The Life of Founder John Hancock

John HancockThe events leading to the declaration of independence, which have been rapidly passed in review, in the preceding pages, have brought us to the more particular notice of those distinguished men, who signed their names to that instrument, and thus identified themselves with the glory of this American republic.

If the world has seldom witnessed a train of events of a more novel and interesting character, than those which led to the declaration of American independence, it has, perhaps, never seen a body of men, placed in a more difficult and responsible situation, than were the signers of that instrument. And certainly, the world has never witnessed a more brilliant exhibition of political wisdom, or a brighter example of firmness and courage.

The first instant the American colonies gave promise of future importance and respectability, the jealousy of Great Britain was excited, and the counsels of her statesmen were employed to keep them in humble subjection. This was the object, when royalty grasped at their charters; when restrictions were laid upon their commerce and manufactures; when, by taxation, their resources were attempted to be withdrawn, and the doctrine inculcated, that it was rebellion for them to think and act for themselves.

Hancock 2It was fortunate for the Americans, that they understood their own rights, and had the courage to assert them. But even at the time of the declaration of independence, just as was the cause of the colonies, it was doubtful how the contest would terminate. The chance of eventual success was against them. Less than three millions of people constituted their population, and these were scattered over a widely extended territory. They were divided into colonies, which had no political character, and no other bond of union than common sufferings, common danger, and common necessities. They had no veteran army, no navy, no arsenals filled with the munitions of war, and no fortifications on their extended coast. They had no overflowing treasuries; but in the outset, were to depend upon loans, taxation, and voluntary contributions.

Thus circumstanced, could success in such a contest be reasonably anticipated? Could they hope to compete with the parent country, whose strength was consolidated by the lapse of centuries, and to whose wealth and power so many millions contributed? That country directed, in a great measure, the destinies of Europe: her influence extended to every quarter of the world. Her armies were trained to the art of war; her navy rode in triumph on every sea; her statesmen were subtle and sagacious; her generals skilful and practiced. And more than all, her pride was aroused by the fact, that all Europe was an interested spectator of the scene, and was urging her forward to vindicate the policy she had adopted, and the principles which she had advanced.

But what will not union and firmness, valor and patriotism, accomplish? What will not faith accomplish? The colonies were, indeed, aware of the crisis at which they had arrived. They saw the precipice upon which they stood. National existence was at stake. Life, and liberty, and peace, were at hazard ; not only those of the generation which then existed, but of the unnumbered millions which were yet to be born. To heaven they could, with pious confidence, make their solemn appeal. They trusted in the arm of Him, who had planted their fathers in this distant land, and besought Him to guide Hancock3the men, who in His Providence were called to preside over their public councils.

It was fortunate for them, and equally fortunate for the cause of rational liberty, that the delegates to the congress of 1776, were adequate to the great work, which devolved upon them. They were not popular favorites, brought into notice during a season of tumult and violence; nor men chosen in times of tranquility, when nothing is to be apprehended from a mistaken selection. “But they were men to whom others might cling in times of peril, and look up to in the revolution of empires; men whose countenances in marble, as on canvass, may be dwelt upon by after ages, as the history of the times.” They were legislators and senators by birth, raised up by heaven for the accomplishment of a special and important object; to rescue a people groaning under oppression; and with the aid of their illustrious compeers, destined to establish rational liberty on a new basis, in an American republic.

They, too, well knew the responsibility of their station, and the fate which awaited themselves, if not their country, should their experiment fail. They came, therefore, to the question of a declaration of independence, like men who had counted the cost; prepared to rejoice, without any unholy triumph, should God smile upon the transaction; prepared also, if defeat should follow, to lead in the way to martyrdom.

declaration_of_independenceA signature to the declaration of independence, without reference to general views, was, to each individual, a personal consideration of the most momentous import. It would be regarded in England as treason, and expose any man to the halter or the block. The only signature, which exhibits indications of a trembling hand, is that of Stephen Hopkins, who had been afflicted with the palsy. In this work of treason, John Hancock led the way, as president of the congress, and by the force with which he wrote, he seems to have determined that his name should never be erased. * The pen, with which these signatures were made, has been preserved, and is now in the cabinet of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

This gentleman, who, from his conspicuous station in the continental congress of 1776, claims our first notice, was born in the town of Quincy, in the state of Massachusetts, in the year 1737. Both his father and grandfather were clergymen, distinguished for great devotion to the duties of their profession, and for the happy influence which they exercised over those to whom they ministered. Of his father it is recorded, that he evinced no common devotion to learning, to which cause he rendered essential service, by the patronage that he gave to the literary institutions of his native state.

