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THE TRIUMPHS OF THE REPUBLIC! by Hon. Theodore Bacon, New York 1876

RestoreTheConstitutionDotComTHE TRIUMPHS OF THE REPUBLIC! An Oration by Honorable Theodore Bacon, (1834-1900) of Rochester, New York. Delivered At The Centennial Celebration At Palmyra, New York, July 4th, 1876.

The occasion which we commemorate to-day, familiar as it is to us by its annual recurrence—fixed as it is in our national life—is in its very conception distinctive and American. It is not the birth-day of a reigning prince, however beloved; it is not the holiday of a patron saint, however revered; it is simply the the festival of our national existence. Unimaginative as we are, we have impersonated an idea—the idea of nationality; and the festival of that idea, instead of a man or a demi-god, we celebrate to-day.

And we do right to celebrate it. The fact of this national existence is a great fact. The act which first declared the nation’s right to exist was a great act—a brave act. If it was not indeed, as we have been ready enough to assert, a pivotal epoch in the world’s history, it was beyond question a decisive event in our own history. If it was not the birth-day of the nation— for the nation was born long before—it was the day the still growing youth became conscious of its young maturity, asserted its personality, and entered on equal terms into the community of nations. And whatever errors there may have been in our methods—whatever follies of mere deafening or nerve-distracting noise—whatever mad recklessness with deadly explosives, such as will make to-morrow’s newspapers like the returns of a great battle—whatever flatulence of vain glorious boasting from ten thousand platforms such as this—it is none the less a goodly and an honorable thing, that the one universal festival of this great nation should be the festival of its nationality alone. This, and this only, is the meaning of our being together to-day; that we are glad, and joyful, and grateful, that we are a nation; and that in unison with more than two-score millions of people, throughout the vast expanse of our imperial domains, we may give utterance to the joyful and thankful thought, “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.

It is well then, to celebrate and rejoice. The many reasons we have for joy and pride are familiar enough to you. If there were any danger of your forgetting them, they are recalled annually to your remembrance. by addresses such as you have honored me by calling on me to deliver here to-day. And in considering how I could best respond to your request, in the few moments which you can spare from your better occupation of the day, I have thought it superfluous to repeat to you those glories of which your minds are already so full, deeming it a better service to you, and worthier of the day, I suggest certain imitations upon national self-laudation.

Let me recount to you summarily, the familiar and ordinary grounds of our boasting on such days as this. Then go over them with me, one by one; consider them soberly; and see whether we are in any danger of exalting ourselves unduly by reason of them.

1. We conquered our independence.

2. We govern ourselves.

3. We have enormously multiplied our numbers, and extended our boundaries.

4. We have enormously increased our material wealth, and subdued the forces of nature.

5. Education and intelligence are in an unequaled degree diffused throughout our population.

6. To crown all, we have but just now subdued a gigantic rebellion, and in doing so have incidentally suppressed the great national shame of human slavery.

Consider them:

RevolutionaryWar1. We conquered our independence.

Beyond doubt, this was a grand thing to do, even in view of all the advantages that aided our fathers, and of all the difficulties that burdened their enemies. It was not, indeed, except in a certain limited and qualified sense, what it is commonly misnamed, a revolution. It was rather a movement of conservatism—of resistance to an innovating despotism, seeking to impose the bonds of distant authority on those who were free-born, and who had always governed themselves. This resistance to ministerial novelties was in the interest of all Englishmen, and, until this very day one hundred years ago, was in the name of King George himself, whom we still recognized as our rightful monarch, after more than a year of flagrant war against his troops. It was (do not forget) war of defence, against an invader from the paralyzing distance of 3,000 miles; yet that invader was the most powerful nation in Europe. It enlisted (remember) the active alliance of France, and stirred up Spain and Holland to separate wars against our enemy; yet even with these great helps, the persistency of the struggle, the hardships and discouragements through which it was maintained to its final success, were enough to justify the honor in which we hold the assertors of our national independence.

