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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The unity of government which constitutes us one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence; the support of your tranquility at home, and your peace abroad; of your safety, of your prosperity;- of that very liberty which you so highly prize.

And the Father of his Country further advised “his friends and fellow-citizens” to “indignantly frown upon the first dawning of every attempt, to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

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

And again: “It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free government . Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric. Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

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

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

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

The National Utterances And Achievements Of Our First Century by John M Langston 1876

John_Mercer_LangstonThe National Utterances And Achievements Of Our First Century. An Oration By Prof. John Mercer Langston, L.L.D. Delivered At Portsmouth, Virginia, July 4th, 1876.

Mr. President Of The Banneker Lyceum And Fellow-citizens: I congratulate you upon the name which your association bears. In giving title to your association you honor one who largely unaided, by his own efforts distinguished himself as a scholar, while he made himself in no insignificant sense conspicuous as a philanthropist; certainly so far as a free and bold advocacy of freedom for his own race discovered his love for mankind.

Benjamin Banneker cultivated in his studies those matters of science which pertain to astronomical calculations; and so thorough and exact were his calculations, as they respected the different aspects of the planets, the motions of the sun and moon, their risings and settings, and the courses of the bodies of planetary systems, as to excite and command the commendation of Pitt, Fox, Wilberforce, and other eminent men of his time.

In 1791 Banneker sent to Thomas Jefferson, then President of the United States, a manuscript copy of his first almanac, enclosing it in a letter, in the closing portions of which he uses the following words: “Suffer me to recall to your mind that time, in which the arms of the British crown were exerted, with every powerful effort, in order to reduce you to a state of servitude; look back, I entreat you, on the variety of dangers to which you were exposed; reflect on that period in which every human aid appeared unavailable, and in which even hope and fortitude wore the aspect of inability to the conflict, and you cannot but be led to a serious and grateful sense of your miraculous and providential preservation; you cannot but acknowledge that the present freedom and tranquility which you enjoy you have mercifully received, and that it is the peculiar blessing of heaven. This, sir, was a time when you clearly saw into the injustice of a state of slavery, and in which you had just apprehensions of the horrors of its condition. It was then that your abhorrence thereof was so excited, that you publicly help forth this true and invaluable doctrine, which is worthy to be recorded and remembered in all succeeding ages: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

“Here was a time in which your tender feelings for yourselves had engaged you thus to declare ; you were then impressed with proper ideas of the great violation of liberty, and the free possession of those blessings, to which you were entitled by nature; but, sir, how pitiable is it to reflect, that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of mankind, and of His equal and impartial distribution of these rights and privileges which He hath conferred upon them, that you should at the same time counteract His mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence, so numerous a party of my brethren under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves.”

In a very few days after receiving this letter the President made the following reply: “Sir, I thank you sincerely for your letter, and the almanac it contained. Nobody wishes more than I do, to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren talents equal to those of the other colors of men; and that the appearance of a want of them, is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence, both in Africa and America. I can add with truth, that nobody wishes more ardently to see a good system commenced for raising their condition, both of their body and mind, to what it ought to be, as far as the imbecility of their present existence, and other circumstances which cannot be neglected well admit. I have taken the liberty of sending your almanac to Monsieur de Condozett, Secretary of the Academy of Science at Paris, and member of the Philanthropic Society, because I considered it as a document to which your whole color had a right for their justification, against the doubts which have been entertained of them.”

I make no apology for making this allusion, in this connection, to the man whose memory you honor in the phraseology “Banneker Lyceum;” nor for referring to his eminence as a scholar, and his bold advocacy in addressing even the author of the Declaration of American Independence, then President of the United States, in such words as to provoke the earnest and manly reply just presented. Let the colored American contemplate with pride this brief but interesting chapter which brings the name of the scholarly negro Banneker, in such juxtaposition to that of the eminent American statesman, Thomas Jefferson.

I also congratulate you upon this vast assembly, brought together under those instincts and promptings of patriotism, admiration and gratitude, with which from one end to the other of our country, from sea to sea, our fellow-countrymen meet this day, in hall, in church, like ourselves beneath the green foliage of God’s own temple, to call to mind and note the magnificent utterances, the splendid achievements and marvelous progress of our nation made within the first hundred years of its existence.

On this occasion, I may not tarry to dwell upon the utterances of individuals, however eminent and distinguished. It is only of those great national utterances, those judgments of the nation itself, so expressed in that majestic and thrilling voice of a’ great people, that its echoes never die, that I may speak on this interesting and memorable day; and of these in the briefest manner.

On the 4th day of July 1776, one hundred years ago, thirteen colonies with an insignificant population boldly made declaration of their independence of the British crown and their sovereignty as a free and independent nation, and to the maintenance of this declaration and their independence, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, mutually pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. The annals of one hundred years radiant with proofs of the sincerity of this pledge of our Fathers, attest how well, how manfully, how successfully, and triumphantly, our country has maintained herself among the great nations of the earth.