Harvard

Harvard College

Of so judicious a counselor, young Hancock was deprived, while yet a child, but happily he was adopted by a paternal uncle, Thomas Hancock, the most opulent merchant in Boston, and the most enterprising in New England. Mr. Thomas Hancock was a man of enlarged views; and was distinguished by his liberality to several institutions, especially to Harvard college, in which he founded a professorship, and in whose library his name is still conspicuous as a principal benefactor.

Under the patronage of the uncle, the nephew received a liberal education [liberal here means bountiful, free, generous, large] in the above university, where he was graduated in 1754. During his collegiate course, though respectable as a scholar, he was in no wise distinguished, and at that time, gave little promise of the eminence to which he afterwards arrived.

On leaving college, he was entered as a clerk in the counting house of his uncle, where he continued till 1760; at which time he visited England, both for the purposes of acquiring information, and of becoming personally acquainted with the distinguished correspondents of his patron. In 1764, he returned to America; shortly after which his uncle died, leaving to his nephew his extensive mercantile concerns, and his princely fortune, then the largest estate in the province.

To a young man, only twenty-seven, this sudden possession of wealth was full of danger; and to not a few would have proved their ruin. But Hancock became neither giddy, arrogant, nor profligate; and he continued his former course of regularity, industry, and moderation. Many depended upon him, as they had done upon his uncle, for employment. To these he was kind and liberal; while in his more extended and complicated commercial transactions, he maintained a high reputation for honor and integrity.

The possession of wealth, added to the upright and honorable character which he sustained, naturally gave him influence in the community, and rendered him even popular. In 1766, he was placed by the suffrage’s of his fellow citizens in the legislature of Massachusetts, and this event seems to have given a direction to his future career.

He thus became associated with such individuals as Otis, Cushing, and Samuel Adams, men of great political distinction, acute discrimination, and patriotic feeling. In such an atmosphere, the genius of Hancock brightened rapidly, and he soon became conspicuous among his distinguished colleagues. It has, indeed, been asserted, that in force of genius, he was inferior to many of his contemporaries; but honorable testimony was given, both to the purity of his principles, and the excellence of his abilities, by his frequent nomination to committees, whose deliberations deeply involved the welfare of the community.

The arrival of a vessel belonging to Mr. Hancock, in the year 1768, which was said to be loaded contrary to the revenue laws, has already been noticed in our introduction. This vessel was seized by the custom-house officers, and placed under the guns of the Romney, at that time in the harbor, for security. The seizure of this vessel greatly exasperated the people, and in their excitement, they assaulted the revenue officers with violence, and compelled them to seek their safety on board the armed vessel, or in a neighboring castle. The boat of the collector was destroyed, and several houses belonging to his partisans were razed to their foundation.

In these proceedings, Mr. Hancock himself was in no wise engaged; and he probably condemned them as rash and unwarrantable. But the transaction contributed greatly to bring him into notice, and to increase his popularity.

This, and several similar occurrences, served as a pretext to the governor to introduce into Boston, not long after, several regiments of British troops; a measure which was fitted more than all others to irritate the inhabitants. Frequent collisions, as might be expected, soon happened between the soldiers and the citizens, the former of whom were insolent, and the latter independent. These contentions not long after broke out into acts of violence. An unhappy instance of this violence occurred on the evening of the 5th of March, 1770, at which time, a small party of British soldiers was assailed by several of the citizens, with balls of snow, and other weapons. The citizens were fired upon by order of the commanding officer: a few were killed, and several others were wounded.