2. We govern ourselves.

We have inherited, it is true, by a descent through many generations, certain principles of government which recognize the people as the source of authority over the people. Yet not even the founders of this federal republic—far less ourselves, their century remote descendants, could claim the glory either of inventing these eternal principles or of first applying them in practice. Before Jefferson were Plato, and Milton, and Locke, and Rousseau. Before Philadelphia were Athens, and pre-Augustan Rome; Florence and Geneva; Ghent and Leydon; the Swiss Republics and the Commonwealth of England. Before the United States of America were the Achaean League, the Hanseatic League, and—closest pattern and exemplar—the United Provinces of the Low Countries. Beyond doubt, however, it is something to be glad of that our ancestors began the century which closes to-day, upon the solid foundations of a faith in the right of self-government, when so many other nations of the earth were to be compelled to labor and study toward the acceptance of that faith, or to legislate and fight and revolutionize toward the embodiment of it in institutions. But whether that prodigious advantage with which we began the century should be now the occasion of pride or of some different emotion, might depend on other questions: Whether, for example, that advantage has enabled us to maintain to this day the pre-eminence over other nations which it gave us a hundred years ago; whether, as they have advanced, we have only held our own, or gone backward; whether our ten talents, the magnificent capital with which we were entrusted, have been hid in a napkin and buried, while the one poor talent of another has been multiplied a hundred fold by diligence and skill. It is a great thing, no doubt, for a nation to govern itself, whether well or ill; but it is a thing to be proud of only when its self-government is capable and just. Let us look for a moment at the relative positions in this respect of our own and other nations a hundred years ago, and now.

GreatExperimentA century since, the idea of parliamentary or representative government, primitive as that idea had been in the earliest Teutonic communities, and embalmed as it might still be in the reveries of philosophers, had no living form outside of these colonies, and of that fatherland from which their institutions were derived, and with which they were at war. In Great Britain itself, a sodden conservatism, refusing to adapt institutions to changing circumstances, had suffered them to become distorted with inequalities; so that the House of Commons, while it still stood for the English People, and was already beginning to feel the strength which has now made it the supreme power in the nation, was so befouled with rotten boroughs and pocket boroughs, that ministers easily managed it with places, and pensions, and money. The whole continent of Western Europe was subjected to great or little autocrats, claiming to rule by divine right, uttering by decrees their sovereign wills for laws, despising even the pretense of asking the concurrence of the governed. In France, an absolute despot, a brilliant court, a gorgeous and vicious civilization of the few, were superposed upon a wretched, naked, underfed peasantry; tithe-oppressed, tax-ridden; crushed with feudal burdens upon the soil, or dragged from it to be slaughtered in foreign wars for matters they never heard of. Germany was either parceled out, like Italy, among countless princelings, maintaining every one his disproportionate army, and court, and harem, and squeezing out taxes and blood from his people utterly without responsibility; or was crushed beneath the iron despotism of the Great Frederick in the North, or of the less capable Empire in the South. To the East, the great plains of Russia were an unknown darkness, where a shameless fury maintained an Asiatic reign of force and terror. Here and there a philosophical recluse was evolving from his books and his invention, systems of government which denied and antagonized the claims of divine right on which every dynasty in Europe was founded; yet so remote from any practical application did these speculations seem that the most absolute monarchs took pride in sharing them and fostering them. There were, indeed, things called “republics;” there were the despotic aristocracies of Venice and Genoa; there were their High Mightinesses, the estates of the United Provinces; there were the confederated cantons of Switzerland, fenced in their mountain strongholds, but without influence upon European thoughts or institutions .

