Fellow Citizens And Friends : Yesterday I stood in the Hall of Independence, on the banks of the Delaware, and looked upon the immortal Declaration which an hundred years ago proclaimed the birth of the nation. To-day I join with you, on the banks of the Ohio, to celebrate with appropriate ceremonies the Centennial of the Nation’s birth. Space and time in the progress of those hundred years seem well nigh obliterated between the ends of our good old Commonwealth; so let space and time stand aside whilst we mingle the august memories of the past with the glories of the present, and cement the foundations of a still more imperishable and noble future. Were I a sculptor charged with the study of embodying it marble the idea of this occasion, I would represent the Genius of America—glancing backwards at monuments upon whoso foundations would be inscribed the principles of our forefathers, upon which the national institutions have been builded, and out of which the prosperity of the nation has grown—and with firm, advancing step, and right arm raised she should point onward and upward to a pyramid grander than those Egypt inscribed on every stone from foundation to apex with the same principles. An individual cannot abandon principles of truth, justice, and virtue which have guided him from youth to manhood, without danger to himself. Neither can a nation without danger, if not destruction.
What are some of these principles which have made us to prosper, and without which we cannot live? Ask the Pilgrim Fathers, and the reply comes from the articles of government they solemnly signed on the day before they landed from the Mayflower : “In the name of God! Amen. We whose names are underwritten having undertaken for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith a voyage, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, combine ourselves into a body politic for our better ordering and jurisdiction; and furthermore, in pursuance of the ends aforesaid, and by virtue hereof, to enact and found such just and equal laws, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.”
Ask the colonies, and old Roger Williams replies, “that every man is permitted to worship God according to his own conscience.” Ask the fathers of the Republic, and the immortal words of their declaration ring out the self-evident truths that by ” Nature’s God” and the endorsement of “their Creator” all men have certain inalienable rights, among which are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The religious conscience in the New World was born free—civil liberty was bought with revolutionary blood. Out of the sturdy birth freedom of religious liberty grew the consciousness of the right to civil liberty, and they are inseparable as sun and sunlight. Take away the sun and the beauties of earth are lost in darkness—destroy religious liberty and civil liberty dies. As civil liberty established by the founders of the Republic did not mean freedom from law, so neither did religious liberty mean freedom from religion. the Continental and Federal Congress opened daily with prayer to Almighty God, maintained the sanctity of the Christian Sabbath and appointed days of national feasts or thanksgiving. The first official act of the first President was the public acknowledgement of the religious obligation of the nation in thanks to Almighty God, and the first thing Congress did after the inauguration was to attend in a body religious service in St. Paul’s Church for the same purpose.
“While just Government,” wrote Washington in 1789, ” protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support,” and said that incomparable statesman in his farewell address:
“Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.”
John Adams, his successor in the Presidency, was still more emphatic in expressing these foundation facts in the nation’s life, and the records of the times arc prolific in proof that the statesman expressed the universal sentiment of the people.
When the Congress of 1787—the same Congress which ordered the convention which formed our Federal Constitution— made a law for the government of the territory north and west of the Ohio, and the States to be created out of it, that law defined the connection between religion and the State in words of priceless value : “Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and education shall forever be encouraged.”
There were no modern legislators who had forgotten or never learned the grand truths of the Declaration which will be read in our hearing to-day. Some of them were the signers of that immortal title deed of liberty to mankind, and every noble heart of them throbbed with the very blood which had been periled in its defense. They knew what the Prussians have long since discovered and reduced to a State Maxim : “Whatever you would have appear in the life of a nation, you must put into your schools.” [Applause.]
They had imbibed the principles of civil and religious liberty from Bible Christianity; they believed religion to be necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, it was taught in the schools of their childhood and they handed it down to their children’s children. Under this teaching the thirteen original States have been well nigh multiplied by three, and the three million of people of a hundred years ago multiplied by thirteen! What want we with new doctrines and devices of government in this our Centennial year? As in the further proceedings of the day we recall principles and patriotic spirit of the founders of the Republic, and recount their deeds of honor and sacrifice to win and perpetuate the civil and religious liberty we enjoy, let their old rallying cry of God and Liberty be ours, my fellow-citizens, and “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, let us mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honors ” to hand down to the world of 1976 the institutions of Government, religious, educational and political as we have received them from the patriot fathers of 1776. [Applause.]
Felix R. Brunot was born Feb. 7, 1820, in Newport, Kentucky, where his father, a regular army officer, was located. Elsewhere we have referred to his grandfather, Felix R. Brunot a physician of early Pittsburgh. In 1821, the family returned to Pittsburgh. The father retired from the army shortly after that, and brought up his family in a reidence standing where the Union Station now stands. He was sent to Jefferson College in 1834, and after a thorough course he became a civil engineer and was steadily engaged in that work for some years. In 1842 he engaged in the mercantile business in Rock Island, Illinois. Succeeding well financially he returned in 1847, and engaged in the manufacture of steel. He is however remembered mostly as a philanthropist and because of the deep interest which he manifested all his life in moral reforms.See also: Advice to Young People from Noah Webster Father of American Education Why our Forefathers firmly believed that Freedom and Liberty came from God Constitution of the United States and it’s Governmental Operations (In Plain English)