Perhaps the history of the world furnishes no document in which individual equality, the first powers of government; the conditions upon which a people may alter or abolish one government and institute another, laying its foundations and organizing its powers in such form and upon such principles as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness, with such clearness and force, as our own declaration, the masterpiece of American State papers. Upon its very words, could we separate them from the sentiments and doctrines which they embody we would dwell with a sort of superstitious pride and pleasure. But upon the doctrines, the principles, the sentiments they contain, we dwell justly with veneration and grateful approval. How the school boy, the clergyman, the statesman, all classes with equal pride and emotion repeat the words “when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind, requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths self-evident : that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

How often these words have been quoted on occasions like this, how thoroughly they have become a part of every American’s very being, inhaled with the moral atmosphere of every house, no one of us can tell. Nor is it material. It is enough for us to know that as they shape in their influence every act of our nation so they influence and determine largely the conscientious conviction and judgment of every elector of our country through whose vote our institutions are supported and maintained.

On the 10th day of June, 1776, Congress appointed a committee to prepare a declaration, that these colonies are of right and ought to be, free and independent states.”

This committee consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. As the declaration was presented by this committee in its original form, it contained among other charges against the King of Great Britain the following—” He has waged war against nations itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people, who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain, determined to keep open a market, where men should be bought and sold. He has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce, and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he also obtruded them : thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”

This clause, formidable indeed in the charge presented, but far reaching and significant in favor of the abolition of slavery was stricken from the declaration, on the suggestion of the state of Georgia. The declaration, however, as a whole is none the less emphatic in favor of the inalienability of man’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and Garrison, Phillips, Smith, Sumner, and their associates, the great apostles of the American abolition movement did well to plead the cause of the slave, and to claim the equality of the rights of the negro before American law in the name of its principles and teachings.

With regard to the courage and heroism, which distinguished the American soldier of our revolutionary period, and the triumphs which attended our armies, I need not speak, ah are acquainted with these and to-day as we go back in memory to our-struggle at Lexington, at Bunker Hill, and to the surrender of Burgoyne, our souls are filled with gratitude that the God of battles brought victory to those arms wielded in a struggle for freedom, independence and free institutions.

Eight years of conflict, brought us a victory which settled forever our independence and sovereignty, no longer a dream, but a solemn, abiding reality.

I wish to bring to your attention and emphasize two things with regard to the articles of confederation, approved the 9th day of July, 1778, in the 3d year of the Independence of America. 1st. These articles are entitled articles of confederation and perpetual union between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, &c, and in the concluding article thereof, the 2d clause contains these words, “and whereas it has pleased the great Governor of the world to incline the hearts of the Legislatures, we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union: know ye, that we the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to use given for that purpose, do, by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said articles of confederation and perpetual union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained; and we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the United States, in Congress assembled, on all questions which, by the said confederation, are submitted to them; and that the articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent; and, that the union be perpetual.

Although each State under these Articles retained its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right not expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled thus forming as the articles of confederation import, simply a confederacy under the style of the “United States of America,’ the union, formed thus was to be perpetual, lading forever, as is abundantly shown from the words of t.hia document already quoted.

The union of these articles, a compact of sovereign States, was to be perpetual. It was not long, however, before the sovereignty of the States was merged, under the Constitution of the United States, in the higher and grander sovereignty of the nation. And thus our Union was made more perfect and perpetual. Let it stand forever!

Concerning the 4th Article of these Articles there is a matter of history which must prove especially interesting to all of us, when, now, our constitutional law has been so amended as to tolerate no discrimination with regard to citizenship predicated upon complexion.

When this Article was under consideration a proposition was made to qualify the phrase “free inhabitants,” occurring therein, by the insertion of the word; “white,” so as to make it read “free while inhabitants,” etc. Upon due consideration, eleven States voting upon the proposition, it was lost—eight States voting against it, two States in favor of it, while the vote of one State was divided. Early thus in the history of our nation the fathers decided to allow no discrimination among our countrymen as to citizenship based upon complexional differences, and nowhere either in the Declaration of Independence, or in the Articles of Confederation is the word white used except in the latter, it is found in the following connection, in Article 9th, “The United States in Congress assembled shall have authority among other things, to agree upon the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each State for its quota, in proportion to the number of while inhabitants in such State.”

Why the word white is used in this connection, I am at a loss to know. It was not certainly because of the color of citizens of African descent . It was certainly not because they were not patriotic, brave, and enduring soldiers. In the revolutionary struggles they early demonstrated their fidelity and courage. One of the four first Americans falling, in the Boston massacre of 1770, being a mulatto, Crispus Attucks, whose name is one famous in the annals of that struggle. This word white was certainly not used to discriminate against citizens of African descent prejudicially as to the matter of citizenship. For generally at this time, when emancipated, they became citizens and voters without qualification or condition in the States where they resided. The distinction made here then must have been in the interest of slavery, an institution which from the very first proved itself utterly at war with every interest of the people.

Occupying, as we do this day, a high moral plain from which we may retrospect our past, we can appreciate the ordinance of 1787, which, establishing a form of government for our Western territories, concludes with six Articles of compact between the original States and the people of the territories, the same to be unalterable, except by common consent.