Over against that Europe of 1776, set the Europe of to-day. Nation after nation—call off their names: observe their systems of government, and say, when you have completed the tale, how many sovereigns there are who rest their title to supremacy upon divine right by inheritance; how many governments there are whose daily continuance—how many whose very birth and origin, are derived avowedly from no other source than “the consent of the governed.” There are indeed crowned heads to-day; heads wearing crowns which have descended by but two or three degrees from the most confident assertors of “the right divine of kings to govern wrong;“—right royal men and women—nay more, right manly men and right womanly women: yet of all these there is hardly one who pretends to be more than the mere executive of the national will, expressed through a representative legislature. The England which our fathers denounced as tyrant, and foe of freedom—let us not commit the anachronism of confounding her with the England of to-day. Ruled by a National Assembly chosen by a suffrage little short of universal, exercising final and absolute legislative authority with the merest advisory concurrence of an hereditary Senate; its executive body little more than a standing committee of the House of Commons, removable in an instant by a mere expression of the will of the House; and all under the nominal presidency of a quiet matron, to whom even the external ceremonies of her position are irksome; with a system of local and municipal administration, which, however its defects, may well invite our admiration and study; tho sturdiest proclaimer of the doctrines of our “Declaration” could hardly have figured to himself a future America which should more fully embody those doctrines than the realm of George the Third has come to embody them under his granddaughter. If we look across the channel, we find all Western Europe, from the Polar Sea to the Mediterranean, the undisputed domain of constitutional representative, elective government. It the name and state of King or Emperor are maintained, it is in effect but as a convenient instrument for the performance of necessary functions in the great, public organism, and with a tacit, or even an express acknowledgement on the part of the crown that” tho consent of the governed ” is the true source of its own authority. Over the feudal France which I have but just now pictured to you, has swept a flood which not only destroyed institutions, but extirpated their immemorial foundations; which not only leveled the hideous inequalities of medievalism, but leveled upward the Gallic mind itself; so that hardly less than the American citizen—far more than the British subject—is the Frenchman of to-day penetrated by the consciousness of the equal rights of all men before the law. His form of supreme administration may vary from time to time, in name, or even in substance; but for fifty years it has stood upon the basis of the public consent, or, when it has failed so to stand, has fallen. The France of Richelieu—the France of that Louis XIV who dared to say of the State, “It is I,” is the France whose latest king called himself no longer King of France, but King of the French; whose latest Emperor claimed no right to rule but from a popular election by universal suffrage—boasted of being “The Elect of seven millions“—and styled himself in the most solemn instruments, “By the Grace of God and the Will of the People, Emperor of the French;” and which now, dispensing with even the fiction of a Sovereign, administers its affairs with a prudence, wisdom and economy which have drawn the admiration of neighboring nations. In United Italy—in the two great empires which share between them Germany and Hungary—in the Scandinavian Kingdoms—and at last even in Spain, so long the distracted prey of hierarchy and absolutism, the autocracy of an hereditary monarch has given way to parliamentary government and ministerial responsibility. The successor of Catharine the Second, by conferring spontaneously upon the half-civilized subjects of his vast empire not only personal freedom, but such local autonomy as they are capable of, is educating them toward a higher participation in affairs. And now, most marvelous testimony to the prevalence of those opinions upon which our own institutions are based, the world has seen within a month, a new Sultan, a new chief of Islam, announced to Europe as succeeding to the chair and the sword of Mahomet, “by the unanimous will of the Turkish people!

Christian republicLet us be quite sure, my fellow-citizens, before we boast oarselves immeasurably above other nations by reason of the excellence of our political institutions, not only that they are better than all others in the world, but that we have done something in these hundred years towards making them better; or at least that we have not suffered ours to become debased and corrupt, while those of other nations have been growing better and purer. Is our law-making and our conduct of affairs —national, state, and local—abler and honester now than then? Is the ballot-box cleaner, and a surer reflection of the public mind upon public men and measures? Or are we still in some small degree hampered by the tricks of politicians, so that we find ourselves voting into offices men whom we despise—giving support to measures which we abominate? Has public opinion grown so in that sensitive honor “which feels a stain like a wound,” that it compels public men to be not only above reproach, but above suspicion? Or has it rather come to content itself with weighing evidence, and balancing probabilities, and continuing its favor to any against whom the proofs may fall short of absolute conviction of felony? Is the vast organization of our public business contrived and controlled, as it is in every other civilized country, and as in every successful private business it must be, for the sole end of doing that business efficiently and cheaply? Or has it become a vast system for the reward of party services by public moneys—a vast mechanism for the perpetuation of party power by suppressing the popular will—with the secondary purpose of doing the public work as well as may be consistent with the main design? Have we, through dullness or feebleness, suffered methods to become customary in our public service, which if, attempted in the British post-office or custom-house, would overthrow a ministry in a fortnight—if in the French, might bring on a revolution? My fellow-citizens, I offer you no answers to these questions. I only ask them; and leave unasked many others which these might suggest. But when we have found answers to our satisfaction, we shall know better how far to exalt ourselves above the other nations of the earth.

