“Equal rights to all, means equal rights to each State, to each community, and to each citizen; and no State, community or individual has a right, under the constitution, to trespass upon or abridge the rights of any other. Can this Union long exist when the people of one State shall attempt to interfere with and control the people of another State, in violation of the constitution?”
The Destiny Of The Republic An Oration By Hon. Lewis Whitehouse Clark. Delivered At The Centennial Celebration, Manchester, N. H., July 4th, 1876.
An inspired writer hath said, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” It is well to remember, as the years wear away, the anniversary of one’s birth to union, as that advancing age is bringing us nearer to “that bourne from whence no traveler returns.” It is well to keep in memory the valor, the sacrifices and the patriotism of those who fought and fell at Lexington and Bunker Hill in the great struggle for liberty, by a proper observance of the annual return of the 19th of April and the 17th of June. If it is well to observe the anniversary of these events, how much more appropriate to observe this day—the birth-day of a nation—and that nation ours ; the anniversary of the birth of that government which not only declares that all are born free and equal, but affords to all equal rights, and affords to all equal protection in the enjoyment of those rights, without regard to age, sex, color or condition in life.
We are assembled here to celebrate by appropriate exercises the one hundredth anniversary of American independence, and it is good that we should be here. Auspicious day! ever memorable in the history of the world and in the annals of civilization. We have no need to build tabernacles to commemorate this event. They are already built,—founded by the patriotism of our fathers,—erected on soil drenched with the blood which has made every battle field of the revolution from Lexington to Yorktown memorable, and sustained by that unfaltering faith in free institutions, and that love of civil and religious liberty that inspired our forefathers at Delft Haven, starting on their perilous voyage on the Mayflower; at Plymouth Rock; amid the snow of mid winter at Valley Forge, when, with frozen feet, starving stomachs, and scantily clad bodies, under the leadership of Washington and his noble compeers, all sufferings were endured, obstacles overcome, and finally, at the cost of blood, privation and life, the right for us to assemble here to-day in peace was secured. Blessed be the memory of those who, at so great a sacrifice, purchased these blessings for us! Fortunate will it be for our children’s children if we have the virtue and wisdom to transmit to them unimpaired the glorious heritage bequeathed to us by our fathers.
A. century! It extends beyond the period of the life of man, and yet it comprises but the infancy of a nation. What changes have been wrought, aud what a multitude of marvellous events have been crowded into that period of time! Not one of all this vast assemblage saw the sunlight of heaven on the 4th of July, 1776 ; and not one of us here to-day will participate in the exercises of the next centennial.
One hundred years ago to-day at Philadelphia, in Independence Hall, or rather on the steps of the Hall, at two o’clock in the afternoon was published to the world the Declaration of our national Independence, framed by Thomas Jefferson. And when, after the terrible struggle of the Revolution had secured the acknowledgment of that independence among the nations of the earth, a constitution was framed and submitted to the people of all the States for adoption, it was the vote of New Hampshire, given in convention, June 21,1788, which secured the requisite number of States (a two-thirds) as required by the Constitution, and it became the Constitution of the United States of America which formed the Union of the States which exists to-day, and which we trust will continue to exist through all the ages to come.
In the contest for freedom New Hampshire was among the foremost, and we may well to-day have a just pride in the names of Stark, Poor, Goffe, and Sullivan, and all those who stood shoulder to shoulder during those trying years of the infant republic. We revere their memories. The hero of Bennington sleeps on the banks of our beautiful river. His body may turn to dust again, “old time with his chisel small ” may consume the unassuming granite shaft that marks his last resting place, but the name of Stark will be remembered as long as the waters of the Merrimack flow by his grave to the sea.
It is proper, after the lapse of a century, upon looking over the events of the past, to inquire what progress has been made. As a nation we have, from a comparatively small population, increased to forty-four millions of people; schools and churches all over the land; a great advancement has been made in art and in science; we have the telegraph, the railroad, the steamboat, vast improvement in machinery of all kinds, wonderful inventions for the saving of human labor which were unknown one hundred years ago. Then, where our city now stands, was but a sparse population—a few scattered farm-houses, and the vast waterpower of the Merrimack was undeveloped; to-day we have a beautiful city, with a population of thirty thousand people, with superior educational and religious advantages, and the hum of machinery and the sound of busy labor are continually to be heard.
But after all these seeming evidences of prosperity and improvement, has there been any real advancement in our civilization of a higher type? Are the people more intelligent and virtuous? Is there more honesty in public men, in the administration of the various departments of the government, and public justice in the execution of the laws? And are the people more obedient to them than they were one hundred years ago? If not, where is the progress and improvement?
But yet, let us hope that we have made some advance; and that the world is better for the existence of the American nation during the century just closed.
And now, as we look forward to the future, and enter upon another century of our national existence, let us profit by the experience of the past, that we may avoid a recurrence of the difficulties and conflicts through which we have passed.
In a faithful obedience to tho requirements of the constitution lies our only hope of safety for the perpetuity of our institution.
Equal rights to all, means equal rights to each State, to each community, and to each citizen; and no State, community or individual has a right, under the constitution, to trespass upon or abridge the rights of any other. Can this Union long exist when the people of one State shall attempt to interfere with and control the people of another State, in violation of the constitution? Can it long exist when the majority shall attempt to disregard entirely all the rights of the minority? Does it tend to the maintenance of the constitution and the preservation of the Union, that honest and capable public officers shall be set aside for a conscientious discharge of a public duty, to give place to others who will, perhaps, be the pliant tools of a particular faction or a particular party? or that one man shall be allowed to control the right of suffrage of another? or that the right of suffrage shall be sold like merchandise in the market? These evils if they exist, are contrary to the institutions founded by the fathers, and let every citizen in the State and nation aim to secure the purity of the ballot, and a faithful and impartial administration of the government, the constitution and the laws. Then the stars shall not fade from our glorious flag as the words of the declaration of independence have faded upon the parchment, nor shall its folds trail in the dust, but it shall continue to float as the emblem of our national sovereignty, protecting every American citizen over whom it floats, in every land, and on every sea.
Let us hope and believe that this shall be the destiny of the Republic, and with nobler aims and a more exalted patriotism, endeavor to discharge our duties as citizens, then we can say in the beautiful words of Longfellow—
“Thou, too, sail on, O ship of State.
Sail on, O Union, strong and great.
Humanity, with all its fears.
With all its hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate.
We know what master laid thy keel,
What workmen wrought thy ribs of steel;
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope.
Fear not each sudden sound and shook,
‘Tis of the wave and not the rock;
Tis but the napping of a sail,
And not a rent made by the gale.
In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore—
Sail on! nor fear to breast the sea;
Oar hearts, our hopes are all with thee,
Oar hearts, oar hopes, oar prayers, oar tears-
Oar faith triumphant o’er our fears—
Are all with thee, are all with thee!