The first secures entire religious freedom, the second, trial by jury, the writ of habeas corpus, together with other fundamental rights usually inserted in Bills of Eights; the third provides for the encouragement and support of schools, and enjoins good faith towards the Indians; the fourth places the new States to be formed out of the territory upon an equal footing with the old ones; the fifth authorizes the future division of the territory into not less than three nor more than five States, each to be admitted into the Union when it should contain 60,000 free inhabitants; and the sixth contains the celebrated anti-slavery proviso introduced by Jefferson, “That there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said States, other than in the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

Thousands of noble sons, inhabitants of the States formed of such territory, rejoice this day that no curse of slavery has blighted their toil—that no footsteps of the bondman ever pressed the pathway of their industry. The shouts of other millions, former slaves, uniting with those once their owners and masters, send back the echo of such rejoicing this day in a glad refrain of thanksgiving and joy, that no slave now breathes the air of our country.

Chief among the moral triumphs of our age and country stands that act of our nation which emancipates four million of bondsmen; and inducting them into the body-politic, throws over them the investiture of an equal and impartial citizenship.

All honor is duo him whose name is written first among the company of noble men, the chief work of whom, the glory of their endeavors, culminates in the emancipation of the American slave. All honor is due the great captain of our forces, who established through the sword, as the fixed law of our nation, the emancipation proclamation of the first day of January, 1863. Henceforth the names of Lincoln and Grant, are justly emblazoned in our history as the emancipator and defender of our enslaved race.

The Constitution of the United States, a document of rare, in many respects matchless, excellence, prior to its modification by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, is now certainly without parallel in the history of mankind, as an enunciation of organic law; and every American, whatever his political bias or party affiliations, must experience special pleasure in knowing that no other nation of ancient or modern times has been given, the genius or the heart to produce such a document, and to establish in accordance therewith a government which in its forms and results realizes so nearly our idea of that perfect government, the subjects of which, while they enjoy the amplest possible freedom, pursue their several occupations, assured of the largest protection to life, liberty and property.

As we read and study the great State papers of our nation— The Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Ordinance of 1787, and the Constitution of the United States—and consider the workings of the Government organized in accordance therewith, in none of its departments, discriminating against any of our citizens, native or naturalized, with regard to birthplace, nationality, complexion, or former condition of life, but inviting all to partake alike of the benefits and blessings of free institutions, our hearts swell with gratitude to that beneficent Dispenser of human affairs, who gave our fathers wisdom, courage, and success, and who has abundantly blessed their sons in national unity, prosperity and happiness:

Of the material greatness of our country—its development of the great industries which distinguish its progress and civilization, I can do little more than make a passing allusion. Did I tarry to name simply our achievements in steam navigation, shipbuilding, the building of railroads, the manufacture of railroad cars, improvements in all kinds of machinery, telegraphy, and printing, I would detain you beyond your patience and endurance. I content myself and trust I satisfy you by saying, the first century of our existence as a nation has witnessed such triumphs in art, science, and industry in our land as has not been vouchsafed in the history of mankind to any other people within such period.

In all departments of business—in banking, commerce, agriculture—we witness improvement of method, implement, and the use of power and skill.

In politics, legislation and general reform, our national triumphs have been splendid; not less so, however, in the various departments of industry.

Of our improvement in all those things that pertain to a well organized system of free common schools, supported by public tax, levied and collected by the general and cordial assent of property holders, I speak with pride. Generally our common school system is so valued, its good results so appreciated, that no considerations pecuniary or other would induce the people to consent to any reduction of taxes, or the doing of anything the tendency of which would be to curtail and destroy the influence of such system. We all value the free common school as at present organized as indispensable to the education and training of the youth of all classes. Many without academic, or collegiate instruction, if not fully, measurably fitted for the pursuit of business or professional walks of life enter thereupon directly from our common schools and achieve therein commendable success. Indeed, our common schools may be properly enough regarded as the college of the people. No tuition may here be collected; no incidental fees charged; and yet, an education which furnishes excellent mental discipline, considerable knowledge, general and various, together with sound moral training may be secured.

Of improvements in methods of instruction, buildings, furniture, apparatus, text-books, treatment of pupils, character of teachers, and modes of preparing teachers for their work, I can not speak in detail . Improvements in all these respects are abundant, transcending our most sanguine expectations, of the largest advantage and most satisfactory kind.

Contrasting the system and condition of public instruction in France, Holland, Prussia, Germany, Great Britain and other countries with those of the United States of America, J. W. Hoyt, Esq., one of the Commissioners of the Paris Universal Exposition of 1867, in his report on education, under the title United States of America, says:

“From the earliest settlement of this country by those brave men and women who landed on the rocks of Massachusetts Bay, no less imbued with the spirit of freedom and popular education than the love of God and liberty of conscience, the cause of education has been one of primary interest both to Colonial and Federal governments. A history of the sacrifices and toils by which were established and maintained the schoolhouses of the ante-revolutionary times of the Colonial period, and a summing up of the truly munificent contributions of the Federal and State authorities since the adoption of the Constitutional Government, to the great end of creating a citizenship worthy of our free institutions are sufficient to awaken the ambition and enthusiasm of the dullest soul.”