3. We have enormously multiplied our numbers, and extended our boundaries.

A more indisputable support for national pride may be found, perhaps in our unquestioned and enormous multiplication of numbers and expansion of territory.

These have certainly been marvelous: perhaps unparalleled. It is a great thing that four millions of human beings, occupying in 1776 a certain expanse of territory, should be succeeded in 1876 by forty millions, occupying ten times that expanse. But let us be quite sure how much the increase of numbers is a necessary result of natural laws of propagation, working unrestrained in a land of amazing productiveness, unscourged by famine or pestilence, and burdened by but one great war during three generations of men; how much to the prodigious importation of involuntary immigrants from Africa during the last century, and of voluntary colonists, induced by high rewards for labor and enterprise, during this; and how much to any special virtue in our ancestors or ourselves. Let us be sure what degree and quality of glory it may be which a nation lays claim to for the extension of boundaries by mere mercantile bargain and purchase, or by strong armed conquest from its weaker neighbors. Let us remember, withal, that great as has been our growth in population and extent over this vacant continent which offered such unlimited scope for enlargement, other nations have not stood still. A century ago there was a little sub-alpine monarchy of two or three million subjects, which within these twenty years has so expanded itself by honorable warfare and the voluntary accession of neighboring provinces, that it now comprehends all the twenty-five millions of the Italian people. A century ago there was a little Prussian monarchy of three or four million subjects, which, sparing to us meanwhile millions of its increasing numbers, has grown until it has become the vast and powerful German Empire of forty millions. And, while we take a just pride in the marvelous growth of New York and Philadelphia, and the meteoric rise of Chicago and St. Louis, it is well not to forget that within the same century London has added three millions to its numbers; Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Glasgow, have sprung from insignificance into the second rank of cities; and that dull Prussian town, which, as the Great Frederick’s capital, boasted but 100,000 inhabitants, has become a vast metropolis of nearly a million people, doubling its numbers in the last quarter of that period. If our own increase of population has indeed surpassed these marvelous examples—if our territorial expansion has in fact been larger and swifter than that of the Russian Empire in Europe and Asia, or of the British Empire in India, America and Australia, then the more are we justified in that manner of pride which is natural to the youth grown to a healthy maturity of strength and stature.

4. We have enormously increased our material wealth, and subdued the forces of nature.

Thus also, if we have not greatly surpassed the rest of the world in our growth in material wealth, and in our subjugation of natural forces to human use, we may fairly claim at least to have kept in the van of progress. Yet here, too, while we have great and just cause for pride, let us not err by confounding the positive merits of our nation with the adventitious advantages which have stimulated or created its successes. It has been a different task, though perhaps not an easier one, to take from the fresh fields and virgin soil of this vast continent, fruitful in all that is most useful for human food and raiment, the wealth that has been the sure reward of steadfast industry—from the task of stimulating the productive powers of lands exhausted by thousands of years of crop bearing, up to that exquisite fertility that makes an English wheat-field an astonishment even to a Western New York farmer. It is indeed a singular fortune which ours has been that every decade of years has revealed beneath our feet some new surprise of mineral wealth; the iron everywhere; the anthracite of Pennsylvania; the copper of Lake Superior; the gold of California; the bituminous coal of the western coal fields; the petroleum which now illuminates the world; and finally, the silver which has deluged and deranged the trade of the Orient. Let us not be slow to remember that such natural advantages impose obligations, rather than justify pride in comparison with those old countries where nature has spoken long ago her last word of discovery, and where labor and science can but glean in the fields already harvested. And when we look with wonder upon the vast public works, not disproportionate to the vastness of our territory, which the last half-century especially has seen constructed, let us not forget that the industry and frugality which gathered the capital that built our railroad system—not all of which certainly, was American capital—the trained intellect of the engineers who designed and constructed its countless parts—are a greater honor to any people than 70,000 miles of track: that the patient ingenuity of Fitch and Fulton are more to be boasted of than the ownership of the steam navies of the world: the scientific culture and genius of Morse, than 200,000 miles of telegraphic wire.