Although the provocation, in this instance, was given by the citizens, the whole town was simultaneously aroused to seek redress. At the instigation of Samuel Adams, and Mr. Hancock, an assembly of the citizens was convened the following day, and these two gentlemen, with some others, were appointed a committee to demand of the governor the removal of the troops. Of this committee, Mr. Hancock was the chairman.

bostonmassacrebychampneyA few days after the above affray, which is usually termed “the Boston massacre,” the bodies of the slain were buried with suitable demonstrations of public grief. In commemoration of the event, Mr. Hancock was appointed to deliver an address. After speaking of his attachment to a righteous government, and of his enmity to tyranny, he proceeded in the following animated strain: “The town of Boston, ever faithful to the British crown, has been invested by a British fleet; the troops of George the third have crossed the Atlantic, not to engage an enemy, but to assist a band of traitors in trampling on the rights and liberties of his most loyal subjects; those rights and liberties, which, as a father, he ought ever to regard, and as a king, he is bound in honor to defend from violation, even at the risk of his own life.

“These troops, upon their first arrival, took possession of onr senate house, pointed their cannon against the judgment hall, and even continued them there, whilst the supreme court of the province was actually sitting to decide upon the lives and fortunes of the king’s subjects. Our streets nightly resounded with the noise of their riot and debauchery; our peaceful citizens were hourly exposed to shameful insults, and often felt the effects of their violence and outrage. But this was not all; as though they thought it not enough to violate our civil rights, they endeavored to deprive us of the enjoyment of our religious privileges; to vitiate [to spoil or corrupt] our morals, and thereby render us deserving of destruction. Hence the rude din of arms, which broke in upon your solemn devotions in your temples, on that day hallowed by heaven, and set apart by God himself for his peculiar worship. Hence, impious oaths and blasphemies, so often tortured your unaccustomed ear, Hence, all the arts which idleness and luxury could invent, were used to betray our youth of one sex into extravagance and effeminacy, and of the other to infamy and ruin; and have they not succeeded but too well? Has not a reverence for religion sensibly decayed? Have not our infants almost learned to lisp curses, before they knew their horrid import? Have not our youth forgotten they were Americans, and regardless of the admonitions of the wise and aged, copied, with a servile imitation, the frivolity and vices of their tyrants? And must I be compelled to acknowledge, that even the noblest, fairest part of all creation, have not entirely escaped their cruel snares?—or why have I seen an honest father clothed with shame; why a virtuous mother drowned in tears?

“But I forbear, and come reluctantly to the transactions of that dismal night, when in such quick succession we felt the extremes of grief, astonishment, and rage; when heaven in anger, for a dreadful moment suffered hell to take the reins; when satan, with his chosen band, opened the sluices of New England’s blood, and sacrilegiously polluted our land with the dead bodies of her guiltless sons.

“Let this sad tale of death never be told, without a tear; let not the heaving bosom cease to burn with a manly indignation at the relation of it, through the long tracks of future time; let every parent tell the shameful story to his listening children, till tears of pity glisten in their eyes, or boiling passion shakes their tender frames.

“Dark and designing knaves, murderers, parricides! How dare you tread upon the earth, which has drunk the blood of slaughtered innocence shed by your hands? How dare you breathe that air, which wafted to the ear of heaven the groans of those who fell a sacrifice to your accursed ambition?—But if the laboring earth doth not expand her jaws; if the air you breathe is not commissioned to be the minister of death; yet, hear it, and tremble! The eye of heaven penetrates the darkest chambers of the soul; and you, though screened from human observation, must be arraigned, must lift your hands, red with the blood of those whose death you have procured, at the tremendous bar of God.

“But I gladly quit this theme of death—I would not dwell too long upon the horrid effects, which have already followed, from quartering regular troops in this town; let our misfortunes instruct posterity to guard against these evils. Standing armies are sometimes, (I would by no means say generally, much less universally,) composed of persons who have rendered themselves unfit to live in civil society; who are equally indifferent to the glory of a George, or a Louis; who for the addition of one penny a day to their wages, would desert from the Christian cross, and fight under the crescent of the Turkish sultan; from such men as these what has not a state to fear? With such as these, usurping Caesar passed the Rubicon; with such as these he humbled mighty Rome, and forced the mistress of the world to own a master in a traitor. These are the men whom sceptred robbers now employ to frustrate the designs of God, and render vain the bounties which his gracious hand pours indiscriminately upon his creatures.”