Continuing, he says, “All in all, the original provisions of the government for the education of the people are more liberal than those of any other; and in connection with the additions arising from regular taxation, and from appropriations made by the States themselves, present the most magnificent financial school basis of the world. The pride with which the American citizen regards this support of common-school instruction is amplified by contemplating the scarcely less abundant endowment by which individual wealth has built up the higher grades noticed under the head of Secondary Education.”

Upon the higher grades of education, the academies, colleges, universities and professional schools, I may not dwell. The special character, claims and achievements of such schools we all appreciate. Their growth within the past fifty years has been marked, and through their instrumentality education has received decided impulse and noteworthy educational advantages have been gained.

Fellow-citizens of Virginia, and by this appellation in this regenerated hour of American freedom I designate all classes and complexions, the class formerly masters, and that formerly slaves, I congratulate you upon the change in an educational point of view which has taken place in your own State during the past ten years. Instead of leaving your sons and daughters in ignorance, to a heritage of crime and degradation, you are establishing a common school system whose advantages and benefits will compensate in popular knowledge, wisdom, and virtue an hundred fold all labor, outlay and sacrifice connected therewith. To-day your schools, a double system, white and black, I trust the day is not distant when they will be one—a common school, stand open, and provision, if not yet ample and entirely satisfactory, has been made measurably for the accommodation of the children of your State. Your people are showing already a wise appreciation of the advantages shown their children in your schools. And I but voice the feeling of your fellow-citizens throughout the country when I bid you a hearty God-speed in your noble work in this behalf.

You may rest assured that in so far forth as any schools built and conducted in your State, upon northern liberality, shall hereafter need pecuniary assistance to support and maintain them in their special work, that assistance will not be wanting, when proper appeal is made for it . The people of the north, not more in New England than the great northwest, are deeply interested in the educational welfare of your humbler classes

But I must conclude. The progress of our nation during the past’ one hundred years, in all those things which concern national greatness and glory is truly wondrous. In social, moral, and industrial growth she has no superior among the great nations of the earth. In statesmanship, jurisprudence, literature, science, arts, and arms, she compares favorably with the foremost of these great nations.

If her achievements and progress have been so great in the past, we may contemplate with confidence and pride her advancement in the future. Remaining true to the lessons of freedom, equal rights, justice, humanity and religion taught us by the fathers, the wise men of our country, and the experience of the past, so fraught with warning and admonition, relying upon the God who has so signally blest her, our nation may hope to reach even a larger growth, to show a more splendid progress; to attain a future more beautiful and magnificent than anything which distinguishes the century which this day closes the first hundred years of our national life.

See also:
The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
THE FIRST CENTURY OF THE REPUBLIC by Judge Isaac W Smith 1876
THE DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC by Lewis W. Clark 1876 New Hampshire
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876
THE GRAND MISSION OF AMERICA by Joseph H. Twitchell, July 4, 1876
A PRAYER FOR THE NATION by Rev. William Bacon Stevens July 4, 1876
WHAT HISTORY TEACHES US ABOUT AMERICAN DIPLOMACY Addressed in 1876
The Practical Advance Of Human Freedom Under The Trumpet Call Made In 1776 by Charles F Adams
Corruption In Politics and Society: Corrupters Of America! by John Hancock 1770
PATRIOT SONS OF PATRIOT SIRES by Rev. Samuel Francis Smith 1808-1895
Joseph Baldwin: Address 1892, to National Teachers Association in New York
THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876
 

NEW HAVEN CT, ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO by Leonard Bacon July 4, 1876

Leonard BaconIn the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six, the fourth of July fell on Thursday. On that day, the Continental congress at Philadelphia gave notice to all nations that the political communities which it represented had ceased to be colonies, were absolved from their allegiance to the British Crown, and had become Independent States. The news that such a Declaration had been made was not flashed along electric wires; it was not conveyed by steam car or steam boat; nor can I learn that it was sent in all directions by an extraordinary express. But we may assume that as early as Tuesday morning, July 9th, the people of New Haven heard the news, and that such news reported by neighbor to neighbor, was talked about everywhere, with every variety of opinion as to whether the Independence that had been declared could be maintained; some rejoicing in the Declaration and sure that it would stand; others doubting; here and there one indignant, but not daring to express his indignation. All knew that the decisive step had been taken, and that the country was committed to a life and death struggle, not for the recovery of chartered and inherited rights as provinces included in the British empire, but for an independent nationality and a place among acknowledged sovereignties.

It is difficult for us to form in our minds any just conception of what New Haven was a hundred years ago. But let us make the attempt. At that time, the town of New Haven included East Haven, North Haven, Hamden, West Haven, and almost the entire territory of what are now the three towns of Woodbridge, Beacon Falls and Bethany. What is now the city of New Haven was then “the town plat”—the nine original squares —with the surrounding fields and scattered dwellings, from the West river to the Quinnipiac, and between the harbor and the two sentinel cliffs which guard the beauty of the plain. Here was New Haven proper—the territorial parish of the First Ecclesiastical Society, all the outlying portions of the township having been set off into distinct parishes for church and school purposes. In other words, the town of New Haven, at that time was bounded on the cast by Branford, on the north by Wallingford (which included Cheshire), on the west by Derby and Milford; and all the “freemen” within those bounds were accustomed to assemble here in town meeting.