ReligionRepublic5. Education and intelligence are in an unequaled degree diffused throughout our population.

If I have thought it needless to enlarge upon other subjects, familiar upon such occasions, for public congratulation, especially will it be superfluous to remind such an audience as this how broad and general is the diffusion of intelligence and education through large portions of our country. But let us not be so dazzled by the sunlight which irradiates us here in New York, as to forget the darkness of illiteracy which overwhelms vast regions of our common country; that if New York, and Massachusetts, and Ohio, offer to all their children opportunities of learning, there exists in many states a numerous peasantry, both white and black, of besotted ignorance, and struggling but feebly, almost without aid or opportunity, toward some small enlightenment. Let us not overlook the fact, in our complacency, that while we, in these favored communities, content ourselves with offering education to those whom we leave free to become sovereign citizens in abject ignorance, other nations have gone beyond us in enforcing universal education; in not only throwing open the feast of reason, but in going into the highways and hedges, and compelling them to come in.

6. To crown all, we have but just now subdued a gigantic rebellion, and in doing so have incidentally suppressed the great national shame of human slavery.

Coming to the last of the familiar sources of national pride which I have suggested, we may fairly say that the emotions with which a patriot looks back upon the conclusions of the period beginning in 1860 must be of a most varied and conflicting sort. The glory of successful war must be tempered by shame that red-handed rebellion should ever have raised its head in a constitutional nation. If it was not permitted to a Roman general, so it is not becoming to us, to triumph over conquered fellow-citizens. If we rejoice, as the whole world does rejoice, that the conflict which, for four years distracted us, ended in the restoration of four million slaves to the rights of free manhood, the remembrance that neither our national conscience nor our statesmanship had found a better way out of the bondage of Egypt than through a Red Sea of blood, may well qualify our reasonable pride; the question, how these millions and their masters are yet to be lifted up into fitness for their new sovereignty over themselves and over us, may well sober our exultation.

If I have departed from the common usage of this occasion, in assuming that you know, quite as well as I do, the infinite causes that exist for pride, and joy, and common congratulation in being American citizens, I beg leave before I close to suggest one further reason for the emotions which are natural to all our hearts to-day. It has been common to us and to other nations, —to our friends alike and our detractors,—to speak of the institutions under which we live, as new, experimental, and of questionable permanency. Fellow-citizens, if we can learn nothing else from the comparative view of other nations to which I have been hastily recommending you, this fact at least presses itself home upon us: that of all the nations of the earth which are under the light of Christian and European civilization, the institutions of America are those which the vicissitudes of a century have left most unchanged; that, tested by the history of those hundred years, and by the experience of every such nation republican democracy, means permanency, not revolution; wise conservatism, not destruction; and that all other institutions are as unstable as water in comparison.

I believe that to-day this American “experiment” is the most ancient system in Christendom. Not a constitution in Europe but exists by grace of a revolution of far later date than the framing of our constitution, which stands now, immortal monument to the wisdom of its founders, almost unchanged from its pristine shape and substance. If the stable British monarchy seems to you an exception, reflect upon the silent revolution which in that time has annulled the power of the crown, and almost subverted its influence; remember the suppression of the Irish Parliament, the removal of the Catholic disabilities which for a century and a half had been a foundation stone of the constitution; remember the Reform Bill which prostrated the power of the aristocracy; the repeal of the Corn Laws, which reversed the economic policy of a thousand years; look at the audacious legislation which within two years has destroyed even the names of that judicial system which is identified with English monarchy—-at that which within a few weeks has dared to add a flimsy glitter to the immemorial title of the sovereign herself—and you may well be proud of the solidity and permanence of our institutions compared with the swift-dissolving forms of European systems.

