member resigned because he had been offered $75 to vote for a particular geography,and he did not wish the offense repeated. Another said that §200 had been offered him to vote for the same work. Thus doth the great cause of education stride along.”

Who knows how soon such bribery may be resorted to in Buffalo and other cities? Could there be a grosser scandal than this making merchandise of the training, and therefore, to no trilling extent, of the future happiness of one’s children, the dearest interests that can appeal to the heart of man and woman?

Is it not about time that the people of this State, if not of the country, should adopt some settled, uniform, legalized method as to school-books which might better serve the training of pupils, might lessen the cost to parents, and might put an end to a great and growing scandal? Must it be admitted that no such plan can be devised, and that public education has become the foot-ball of the mercantile interests of publishers, beyond all remedy? That would be a humiliating confession—a confession, indeed, which would go far to cast doubt upon the boasted capacity of the American people for self-government. If we cannot protect ourselves from imposition and intrigue, in a matter as to which our love for our children and our regard for the future welfare of the country—two of the strongest sentiments of our being —conspire to quicken our invention and give decision to our action, then we might as well confess that government by rings is the normal condition of American society, and that we are helplessly given over to the spoiler.”

Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.”- Thomas Paine

See also: 
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
The Practical Advance Of Human Freedom Under The Trumpet Call Made In 1776 by Charles F Adams
WHAT HISTORY TEACHES US ABOUT AMERICAN DIPLOMACY Addressed in 1876
Corruption In Politics and Society: Corrupters Of America! by John Hancock 1770
Political Evils and the Remedy for them by Noah Webster 1834
Founders on the 2nd Amendment