A hundred years ago, there was a very pleasant village here at the “town-plat,” though very little had been done to make it beautiful. This public square had been reserved, with a wise forethought for certain public uses; but in the hundred and thirty-eight years that had passed since it was laid out by the proprietors who purchased these lands from the Indians, it had never been enclosed, nor planted with trees, nor graded; for the people had always been too poor to do much for mere beauty. Here, at the centre of their public square, the planters of New Haven built a plain, rude house for public worship, and behind it they made their graves—thus giving to the spot a consecration that ought never to be forgotten. At the time which we are now endeavoring to recall, that central spot (almost identical with the site of what is now called Centre church) had been reoccupied about eighteen years, by the brick meeting-house of the First church; and the burying-ground, enclosed with a rude fence, but otherwise neglected, was still the only burial-place within the parochial limits of the First Ecclesiastical Society. A little south of the burying-ground, was another brick edifice, the state house, so called even while Connecticut was still a colony. Where the North church now stands, there was a framed meeting-house, recently built by what was called the Fair Haven Society, a secession from the White Haven, whose house of worship (colloquially called “the old Blue Meetinghouse”) was on the corner now known as St. John Place. Beside those three churches there was another from which Church street derives its name. That was per-eminently “the church”—those who worshipped there would have resented the suggestion of its being a meeting-house. It was, in fact, a missionary station or outpost of the Church of England, and as such was served by a missionary of the English “Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.” The budding, though of respectable dimensions (58×38), was smaller than the others, yet it had one distinction,—its steeple—a few feet south of Cutler comer, and in full view from the Green, though somewhat less aspiring than the other three—was surmounted by the figure of a crown signifying that, whatever might be the doctrine or the sentiment elsewhere, there the king’s ecclesiastical supremacy was acknowledged, and loyalty to his sacred person was a conspicuous virtue’ Only a few householders worshipped there, for the Church of England was an exotic in the climate of New England. Not till the Episcopal church had become (in consequence of the event which this day commemorates) an organization dependent on no king but Christ, an American church, and therefore no longer English, did it begin to strike its roots deep into the soil and to flourish as if it were indigenous. Two other public buddings adorned this “market-place;” one a little school-house just behind the Fair Haven meeting-house and not unlike the old-time wayside school-houses in the country; the other a county jail, which was a wooden structure fronting on College street about half way from Elm to Chapel.

Yale UniversityBeside all these public buddings, representative of religion, of government and justice, and of provision by the commonwealth against popular ignorance, there was the college, then as now, the pride of New Haven, but very different then from what we now see. The college buddings at that time were only three. First there was the original college edifice, to which, at its completion, in 1718, the name of Yale had been given in honor of a distinguished benefactor, and from which that name had been gradually, and at last authoritatively, transferred to the institution which has made it famous. That original Yale College was close on the comer of College and Chapel streets, a wooden budding, long and narrow, three stories high, with three entries, and cupola and clock.

Next in age was the brick chapel with its tower and spire, the building now called the Athenaeum and lately transformed into recitation rooms. More glorious yet was the new brick college (then not ten years old), which had been named Connecticut Hall, and which remains (though not unchanged) the “Old South Middle.”

Such was New Haven, a hundred years ago, in its public buildings and institutions. Its population, within the present town limits was, at the largest estimate, not more than 1800 (including about 150 students) where there are now more than thirty times that number. If you ask, what were the people who lived here then, I may say that I remember some of them. Certainly they were, at least in outward manifestation, a religious people. Differences of religious judgment and sympathy had divided them, within less than forty years, into three worshiping assemblies beside the little company that had gone over to the Church of England. Their religious zeal supported three ministers; and I will venture to say that the houses were comparatively few in which there was not some form of household religion. Compared with other communities in that age (on either side of the ocean) they were an intelligent people. With few exceptions, they could read and write; and though they had no daily newspapers, nor any knowledge of the modern sciences, nor any illumination from popular lectures, nor that sort of intelligence and refinement which comes from the theater, they knew some things as well as we do. They knew something about the chief end of man and man’s responsibility to God; something about their rights as freeborn subjects of their king; something about their chartered freedom; and the tradition had never died out among them. There were graves in the old burial ground which would not let them forget that a king may prove himself a traitor to his people, and may be brought to account by the people whom he has betrayed. There were social distinctions then, as now. Some families were recognized as more intelligent and cultivated than others. Some were respected for their ancestry, if they had not disgraced it. Men in official stations—civil, military, or ecclesiastical— were treated with a sort of formal deference now almost obsolete; but then, as now, a man, whatever title he might bear, was pretty sure to be estimated by bis neighbors at bis real worth, and nothing more. Some men were considered wealthy, others were depressed by poverty, but the distinction between rich and poor was not just what it is to-day. There were no great capitalists, nor was there anything like a class of mere laborers with no dependence but their daily wages. The aggregate wealth of the community was very moderate, with no overgrown fortunes and hardly anything like abject want. Almost every family was in that condition—”neither poverty nor riches “—which a wise man of old desired and prayed fox as most helpful to right living. Such a community was not likely to break out into any turbulent or noisy demonstrations. Doubtless the Declaration of Independence was appreciated as a great fact by the people of New Haven when they heard of it . Perhaps the church bells were rung (that would cost nothing); perhaps there was some shouting by men and boys (that would also cost nothing): perhaps there was a bonfire on the Green or at the “Head of the Wharf” (that would not cost much); but we may be sure that the great fact was not greeted with the thunder, of artillery nor celebrated with fireworks; for gunpowder was just then too precious to be consumed in that way. The little newspaper, then published in this town every Wednesday, gives no indication of any popular excitement on that occasion. On “Wednesday, July 10th, 1776,” the Connecticut Journal had news, much of it very important, and almost every word of it relating to the conflict between the colonies and the mother country; news from London to the date of April 9; from Halifax to June 4 ; from Boston to July 4; from New York to July 8, and from Philadelphia to July 6. Under the Philadelphia date the first item was “Yesterday the Congress unanimously resolved to declare the United Colonies Free And Independent States.” That was all, save that, in another column, the printer said, “To-morrow will be ready for sale ‘The Resolves of the Congress declaring the United Colonies Free And Independent States.”’ What the printer, in that advertisement, called “The Resolves of Congress,” was a handbill, 8 inches by 9, in two columns, with a rudely ornamented border, and was reproduced in the Journal for July 17. It was the immortal state paper with which we are so familiar, and we may be sure that everybody in New Haven, old enough to know the meaning of it had read it, or beard it read, before another seven days had been counted.