We know, however, that institutions, even the best of them, cannot long exist without change. As in physical life, there must be either growth or decay; when growth has ceased, decay cannot long be postponed. How shall it be with those institutions which a noble ancestry has bequeathed to us, and in which we rejoice to-day? Let us not forget that the day is the beginning of a new century, as well, as the close of an old one. Not one of us is to see the close of the coming age, as none of us saw the opening of the last. And while it is given to none to discern the future, we know well that institutions, whether civil or social, cannot long continue better than the people who enjoy them. Be it ours, therefore, so far as lies in us, to perpetuate for our remote offspring the benefits which have come own from our ancestors. Let us cultivate in ourselves—let us teach to our children—those virtues which alone make our free institutions possible or desirable. Thus, and only thus, shall we make this day not merely the commemoration of departed glories, but the portal to that Golden Age which has been the dream of poets and the promise of prophets, and toward which, as we dare to hope, the event which we now celebrate has so mightily impelled mankind. Our eyes shall not behold it; but woe to us if we cease to hope for it and to labor towards it It may be hard—it is hard—for us, surrounded by the green graves and the desolated homes which within a dozen years a ghastly civil war has made in this religious and enlightened nation,— for us here, in the very presence of the tattered yet venerated symbols of that strife,(1) to believe that the day can ever shine upon the earth

When the war-drum throbs no longer, and the battle-fags are furled
In the parliament of man, the federation of the world:
When the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall dumber, lapt in universal law.

The reign of ” Peace on Earth—Good Will towards Men”— the dominion of Reason and Justice over Force and Fraud—it may be far off, but it shall surely come.

Down the dark future, through long generations,
The sounds of strife grow fainter, and then cease;
And like a bell, in solemn, sweet vibrations,
I hear once more the voice of Christ say,” Peace!”
Peace! and no longer from its ‘brazen portals,
The blast of war’s great organ shakes the skies:
But, beautiful as songs of the immortals,
The holy melodies of Love arise.

Footnote(s): 1. The worn-out regimental colors of the 33d New York Volunteers, a regiment which went to the war from Wayne County, were carried in the procession and set up in front of the speaker’s stand.

See also: Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God
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Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation

Justice of Massachusetts Supreme Court and United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts

Justice of Massachusetts Supreme Court and United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts

THE NEW CENTURY AN ABSTRACT FROM BENJAMIN FRANKLIN THOMAS ADDRESS. DELIVERED AT THE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION, MECHANICS HALL, WORCESTER, MASS., JULY 4th, 1876.

With what emotions, with what convictions, did we hail the dawning light of the new century! Were the wings of the morning those of the angel of death or of life, of despair or of hope? I answer for myself, of life and of hope; nay, more, of faith and of trust. We have causes for anxiety and watchfulness, none for despair. The evils of the times are not incurable, and the remedies, simple and efficient are in our hands.

Is there not, I am asked, wide-spread and growing corruption in the public service of States and nation? There is corruption, but not, I think, increasing—indeed we have reason to hope it is already checked in its progress; nor are the causes of the evil permanent in their nature, save that we always hold our “treasures in earthen vessels.”

We have passed through a period of expenditure almost without limit, and, therefore, of infinite temptations. Wars, it would seem, especially civil wars, loosen the moral ties of society. “The state of man suffers, then, the nature of an insurrection.” Civil convulsions always brings more or less bad men to the surface, and some are still afloat—men whose patriotism, not exhausted in contracts for effete muskets, spavined horses and rotten ships, are ready and waiting for like service. In the feverish delirious haste to get rich which a currency of indefinite expansion always excites, we find another cause; though this has disastrous results, more direct and palpable, in unsettling values and the foundations of public and private faith, trust and confidence.

The evils are curable, but not by noise of words, not by sonorous resolutions without meaning, or only the meaning the simple reader injects into them.

We may put an end to corruption by leading ourselves honest lives, by refusing to put any man into a public trust, no matter what his qualifications or past services, who is corrupt, or suffers himself to walk on the brink, or winks at those who are wading in; by using the old-fashioned prescriptions for rulers: “Men of truth, hating covetousness.” “Thou shalt take no gift.” “Ye shall not be afraid of the face of man.”