Previously to this address, doubts had been entertained by some, as to the perfect patriotism of Mr. Hancock. It was said that the governor of the province had, either by studied civilities, or by direct overtures, endeavored to attach him to the royal cause. For a time insinuations of this derogatory character were circulated abroad, highly detrimental to his fame. The manners and habits of Mr. Hancock had, not a little, contributed to countenance the malicious imputations his fortune was princely. His mansion displayed the magnificence of a courtier, rather than the simplicity of a republican. Gold and silver embroidery adorned his garment, and on public occasions, his carriage and horses, and servant in livery, emulated the splendor of the English nobility. The eye of envy saw not this magnificence with indifference, nor was it strange that reports unfriendly to his patriotic integrity should have been circulated abroad; especially as from his wealth and fashionable intercourse, he had more connection with the governor and his party than many others.

The sentiments, however, expressed by Hancock in the above address, were so explicit and so patriotic, as to convince the most incredulous ; and a renovation of his popularity was the consequence.

lexington-battle-pictureHancock, from this time, became as odious to the royal governor and his adherents, as he was dear to the republican party. It now became an object of some importance to the royal governor, to get possession of the persons of Mr. Hancock and Samuel Adams; and this is said to have been intended in the expedition to Concord, which led to the memorable battle of Lexington, the opening scene of the revolutionary war. Notwithstanding the secrecy with which that expedition was planned, these patriots, who were at the time members of the provincial congress at Concord, fortunately made their escape; but it was only at the moment the British troops entered the house where they lodged. Following this battle, Governor Gage issued his proclamation, offering a general pardon to all who should manifest a proper penitence for their opposition to the royal authority, excepting the above two gentlemen, whose guilt placed them beyond the reach of the royal clemency.

In October, 1774, Hancock was unanimously elected to the presidential chair of the provincial congress of Massachusetts. The following year, the still higher honor of the presidency of the continental congress was conferred upon him. In this body, were men of superior genius, and of still greater experience than Hancock. There were Franklin, and Jefferson, and Dickinson, and many others, men of pre-eminent abilities and superior political sagacity; but the recent proclamation of Governor Gage, proscribing Hancock and Adams, had given those gentlemen great popularity, and presented a sufficient reason to the continental congress, to express their respect for them, by the election of the former to the presidential chair.

In this distinguished station Hancock continued till October, 1777; at which time, in consequence of infirm health, induced by an unremitted application to business, he resigned his office, and, with a popularity seldom enjoyed by any individual, retired to his native province.

Of the convention, which, about this time, was appointed to frame a constitution for the state of Massachusetts, Hancock was a member. Under this constitution, in 1780, he was the first governor of the commonwealth, to which office he was annually elected, until the year 1785, when he resigned. After an interval of two years, he was re-elected to the same office, in which he was continued to the time of his death, which took place on the 8th of October, 1793, and in the 55th year of his age.

Of the character of Mr. Hancock, the limits which we have prescribed to ourselves, will permit us to say but little more. It was an honorable trait in that character, that while he possessed a superfluity of wealth, to the unrestrained enjoyment of which he came at an unguarded period of life, he avoided excessive indulgence and dissipation. His habits, through life, were uniformly on the side of virtue. In his disposition and manners, he was kind and courteous. He claimed no superiority from his advantages, and manifested no arrogance on account of his wealth.

His enemies accused him of an excessive fondness for popularity; to which fondness, envy and malice were not backward in ascribing his liberality on various occasions. Whatever may have been the justice of such an imputation, many examples of the generosity of his character are recorded. Hundreds of families, it is said, in times of distress, were daily fed from his munificence. In promoting the liberties of his country, no one, perhaps, actually expended more wealth, or was willing to make greater sacrifices. An instance of his public spirit, in 1775, is recorded, much to his praise.

At that time, the American army was besieging Boston, to expel the British, who held possession of the town. To accomplish this object, the entire destruction of the city was proposed by the American officers. By the execution of such a plan, the whole fortune of Mr. Hancock would have been sacrificed. Yet he immediately acceded to the measure, declaring his readiness to surrender his all, whenever the liberties of his country should require it.