The Declaration of Independence was not at all an unexpected event. It surprised nobody. Slowly but irresistibly the conviction bad come that the only alternative before the United Colonies was absolute subjection to a British Parliament or absolute independence of the British crown. Such was the general conviction, but whether independence was possible, whether the time had come to strike for it, whether something might not yet be gained by remonstrance and negotiation, were questions on which there were different opinions even among men whose patriotism could not be reasonably doubted.

[Here followed some of the facts intended to give a better understanding of “what were the thoughts, and what the hopes and fears of good men in New Haven a hundred years ago.”]

Having at last undertaken to wage war in defense of American liberty, the Continental Congress proceeded, very naturally, to a formal declaration of war, setting forth the causes which impelled’ them to take up arms.

That declaration preceded by a year the Declaration of Independence; for at that time only a few sagacious minds had seen clearly the impossibility of reconciliation. Declaring to the world that they had taken up arms in self-defense and would never lay them down till hostilities should cease on the part of the aggressors, they nevertheless disavowed again the idea of separation from the British empire. “Necessity,” said they, “has not yet driven us to that desperate measure;” “we have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great Britain and establishing independent states.” That was an honest declaration. Doubtless a few prophetic souls had seen the vision of a separate and independent nationality, and knew to what issue the long controversy had been tending; but the thought and sentiment of the people throughout the colonies, at that time—the thought and sentiment of thoughtful and patriotic men in every colony—was fairly expressed in that declaration. They were English colonies, proud of the English blood and name; and as young birds cling to. the nest when the mother trusts them out half-fledged, so they clung to their connection with Great Britain notwithstanding the unmotherly harshness of tho mother country. They were English as their fathers were; and it was their English blood that roused them to resist the invasion of their English liberty. The meteor flag of England

“Had braved a thousand years
The battle and the breeze,”

and it was theirs; its memories of Blenheim and Ramillies, of Crecy and Agincourt, were theirs; and they themselves had helped to plant that famous banner on the ramparts of Louisburg and Quebec. Because they were English they could boast

“That Chatham’s language was their mother-tongue,
And Wolfe’s great name compatriot with their own.”

Because they were English, Milton was theirs, and Shakespeare, and the English Bible. They still desired to be included in the great empire whose navy commanded the ocean, and whose commerce encircled the globe. They desired to be under its protection, to share in its growth and glory, and enjoying their chartered freedom under the imperial crown, to maintain the closest relations of amity and mutual helpfulness with the mother country and with every portion of the empire.

All this was true in July, 1775. When Washington consented to command the Continental armies “raised or to be raised,” he thought that armed resistance might achieve some adequate security for the liberty of the colonies without achieving their independence. When, in his journey from Philadelphia to New York, hearing the news from Bunker Hill and how the New England volunteers had faced the British regulars in battle, he said, “Thank God! our cause is safe;” he was not thinking of independence, but only of chartered liberty. When, on his journey from New York to New Haven, he said to Dr. Bipley, of Green’s Farms, who dined with him at Fairfield, “If we can maintain the war for a year we shall succeed,” his hopes was that by one year of unsuccessful war the British ministry and parliament would be brought to some reasonable terms of reconciliation. When (in the words of our historian Palfrey), “the roll of the New England drums at Cambridge announced the presence there of the Virginian, George Washington,” he knew not, nor did Putnam know, nor Prescott, nor Stark, nor the farmers who had hastened to the siege of Boston, that the war in which he then assumed the chief command was, what we now call it, the war of independence. With all sincerity the Congress, four days later, while solemnly declaring “before God and the world,” “The arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unbating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of our liberties, being with one mind resolved to die freeman rather than to live slaves “—could also say, at the same time, to their “friends and fellow subjects in every part of the empire,” “We assure them that we mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsisted between us, and which we sincerely wish to be restored.” The declaration on the 6th of July, 1775, was a declaration of war, but not of independence.