The evils of a vile currency can be remedied only by return to the path of the Constitution and of commercial integrity. The principles are simple and elementary. The “lawful money” of the United States is the coin of the United States, or foreign coin whose value has been regulated by Congress: that is the constitutional doctrine. Money is a thing of intrinsic value, and the standard and measure of value; that is the economical doctrine.

A promise to pay a dollar is not a dollar: that is the doctrine of morality and common sense. The difficulty with the legal tender law was and is that it sought to vitalize a falsehood, to make the shadow the substance, to sign the thing signified, the promise to pay, itself payment. Great as is the power of Congress, it cannot change the nature of things.

So long as the power is left, or assumed to be left, to make a promise to pay payment, there will be no permanent security.

One other cure of corruption is open to us,—the stamping out of the doctrine that public trusts are the spoils of partisan victory. The higher councils may perhaps be changed. An administration cannot be well conducted with a cabinet, or other officers in confidential relations, opposed to its policy; but no such reason for change applies to ninety-nine hundredths of the offices now exposed in the market as rewards for partisan service. Other than in these evils I fail to see proofs of the degeneracy of the times.

Whether the men and women of this generation had fallen from the standard of their fathers and mothers, we had satisfactory evidence in the late war, I care not to dwell upon its origin or to revive its memories. The seceding States reaped as they had sown; having sown to the wind, they reaped the whirlwind. Against what was to them the most beneficent of governments, known and felt only in its blessings, they waged, it seemed to us, causeless war, for their claim to extend slavery into the new States and Territories never had solid ground of law or policy or humanity to rest upon; they struck at the flag in which were enfolded our most precious hopes for ourselves and for mankind. They could not expect a great nation to be so false to duty as not to defend, at every cost, its integrity and life.

But while, as matter of good sense and logic, the question seemed to us so plain a one, that the Union meant nothing if a State might at its election withdraw from it; that under the Articles of Confederation the Union had been made perpetual; that the Constitution was adapted to form a more “perfect union than that of the Confederation, more comprehensive, direct, and efficient in power, and not less durable in time; that there was no word in it looking to separation; that it had careful provisions for its amendment, none for its abrogation; capacity for expansion, none for contraction; a door for new States to come in, none for old or new to go out; we should find that, after all, upon the question of legal construction, learned and philosophical statesmen had reached a different conclusion; we should find, also, what as students of human nature we should be surprised not to find, that the opinions of men on this question had, at different times and in different sections of the country, been more or less molded, biased and warped by the effects, or supposed effects, which the policy of the central power had on the material interests and institutions of the States. Each examination, not impairing the strength of our convictions, might chasten our pride.

But aside from the logic, men must be assumed to be honest, however misguided, who are ready to die for the faith that is in them.

But not dwelling upon causes, but comparing the conduct of the war with that of the Revolution, I do not hesitate to say that in the loyalty and devotion of the people to country; in the readiness to sacrifice property, health and life for her safety; in the temper and spirit in which the war was carried on; in the supply of resources to the army, men as well as money; in the blessed ministrations of women to the sick, wounded or dying soldier; in the courage and pluck evinced on both sides; in the magnanimity and forbearance of the victors, the history of the late war shows no touch of degeneracy, shows, indeed, a century of progress.

If its peculations and corruptions were more conspicuous, it was because of the vaster amounts expended, and the vastly greater opportunities and temptations to avarice and fraud. The recently published letters of Col. Pickering furnish additional evidence of the frauds and peculations in the supplies to the armies of the Revolution, and of the neglect of the states to provide food and clothing for the soldiers, when many of the people, for whose liberties they were struggling, were living in comparative ease and luxury. The world moves.

There is one criterion of which I cannot forbear to speak, the conduct of the soldiers of the late war upon the return of peace. How quietly and contentedly they came back from the excitements of the battle-field and camp to the quiet of home life, and to all the duties of citizenship; with a coat, perhaps, where one sleeve was useless, with a leg that had a crutch for a comrade, but with the heart always in the right place!