It is not less honorable to the character of Mr. Hancock, that while wealth and independence powerfully tempted him to a life of indolence, he devoted himself for many years, almost without intermission, to the most laborious service of his country. Malevolence, during some periods of his public life, aspersed [maligned; slandered] his character, and imputed to him motives of conduct to which he was a stranger. Full justice was done to his memory at his death, in the expressions of grief and affection which were offered over his remains, by the multitudes who thronged his house while his body lay in state, and who followed his remains to the grave.

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

Corruption In Politics and Society: Corrupters Of America! by John Hancock 1770

Something John Hancock said in regards to the British murderers who perpetuated the Boston Massacre, (March 5th, 1770) could very well be said of the many people in politics, the media, Hollywood and society today who care nothing for the United States of America. Those whose avarice, creeds, injustice, greed, obstinance and ideology have corrupted the Liberty’s, Rights, Humanity, Wisdom, Ideals and (True) Justice that these United States of America were founded upon.

Corruption-affects-everyoneBritish taxation of the American Colonists, without representation on their part in the British Parliament, resulted in a collision between the soldiers and citizens, ever memorable as one of the exciting causes of the Revolutionary War. John Hancock, one of the most vigorous denunciators of the tragedy, afterwards presided over the Continental Congress, and signed the Declaration of American Independence.

“Tell me, ye bloody butchers! ye villains, high and low! ye wretches who contrived, as well as you who executed, the inhuman deed! do you not feel the goads and stings of conscious guilt pierce through your savage bosoms? Though some of you may think yourselves exalted to a height that bids defiance to the arms of human justice, and others shroud yourselves beneath the mask of hypocrisy, and build your hopes of safety on the low arts of cunning, chicanery and falsehood; yet do you not sometimes feel the gnawings of that worm which never dies? Do not the injured shades of Maverick, Gray, Caldwell, Attucks, and Carr, attend you in your solitary walks, arrest you even in the midst of your debaucheries, and fill even your dreams with terror? ,

Ye dark, designing knaves, ye murderers, parricides! how dare you tread upon the earth which has drunk in the blood of slaughtered innocents, shed by your wicked hands? How dare you breathe that air which wafted to the ear of Heaven the groans of those who fell a sacrifice to your accursed ambition? But, if the laboring earth does not extend her jaws; if the air you breathe is not commissioned to be the minister of Death, yet, hear it and tremble! The eye of Heaven penetrates the darkest chambers of the soul, traces the leading clew through all the labyrinths which your industrious folly has devised; and you, however you may have screened yourselves from mortal eyes, must be arraigned, must lift your hands, red with the blood of those whose death you have procured, at the tremendous bar of God.”

John Hancock.

Note. — At the trial of ten British soldiers, at the November term of the Suffolk County Court of Assizes, Boston, Mass., 1770, for the murder, by shooting, of Maverick, Gray, Caldwell, Attucks, and Cary, Robert Treat Paine, Esq., and Samuel Quincy, Esq., appeared as counsel for the Crown. John Adams, Esq., Mr. Josiah Quincy, and Mr. Sampson Salter Blowers appeared as counsel for the prisoners. A verdict of “not guilty” was rendered against eight, but the remaining two were found guilty of “manslaughter.”

“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

“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

See also:
Political Evils and the Remedy for them by Noah Webster 1834
A REPUBLIC! A LIVING BREATHING CONSTITUTION DEFINED! by Alphonse De Lamartine 1790-1869
THE GREAT AMERICAN REPUBLIC A CHRISTIAN STATE by Cardinal James Gibbons 1834-1921
AMERICA! FAIREST OF FREEDOM’S DAUGHTERS by Jeremiah E. Rankin 1828-1903
NO SLAVE BENEATH THE FLAG by George Lansing Taylor 1835-1903
THE DUTY AND VALUE OF PATRIOTISM by John Ireland 1894
Christianity and the Founding of the United States the Simple Truth
Constitution of the United States and it’s Governmental Operations (In Plain English)
Founders & forefathers pledged their Sacred Honor, what did they mean?
CHRISTIANITY AS A POLITICAL FORCE by Senator John A. Dix 1798-1879