Yet, from the beginning of the war, there was in reality only one issue—though a whole year must pass before that issue could be clearly apprehended by the nation and proclaimed to the world. From the first clash of arms the only possible result was either subjection or separation; either the loss of liberty or the achievement of independence. The first shot from Major Pitcairn’s pistol on the village green at Lexington, at the gray dawn of April 19th, 1775, was fatal to the connection between these colonies and their mother country. That was “the shot that echoed round the world,” and is echoing still along “the corridors of time.” That first shot, with the slaughter that followed and the resistance and repulse of the British soldiery that day at Concord, was felt by thousands who knew in a moment that it meant war in defense of chartered liberty, but did not yet know that, for colonies at war with their mother country, independence was the only possible liberty. As the war proceeded, its meaning, and the question really at issue became evident. The organization of a Continental army, the expulsion of the king’s regiments and the king’s governor from Boston, the military operations in various parts of the country, the collapse of the regal governments followed by the setting up of popular governments under the advice of the Continental Congress—what did such things mean but that the colonies must be thenceforward an independent nation or provinces conquered and enslaved?

It came, therefore, as a matter of course, that from the beginning of 1876, the people in all the colonies began to be distinctly aware that the war in progress was and could be nothing less than a war for independence. The fiction fundamental to the British Constitution, that the king can do no wrong, and that whatever wrong is done in his name is only the wrongdoing of his ministers, gave way before the harsh fact that they were at war, not with Parliament nor with Lord North, but, with king George III. So palpable was the absurdity of professing allegiance to a king who was waging war against them, that as early as April in that year, the Chief Justice of South Carolina under the new government just organized there, declared from his official seat in a charge to the grand jury, “The Almighty created America to be independent of Great Britain, let us beware of the impiety of being backward to act as instruments in the Almighty hand now extended to accomplish His purpose.”

When the public opinion of the colonies, north and south, was thus declaring itself, the time had come for action on the part of the Continental Congress. Accordingly on the 7th of June, Richard Henry Lee, in behalf of the delegation from Virginia, proposed a resolution “that the united colonies are and ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.” It was agreed that the resolution should be considered the next day, and every member was enjoined to be present for that purpose. The next day’s debate was earnest, for the Congress was by no means unanimous. Nobody denied or doubted that liberty and independence must stand or fall together, but some who had been leaders up to that point could not see that the time had come for such a declaration. Some were embarrassed by instructions given the year before and not yet rescinded. The debate having been continued through the day (which was Saturday) was adjourned to Monday, June 10. On that day the resolution was adopted in committee of the whole by a vote of seven colonies against five, and so was reported to the house. Hoping that unanimity might be gained by a little delay, the house postponed its final action for three weeks, but appointed a committee to prepare a formal declaration of independence. Meanwhile, though the sessions of the congress were always with closed doors, these proceedings were no secret, and public opinion was finding distinct and authentic expression. I need not tell what was done elsewhere; but I may say what was done, just at that juncture, in our old commonwealth.

On the 14th of June there came together at Hartford, in obedience to a call from Jonathan Trumbull, governor, “a General Assembly of the Governor and Company of the English colony of Connecticut, in New England, in America “—the last that was to meet under that name. It put upon its record a clear though brief recital of the causes which had made an entire separation from Great Britain the only possible alternative of slavery, and then—what? Let me give the words of the record: “Appealing to that God who knows the secrets of all hearts for the sincerity of former declarations of our desire to preserve our ancient and constitutional relation to that nation, and protesting solemnly against their oppression and injustice which have driven us from them, and compelled us to use such means as God in His providence hath put in our power for our necessary defence and preservation, resolved, unanimously, by this Assembly, that the delegates of this colony in General Congress be and they are hereby instructed to propose to that respectable body, to declare the United American colonies free and independent States, absolved from all allegiance to the King of Great Britain, and to give the assent of this colony to such declaration.”

It was amid such manifestations of the national will coming in from various quarters, that the Congress, on Monday, July 1, took up the postponed resolution declaring the colonies independent, discussed it again in committee of the whole and passed it, so bringing it back for a final decision. The vote in the house was postponed till the next day, and then, July 2, the resolution was adopted and entered on the journal. In anticipation of this result, the formal Declaration of Independence had been reported by the special committee on the preceding Friday (June 28), and it was next taken up for consideration. After prolonged discussion in committee of the whole and various amendments (some of which were certainly changes for the better), it came before the house for final decision, and was then adopted, in the form in which we have heard it read to-day, the most illustrious state paper in the history of nations.

We may be sure, therefore, that whatever diversity of opinion there may have been in New Haven on the 4th of July, 1776, about the expediency of declaring independence at that time, news that such a declaration had been made by the Congress caused no great astonishment or excitement here. The General Assembly of Connecticut, had already made its declaration, and instructed its delegates in the Congress. One of those delegates was Roger Sherman (or as his neighbors called him, “Squire Sherman”) ; and nobody in this town, certainly, could be surprised to hear that the Continental Congress had done what Roger Sherman thought right and expedient to be done. The fact that Roger Sherman had been appointed on a committee to prepare the Declaration may have been unknown here, even in his own house; but what he thought about the expediency of the measure was no secret. We, to-day, I will venture to affirm are more excited about the Declaration of Independence than they were to whom the news of it came, a hundred years ago.