The burdens of the war are yet with us; the vast debt created these heavy taxes, consuming the very seed of future harvests; the vacant seats at the fireside. Fifteen years and half a generation of men have passed away since the conflict of opinion ripened into the conflict of arms. They have been years of terrible anxiety and of the sickness of hope deferred; yet if their record could be blotted from the book of life, if the grave could give up its noble dead, and all the waste spots, moral and material, resume the verdure of the spring-time, no one of us would return to the state of things in 1860, with the curse of slavery hanging over us and the fires of discord smouldering beneath us. The root of alienation, bitterness, and hate has been wrenched out, and henceforth union and peace are at least possible.

But there is left to us a great and solemn trust,—four millions of people, whose civil status has been fixed by the organic law, but whose education and training for the duties of citizenship and all the higher duties of life, at whatever cost, is demanded alike by humanity, our sense of justice, and our sense of safety.

We have no right, and no cause, to despair of the republic.

The elements of material prosperity are all with us; this magnificent country, resonant with the murmurs of two oceans, with every variety of soil climate, and production to satisfy the the tastes or wants of man; with its millions of acres of new lands beckoning for the plough and spade; with its mountains of coal and iron and copper, and its veins of silver and gold waiting like Encaladus to be delivered; its lakes, inland seas, its rivers the highways of nations. We have .bound its most distant parts together with bands of iron and steel; we send the lightnings over it “that they may go, and say unto us, Here we are.”

We have all the tools of the industries, and arts which the cunning brain of man has invented and his supple fingers learned to use, and abundant capital, the reserved fruits of labor, seeking a chance for planting and increase.

The means of intellectual growth are with us. We have in most of the States systems of education opening to every child the paths to knowledge and to goodness; destined, we hope, to be universal. He who in our day has learned to read in his mother-tongue may be said to have all knowledge for his empire.

And our laws, though by no means perfect, were never so wise, equal, and just as now, never so infused with the principles of natural justice and equity, nor their administration more intelligent, upright, less a respecter of persons, than today. Indeed, in no department of human thought and activity has there been in the last century more intelligent progress than in our jurisprudence.

Whatever may be said of creeds and formulas of faith, there never was so much practical Christianity as now; as to wealth, so large a sense of stewardship; as to labor, so high a recognition of its rights and dignity; into the wounds of suffering humanity never the pouring of so much oil and wine; never was man as man, or woman as woman, of such worth as today.

In spite of criticism we have yet the example and inspiration of that life in which the human and the divine were blended into one.

In spite of philosophy, God yet sits serenely on his throne, His watchful providence over us, His almighty arm beneath us and upholding us.

For an hundred years this nation, having in trust the largest hopes of freedom and humanity, has endured. There have been whirlwind and tempest, it has ridden through them, bending only, as Landor says, the oak bends before the passing wind, to rise again in its majesty and in its strength. It has come out of the fiery furnace of civil war, its seemingly mortal plague-spot cauterized and burnt out, leaving for us today a Republic capable of almost infinite expansion, in which central power may be reconciled with local independence, and the largest liberty with the firmest order.

Staunch, with every sail set, her flag with no star erased, this goodly Ship of State floats on the bosom of the new century.

In her we “have garnered up our hearts where we must either live or bear no life.”

And now, God of our fathers, what wait we for but thy blessing? Let thy breath fill her sails, thy presence be her sunshine. If darkness and the tempest come, give her, as of old, pilots that can weather the storm.

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. ~ King Solomon

See also: Corruption In Politics and Society: Corrupters Of America! by John Hancock 1770
Political Evils and the Remedy for them by Noah Webster 1834
A REPUBLIC! A LIVING BREATHING CONSTITUTION DEFINED! by Alphonse De Lamartine 1790-1869
A PRAYER FOR THE NATION by Rev. William Bacon Stevens July 4, 1876
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
Founders & forefathers pledged their Sacred Honor, what did they mean?
CHRISTIANITY AS A POLITICAL FORCE by Senator John A. Dix 1798-1879