[Here followed a large number of records, or extracts from records, principally from the town clerk’s office in New Haven, to show that our fathers on all proper public occasions were firmly, perhaps unconsciously, pursuing those steps which when taken by a brave and high-spirited people inevitably lead to their complete independence.]

I have exhausted your patience, and must refrain from tracing even an outline of the war, as New Haven was concerned in it, after that memorable day a hundred years ago. Especially must I refrain from a description of the day when this town was invaded and plundered, and was saved from conflagration only by the gallant resistance of its citizens keeping the enemy at bay till it was too late for him to do all he designed. The commemoration of that day will be more appropriate to its hundredth anniversary, July 4th, 1876. From the day of that invasion to this time, no footstep of an enemy in arms has pressed our soil—no roll of hostile drums or blare of hostile trumpet has wounded the air of beautiful New Haven. So may it be through all the centuries to come!

But before I sit down, I may yet say one word, suggested by what I have just been reading to you from the records of 1775. At the time of that conflict with Great Britain—first for municipal freedom, and then for national independence as the only security of freedom, the people of these colonies, and eminently the people of New England, were, perhaps, in proportion to their numbers, the most warlike people in Christendom. From the day when Miles Standish, in the Pilgrim settlement at Plymouth, was chosen “Captain” and invested with “authority of command” in military affairs, every settlement had its military organization. The civil order, the ecclesiastical, and the military, were equally indispensable. In every town, the captain and the trained militia were as necessary as the pastor and the church, or the magistrate and the town meeting. When the founders of our fair city came to Quinnipiack, 238 years ago, they came not only with the leaders of their unformed civil state, Eaton and Goodyear—not only with their learned minister of God’s word, Davenport, to be the pastor of the church they were to organize—but also with their captain, Turner, who had been trained like Standish in the wars of the Dutch Republic, and who in the Pequot war of the preceding year had seen the inviting beauty of the Quinnipiack bay and plain. Who does not know how, in those early times,

“Our grandsires bore their guns to meeting,
Each man equip’d, on Sunday morn,
With psalm-book, shot, and powder-horn,”

and that, in the arrangements of the house of worship, a place for “the soldiers,” near the door, was as much a matter of course as the place for “the elders” at the other side of the building? Who does not know that every able-bodied man (with few exceptions) was required to bear arms and to be trained in the use of them? What need that I should tell how a vigorous military organization and the constant exhibition of readiness for self-defense, not less than justice and kindness in dealing with the Indians, were continually the indispensable condition of safety? What need of my telling the story of King Philip’s war, just two hundred years ago? Let it suffice to remind you of the long series of inter-colonial wars, contemporaneous with every war between England and her hereditary enemies, France and Spain—beginning in 1689 and continued with now and then a few years’ interruption till the final conquest and surrender of the French dominion on this continent in 1762. It was in the last war of that long series that the military heroes of our war for independence had their training, and it was in the same war that the New England farmers and Virginia hunters, fighting under the same flag and under the same generals with British red-coats, learned how to face them without fear. That war which swept from our continent the Bourbon lillies and the Bourbon legions made us independent and enabled us, a few years later, to stand up as independent, and, in the ringing proclamation of July 4th, 1776, to inform the world that where the English colonies had been struggling for existence, a nation had been born.

Fellow citizens! We have a goodly heritage—how came it to be ours? God has given it to us. How? By the hardships, the struggles, the self-denial, the manifold suffering of our fathers and predecessors on this soil; by their labor and their valor, their conflicts with rude nature and with savage men; by their blood shed freely in so many battles; by their manly sagacity and the Divine instinct guiding them to build better than they knew. For us (in the Eternal Providence) were their hardships, their struggles, their sufferings, their heroic self denials. For us were the cares that wearied them and their conflicts in behalf of liberty. For us were the hopes that cheered in labor and strengthened them in battle. For us—no not for us alone, but for our children too, and for the unborn generations. They who were here a hundred years ago, saw not what we see to-day (oh! that they could have seen it), but they labored to win it for us, and for those who shall come after us. In this sense they entered into God’s plan and became the ministers of his beneficence to us. We bless their memory to-day and give glory to their God. He brought a vine out of Egypt when ho brought hither the heroic fathers of New England. He planted it and has guarded it age after age. We are now dwelling for a little while under its shadow and partaking of its fruit. Others will soon be in our places, and the inheritance will be theirs. As the fathers lived not for themselves but for us, so we are living for those who will come after us. Be it ours so to live that they shall bless God for what we have wrought as the servants of his love ; and that age after age, till time shall end, may repeat our fathers’ words of trust and of worship, Latin Motto: Qui Transtulit Sustinet. (English translation: He who transplanted sustains)

See also:
Non-Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of America from the Ancient Authors Part 1

Non-Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of the World With Biblical References Part 1

Joseph Baldwin: Address 1892, to National Teachers Association in New York
Eulogy of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams by Daniel Webster